Congratulations to Dr. Justin Morris

October 7, 2021 by Tony Pi

Justin Morris defended his doctoral dissertation, "Constellated Media: Serial Stars, Feminist Film Historiography, and Intermedial Hollywood", on Monday, October 4, 2021. The committee consisted of Charlie Keil (supervisor), Nic Sammond, James Cahill, Corinn Columpar, exam chair Mark Cheetham, and external examiner Shelley Stamp (University of California Santa Cruz).

We asked Justin about his work, as well as his plans for the future.

My dissertation explores mid-twentieth century serial intermediality in Hollywood through case studies focused on three stars: Mary Pickford, Dale Evans, and Pearl White. Looking beyond our fixed understanding of these women's accomplishments in earlier eras, this project examines their later-career activities to argue that each star represented a locus of intermedial production beyond the screen. Looking to a variety of sources outside the film text, such as promotional materials, pressbooks, advertising, and autobiographical writings, and related media forms such as tie-in literature, comic strips, popular music, and television, I introduce the term "constellated media" to describe how these forms interrelate and become serialized.

I am ecstatic to have defended my thesis. My utmost thanks goes out to all my friends and colleagues at Innis College over the years who have helped me along the way. I could not have done it without you.

I am currently working on several projects that utilize the "constellated media" framework to entirely different ends. I am excited to finally get back to my work with the Media Commons Archives' Anne Murray Collection and I am developing a larger project concerning country music visual media, the evangelical right, and the NRA. I am currently teaching CIN322-Cult Cinema, applying for academic jobs as they come, and rethinking what my life might look like post-academia. Above all, I look forward to spending more time with my daughter, Echo, and my partner, Amber. 

His supervisor, Charlie Keil, had this to say about Justin's thesis:

Justin Morris’s thesis,“Constellated Media: Serial Stars, Feminist Film Historiography, and Intermedial Hollywood,” is an enterprising reconsideration of three female stars, Pearl White, Mary Pickford, and Dale Evans, which eschews conventional approaches to their careers and their significance for film and media history.  Developing the concept of “constellated media,” Justin considers these three women as “serial figures,” stars whose personae and accomplishments are imbricated within a web of diverse media texts that cross cultural boundaries and skip across timeframes.  Justin’s approach encourages us to look beyond the screen to understand the nature of women’s work in media industries in the twentieth century, placing them within a vast intermedial network that bears the marks of seriality. 

Exhaustively researched, and packed with discoveries and perspectives that perpetually surprise and reward the reader, this thesis is a triumph of both persistence and ingenuity.  Faced with archival gaps and COVID-induced delays, Justin nonetheless devised a dissertation that made the most out of his intensive research efforts and fashioned a unique approach to his subjects. The final result skillfully meets the dual objective of honouring the aims of feminist film historiography and deepening the insights of scholars of seriality. Initially conceived of as a project that would examine the early sound-era serial, this thesis became a far richer and more complex work as Justin found the ideal methodological solution to exploring the interconnected meanings of White, Pickford, and Evans as serial figures.  His committee members were overjoyed with this dissertation, and immensely gratified to be part of such an enterprising and successful project.  I can say for my own part that I learned a tremendous amount from the thesis and gained a new level of respect for Justin’s abilities as a scholar, so amply on display in “Constellated Media.”  

Congratulations, Dr. Morris!