Photo of Barbara Leckie

Barbara Leckie

Degrees:B.A. (Toronto), M.A., Ph.D. (McGill), Postdoc (U of California, Berkeley)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 1382
Office:1806 Dunton Tower

I am also cross-appointed with the Institute for the Comparative Study of Literature, Art, and Culture (ICSLAC)

Research Interests

    • Nineteenth-century print culture
    • Cultural History of Procrastination
    • Climate change and eco-criticism
    • Architecture and the built environment
  • Narratives of nineteenth-century social reform
  • Print censorship, law, and literature
  • Critical and cultural theory
  • Theories of the novel

Current Research

My research addresses the impact of cultural forms and representations on social and political change and knowledge production. How does the way a problem is described shape the solutions that are imagined? What are the most effective ways to generate social change? How should we understand nineteenth-century exposés of injustice that do not generate anticipated reforms? How should we understand our current failure to respond adequately to calls for climate change action? What new formal approaches can we imagine to shift the terms of stalled debates? What new histories can we write to inflect familiar issues with fresh energy and vision? I address these and other questions through historically- and theoretically-informed interdisciplinary work. My current and recent research projects are as follows:

    1. Unfinished: A Cultural History of Nineteenth-Century Procrastination. This SSHRC-funded book project is inspired by the fact that much of the burgeoning material on procrastination of the last thirty years turns to the nineteenth century for examples (Coleridge, De Quincey, Hugo, George Eliot, for example). And yet, to date, there has been no scholarly study of procrastination in this period. Indeed, there has been no historical study of procrastination at all. (One critic, after patiently tracking bibliographical references to such a study, learns that the author never completed it.) “Unfinished” will accordingly fill this gap by offering a cultural history of procrastination in the nineteenth century, the period when procrastination emerges as a personal problem. This project is enabled by new humanities scholarship on procrastination in the last fifteen years. One of the most suggestive observations made by these humanities critics is that procrastination and industrialization are in some way related. This insight, however, has not been developed at any length. The main body of research on procrastination, rather, comes from the discipline of psychology. Psychological approaches, not surprisingly, orient procrastination in relation to the self and identify procrastination as a psychological problem to be fixed. They offer strategies, lists, and challenges for overcoming procrastination and, in the process, set the terms for the larger discussion. But they do not tell us why, when, or how procrastination came to be seen as a psychological problem. To seek the answer to these questions, “Unfinished” argues, we have to turn to the nineteenth century. For my recent publications and presentations on this topic please see below.
    2. Climate Change, Interrupted. This short book project is in its preliminary stages and focuses on the role of non-traditional narrative forms as catalysts to prompt social change. It is organized in three parts: the first part will focus on 1784 and the invention of the steam engine and the way that year functions in current climate change literature; the second part turns to railway accidents in the nineteenth century and the myriad questions of interruption they raise; and the third part looks at the use of interruption as a strategy in current print approaches to climate change. All three sections are situated in the context of Walter Benjamin’s reflections on interruption as a revolutionary political strategy. I am also interested in exploring new formal models for the traditional academic essay. For my recent publications and presentations on this topic please see below. This new project has also benefited enormously from my involvement with Vcologies, an international working group of ecocritics working in the British nineteenth century.In 2014 I started the Carleton Climate Commons at Carleton University. This group brings together faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students to discuss climate change issues in relation to the humanities and social sciences. Each year we host a series of events to spotlight our three-pronged focus on research, teaching, and political action. For more information please see our website.
    3. Open Houses: The Architectural Idea, the Rise of the Novel, and Nineteenth-Century Modernity (forthcoming with U of Penn P, 2018). In the 1830s and 40s a new orientation to housing of the poor emerged in British print and visual culture. In response to cholera outbreaks, political unrest, and government initiatives, commentators evinced a keen desire to document housing of the poor in an effort to gain knowledge of housing conditions and to agitate for housing reform. Strikingly, they focus on opening the domestic interiors of the poor to public view. Open Houses: The Architectural Idea, the Rise of the Novel, and Nineteenth-Century Modernity offers the first extended treatment of this documentary turn to the interiors of houses of the poor. It unpacks the implications of the focus on interiors through an analysis of government documents and reports, investigative studies, journalistic accounts, archival material, books and pamphlets, novels and poems, architectural plans, and visual culture. Open Houses argues that the massive and unprecedented documentation of housing of the poor challenged prevailing epistemological models and their role in political agitation. At the same time, it highlighted “the architectural idea”—the idea that architecture was a shaping category of analysis for personal, social, political, and national formations—specifically in the context of housing of the poor. Architecture and housing of the poor, however, continue to reside at the periphery of architectural and built environment studies and to be more or less absent from the architecture/literature intersection. Open Houses, accordingly, poses the question: what difference does it make when we consider the centrality of nineteenth-century housing of the poor in the context of architecture, the rise of the novel, and modernity? The answer involves a profound rethinking and reshaping of each of these categories.

