By Orli Ben-Dor
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 10, 2003
Teaching may be an understatement of what English professor Susan White does. Her popular course, Literature and Film, offered through the English department, has become her signature. Though she leaves the spotlight on the course's screening days, when it comes down to it, she manages to steal the show with her wit and knowledge.
WILDCAT: Your film class is one of the most talked-about classes on campus. Why do you think that is?
WHITE: May I point out that that is a very ambiguous question? I will simply say that I know I have succeeded in my pedagogical task when students tell me, with smiling enthusiasm: "None of my friends will go to the movies with me now! They say I have become obnoxiously analytical!"
WILDCAT: What is your favorite film?
WHITE: I would have to say that Nicholas Ray's 1950 film "In a Lonely Place" never fails to astonish me and probably ranks as my favorite, along with Ophuls' "Letter from an Unknown Woman." But my tastes are eclectic, ranging from silent melodrama to '70s action films. I am also particularly fond of French films of the '30s.
WILDCAT: Which Literature and Film course got the best response (horror, western, etc.)?
WHITE: My course evaluations always remind me that students, because they are human beings, have divergent tastes and opinions. Some students loved the horror class; others ran shrieking from the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The western is a hard sell, because students are not inclined on first viewing to delight in, for example, 130-minute silent westerns. But I have many converts who then become fanatical aficionados of John Ford, which surprises them a little, I think. But generally the most popular course is the genres class, in which we examine a number of different cinematic and literary genres - then everyone can find something they enjoy enough to study closely. (Hint to my current students: I hope you are studying the material closely.)
WILDCAT: How does it feel to be considered one of the funniest professors on campus?
WHITE: Well, my favorite evaluation that I ever got in a course said, "I love the way she cracks herself up." So at least I am having a good time, although I am a bit surprised to hear that row of students in the back of the auditorium reading The Daily Wildcat are in any way amused.
WILDCAT: What did you focus on during your sabbatical?
WHITE: I was working on a book on Anthony Mann and Nicholas Ray, teaching American film at the University of Paris III and struggling to maintain my rationality (despite their Cartesian reputation, the French students weren't helping).
WILDCAT: If you could give one priceless nugget of advice to a college student, what would it be?
WHITE: Nuggets always come with a price.
WILDCAT: And just as a fun question, what were the last five things you purchased?
WHITE: Two issues of Film Exil (a German film journal), a bottle of antacids, a cheese Danish, a double tall latte, and - against my better judgment - a package of Kool Lights for a friend.