Congratulations to Dr. Celine Bell

June 15, 2021 by Tony Pi

Celine Bell defended her doctoral dissertation, "Old Acquaintances and New Sisterhoods: Female Friendship in Classical Hollywood Cinema", on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. The committee consisted of Corinn Columpar (supervisor), Charlie Keil, Alice Maurice, Angelica Fenner, exam chair Dragana Obradovic, and external examiner Sara Ross (Sacred Heart University).

Her other research interests include the development of film canons, genre studies, and feminist film theory.  Her previous research in the MA program at York University focused on the female narrator in film noir.  She has taught courses on the woman’s film and on film noir.

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

My dissertation examines representations of friendships between women in classical Hollywood cinema and argues that the first half of the twentieth century was a crucial period of transition in thinking about female friendship and how women relate to each other.  While female friendship media is currently more popular than ever (think of movies like Booksmart and Hustlers, TV shows like Broad City, or even the multimedia sisterhood of the Kardashian-Jenners), I found that female friendship in classical Hollywood is an equally rich and relatively underexplored field.  Completing my dissertation at a time when I’ve been spending so little time with my own friends (at least in person) has only encouraged me to further reflect on the importance of friendship. 

My plans for the immediate future involve taking a much-needed break as I figure out what comes next. 

Her supervisor, Corinn Columpar, had this to say about Celine's thesis.

In her dissertation Old Acquaintances and New Sisterhoods: Female Friendship in Classical Hollywood Cinema, Celine Bell argues for the importance of women’s friendships as a significant, if marginalized, discourse in Hollywood cinema from the 1930s through 1950s, one that has frequently been sidelined by feminist criticism of classical cinema, which tends instead to give analytical priority to the role women occupy in relation to men.  While making this intervention, Celine puts films from the studio era and select extratextual materials in conversation with scholarship on female friendship in order to think through the historically dynamic nature of that friendship.  The result is an illuminating account of the various conditions – sociohistorical, formal, narrative, and generic – that make female friendship on screen possible, as well as a lucid discussion of Hollywood’s representation of female community throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Congratulations, Dr. Bell!