Where are you from? What is your background?
I grew up in Toronto and spent the previous eight years living in Manhattan — I'm a white, cis-het man of vaguely Protestant upbringing, and feel very embarrassed about this and everything else.
Are there any challenges or barriers to success that you’ve had to overcome to get where you are in your career?
It feels obnoxious to say "no" and obnoxious to say "yes" — my only challenges were those faced by most of my generation of scholars, for whom employment can be hard to find and grad student salaries hardly cover cost of living. But I was fortunate to have mentors who understood those challenges and helped me to navigate them, whether sending work my way or being patient with deadlines while I did things that paid. All of which is to say, I feel incredibly lucky to have landed a full-time job in a profession that is nevertheless structured to boost people with my precise background, and I'm very aware that that comes with a responsibility to boost everybody else!
Why did you choose the U of L? Was there something in particular that drew you to the university or the community? Was there a particular person or project that influenced your decision to pursue a career here?
I was and am really excited about the chance to come home to Canada! I was eager to join such a research-focused English department, and although I didn't know much about Southern Alberta before my visit, I was immediately impressed by how friendly everyone was — a stranger gave me a ride to my hotel from the airport!
What do you teach? How do you support your students inside and outside the classroom?
I teach courses in 20thC literature and cultural theory, mostly inflected by urban studies, Marxist Theory and sociology (although I was trained in Queer Theory and Affect Studies, so that inevitably burbles to the surface). But mainly I try to teach my students to think of themselves as capital-w Writers, and as a result, support their explorations and experimentations within the parameters of my assignments and beyond their time in my courses. Whether they become teachers or critics, nurses or clerks, they will always be able to write and I want them to write for themselves and in conversation with the writers who, as Audre Lorde put it, "make [their] living happen."
Please tell us about any research or publications. Do you have students involved in your research?
For the most part, I work on twentieth- and twenty-first century poetry, paying particular attention to modernist writers' understandings of the lyric mode, and to the relationship between experimental poetry and social movements during the Great (Global) Depression. What this really means is constantly asking: why would someone turn to a literary artform that is often thought to evoke a solitary, reflecting speaker to discuss new ways of being together and of forming community? And then: what needed to change in that artform to accommodate these new experiences? One of the fun aspects of working on a doctoral dissertation (or really, any sustained research project) is the feeling of developing a "beat," and having your colleagues and friends send little-known work your way. So right now, as I revise the diss for book-length publication, I'm taking arguments that I initially developed about individual poets and expanding their scope to include more (and more diverse) writers.
Methodologically, all of my research begins in (or very close to) the archive, and with so many early-20thC collections now available digitally, I've enjoyed allowing my students to work on poems in their first published forms, or even providing scans of early manuscripts. This past term, during an early unit on two path-breaking poetry anthologies published in 1922, my students seized on a relatively obscure poem by Joshua Henry Jones Jr, "To A Skull," which propelled a semester-long conversation about spirituality and mortality that I completely had not expected but that I completely enjoyed.
At the same time, I love (some of) what is happening in contemporary experimental literature and love that my job encourages me to write about for more mainstream publications. I started writing for outlets like The National Post during grad school because "working in my field" was a nice loophole for my J-1 visa, and I needed to figure out ways to make money during my fellowshipless summers. Continuing thanks to The Globe's Mark Medley, whose commissions allowed me to pay rent in August 2015! These articles also tend to be an awful lot more digestible than a 30-page, theory-dense interpretation for an academic journal, so if you're interested in what I'm interested in, here are several links to pieces that I'm somehow still proud of!
- "Return to the Gay Underground" for Boston Review
- "At the Living Heart: Translating Aimé Césaire" for The Nation
- "Art and Disappointment: Eugene Lim's Culturally Disaffected Superheroes" for The Times Literary Supplement
- "Play On: Music That Never Was in Nathaniel Mackey's Late Arcade" for BOMB Magazine
- "Pasha Malla's Fugue States and Aisha Sasha John's I have to live Explore Different Ways to Be Seen" for The Globe & Mail
- "On Lisa Robertson's Cinema of the Present" for The National Post
What do you value most about the U of L? What is the best part of your job?
I imagine this answer will change once I have the chance to get onto campus with my colleagues, but for now, I'm really enjoying the curiosity and enthusiasm of the students — they're pushing our seminar conversations in directions that I didn't expect, and brilliantly cross-apply our conversations to other aspects of contemporary culture.
How has your job changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year? How have you adapted to the unique challenges?
I began my job at uLethbridge during COVID, so I might be the rare respondent who can seriously (if only technically) answer: no.
If you were speaking to a prospective undergraduate or graduate student, why would you tell him/her to attend the U of L?
I think under normal circumstances I'd tell them that I can't fathom a more beautiful and peaceful place to learn, read and write while getting to know a community of brilliant young people. For now, though, I'd say that this school has handled COVID more sensibly and compassionately — to its students, faculty and staff — than any of my friends', and that alone makes me positively patriotic about it!