The table provides a synopsis of the areas of interest of our PhD students; a more detailed description follows below.

Name Area(s) of Interest Methodological and/or Theoretical Approach
Hisham Al Khatib  Renaissance, Shakespeare, Cognitive Literary Studies Cognitive Literary Theories
Bridgette Brown Late 19th / early 20th century Canadian Literature, focussing on the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) Book history, Print Culture
John Coleman Post-1945 British and Commonwealth Literatures; British Literary Publishing; the Creative Economy; Literary Theory; Neoliberal Capitalism; Multiculturalism and Diversity Cultural Materialism; Book History; Literary Sociology
Olivier Jacques 20th century British literature; Utopian and dystopian fiction Utopian Studies; Time and Temporality in literature; Political Theory; Critical Theory
Steve McLeod Canadian Literatures, Indigenous relationality, resistance, and resurgence; Publics and Counterpublics Foucauldian discourse analysis, Indigenous Storywork
Gemma Marr Atlantic Canadian literature; Canadian literature; Mi’kmaq writing and writers; Regional Print Culture Spatial Theory; Queer Theory; Print Culture
Melissa Pullara Early modern drama; Representations of the supernatural on the early modern stage; English Renaissance psychology, religion, and politics Early modern theories of psychology and belief-formation; comparisons between real-life and dramatic accounts of supernatural encounters

Hisham Al Khatib

My doctoral work emerges with a new current in interdisciplinary scholarship that conjoins literary studies with cognitive science in order to develop new uses and methodologies for the analysis of literary characters. I examine four of the most complex and fully realized Shakespearean tragic heroes (Hamlet, Macbeth, Titus, and Othello) and I adapt theoretical paradigms and insights from cognitive science to better understand Shakespeare’s fictional dramatizations of mental operations and their consequent behaviors. I also tend to focus, in this project, on the relation between emotion and decision-making, which Shakespeare’s characters and the conventions of the Renaissance stage are particularly suited to exploring due to their extensive use of soliloquy—a speech genre in which dramatized self-reflection reveals a character’s thoughts, feelings, and mental processes at work. 

Adam Benn

My work focuses on video games and digital culture. In a broad sense, I am interested in how video games represent themselves and other media. Specifically, I am curious about the extensive body of games concerned with collecting, coding, reproducing, and remediating other material objects (printed texts, photographs, paintings, etc.). I contend that video games are in a persistent struggle to represent and describe their own materiality, and they attempt to do so by reproducing and reflecting upon other material forms.

Bridgette Brown

My doctoral research examines an under-studied period in Canadian Literary History around the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), or the South African War as it was commonly known in Canada. This omission can be attributed to the fact that much historical attention has been paid to our country’s participation in the War, but little scholarly work has been conducted on the Canadian literature that this conflict generated. Yet, the War was a remarkably literary one, which has been noted by the fact that by 1899 the literacy of the common soldier and his willingness to write about and publish his experiences had become one of the most striking features of military life (Van Wyk Smith). In addition, this very “literary” way received much attention in the flourishing periodical and newspaper press, and many Canadian authors weighed in on the conflict. I hope to analyze and recover many “lost” works on the subject, while combing through the pro- and anti-War advocates in the periodical press, to examine their place as precedent-setting work for later war reportage, war poetry and fiction, and historical and realist fiction.

John Coleman

My thesis, British Literature and the Rise of the Neoliberal University, analyzes the impact of neoliberal British education policies on contemporary British literature, particularly writing by authors from minoritized communities. Sociologists have shown how these policies, making fine art and design programs key yet generally inaccessible pathways to work in the burgeoning creative economy, have reproduced cultural and racial homogeneity in creative industries workforces. The impact on literature has been remarkable. Despite efforts to increase diversity in the book trades, Creative Skillset reports that only seven per cent of publishing employees are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic – or “BAME” – backgrounds. The vast majority of publishing professionals are white, independently wealthy graduates of elite universities. Scholars have said little about how the literary field responds to, manifests, and perpetuates this escalating – and racialized – inequality, whose ramifications are evident in everything from Brexit to the emboldening of the anti-immigrant alt-right. My research confronts this silence. I show how neoliberal university policy has privileged a relatively homogenous creative class, whose hegemony resonates across literary production and literature itself. I also discern the lines of flight that have emerged to elude this class’s control over the literary sphere – evident in educational, economic, and cultural policy documents; in surveys and reports written by industry practitioners; and in literary works emerging from within this milieu.

Olivier Jacques

My research investigates descriptions of time and temporality in twentieth century utopian and dystopian literature. The twentieth century saw the rise and fall of many real life utopian projects—among others, the peak and downfall of the British Empire; the establishment of socialism or communism in Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba; and the neoliberal promise of universal freedom through economic revolution. I am less concerned with debating the respective value of these revolutionary projects than with exploring how authors have imagined and portrayed life to be under completely different sociopolitical regimes. Utopian and dystopian literature is fueled by the hopes and fears of authors very much concerned with the fate of humankind, which is in part what makes it so fascinating to me.

