Susan Vander Closter

Vander Closter

Susan Vander Closter is on sabbatical for the 2017-18 academic year.

Although she started out in English and comparative literature, with an interest in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century novel, there was a moment when she considered focusing her attention on film studies.  As a result of this long-term interest, she has made film an integral part of her work on narrative structure, both in her research and in the classroom.  Her research on Vladimir Nabokov’s first-person narrators and the theme of memory led to work on the multi-volume novels of Joyce Cary and Lawrence Durrell, which in turn drew her attention to the connection between literature and the visual arts.  Before teaching at RISD, she taught at a liberal arts college, where she introduced classes on the representation of painters in literature.  This project evolved into an investigation of painting in fiction in her professional work.  Her interdisciplinary work was supported by a teaching and research Fulbright grant at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.  Since 1984, she has offered classes at RISD on the British novel, Italian fiction and film, the nineteenth century French and Russian novel, contemporary fiction in translation, Latin American fiction, and contemporary historical fiction, among other topics.  Currently, she offers classes on fiction and film, one devoted to contemporary American, another to International authors and filmmakers, and yet another which focuses on family.  She has participated in RISD travel courses, teaching in Mexico, France, and as a visiting scholar for the European Honors Program in Rome.  Her most recent project was researching, editing, and structuring Maryalice Huggins‘ book on the decorative arts, Aesop’s Mirror, which was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2009 and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

Dinner with Mira Nair: April 11, 2013, Brown University
When the tickets to Nair’s pre-release screening of The Reluctant Fundamentalist sold out on-line in minutes, Ayano Ueshima (RISD Jewelry and Metalsmithing) not only found a ticket to the screening for me but also an invitation to dinner with Nair at the Brown Faculty Club.  Our dinner table: Geraud Bablon (Brown), the lecture series chair for the Brown International Organization (BRIO), Sahir Zaviri (Brown student and BRIO President),  Deesha Misra (RISD Industrial Design and community service chair for BRIO), Tanya Saxena (Brown), Dipesh Chawla (Brown), Manu Sharma (RISD Graphic Design, publicity chair for BRIO), Pahlavi Das (Brown), Andrew Freiband (RISD FAV faculty).

As I wrote to Geraud the next day, the dinner table conversation “did not lag for a single minute,” and I left the table with a list of books to read and films to see.  Among the many things we discussed in addition to Nair’s film are Mohsin Hamid’s novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), Nair’s husband’s book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim (Mahmood Mamdani  2004), Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012), Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan (India 2010), Raj Kumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica (India 2011), and Showtime’s Homeland.  Mira Nair is a charming and adept conversationalist who turned dinner table conversation into an art.  She not only discussed her work and Indian cinema in general but encouraged each student to tell stories about his or her ties to India and to voice their opinions about all of the books and films that came up in conversation.  She revealed to us that her most recent work of art is her three-acre garden in East Africa.

Current Books and Films of Interest
Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Pessl (Special Topics in Calamity Physics: A Novel 2006).  Random House, 2013.
An investigative journalist, a director of horror films, and his daughter’s death–suicide or not?  A labyrinthine maze of film sets.  A question about the horrors represented in the films and their connection to reality.  Fun graphic design, including extra content on smart-phones and tablets, “new images and audio,” and a NightFilmDecoder app “to access the bonus content.”

Brian de Palma’s Passion (2013), a remake of Alain Corneau’s Love Crimes (Crime d’Amour, 2010).
Violence in the corporate world.  Manipulation.  Performance.  Rachel McAdams/Kristin Scott Thomas as Christine and Noomi Rapace/Ludivine Sagnier as Isabelle.