Professor Matthew Lau - English

matthew lau portrait

     Title:  Assistant Professor
     Address: Department of English
Humanities Bldg, Room H-416
222-05 56th Avenue
Bayside, NY 11364-1497
     Phone: 718.631.5521


B.M. Music, University of California, Santa Cruz
B.A. Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz
Ph.D. English, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

My research interests include Film Music, British and German Romanticism, Psychoanalysis, Literary History, and Critical Musicology.  Currently, I am revising a book manuscript entitled “Wagner Sounds Like Helicopters: Classical Music and Modern Cinema.”  Taking examples from the films of Stanley Kubrick, Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola, Jean-Luc Godard, and Michael Haneke, among others, “Wagner Sounds Like Helicopters” argues that many innovative films and directors in cinema history have looked backwards to classical music of the past, and that in so doing these films and directors have renovated classical music for contemporary audiences.  My writings on film, music, literature, and philosophy have appeared in The Symptom: The Online Journal of, Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion, and The CUNY Graduate Center Advocate.  An article on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s interpretation of Beethoven is forthcoming from Comparative Literature, the official journal of the American Comparative Literature Association.

Teaching Philosophy:
The idea that best expresses my teaching philosophy is Walter Benjamin’s dual notion of commentary and critique.  Benjamin defined these terms by contrasting how each relates to a given cultural work or text.  For Benjamin, a cultural text is, in a striking metaphor, “a burning funeral pyre.”  Commentary examines the wood and the ashes; criticism inquires into the enigma of the living, still burning flame.  In my courses, my students and I do both.  My goal is thus to promote student interest in and understanding of what is both historically valuable and still alive in a work or text.  To go a step further, if student learning is optimized by engagement, then my teaching philosophy is to connect with students by presenting texts and works as if they are not only still alive, but also still new, timely, and relevant to students’ lives; all while maintaining a high regard for the histories of criticism and debate that keep the flame of the work going.  Indeed, my students’ own critical work is new fuel for the fire, which is drawn, as it were, from the flame.  Moreover, the task of making a work appear both historical and current unifies the different activities that occur in my courses while allowing for openness not only to new materials I continue to discover in my research, but to students’ insights and ideas as well. 

Elected Co-Chair, QCC Faculty Senate Committee on Environment, Quality of Life, and Disability Issues
Elected Member, QCC English Department Personnel and Budget Committee
Elected Delegate, Professional Staff Congress, CUNY Faculty Union
Member, QCC English Department Hiring Committee
Member, QCC English Department Curriculum Committee
Member, QCC English Department Composition Committee

Professional Affiliations:
Modern Language Association
American Comparative Literature Association
Society for Cinema and Media Studies
American Association of University Professors