The quality of content in the ACI Scholarly Blog Index is due to the rigor of our selection process and to the incredible scholarship and credentials of scholarly bloggers publishing in their fields. Due to this selectivity in content and academic contributions, ACI is proud to highlight exceptional blog authors in order to showcase their work and inspire other authors… and April’s ACI Author Spotlight is on Dr. Jill Dolan.
Dr. Dolan received her PhD in Performance Studies from New York University. She is currently the Annan Professor in English, Professor of Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Director of the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University.
Through her blog, The Feminist Spectator, Dr. Dolan writes on a number of topics involving criticism about the arts. Her primary research interests include theatre and drama, performance studies, women’s and feminist studies, LGBTQ studies, and American studies.
In 2011, Dr. Dolan was awarded the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for her blog The Feminist Spectator. In an early 2012 article by The Guardian titled “First past the blogpost: why Jill Dolan’s theatre critic award matters”, Guardian author Karen Fricker pointed out that it was the first time in its 54-year history that the award was presented to a web publication and only the seventh time it was awarded to a woman.
“Jill Dolan has won America’s biggest theatre criticism award for her blog The Feminist Spectator,” Fricker wrote. “But why have so few women won before her? And what does her victory mean for bloggers?”
On the blog writing that pushed barriers and carved new boundaries, Fricker described a writing style as powerful as it was effective. “It’s a rare treat these days to read someone working their way through a critique so thoroughly and thoughtfully,” wrote Fricker, “and an inspiration to see how Dolan keeps issues of gender and sexuality (and difference, more broadly) at the forefront of her posts without them ever feeling airlifted in.”
Dr. Dolan has found that this has extended to the classroom as well. “Some of my students might be hesitant to embrace the label ‘feminist’ – though fewer than before – but most of them – across their own proliferating gender, race, and sexual identity claims – find that the critical practices of feminism give them purchase on a worldview that helps them explains their lives, as well as their cultural tastes,” explains Dr. Dolan.
“Across my ten years of blogging, I’ve also heard from readers who never presumed to understand or align with a feminist perspective,” writes Dr. Dolan, “that they, too, have found new ways to think about what they see and how they organize their consumption and spectating practices by engaging the term ‘feminist’ in my posts.”
For a talk called “The Feminist Spectator as Agitator: Criticism, Blogging, and the Responsibilities of Being a Public Intellectual” held just last week at the University of Iowa, Dr. Dolan had summarized the coming discussion as a talk that would “parse the question of criticism (via blogging and other publication venues) as a mode of social agitation and feminist analysis”.
The event’s description reads: “Why should feminists take to the blogosphere and other outlets to offer critiques of popular culture and media? What are the public social responsibilities of being a feminist critic? For whom do we write and what are the costs and benefits of our intellectual and creative work?”
Dr. Dolan’s work continues to help define the credibility and potential of the digital scholarly landscape, as well, and moves others to more seriously consider the importance of, and the responsibilities that may be inherent in, a broader scholarly communication. For Dr. Dolan, this communication reaches beyond those readers either already familiar with – or actively learning or studying – the topics and perspectives addressed.
“For other readers, my blog curates cultural experiences, as they decide to attend a performance or watch a television series based on The Feminist Spectator’s recommendations,” writes Dr. Dolan. “I take responsibility for taste-making seriously, but I also consider my criticism part of a larger conversation about what culture means and what it does in the global imaginary. That is, I’m not a ‘reviewer’ in the traditional sense; I don’t give stars or ‘grades’ to what I write, but I try to place my criticism in a wider cultural context in which everything I see matters.”
“The benefit [of blogging] has been the increased attention to feminist critical in theatre, film, and performance, and my own personal sense of an extended community of readers and people engaging these issues.”