Jules Odendahl-James, Ph.D.
Director of Academic Engagement, Arts & Humanities
I began this position in May 2014 after nine previous years at Duke, teaching first in the Thompson Writing Program (courses like Performance Criticism, Documenting Death, Crime Scene Imagination, and Verbatim/Verboten: Documentary Theater & Film) and most recently as the resident dramaturg and visiting lecturer in the Department of Theater Studies. I am a professional theater artist who has been making work in the Triangle since 1997 with companies such as Playmakers Repertory Company, Manbites Dog Theater, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and Skydive Productions. I have also been the advisor to Duke’s “Me Too Monologues” since 2011.
Before coming to Duke, I earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater and dance from the University of Texas at Austin, where I founded my own company, Bold Maids Productions. At UT my directing training focused on feminist performance theory and practices with a particular interest in cisgender women, queer and trans* performance artists and playwrights. I earned a doctorate in performance studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My doctoral research has expanded into a long-term inquiry about embodiment and ethics in documentary performance, particularly those stories that explore traumatic and violent events. That inquiry has led me to another domain of research regarding collaborations between scientists and artists on issues that extend across disciplinary fields and social import: sustainability, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, mortality, even the nature of matter itself.
While at UNC, I served as an undergraduate advisor, working with students as they navigated curricular requirements with an eye toward building their own unique intellectual experience and values to carry into a variety of post-college callings. For the past four years at Duke, I’ve mentored students from first year to senior year about the unique challenges and opportunities they face as they decide what kind of central role the performing arts will play in their post-Duke life. My own educational and professional path has been shaped by an ability to see objects and experiences in their complex relationships to other objects and experiences. An ability to take both a macro- and micro- perspective makes me particularly adept at helping Duke students see connections across their many fields of interest: personal, intellectual, social and civic. I’m excited to collaborate with students on developing strong habits of work as they navigate the wealth of opportunities and innovation happening in the arts and humanities on this campus.