Photo of Brenda Vellino

Brenda Vellino

Degrees:B.A. Honours (Evangel College); M.A. (Northeastern University); Ph.D. (Western)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2321
Office:1815 Dunton Tower

Research Interests:

  • Twentieth Century/Contemporary Poetry Studies (US, Canadian, and Transnational)
  • Twentieth Century/Contemporary Theatre Studies (Canadian, Indigenous, Transnational)
  • Contemporary Indigenous Literatures and Cultures
  • Critical (Re)conciliation Studies
  • Transitional Justice and the Arts
  • Human Rights Humanities; Environmental Humanities
  • Gender, Sexuality, Critical Race, Decolonial Studies

Current Research Projects:

Contemporary Transnational Poetry and Human Rights; Contemporary Theatre and Grassroots Transitional Justice; Contemporary Indigenous Cultural Production and Re-presencing.

I am a cross-appointed faculty member in the Human Rights and Social Justice program in The Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies.  I am also a member of CIRICLE, the Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language, and Education. I welcome enquiries regarding supervisions in the human rights humanities, Indigenous cultural studies, transitional justice and cultural studies, contemporary poetry studies, and contemporary theatre studies.

Most of the first twenty years of my research and teaching career has focused on contemporary Canadian, US, Indigenous, and transnational poetry with publications on writers ranging from the modernist H.D. to Audre Lorde to Canadians Dorothy Livesay, Lilian Allen, Daphne Marlatt, and Dionne Brand. In the past five years, my research and teaching interests have broadened to include contemporary theatre studies, particularly focused on transnational, Canadian, and Indigenous theatre. I consider both poetry and theatre to be a means of performative intervention into important conversations around social identities, human rights, citizenship, and ecological concerns. These priorities inform both my research and teaching.

Compelled by interests in feminist, critical race, and postcolonial theory, I have been especially engaged in the emerging field of literature and human rights, publishing in several key volumes that have helped define the field: Teaching Human Rights in Literary and Cultural Studies (2015) and The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights (2016).

After attending “Idle No More” teach-ins here on unceded Algonquin territory led by “Niigaan: In Conversation” and being propelled by the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, my most recent work engages with the pressing issues of addressing the injustices wrought by 150 years of settler colonialism and attending to Indigenous claims to land, territorial, cultural, and embodied sovereignty. My recent essay in this area is “Restaging Indigenous – Settler Relations: Intercultural Theatre as Redress Rehearsal in Marie Clements’ and Rita Liestner’s The Edward Curtis Project. (Theatre Research in Canada, Spring 2017).


CURO Development Grant, 2013-2015

SSHRC 4A Grant, 2008-2009

SSHRC 4A Grant, 2006-2007

Professional Membership:

Indigenous Literary Studies Association, Canadian Association of Theatre Research, American Comparative Literature Association

Recent and Forthcoming Publications:

“`Re-Creation Stories’: Re-Presencing, Re-embodiment, and Repatriation Practices in Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s “How to Steal a Canoe.” Journal of Canadian Native Studies. Forthcoming: 2019.

Restaging Indigenous – Settler Relations: Intercultural Theatre as Redress Rehearsal in Marie Clement’ and Rita Leistners The Edward Curtis Project.”Theatre Research in Canada. 38.1 (Spring 2017): 92-111.

“Beyond the Trauma Aesthetic: The Cultural Work of Human Rights Witness Poetries.” Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights. Ed Sophia McClennan and Alexandra Schulteis Moore.  New York: Routledge, 2016.

“Cultivating Translocal Citizen Witness:  Contemporary Human Rights Poetry as `Remembrance/Pedagogy.’”  Options for Teaching: Human Rights and Literature. Eds. Alexandra Schulteis Moore and Elizabeth Goldberg.  New York: MLA: 2015.

— With Sarah Waisvisz.The Steveston Noh Project as Redress Theatre from Below.”  Canadian Literature.  Spring 2013.

—.With Sarah Waisvisz. “Yael Farber’s Molora and Colleen Wagner’s Monument as Post-Conflict Redress Theatre.” College Literature. 40.3 Summer 2013: 113-37.

