Matthew Thompson defended his doctoral dissertation, "Contaminated Environmentalism: The Visual Rhetoric of 1970s Ecocinema", on Friday, August 21, 2020. The committee consisted of Brian Price (supervisor), James Cahill, Brian Jacobson, Meghan Sutherland, exam chair Malcolm Woodland, and external examiner Jennifer Fay (Vanderbilt University).
We asked Matt about his work and his interests, as well as his plans for the near future. He says:
My thesis reads 1970s dystopian science fiction for its environmental politics, demonstrating that the human desire to preserve and protect the natural world is rooted in the urge to contain and control it.
I was drawn to ecocriticism because I have always cared deeply about the environment. While studying the environmental crises we currently face (some of which we have been effectively ignoring since the 1970s and before) can be disheartening, I try to find joy and hope in connection with the natural world. My vegetable garden, my cat, Captain Nemo, dog, Kobe, and daughter, Isla, all teach me about the importance and mutual benefit of human-nonhuman relationships. When I am feeling apocalyptic, I look to them.
This fall I will be teaching Intro to Cinema online at the U of T Mississauga campus. I am currently conceptualizing my next project which will read indigenous futurism for new perspectives on the ecological problem of invasive species. This fall I will also be applying to postdocs and jobs with fingers crossed.
His supervisor, Professor Brian Price, has this to say about Matt and his dissertation:
Matt Thompson’s dissertation, Contaminated Environmentalism: The Visual Rhetoric of 1970s Ecocinema, is a major contribution to eco-criticism, science fiction film, and film philosophy. It is a much-needed antidote to the moral simplicity that animates so much eco-criticism. At the heart of Thompson’s intervention is a concern with contamination, which is not something, in his account, that one can simply eradicate for the sake of a more sustainable environment. Rather, in looking at the complex relation between metaphor and metonomy in 1970s science fiction films, Thompson understands contamination to be the necessarily impure way in which knowledge about our world is formed in the first place. And in a series of stunning formal analysis of key films of the 1970s, Thompson show us how contamination, as a principle of aesthetic form, is also one of the primary ways in which films explore the complicated and impure relations that we maintain, as humans, with non-human beings and non-human worlds.
Congratulations, Dr. Thompson!