Associate Professor | Associate Dean, St. Jerome's University

Photo of Veronica Austen

PhD, Waterloo
MA, Waterloo
BA, Guelph

Extension: 28300
Office: SJU Sweeney Hall 2202

Email: vjausten@uwaterloo.ca

Biography

Coming to St. Jerome's as their specialist in Postcolonial and Canadian Literature represents a bit of a homecoming for me. Not only did I take ENGL 316: Canadian Drama at St. Jerome's from Dr. Ted McGee as I was deciding if I'd pursue graduate work, but also my first term as a graduate student brought me to St. Jerome's for a course in Canadian Poetry. Much of my current work both as a researcher and a teacher has been inspired by those early experiences. 

If I had to pick, I’d say poetry is my favourite genre to study (and to write), but my interests tend to be rather broad. My M.A. thesis dealt with representations of the supernatural in Canadian Children’s Literature (likely a bit inspired by the popularity of The X-files, I’m afraid). I’m artistic, with an undergraduate minor in Fine Arts, so my work in literary studies often deals with intersections between the visual arts and literature. For instance, my Ph.D. dissertation focussed on the use of visual experimentation by poets of the Caribbean diaspora (e.g., Kamau Brathwaite, Claire Harris, and M. NourbeSe Philip). Furthermore, my current project Artful (Un)Belonging considers how references to and/or the incorporation of the visual arts is deployed in contemporary Canadian Literature as a means of interrogating experiences of (un)belonging. I also very much value Canadian literature as something we live in the midst of; it surrounds us if we let it. As co-organizer of St. Jerome’s Reading Series, which brings Canadian writers to campus for readings, I hope to play a part in letting Canadian literature have a recognized and appreciated place among us.

Selected publications

“The Pivot of Athwartedness: Roy Kiyooka’s ‘Pacific Windows.” Pictura: Essays on the Works of Roy Kiyooka. Ed. Juliana Pivato. Guernica, 2020. 85-107.

“Body as Battleground: Acts of Eating in D’Aguiar’s Feeding the Ghosts and Philip’s Zong!” Ariel: A Review of International English Literature 50.1 (2019): 91-120.

“‘If I can make it there . . .’: Jann Arden’s American Dream.” Get Away From Me: Canadian Pop Music and American Culture. Ed. Tristanne Connolly and Tomoyuki Iino. Palgrave, 2017. 217-239.

“Self-consumption and Compromised Re-birth in Dabydeen’s ‘Turner.’” Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 3.2 (2016): 1-13.

“Spaces of Agency: Installation Art in Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For.” Canadian Literature 223 (2014): 67-83. 

“Empathetic Engagement in Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying.” Ariel: A Review of International English Literature 44.2-3 (2013): 29-57.

“Photography as Failed Prosthetic Self-Creation in the Writing of Dionne Brand.” MaComère 14.1-2 (2013-14): 43-61.

“Zong!’s ‘Should We?’: Questioning the Ethical Representation of Trauma.” English Studies in Canada 37.3-4 (2011): 61-81.

“‘Haven’t We Heard this all Before?’: Contingent Faculty and the Unchanging Times.” English Studies in Canada 37.1(2011): 13-16. (Invited paper)

“Inhabitable Spaces in Claire Harris’s She.” Studies in Canadian Literature 34.2 (2009):178-93.

“The Value of Creative Writing Assignments in English Literature Courses.” New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing 2.2 (2005): 138-50.

Fellowships & Awards

  • 2018-2020 SSHRC Insight Development Grant awarded for "Artful (Un)Belonging: Expressing Racialization through the Visual Arts in Contemporary Canadian Literature"

  • 2018-2020 Faculty Research Grant, St. Jerome's University, awarded for "Art of Loss: The Visual Arts and Mourning in Anglophone Caribbean Literature"

  • 2017-2018 UW/SSHRC Research Incentive Fund Award-Insight Development Grant: “Artful (Un)Belonging: Expressing Racialization through the Visual Arts in Contemporary Canadian Literature”
  • 2016-18 UW/SSHRC Seed Grant: "The Visual Arts and Racial/Cultural Otherness in Contemporary Canadian Literature"
  • 2013-2014 Faculty Research Grant, St. Jerome's University, awarded for "The Visual Arts and Racial/Cultural Otherness in Contemporary Canadian Literature."
  • 2006 Certificate in University Teaching Prize, University of Waterloo

Current research

In the last number of years, my work has explored such questions as ethical engagement with the trauma of others. Namely, it has considered how writers use the formal features of their texts to manage both their own and their audience’s access to, and thereby relationships with, the events and people being represented. I have also developed a focus that considers literary representations of acts of eating. This work conceives of representation of eating as explorations of power systems and dynamics.

My primary project at present is one that lets me combine my interests in literary studies and the fine arts. In this project, I am exploring how contemporary Canadian writers use the visual arts to explore experiences of (un)belonging. I theorize that intersections between the visual and literary arts function to interrogate the efficacies of showing rather than, or in addition to, telling. As deployed by various authors, the visual arts become an alternate mode of communication that allows for the expression of difficult subjects for which words may fail. This project has begun with a focus on such writers as Dionne Brand, Roy Kiyooka, Fred Wah, George Elliott Clarke, and Kim Barry Brunhuber.

Areas of graduate supervision

  • Canadian literature
  • Caribbean literature
  • Diaspora studies
  • Contemporary poetry and poetics
  • Visual arts in literature
Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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