Two related projects are as follows: First is my edited collection of primary documents dedicated to sanitary reform entitled Sanitary Reform in Victorian Britain: End of Century Assessments and New Directions (General Editor: Michelle Allen-Emerson; Pickering & Chatto), 2014.

A second project that complements Open Houses is my co-edited (with Janice Schroeder) edition of Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, forthcoming with Broadview Press, 2018.

Recent Honours and Awards

  • Carleton Research Achievement Award (2018-19)
  • SSHRC Insight Grant (2017-2021)
  • Nominee, Faculty Graduate Mentoring Award (2017)
  • FASS Research Achievement Award (2016-17)
  • SSHRC Institutional Grant (2013-2014)
  • SSHRC Institutional Grant (2010-2011)
  • SSHRC Standard Research Grant (2002-2006)


Open Houses: The Architectural Idea, the Rise of the Novel, and Nineteenth-Century Modernity. Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn P. Forthcoming 2018.

Culture and Adultery: The Novel, the Newspaper, and the Law, 1857-1914. Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn P [New Cultural Studies Series], 1999.

Rohinton Mistry. Toronto: ECW P, 1996. Rpt. Canadian Writers and Their Works. Vol. 11 Eds. Robert Lecker, Jack David, Ellen Quigley. Toronto: ECW P, 1996. 104-61.

Edited Books

Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and London Poor. Co-edited volume with Janice Schroeder. Downsview: Broadview P. Forthcoming 2018.

Sanitary Reform in Victorian Britain: End of Century Assessments and New Directions. Ed. Vol. 6 General Ed. of 6-volume edition: Michelle Allen Emerson. London: Pickering & Chatto. Forthcoming Spring 2012.

Recent Publications

“Animated Conversations: Form, Transformation, and the Category of the Novel in the 1880s.” The Literary 1880s. Eds. Andrew Taylor and Penny Fielding. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Forthcoming.

“Sequence and Fragment, History and Thesis: Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help, Social Change, and Climate Change.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 38.5 (2016): 305-17.

“‘A New Departure in Biography’: Samuel Smiles’s Writing.” Nineteenth-Century Prose 43.1-2 (Spring-Fall 2016): 283-301.

 “Reader-Help: How to Read Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help.” Media and Print Culture Consumption in Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Victorian Reading Experience. Eds. Anna Gasparini and Paul Rooney. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

“On Print Culture: Mediation, Practice, Politics, Knowledge.” [An omnibus review article.] Victorian Literature and Culture 43.4 (December 2015): 895-907.

“Historical Distance and Questions of Form in 5½ Points.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association / Revue de la SHC 26.2 (2015): 22-31.

“The Victorian Culture of Censorship.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature. Eds.Dino Franco Felluga, Pamela K. Gilbert, and Linda K. Hughes. Oxford: Blackwell, 2015. See also Blackwell Reference Online.

“The Bitter Cry of Outcast London Controversy (1883): Print Exposé and Print Reprise.” BRANCH (Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History). Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. 2014. Web.

