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Heart of Barton: Dr. Elaine Marshall

by Aaron Flake, 2015 PR Intern

Before televisions entered the households of American citizens everywhere, theatres were primary sources of entertainment. Westerns sped across drive-in screens with thrilling speeds, Elvis Presley swooned many hearts with his musicals, and cartoons became full-length films when Disney grew popular at movie houses.

In the United States, before the cinema industry expanded into what it is today, there were drive-ins and movie houses in many small towns across the country. In one of those small towns, six year-old Elaine Marshall gazed upon the screens in wonder, watching adventures unfold before her eyes. During her childhood, going to the movies was a grand experience, a time when the community gathered and watched newsreels and cartoon shorts before the main feature began. Now, Marshall continues enjoying films not only in theatres, or in the comfort of her home, but in the classroom as well.

Dr. Marshall, a current English professor at Barton, teaches Film Appreciation alongside other literature courses. The course was already in place when she arrived in 1986, when Barton was still Atlantic Christian College. A previous member of the English faculty, Dr. Richard Schneider, previously taught the course; when he retired, she inherited it.

In the class, she and her students discuss and praise the techniques used in classics like Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush.” Dr. Marshall sees the class as an opportunity for students to gain a better understanding for films and a deeper meaning from the messages they convey.

“Films are a great tool for teaching,” Dr. Marshall explained, “because as stories, they promote moral learning. Most stories deal with good and evil in some way, sometimes in simple terms, but more often with complexity. Stories give us insight in how to live and how not to live. Of course, literature does that too, but movies can do it with a different kind of vividness and power.”

Dr. Jim Clark, Dean of Barton’s School of Humanities and a colleague of Dr. Marshall’s in the English program, appreciates the perspective and vitality she brings to the classroom and to the campus. “I think what I value most about Dr. Marshall is her wit, humor, and the advice she gives others. Her humor, especially, is something I greatly admire,” said Dr. Clark.

The soft-spoken, humorous professor plans to retire following spring semester. After more than 30 years of service to the College, she plans on focusing on her family. “I expect to move to Wilmington to be near my daughter, Angela, and her family, which includes my two grandsons, Luke and David,” shared Dr. Marshall. “I will also be visiting my daughter, Debi, and my grand-daughters, Eleanor and Lucy, in Montreal.” Along with her family, Dr. Marshall wants to focus on writing a book of poetry, as well as other interests she has not yet had time to pursue. “I may try my hand at photography or painting,” she added, but most importantly, “I’ll still be going to the movies.”