Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 26, 1994

    Gender and Sexuality Studies Series

    This fall, the School of Arts and Sciences is
    holding a wide assortment of classes in gender and
    sexuality studies, which bring new perspectives to
    history, literature, politics and the social
    sciences. Established scholars at Hopkins, as well
    as graduate students and visiting faculty, are
    adding to the mix of ideas. This is the first of
    three articles examining some of the ongoing work
    at the university.

Visiting Professor Examines Gay Theory in Film
By Sujata Massey

Englishman Paul Julian Smith says the American film industry
has a long way to go.
    "It's difficult for Hollywood to address women in films.
You've got Thelma and Louise, but they died," said the
visiting professor in the Department of Hispanic and Italian
Studies. Films about relationships between women are all too
rare, said Dr. Smith. Especially when it comes to still-taboo
topics such as lesbianism. When the novel Fried Green
Tomatoes reached the big screen, the female characters' love
relationship was erased.
    Dr. Smith's area of scholarship is Spain, where
filmmaking is far less inhibited. He is at Hopkins through
the end of September teaching a graduate mini-seminar on the
poet-playwright GarcĄa Lorca who was prom-inent in 1920s and
1930s Spain. Smith, 37, became department head of Spanish and
Portuguese at Cambridge three years ago. He has become
celebrated for his application of lesbian and gay theory to
Spanish literature and cinema.
    "Whatever one's opinion, everyone is interested in
homosexuality," Dr. Smith said. "There has been a series of
issues raised in the humanities, starting with feminism, then
race and, now, homosexuality....You don't have to have a
personal involvement to get something out of it, especially
if you are an English speaker working in a foreign language."
    The professor has written seven books and co-edited two
others dealing with questions of race, gender and sexuality
in Spanish literature and film, including Desire Unlimited:
The Cinema of Pedro AlmodĒvar, in 1992.
    He will present a talk at 4 p.m. Thursday in 223 Gilman
that will contrast AlmodĒvar's Dark Habits, about lesbian
nuns, with The House of Bernarda Alba, a Lorca play that
tells the story of a matriarch's struggle with desire.  
    "I'm mixing a great classic with the enfant terrible of
cinema," said Dr. Smith. "Both of them are about communities
of women, and that's what interests me." 
    The talk will be conducted in English, and accompanied
by film clips.  Admission to the lecture is free and open to
the public. For more information, call Hispanic and Italian
Studies, at 516-7226. 

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