Word has trickled out via Facebook from those in the position to know that Miriam Hansen, long of the University of Chicago, has died. The callow young cinetrix was fortunate to take Hansen's grad intro to film studies course in the screening room that served as physical evidence of the program and facilities Hansen built there as a condition of her hire [or so I've long heard]. She was as intimidating as hell; what I first learned in her classroom years ago and in her comments as second reader on my M.A. thesis manifests itself constantly in my teaching and thinking about film.
Not to mention her sartorial influence. I can't remember which of my classmates first made the observation that Professor Hansen's garb tended to complement that day's film, but it is true that her outfit to teach Johnny Guitar, say, echoed somehow the Teflon invincibility of Joan Crawford's white dress and the butchness of Vienna's otherwise masculine Western wear. Whenever I pause in the morning in front of the closet and consider which movie we'll be discussing before selecting the day's pedogogical drag, I think of Miriam Hansen. I wish I'd had the opportunity to tell her so.
UPDATE: The U of C's death notice for Professor Hansen. Services were held yesterday, but donations may be made to the Miriam Hansen Fellowship Fund, c/o the Division of the Humanities, 1115 E. 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637.
And a note: I feel embarassment and chagrin that somehow this post became for many the first widespread notice of Professor Hansen's passing. The 'Fesser and I met at Chicago, and it was through Facebook posts from his friends in the department and elsewhere late Saturday that we first heard the awful news. I am grateful for the mentions by Film Studies for Free [from whom I grabbed the clip] and WideScreen, and my sorrow and the sentiments above are genuine, but better encomia can and should be forthcoming, like Tom Gunning's tribute at SCMS.
Once I get to school, I will post a PDF of Hansen's reading list for that long-ago class I mentioned. But first, I need to pick out something to teach in.