Michelle Butler Hallett
|Degrees:||BA Highest Honours in English 1993; MA in English 1996|
Michelle Butler Hallett writes fiction about violence, evil, love and grace. A lifelong student, Butler Hallett is drawn to the histories and literature of Russia and Britain, areas of study first discovered at Carleton. She is the author of the novels This Marlowe, listed for the ReLit Award and the Dublin International Literary Award, deluded your sailors, Sky Waves, and Double-blind, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award, and the story collection The shadow side of grace. Her short stories are widely anthologized in Hard Ol’ Spot, The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction, Everything Is So Political, Running the Whale’s Back, and Best American Mystery Stories 2014 . Butler Hallett also works in radio. She lives in St John’s.
How has your Carleton English degree informed your professional and/or creative path?
I knew in childhood I wanted to write fiction, My English studies at Carleton gave me a solid appreciation for the canon while also making plenty of room to explore non-canonical texts and discuss the inherent problems of a canon. I honed my curiosity at Carleton, and that trait makes me a better thinker. As a novelist, I try to see nuances of my characters’ lives, see the intersections, and show them. I can credit that habit of thinking to my English studies.
Why Carleton? What specific experiences or opportunities did you benefit from while studying English at Carleton?
I had the immense privilege to come to Carleton from another province and finish my undergrad and some of my grad studies as a full-time student. When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to write fiction. I also knew my own vast ignorance of storytelling development over the centuries could hold me back. I consulted various university calendars and came to consider Carleton’s BA in English perhaps the most comprehensive. I turned down scholarships to Dalhousie and University of Ottawa to attend Carleton. No regrets there.
My studies at Carleton gave me a solid grounding in the evolution of storytelling in English, as well as a peek into other cultures and the diversity of human experience via translation. One course in particular, a first-year course called English and Continental Texts, taught by the late Michael Thompson, lit up my hungry mind and sparked me to seek out more. I was already an obnoxious ask-lots-of-questions-while-mouthing-off student; my English studies at Carleton helped me develop my critical thinking and channel my gifts — if to the chronic exasperation of the professors stuck with me as a student. In truth, I owe much of my success as a novelist to my studies at Carleton.