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Hire Purpose: Kate Flint

Extraordinary

Kate Flint is Provost Professor of English and Art History, and chair of art history. She arrived Fall 2011 from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and before that taught at Oxford and Bristol universities in England, from which she hails. Illustration by Bill Sanderson.
Kate Flint is Provost Professor of English and Art History, and chair of art history. She arrived Fall 2011 from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and before that taught at Oxford and Bristol universities in England, from which she hails. Illustration by Bill Sanderson.

You wake up in the morning, make toast then tweet about it. Later, you tell your followers about standing in line at Starbucks and feeding the cat.

Kate Flint is interested in the concept of the everyday and ordinary. What is ordinary? How do people represent the ordinary?

“Why do people come to care about unremarkable, ordinary experiences?” asked Flint, whose book, now in its early stages, will focus on how views of ordinariness have changed from the 19th century to now.

“Not just materially, not what shifts in the street, but how have ideas of what is ordinary changed? Do we only think about conceptions of ordinariness when we can set it against something? Are we setting it against heroic or theological ideas — ideas about God, about the transcendental?”

This new project could be considered the antithesis of a book she’s now finishing about flash photography. Using a flash of artificial light in photography could be seen as something remarkable — something used to immortalize a moment.

Yet conversely, flash photography serves to illuminate and make record of the ordinary.

The book shows how flash has gone from the miraculous to an inconvenience.

“I’m interested in the whole movement from thinking about flash in terms of something almost magical — providing a revelation like a flash of inspiration — to a relative flashing away at Thanksgiving, or something downright intrusive like the work of paparazzi. The book goes beyond photography. It’s more about a culture that uses photography.”

Flint doesn’t think conventionally. Even as a young child living in Naworth Castle, in Cumbria, England, where her father managed a missile construction site, the little girl didn’t dream of being a princess.

“I wanted to be a truck driver. Because I wanted to travel.”