My interest in time and temporality is more recent, and centers on how political structures can or aim to alter the citizens’ experience of time to different ends. While there is an abundant body of scholarship addressing this subject through literature, there is still much to be said in terms of how this scholarship can inform studies of literary utopias and dystopias. At this point in my research, my doctoral project examines the use of the clock as a site of struggle for stability in twentieth century British dystopian literature. I argue that different types of dystopias employ the clock either as an instrument that enforces a rigid synchronization of the masses or as an instrument that destabilizes the citizens’ experience of time through a promise of temporal stability (through clocks, watches, and calendars) that is then uncannily disturbed through political means—e.g. in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four with its depiction of historical revisionism and clocks striking thirteen, which makes the citizens unsure about the authenticity of their experience of time.

Gemma Marr

My current doctoral research focuses on representations of gender and sexuality in Atlantic Canadian fiction. I am particularly interested in the ways that gender and sexuality intersect with and are shaped by the social, cultural, political, and historical specificities of the region. While much scholarly work in the last twenty years has highlighted how the heteronormative and patriarchal structures so central to Canadian nation building and national consciousness are constructed through or questioned in Canadian texts, the same attention has not been paid to the manifestation and impacts of these pressures in Atlantic Canadian works. Beginning with early writing from the region (such as McCulloch and Haliburton) and moving through to contemporary works (including, but not limited to, MacDonald, Battiste, Coady, Grant, Clarke, and Richards), I hope to investigate the role (or non-role) of queer relations and gender rigidity in the region’s literature. In doing so, I aim to attend to a gap in the region’s literary criticism surrounding sexuality and gender. It is my hope that this project will expand on current work in the field which aspires to complicate a simplistic narrative of the Atlantic Canadian region.

Steve McLeod

In my dissertation research, I examine how contemporary national narratives maintain the settler colonial relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by discursively supporting state sovereignty and neoliberal economic interests over Indigenous community and place-based relationships. In contrast with these narratives, I draw on Jo Ann Archibald’s writings on Coast Salish storywork, and try to understand how Indigenous stories might instead suggest how the Indigenous-non-Indigenous relationship can emerge according to nation-specific Indigenous understandings of respect.

Melissa Pullara

My dissertation emphasizes that the early modern English stage is a significant site for producing psychological uncertainty, specifically through encounters between human characters and representations of the supernatural. Using a wide survey of early modern drama, both Elizabethan and Jacobean, from Shakespeare and Marlowe to Marston and Middleton, I argue that supernatural entities, namely ghosts, witches, and devils are particularly effective in facilitating the internal re-examination of one’s external perceptions because of their ability to rupture the psychological stability of human characters. Because the supernatural exists beyond the limits of human comprehension and control, its unsuspected appearances uproot one’s internal stability, not only by complicating one’s ideas about reality, but more significantly, by leaving one vulnerable to psychological uncertainty in regards to his/her own beliefs. By inducing this state of uncertainty, I argue that the supernatural in early modern English drama exposes human characters to alternative perceptions about their selves and their society which conflict with characters’ socially-constructed beliefs. This psychological conflict, which stems from the initial supernatural encounter, results in the reconfiguration of one’s beliefs, to the extent that characters come to perceive the society they inhabit in ways that challenge certain sixteenth-century social assumptions.

Kimberley Sigouin

BA Honours: English Literature and Theatre; Directed The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus (2012); Currently Directing Macbeth

My research focuses on the representation of “embodied language” in the works of Virginia Woolf, H.D., and Gertrude Stein. Investigating tensions between the everyday lived experience of the body and the ways in which understandings of the body are determined by established notions of language and culture, my doctoral work demonstrates how early twentieth-century women writers moved beyond models of language as a medium of representation, exploring instead language’s materiality. By exploring the notion of embodied language in dialogue with emergent discourses on the paradoxical nature of the everyday (the everyday as monotonous and volatile), these authors move away from “the colonization of everyday life” (Debord qtd in “Everyday” 176) to understandings of the everyday that “re-energize” and “re-form” the body (Armstrong 2).

My graduate coursework has enabled me to pursue research projects that have allowed me substantially to think through some of the key areas of concern animating the thesis project. I explored the dynamic relationship between disembodied consciousness and the corporeality of the body. I studied representations of the body in relation to surrealists and other contemporary modernist writers, critiquing futurists such as Breton and Marinetti who separate the spiritual realm from the physical realm in order to escape momentarily the constraints of the social unit. At the doctoral level, I am expanding my research on the aesthetic of the body, focusing on a language of embodiment in dialogue with new discourses of the everyday and arguing that Woolf, H.D, and Stein do not resolve the dichotomy between mind and corporeality by advocating a necessary attempt to transcend lived experience.

Favourite Books
The Waves, To the Lighthouse, Between the Acts, Jacob’s Room, Hermione, The Wrong Side of Paris, We, Slaughter-House Five, Morris, Heart of Darkness, Murphy, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Never Let Me Go