Ryerson University

On Monday, May 5, Communication and Culture doctoral student Emma Doran defended her doctoral dissertation, "'Feeling' in Modern Dance Print Media: Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Maud Allan." The defense was rigorous and energizing, as Emma impressed the committee with her knowledge, poise and preparedness.

Emma shone the light on the emergence of the modern dance review, exploring a protean body of dance print media writings during the early twentieth century. As a dancer, dance reviewer, and communication and culture scholar, Emma eloquently reflected on her own positionality in tackling this topic. In examining how dance is translated into language in these nascent reviews, Emma was drawn to the dance writers' limitations of language, the materiality of language itself, and the process the critic undergoes.

The dissertation opened with the curation of twenty-five images from photographs, paintings, and posters of the three dancers collected by Emma Doran, who talked about her work at the Danse Collection Dance in Toronto, where she first encountered the work of Canadian-born dancer Maud Allan.

The dissertation was supervised by Dr. Irene Gammel, who noted that she was impressed with Emma Doran's "ambition, her outstanding grasp of theory, and her ability to establish connections among different fields, such as dance and performance studies, phenomenology, and print-media studies. Equally impressive was the archival body of work generated by Emma."

Dr. Carol Simpson Stern, who teaches at the School of Communication, and is associate editor of Text and Performance Quarterly (Routledge), served as the external examiner. She summed up her impressions by noting: "Conceptually, this is an ambitious, well-argued thesis, fully conversant with current critical theory in the fields of dance criticism, theatre, performance studies and communication, and cognizant of the body of writing in cultural studies that proves useful to her inquiry into journalistic practices and the reception of the works of these dancers."

As for Emma's immediate plans, she looks forward to graduating in June, an event that will be attended by her parents, to whom her dissertation is dedicated. Emma also hopes to focus on translating the dissertation for publication. 

 

The dissertation committee included (L-R): Dr. Kym Maclaren (Philosophy, Ryerson), Dr. Marlis Schweitzer (Theatre/Performance Studies, York University), Dr. Irene Gammel (English, Ryerson; supervisor), Emma Doran (candidate), Dr. Jason Boyd (English, Ryerson; committee chair), Dr. Paul Moore (Sociology and Graduate Director, Communication and Culture, Ryerson). Also part of the committee was Dr. Danielle Robinson (Dance, York University) who is not seen in the photo. 

 

Emma at her desk at the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre

 

An MLC Interview with Emma Doran (May 2014)

MLC: What is most exciting about having defended your dissertation?
 
ED: The most exciting aspect of completing the defense was the sense of taking ownership of the project and the choices I've made throughout the researching and writing process. I had the sense in the defense that I was the expert in my area of study. The other feeling I had after successfully defending is, of course, the extreme satisfaction in completing a project so large in scope, one that has taken a significant amount of time and mental space.
 
MLC: What was the most difficult part of this experience?
 
ED: The most difficult part for me was managing my nerves the week of the defense. Even though Irene, my supervisor, worked with me a lot to prepare, the event still felt somewhat mysterious.
 
MLC: What is your advice to others?    
 
ED: Most practically, prepare for the defense by doing a dress rehearsal with your supervisor or trusted colleagues. This will demystify the process and hopefully give you confidence before the "performance."
 
MLC: What made you continue through the difficulties?
 
ED Very simply said, it is the interest and passion I have in my topic that sustained my energy throughout the process. A supervisor who can guide and motivate you through more difficult moments is also a great asset.
 
MLC: Any final thoughts for other students who are about to defend? 
 
ED: Be proactive and genuine in representing your research by taking ownership over the decisions you've made and accepting suggestions gracefully. Being open to feedback will help you further refine your project for future publication. Also, try and enjoy the process, you may never again have so much opportunity for feedback on your writing and ideas.
Congratulations, Emma! 
 

This dissertation was supported by the Communication and Culture Programme, the Yeates School of Graduate Studie, and by the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre, via the Canada Research Chairs Program in the Faculty of Arts, which provided funds for the research of archival images, as well as partial funds for conference travel, and office space for the preparation of the dissertation. 

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