Winfried Siemerling

University Research Chair, Professor

Photo of Winfried Siemerling.
PhD, Comparative Literature; Toronto
MA, Toronto
MA, Freiburg



Winfried Siemerling is a University Research Chair and Professor of English at the University of Waterloo, and an Associate of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. He won the Gabrielle Roy Prize for The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past (2015;; French translation 2022).

Siemerling earned an M.A. in English and Romance Literatures and Languages from the University of Freiburg and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto. Trained in Canadian/Québécois and North American comparative literature, he turned his attention especially to cultural emergence, decolonization and race, issues of alterity and recognition, and environmental concerns and the Anthropocene. 

Siemerling was a Harvard postdoctoral fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and repeatedly a Visiting Professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin. Before joining the University of Waterloo in 2010, he served as Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Université de Sherbrooke, where he was for many years Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2019.

Selected Publications


The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past. McGill-Queen’s UP, 2015. French translation; Les écritures noires du Canada: L’Atlantique noir et la présence du passé. Trans. Patricia Godbout, timeline updated by Jean Philippe Mongeau. U of Ottawa P, 2022.

Canada and Its Americas: Transnational Navigations. Ed. Winfried Siemerling and Sarah Phillips Casteel. McGill-Queen’s UP, 2010.

The New North American Studies: Culture, Writing, and the Politics of Re/Cognition. New York and London: Routledge, 2005. Grand Prix du Livre 2006 de la Ville de Sherbrooke. French translation: Récits nord-américains d'émergence: culture, écriture et politique de re/connaissance, Trans. Patricia Godbout. Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2010.

Bibliography of Comparative Studies in Canadian, Québec, and Foreign Literatures/Bibliographie d’ études comparées des littératures canadienne, québécoise et étrangères 1930-1995. By Antoine Sirois, Pamela Grant, David Hayne, Gregory Reid, Winfried Siemerling, and Maria van Sundert. Sherbrooke: Editions GGC, May 2001.

Cultural Difference and the Literary Text: Pluralism and the Limits of Authenticity in North American Literatures. Ed. Winfried Siemerling and Katrin Schwenk. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1996/1997 (Hardcover/Paperback).

Writing Ethnicity: Cross-Cultural Consciousness in Canadian and Québécois Literature. Ed. Winfried Siemerling. Toronto: ECW Press, 1996.

Discoveries of the Other: Alterity in the Work of Leonard Cohen, Hubert Aquin, Michael Ondaatje, and Nicole Brossard. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Reissued as electronic edition by University of Toronto Press, 2008.

Artificial Intelligence in the Humanities: A Practical Introduction to Déredec. Toronto: Department of French, University of Toronto/Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 1989.

Articles & Chapters

“Jazz, Diaspora, and the History and Writing of Black Anglophone Montreal.” Unsettling the Great White North: Black Canadian History. Ed Michele Johnson and Funké Aledejebi. U of Toronto P, 2022. 488-510. Earlier version in Critical Collaborations: Indigeneity, Diaspora, and Ecology in Canadian Literary Studies. Ed. Smaro Kamboureli and Christl Verduyn. Wilfrid Laurier UP 2014. 199-214.

“From Site/Sight to Sound and Film: Critical Black Canadian Memory Culture and Sylvia D. Hamilton’s The Little Black School House.” Harriet’s Daughters: Race, Historical Memories, and Futures in Canada. Ed. Ronald Cummings and Natalee Caple. McGill-Queen’s UP. 2022: 226-42. Rpt. from Studies in Canadian Literature 44.1(June 2019): 30-46. 

Black Activism, Print Culture, and Literature in Canada, 1850-65. African American Literature in Transition, gen. ed. Joycelyn Moody, Vol IV (1850-65), ed. Teresa Zackodnik. Cambridge UP, 2021. 271- 306.

“Re/cognizing the Time-Spaces of the Black Atlantic: A Response.” “Forum on Winfried Siemerling, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered.” Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 8.1 (2021): 114-20.

