Un/Potted Bio

I am an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Victoria, where my research is in cultural and media studies, with a focus on the postcolonial Caribbean, diaspora and Jewish studies, and global cinema. I teach undergraduate and graduate film and literature courses, and I supervise MA and PhD students. Literary discourse, research and writing are my passion, hobby, and avocation. In the spirit of my many activist heroes and academic mentors, I aspire to responsibly fulfill the role of public intellectual. I take Walter Benjamin's suggestion — that each generation is imbued with "a weak messianic power" to revitalize forgotten or rejected prospects of the past in surprising new ways — as a source of practical and theoretical optimism.

I have been employed as a member of the University of Victoria's research faculty in the English Department since 2006. I applied for a position and accepted appointment there because I was attracted by the Department's intellectual dynamism, collegiality, and excellent research and teaching reputation (the Department has been ranked among the top 100 English departments in the world). Prior to that, I was an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile, where I was hired in 2003, in my first year out on the academic job market. I graduated with a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, in the summer of 2003. My dissertation, on the writers Aharon Appelfeld and Edouard Glissant, was supervised by Profs. Chana Kronfeld and Michael Lucey. My full academic cv is available here.

I am an avowed film hobbyist, in addition to my teaching and research interests in cinema studies. I graduated with a BA in Semiotics from Brown University, where I studied under brilliant and dedicated teachers such as Michael Silverman, Mary Ann Doane, and Leslie Thornton. Afterwards, living in New York City, I adapted my undergraduate honor's thesis into a feature-length experimental documentary film (16mm) about Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees living in the US. The film, titled "And I Still Remain Here," concerned the problems of narrating history in the aftermath of traumatic experiences. It was shown in a few galleries and small theatres in New York City and then, perhaps rightfully, faded into obscurity. I have since dabbled in amateur video production, including supervising student video projects. My other film-related passion has been film festivals; I spent quite a few summers working for the Jerusalem International Film Festival and I have served as a film festival juror elsewhere. In my early 20s, I was the understudy of the critic Bérénice Reynaud and the dancer and theorist Yvonne Rainer for a feminist film festival and conference they organized in New York City.

By dint of study and good fortune (but not natural disposition), I am a polyglot. I speak and read, albeit slowly, French, Hebrew and Spanish. For short periods I have lived in Israel and France. Although my home is in Canada, I still maintain many close personal connections in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I lived in Oakland and Berkeley.

Over the years, I've been involved in a number of publishing ventures. For several years, I was a section editor of the online, open-access academic journal Postcolonial Text. In the past, I was a student journalist and an editor of the student-run theory journal Subjects/Objects in the mid-1980s. For more than a decade, I was a co-editor, with other activists and academics, of the online news commentary project Jewish Peace News, which I founded in 2000. For four strange years (I have a few stories not embargoed by attorney-client privilege) prior to and during graduate school, I held legal proofreading jobs, before I graduated to the nominally less eccentric work of teaching assistantships.

I deeply value family life and my intimate friendships as sources of emotional sustenance and personal fulfillment. I am happily married to Caren Zilber-Shlensky and a delighted father of our school-age kids. I am very close with my immediate family, including my activist mother, Evely Laser Shlensky, and my extended family. My father Ron Shlensky, ז״ל, passed away unexpectedly in 2006. 

Although I am not conventionally religious, I was brought up by my parents and grandparents in Chicago in the Jewish tradition. I embrace, albeit sometimes awkwardly, the metaphysical conundrums of faith and the obligations of communal affiliation, and Caren and I strive to convey our Jewish religious and cultural roots thoughtfully to our children. I was among the founding group and early leaders, in the mid-1990s, of Jewish Voice for Peace, which at that time was a living room-size group but has since grown into a major Jewish peace and human rights organization in North America. I have also served in Jewish organizations as diverse as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (in Washington, D.C.), Berkeley Hillel, the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, If Not Now, When? (Victoria), and as a board member and vice president of Congregation Emanu-El, also in Victoria. I served for two years as the director of the Jewish Community Centre's Victoria International Jewish Film Festival, in 2017-19, after two years of serving as its programmer, and I continue to jury films for the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival.

From time to time, I write creatively. Thanks in part to my acting experience while a student at Santa Barbara High School, I've invented an improbable theatrical cosmos of shady characters and meandering stories to convince my kids that bedtime isn't simply a drag.

I invite you to contact me, or send ground mail to the address below.