“Prince Albert’s Exhibition Model Dwellings in Hyde Park, 1851.” BRANCH (Britain,Representation and Nineteenth-Century History). Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. 2014. Web.

“Censorship, The Novel, and Print Culture.” Oxford Handbook of the Victorian Novel. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. 166-82.

“What is the Social Problem Novel?” Victorian Literature: 21st Century Perspectives. Ed. Larry Mazzano. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013. 87-110.

“The Architecture of Middlemarch: From Building Cottages to the Home Epic.” Nineteenth-Century Studies. 24 (2012): 53-79.

Recent Presentations

“The Table Condition: Things, Ghosts, Angels, and Climate Change in Manchester, 1840-50.” INCS Conference. Philadelphia, PA. 17 March 2017.

“Of Two Minds: Interdisciplinarity in Thought and Practice.” Invited Participant for Special Graduate Student Caucus. INCS Conference. Philadelphia, PA. 18 March 2017.

“Letting/Critiquing: A Dialogue on the Production of Social Time, Social Change, and Wilkie Collins’s Poor Miss Finch.” NAVSA Conference. Phoenix, Arizona. 3 November 2016.

“Climate Change, Interrupted (1859).” V-Cologies Conference. Davis University, CA. 17 September 2016.

 “Climate Change, Interrupted (2014-15).” Narrative Conference. Amsterdam, Holland. 18 June 2016.

“Sequence and Fragment, History and Thesis: Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help, Social Change, and Climate Change.” INCS. Asheville, North Carolina. 11 March 2016.

“A Response to On Historical Distance in 5½ Points.” (Part of a Roundtable on Mark Salber Phillips’s On Historical Distance.) Canadian Historical Association Conference. Ottawa, Ontario. 3 June 2015.

“Stalled; or, The Procrastinator’s Progress circa 1851 and 1859: Being an Account by Two Men, a Novelist and a Biographer, of the Perils Attendant Upon Not Dedicating One’s Self to a Task at Hand and Putting Off for Tomorrow What Should be Done Today; and Being an Account also, By the Two Men’s Example, of the Great Difficulty They Have Getting to the Point or Moving Their Own Narratives in a Forward Direction; or, A Paper in which Nothing Actually Happens.” INCS Conference. Atlanta, Georgia. 17 April 2015.

“Procrastination and Perseverance: Bleak House, the Great Exhibition, and Self-Help as Works in Progress.” NAVSA Conference, London, Ontario. 14 November 2014.

“Wasting Time: Perseverance, Reading, Procrastination.” Victorian Popular Fiction Conference. Senate House, London, England. 9 July 2014.

“Victorian Procrastination: Or, Middlemarch as a Primer on Procrastination in Ten Easy Lessons.” Procrastination: Cultural Explorations Conference. University of Oxford. 2 July 2014.

“Unfinished: An Incomplete Account of Victorian Procrastination.” Keynote Address. VSAO Conference, Glendon College, York University. 26 April 2014.

“Three Stories of Victorian Procrastination.” Research Talks, English Department, Carleton University. 11 April 2014.

“Victorian Procrastination.” INCS Conference. Houston, Texas. 24 March 2014.

“The Evidence of Empty Space.” NAVSA Conference, Pasadena, LA. 25 October 2013.

“The Architectural Idea.” (Invited to present a paper for a Work-in-Progress seminar.) NAVSA Ca’Foscari Univ. of Venice, Venice. 6 June 2013.

“The Epistemology of the Urban Network: Slums, Statistics, and Sanitation in the 1850s.” NAVSA Conference, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, 29 September 2012.

“Opinion and Doxa: The “Sanitary Idea” in the 1850s.” NVSA Conference. Columbia Univ. New York. 14 April 2012.

“‘Seeing is Believing’: Advocating for Social Reform in Mid-Century London.” INCS Conference. Univ. of Kentucky. 24 March 2012.