Congratulations to Dr. Amanda Greer

July 2, 2024 by Tony Pi

Amanda Greer defended her doctoral dissertation, "Formal Schooling: Guidance Pedagogy, Cinematic Form, and the Student's Body", on Thursday, June 27, 2024. The committee consisted of Meghan Sutherland (supervisor), Brian Price, Sara Saljoughi, Scott Richmond, exam chair Mary Pugh, and external examiner Jennifer Horne (University of California, Santa Cruz).

Amanda Greer (she/her) is a film scholar working across the fields of feminist theory, gender studies, pedagogical theory, and teen/youth film & media studies. Her dissertation work has been generously supported by the Vivienne Poy Chancellor’s Fellowship, a Joseph Bombardier SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, and a Doctoral Excellence Award. She has taught CIN260: Melodrama and CIN360: Contemporary Film Theory at the CSI; she has also worked in Educational Development, as the Humanities Team Coordinator at the Teaching Assistants Training Program. In 2022, she received a Teaching Excellence Award. She has also worked as Assistant Production Editor for JCMS (2018-22), for which she and the JCMS masthead received the SCMS Distinguished Service Award—Collective.

We asked Amanda about her work, as well as her plans for the future.

“Formal Schooling” theorizes cinematic form as a pedagogy of imperative guidance in what I term the mid-century guidance counsellor cinema, an American teen film corpus that responds to the guidance counsellor’s emergence as a figurehead of normative development following WWII. Made up of an eclectic group of texts, from educational social guidance to teensploitation films, the guidance counsellor cinema deploys cinematic form as an omniscient guidance counsellor to forcibly construct adolescent genders and normative understandings of healthy sociality. I develop a way of reading educational (and) teen media, wherein common techniques like freeze frames, acousmatic voiceovers, reverse-speed cinematography, and editing wipes are theorized as visual, formal pedagogy bent on transforming and reforming unruly teen bodies. Most broadly, my dissertation theorizes the connections between visual forms, adolescent embodiment, and pedagogical technique, asking: If binary gender was so natural, why must it be taught at all?

I will be starting a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship in September 2024, under the supervision of Dr. Ara Osterweil. My project is tentatively titled, “A Strange, Quiet World: Antisocial Aesthetics in Contemporary Girlhood Cinemas,” which develops directly from “Formal Schooling.” I’m also working on a couple of articles for publication. I’m looking forward to continuing my research on adolescence and girlhood; additionally, I’m looking forward to decompressing after a marathon 13 continuous years in university. I hope to spend as much time as possible with my spouse, Morgan, and two adorable (and very needy) cats.

I am thrilled to have defended my dissertation; I’m immensely grateful to my supervisor, Meghan Sutherland, for her unfailing support for this project. Thanks, too, to my committee members, Brian Price and Sara Saljoughi, for their close readings and engaged suggestions over many years, and to my examiners, Scott Richmond and Jennifer Horne, for their supportive feedback. I’d also like to thank my friends at the CSI: thank you for many years of lively discussion and community. Thanks to my undergraduate students over the years, too, for constantly reminding me of the creative work that can be accomplished in the classroom. Finally, thank you to my partner, Morgan, for building a home with me to house, grow, and protect my ideas—thank you for everything.

Her supervisor, Meghan Sutherland, had this to say about Amanda's dissertation:

"Formal Schooling" makes an entirely novel intervention into the way scholars think about the relation between pedagogy, cinematic form, and visual culture, bringing much needed attention to the ways in which the formal dimension of educational cinema speaks to the entanglement of these seemingly separate concerns. The argument begins from a close formal analysis of the “social guidance” films that emerged as a subgenre of educational cinema in the wake of WWII—a genre that, as Greer rightly points out, has been neglected by scholars of nontheatrical cinema heretofore, and even more so on the terrain of aesthetic form. Bringing together Foucauldian analyses of disciplinary culture, intersectional approaches to feminist and anti-racist thought, radical theories of pedagogy, and studies of educational cinema, Greer proposes a bold reformulation of the ways in which these films enact the work of discipline and pedagogy at the level of aesthetic form itself, tracking the array of different ways in which common tropes of film style such as the freeze-frame and reverse-motion serve to carry out the work of disciplinary correction and reform in the spaces of these films. The exceptionally original insight that emerges from Greer’s analysis of these tropes is as surprising as it is convincing: namely, that the pedagogy of social norms is itself a discourse in which one seeks to control one’s degrees and modes of visibility—standing out in a crowd, fitting into the norm, making a scene, and so on. Delving into the thoroughly visual language of self-discipline and its pedagogical codes that took shape around the emerging figure of the "guidance counselor" in postwar discourse, the project thus argues that one can only understand the work of pedagogy and its relation to the production of social normativity through the lens of “form” itself, especially with respect to the production of gender norms. The result is a project that I feel sure will make a major intervention in film studies, pedagogical theory, and feminist theory, among other fields. Congratulations, Amanda!

Congratulations, Dr. Greer!

Dr. Amanda Greer