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Billy Errington

PhD Research

PhD Research in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures


My doctoral thesis, titled ‘The Films of Xavier Dolan: Queering Motherhood and the Nation’, traces the aesthetic and ideological origins of the contemporary Québécois mother in recent Canadian cinema. With scholarly interest in Dolan growing, particularly following the release of his first feature film, J’ai tué ma mère (2009), there remains a need to process the role of maternity as a running thread not only in his work, but throughout Québec’s (filmic) history in relation to understanding the queering of and from self, (m)other, and one’s national identity. With this emphasis on stylistic provenance in mind, this project moves chronologically through some of the most important examples of post-Révolution tranquille cinema and feminist thought, beginning with the works of Anne Claire Poirier, before spanning the influences of Francis Mankiewicz, Guy Coté, Gus Van Sant, and Rodrigue Jean, in order to understand how conceptions of motherhood in the Dolanian sense have been reconfigured following the Quiet Revolution of the mid-20th century. I engage with haptic and tactile theory (particularly that of Jennifer Barker, Laura Marks, and Vivian Sobchack), feminist and psychoanalytic thought (including Bracha Ettinger, Julia Kristeva, and Adrienne Rich), and experiential narratives of pregnancy and embryonic imaging in the medical humanities (currently Lara Freidenfelds and Lisa Mitchell) in order to offer fresh readings of Québécois maternity as an inherently queer institution, simultaneously abstracted from and fundamental to future state formation.

Besides my PhD, I am currently serving as Postgraduate Research Representative on the executive committee of the British Association of Film, Television, and Screen Studies (BAFTSS), having been elected to the role in November 2020. I teach on the final year French module Genocide, Violence, and Trauma in French and Francophone Culture, examining the role of (post-)memory and liquid temporalities in First Nations cinema. I also lead seminars for the level one module The Art of the Moving Image: Key Concepts. In summer 2022, I undertook research in Montréal as part of my doctoral project, exploring the Archives gaies du Québec and other cultural institutions. I curated an online exhibition, titled From Myth to Reality: A History of Queer Families in Québec, which traces the legal advancements of 2SLGBTQ+ people and their rights to adoption, surrogacy, and child-raising. I regularly contribute to the School's talks and events for LGBT+ History Month.

I hold an MA in Visual Culture (with Distinction) and a BA (Hons) in Modern Languages (First Class Honours), both from Durham University.

Teaching commitments

I currently teach on the following modules:

FREN3451 - Genocide, Violence and Trauma in French and Francophone Culture (4 hours)

VISU1021 - The Art of the Moving Image 1: Key Concepts (20 hours)

I am also assisting in the supervision of a final year dissertation on trans identity in Xavier Dolan's cinema.

Research interests

  • Feminist Thought
  • Maternity
  • Quebecois literature and culture
  • Queer Studies
  • Visual Culture