On April 12th I defended my dissertation. As I prepare to file with the university, I would like to share my acknowledgments publicly, because the people named below are nothing less than incredible and deserve recognition as such. Writing a dissertation can be an isolating experience. I feel very fortunate that I was never alone for long.
This dissertation owes its completion and any intelligence or poetics it demonstrates to Kara Keeling. For six years she has served as my greatest mentor, role model, and advocate. She has pushed me in my thinking and writing and done so with untold patience and an incredible sense of humor. My hope is that I have met her partway.
I am grateful for the support, feedback, and encouragement of an incredible committee. Henry Jenkins has read countless drafts and offered tireless comments on each. He is either in possession of the best time turner or the kindest heart. Probably both. Aniko Imre has also served as a careful reader, and her comments and questions have challenged my thinking about the project’s methods and scope. Jack Halberstam has repeatedly surprised me with the enthusiasm he brings to my research and writing. His feedback will sustain my thinking as the project grows.
At USC, I have also benefitted from the less formal mentorship of David E. James, Bill Whittington, and Laura Serna. David welcomed me to USC and has continued to encourage my research on women’s experimental cinema through support and example. Bill soon became a great friend in the department, helping me navigate graduate school when I needed it most. Laura directed the Visual Studies writing group. Her insightful feedback made me a better writer.
Over the course of this journey, I have also had the pleasure of finding mentorship among friends. I have learned more than I could ever hope to convey from Alex Juhasz, Alexis Lothian, micha cárdenas, and Lokeilani Kaimana. I admired Alex’s research long before I met her, and by working with her as a teaching assistant I was able to witness her put her feminist methodologies into practice as a teacher. She brings out the best in her students, and whenever we meet she brings out the best in me. This project quite simply would not be what it is without Alexis’ friendship and mentorship. Alexis introduced me to WisCon. She inspired me to vid. At times I have followed closely in her footsteps. She in turn has often held up a mirror for me and championed my work. micha has been my sister in the fullest sense of the word. So many of my ideas grew in discussions with her at the beach, over tacos, and stuck in LA traffic. She has cheered for me and given me hope every step of the way. Without Lokeilani I would not have made it through one of the roughest periods of writing. Isolated in rural Massachusetts, the queer world we made together in conversation gave me life. I continue to feel that warmth whenever we are together, in person and online. I aspire to their gracefulness and consideration.
Umayyah Cable, Tisha Dejmanee, and Branden Buehler have been my comrades on this journey. Each of them has nurtured my work through feedback or collaboration. However, they have also done much more in their friendship—in talking about anything but work and in their kindness and humor when doing so. The cats of the Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats have been my and Tisha’s great conspirators. Rosanne Sia got me dancing again. My mind and body thank her. I also like to believe that the project owes a levity to her influence.
This project grew through the feedback of countless individuals in writing groups and at conferences. I would like to thank everyone in the Visual Studies writing group. Umayyah Cable, Luci Marzola, Joshua Mitchell, Feng-Mei Heberer, Lara Bradshaw, Alison Kozberg, Kevin Driscoll, and Kate Page-Lippsmeyer were always generous with their comments. Jennifer DeClue read much of this dissertation is early draft form and asked questions that were necessary to answer in moving forward. While I was in Northampton, Michelle Maydanchik, Alex Seggerman, and Yael Rice kindly welcomed me into their writing group and helped me give structure to my third chapter. I presented much of this work at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies and the National Women’s Studies Association, and the project has benefited from fellow panelists and audience members’ questions and suggestions. Thank you especially to Julia Lesage, Chuck Kleinhans, Patty White, Lisa Henderson, Robin Blaetz, Shira Segal, Jackie Stacey, Ingrid Ryberg, Greg Youmans, Carol Stabile, Vicki Callahan, and Amanda Phillips. Thank you also to the SCMS Queer Caucus and to Jen Malkowski, my Queer Caucus mentor.
This project would be a faint shell of what it has become without the support of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. Grants from both of these institutions provided me with sustained access to materials now at the heart of this project. The archivists at each of these institutions introduced me to some of my most intimate interlocutors, in ephemera and in person. Joanne Donovan made it possible for me to view Songs, Skits, Poetry, and Prison Life and the Just Us videoletter. She also made them both available online, so that I could watch them again from Los Angeles. Maida Goodwin was an immense help while I was doing my research at Smith. She also put me in touch with Joan E. Biren, which in turn lead to interviews with the other members of the original Irises. Getting to speak to Joan E. Biren, Frances Reid, Mary Lee Farmer, Cathy Zheutlin, Ariel Dougherty, Jeanne Gomoll, and Amanda Bankier grounded this project and gave it pleasure. I feel privileged to be the one who gets to share these women’s work with the world, and it was an honor to discuss it with them. A deep thanks also to May Haduong and Cassie Blake at the Academy Film Archive.
In many ways this project began years ago during my earliest research as an undergraduate passionate about feminism and film. Monica McTighe did not blink when I wanted to write about film and video in an art history class. She also introduced me to the writing of Laura Mulvey. One of my fondest memories is of the two of us traipsing back to her office on a snowy day, so that I could borrow her copy of Visual and Other Pleasures over Thanksgiving weekend. Before I started my undergraduate thesis on Carolee Schneemann, Monica told me I needed to learn how to write. I took her feedback to heart, and this dissertation is evidence of my continued work to do just that. When I was a master’s student, Tom Gunning had a similar impact. He introduced me to the films of Marjorie Keller and helped me secure funding so I could travel to New York and watch prints of her films. He also instilled in me an enthusiasm for close reading. My undergraduate and master’s cohorts served as much needed friends and inspirations as I began this work, Laura Mitchell and Naomi Slipp especially.
Some of my strongest supports have been those friends who have known me since the time when becoming an academic was the furthest thing from my mind. Katie Cissel, Ari Chadwick-Saund, Kristina Moravec, Aaron Waechter, and Russell Shitabata have loved and believed in me since the era of collaged bedroom walls, chess tournaments, and crushes on dojo boys (and, before long, girls). They continue to serve as reminders that there are more important things in life than work. They also each inspire me with their own passions. It has been a joy to grow with and alongside each of them. When I was young my parents, Sally Marie and Yuri Samer, always encouraged me to follow my passion, and they have both been patient as it has lead to degree after degree after degree. As a media studies scholar, I wish they had let me watch more TV. However, I also know that my love for reading, which I learned from their example, has proven more than just useful, and I would not trade it for anything. My bio sister, Zoe Samer, has been my best friend in life. It is fun to see how similar our interests are in adulthood, even as they diverge from those of our parents. She is my favorite anti-racist, queer, feminist fan.
I am grateful for the partnership, love, and support of B. Bradburd during the crucial years of writing this dissertation. My chapter on Tiptree owes much to our thinking together.
Two fabulous creatures have sustained me through it all. I would not have survived graduate school without Raffi Sarkissian. We met on our first day at USC. Everything I have done since then, I have done with him (usually, literally) at my side. He read nearly every draft of every chapter, long before any committee member. He believed in me when I did not believe in myself. He is the brother-sestra I always wanted but have only recently come to realize I needed. I aspire to his kindness and generosity. Finally, I adopted my cat Amelie a few months before starting my undergraduate thesis. All of the ideas I have had since then may be but her own. Most of this dissertation was written with her on my lap, on the back of my chair, or at her perch immediately to my left. I will be eternally grateful for her companionship and love.