Associate Professor

Veronica Austen

PhD, Waterloo
MA, Waterloo
BA, Guelph

Extension: 28300
Office: SJU Sweeney Hall 2202



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. I love the curmudgeonly old (well, dead) men of Canadian literature, in particular Al Purdy and Morley Callaghan. 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 a 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., Claire Harris and M. NourbeSe Philip). 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

“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 (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

For the last couple of years, my work has focussed on the means for ethical engagement with the trauma of others. In particular, I’ve been looking at how writers use the formal features of their texts to manage both their own and their audience’s access to the events being represented.

At present, I’m heading towards a project that lets me again combine my interests in literary studies and the fine arts. In this project, I’m exploring how contemporary Canadian writers use the trope of the visual arts to explore and critique relationships with the past, including relationships with personal, familial, cultural, and national histories. I have begun this project with a look at Dionne Brand’s use of photography as a trope across her writing, and I am continuing this project with an exploration of poet-painter Roy Kiyooka’s writing.

Areas of graduate supervision

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

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