I was born in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1942. I’m an only child. I lived in the Easton area until I was 15, attending Palmer Township grade schools and Easton High School; I played clarinet, saxophone and little league baseball. In the summer of 1957 my family moved to Belleville, Illinois (a suburb of St. Louis), where I attended Belleville High School for three years, graduating in 1960. This was the post-Sputnik era, and I was lucky to find myself in advanced math classes, which were the academic highlight of my high school years. I was on the wrestling team for three years, the track team for two, and at the end of my junior year was elected senior class president.
In the fall of 1960, I matriculated at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where I assumed I’d be a math major, then, after the fall semester of my sophomore year, when I failed nearly all of my courses (I had learned to do the Twist and spent the semester drinking, socializing, and dancing), I declared myself an English major and became excited about academics and academic life. My favorite courses were Greek and Roman Mythology and History of the English Novel; my favorite teachers, Nick Steele, Darrell McCall, and Clem Williams. By my senior year, knew I wanted to attend graduate school with the idea of becoming a college professor. I graduated in 1964 and, with the help of Dr. Darrell McCall, was able to secure a teaching assistantship at the University of Florida.
At Florida, I earned an MA (thesis: “Homosexuality as Fictional Material in the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway”) and, in 1970, a PhD (my thesis, “Narrative Perspective in the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway—it’s on-line). I was becoming increasingly interested in cinema and during my final year at Florida taught one of the first classes on cinema offered by the university.
I spent the year after graduation, reading, attending films, and studying painting and architecture in Europe, primarily Spain, with my wife Marguerite MacDonald (née Goodrich)—we had married on September 1st, 1966. In January, 1971, I was hired as Assistant Professor at Utica College of Syracuse University, to begin teaching American literature, film appreciation, and expository writing that fall. My son, Ian, was born on January 20, 1972. My first marriage ended in 1974; a second, with Patricia O’Connor was formalized in 1975. I taught American literature, film history, and expository writing until I retired from Utica College in 1999. I had also become a regular adjunct at Hamilton College in 1981.
During my years at Utica College, I hosted a film series, bringing many filmmakers to campus to present and discuss their films (I believe my first guest was Jonas Mekas, who visited in conjunction with the first of several annual film symposia co-organized with Joseph A. Gomez). While I had published a number of essays about Hemingway and Erskine Caldwell, and a first book, on Erskine Caldwell, by 1981, I had become a “film person.” In 1983-1984 I served as “producer” for the Mohawk Valley segment of Peter Watkins’ meta-film, The Journey, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 1987. I had begun publishing essays on film and interviews with independent filmmakers in the late 1970s, and my first book of interviews with filmmakers, A Critical Cinema, appeared in 1988.
During the early 2000s, I was a nomadic film professor, teaching at Bard College and the University of Arizona, spending winters in Tucson, and exploring and writing about organizations that had/have kept independent filmmaking alive. I resumed teaching at Hamilton College in 2005. In the 2010s, I taught at Harvard three times, at Colgate University once, and at Hamilton, one semester a year for several years, gradually expanding the range of my courses and, once again, curating a regular series of film events—visiting filmmakers, accomplished scholars, music-with-silent-film screenings—called F.I.L.M. I am currently a more-or-less full-time professor at Hamilton, where I chair the Cinema and Media Studies major.