“‘History’s Pulse Measured with Another Hand’: Precarity Archives and Translocal Citizen Witness in Dionne Brand’s Inventory.”  University of Toronto Quarterly.  82.2  Spring 2013: 242-260.

“Seamus Heaney’s Transitional Justice for Post-Conflict Societies.” Peace Review. 20.1 (April 2008).

“Machine Age Discourse, Mechanical Ballet, and Popular Song as Public Archive in Dorothy Livesay’s `Day and Night’.” Studies in Canadian Literature 32.2 (2007): 43-58.

“Human Rights Poetry as Proxy Trial: Bodies and Bystanders in Margaret Atwood’s `Footnote to the Amnesty Report on Torture.” The Adventurist Jurist. Eds. Diana Majury and Atkinson, Logan. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2007.

Recent Papers:

“Intimate Relations: Living Contextual Practices of “Intergenerational Memory” in Leanne Simpson’s `How to Steal a Canoe’.” Indigenous Literary Studies Assoc., Sto: lo First Nation Territory, Chiliwack, B.C., June 2017.

“Witnessing Alongside Indigenous Memorial Spaces and Ceremonial Practices.” CACLALS, U of Calgary, May 2016.

“Indigenous Women’s Rights in an Era of Settler Apology.” Human Rights Lit. Seminar, ACLA, Harvard, March 2016.

—with Steve McLeod. “Unsettled Solidarities”: Settler Learning Through a Practice of Place-Based Relationships” CALA, U of Calgary, May 2016.

“Literary Unveiling? Pashtun Women in Eliza Griswold’s Humanitarian Feminist Bildungsroman I Am The Beggar of This World.” Human Rights Lit. Seminar. ACLA Conference, Seattle, March 2015.

“Indigenous – Settler Theater Collaboration as Redress Rehearsal.” Canadian Association of Theatre Research, University of Ottawa, June 2015.

“Mental Fragility and Provisional Agency in Nadine McGinnis’s Two Hemispheres.” Canadian Association of Applied Literature, University of Ottawa, June 2015.

“`Implicated in this Toxic Cycle’: Scavenger Poetics, Toxic E-Trash and Eco-Decoloniality in Rita Wong’s Forage.” Human Rights Lit. Seminar. CLA Conference, New York U., March 2014.

—with Sarah Waisvisz. “Transnational Adaptations as Redress Theatre: Yael Farber’s Molora and Lynn Nottage’s Ruined .” CACLALS, University of Victoria. June 2013.

“A Woman of the Citizen’s Party”: Adrienne Rich’s Translocal Citizenship as Human Rights Ethics.” ”International Human Rights Humanities Conference. American University of Beirut,  May 9-11, 2012.

— with Sarah Waisvisz. “Staging Post-Conflict Zones: Radical Adaptation in Transnational Theatre of Redress.” Human Rights Literature Seminar, ACLA Conference, Brown University.  30 March 2012.

Graduate Courses

2015     The Modernist and Contemporary Long Poem
2013     The Contemporary Canadian Long Poem
2012     The Transnational Contemporary Long Poem


HUMR 4907:  Special Topic in Human Rights: Indigenous Human Rights in an Era of Reconciliation
ENGL 4961A: Indigenous Literatures II: Indigenous Restorying and Resurgence: Popular Genres and Performance Cultures


  • Steve McLeod. Ph.D. Dissertation Committee Member. Resurgence and Storywork-Inspired Analyses of Representations of the Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relationship. Ongoing.
  • Sarah Waisvisz, Ph.D. Dissertation Committee Member. Dissident Diasporas: Genres of Maroon Witness in Anglophone and Caribbean Literature. 2014.
  • Rob Winger, Ph.D. Dissertation Co-Supervisor.  John Thompson, Phyliss Webb and the Roots of the Free Verse Ghazal in Canada. 2009.
  • Chris Johnson, MRP, Canadian Poetry (Phyllis Webb), 2014
  • Danica Meridith, MRP, Canadian Fiction (Michael Redhill), 2013
  • Patricia Corrigan, MRP, Diasporic Long Poem (Dionne Brand), 2011
  • James Hanh, MRP, Canadian Long Poem (Stephen Scobie), 2011