Bachelor of Arts (Hons), Contemporary Studies and English, 1996
You know you’re a King’s grad when you start reading about film theory rather than novels.
Shannon Brownlee discovered a kind of academic freedom when she went to King’s.
“I never felt like I was, what’s the word? Grade grubbing? It was never about the grade,” Shannon says. “It was about the material and the learning—learning for the joy and value of it.”
It stuck with her. After graduation she discovered just how much.
“I did a couple of years of teaching English in Poland. That was partly inspired by Professor Dorota Glowacka, Director, Contemporary Studies Program. During that time, I was in a small town with no books in English, so I asked my parents to send me a book on film theory.” Shannon pauses, then laughs. “You know you’re a King’s grad when you start reading about film theory instead of novels.”
The lust to learn continued and her interest in film took Shannon to York University to begin a Masters in Film Studies. She figured a career as a film editor loomed just over the horizon and so she took a year off from her studies to work in a video post-production house.
“My King’s experience came back because I just found it so depressing churning out second-rate television where there was no space for critique and social engagement and activism. That’s when I decided to finish my Masters.”
She did and that led her to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she did a deep dive into experimental film adaptation for her PhD. “Basically, I was researching films that almost no one had ever heard of,” she says with a chuckle.
Shannon was now firmly ensconced in the world of film and the world of academia. That academic freedom she enjoyed at King’s as an undergrad morphed as she began to teach and publish.
“I feel like there is a kind of purity, to a certain degree, in academia with which you can approach ideas and perform social critique. I can be an activist as a scholar. I feel like there’s a real scope and space for it in academia. I focus personally on feminism, queer theory and anti-racist activism. I didn’t see a place for that in the television industry where I had been working.”
Shannon now teaches film studies at Dalhousie University. As a teacher she wants her students to have the kind of experience she had—learning for learning’s sake and becoming critical thinkers. She wants her students to question. Everything.
“I do want to influence them, but I also want them to reject some of what I say because I want them to take that initiative in their own thinking.”
That’s key in this social media saturated world, Shannon believes.
“People need to be media literate. They need to be able to evaluate resources that they find on line—whether it’s a health issue or fixing a faucet—you need to be able to evaluate them to protect yourself. It’s a meta skill that is so crucial now.”