“Accumulated Time, the Anecdote, and the Vertical Imagination.” Exemplary Singularity: Fault Lines of the Anecdotal. Ed. MaryAnn Snyder-Körber, Florian Sedlmeier, Birte Wege, andJames Dorson. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021. 181-98.

Critical Memory Culture and Public Space: Dispatch from Canada.” The A-Line: A Journal of Progressive Thought 2.4 (November 22, 2020). 

"Austin Clarke: ‘Membering Home and the Black Atlantic.” Revista Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses 78 (2019): 75-81.

“Social Aesthetics and Transcultural Improvisation: Wayde Compton and the Performance of Black Time.” Improvisation and Social Aesthetics.  Ed. Georgina Born, Eric Lewis, and Will Straw. Duke UP, 2017. 255-67.

“Transnational Perspectives on the Americas: Canada, the United States, and the Case of Mary Ann Shadd.” Routledge Companion to Inter-American Studies. Ed. Wilfried Raussert. New York: Routledge, 2017. 31-44. 

“New Ecologies of the Real: Nonsimultaneity and Canadian Literature(s).” Studies in Canadian Literature 41.1 (2016). 125-42.

 “History and the Truth of Fiction: Lawrence Hill.” Ten Canadian Writers in Context: Reading Canadian Literature Today / Dix sur dix: Lire la littérature canadienne aujourd’hui. Ed. Marie Carrière, Peter Midgley, and Jason Purcell. Edmonton: University of Alberta P and Canadian Literature Centre, 2016. 95-101.

“Slave Narratives and Hemispheric Studies.” The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative. Ed. John Ernest. Oxford UP, 2014. 344-61.

"A Conversation with Lawrence Hill." Callaloo 36.1 (2013): 5-26.

“Time-Spaces of the Black Atlantic: Yemaya, Diasporic Disruption, and Connection in Dionne Brand.” Special Issue on Dionne Brand, MaComère 14:1-2 (2013): 12-42.

"Canadian Literatures and the Postcolonial." The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature. Ed. Ato Quayson. Cambridge UP, 2012. Volume I: 171-214.

« Mary Ann Shadd, la diaspora africaine et les Amériques ». Trans, Multi, Interculturalité, Trans, Multi, Interdisciplinarité. Ed. Brigitte Fontille and Patrick Imbert. Trans. Sonya Malaborza. Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2012. 165-77.

"Voicing the Unforeseeable: Improvisation, Social Practice, Collaborative Research." By Winfried Siemerling and Ajay Heble. Cross-Talk. Ed. Diana Brydon and Marta Dvorak.Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2012. 39-51.

“African Canadian Writing at the Crossroads of Space and Time: Lawrence Hill and Wayde Compton.” Riding/Writing across Borders in North American Travelogues and Fiction. Ed. Waldemar Zacharasiewicz. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2011. 185-99.

“Canadian Literatures, Language, Race.” Canadian Literature 204 (Spring 2010): 150-2.

Lawrence Hill. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Posted April 2010.

“Transcultural Improvisation, Transnational Time, and Diasporic Chance in Wayde Compton’s Textual Performance.” West Coast Line 63 (March 2010). 30-37.

“Canadian Literature, Transnational Studies, Race.”Transplanter le Canada: Semailles / Transplanting Canada: Seedlings. Eds. Marie Carriere and Jerry White. Canadian Literature Center Studies / Cahiers du CLC 1. Edmonton: Canadian Literature Centre, 2010. 8-19.

“Bi-Culturalism, Multiculturalism, Transculturalism: Canada and Quebec." Special Issue on “Culturalism.” New Literature Review (Australia) 45/46 (2009): 133-56.

“Narratives of Cultural Emergence, Re/Cognition, and the Study of North America.” American Studies/ Shifting Gears. Ed. Michael Butter Christ, Christian Kloeckner, Elisabeth Schafer-Wunsche, and Michael Butter. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter Verlag, 2010. 143-75.

“Writing the Black Canadian City at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: Dionne Brand’s Toronto and Mairuth Sarsfield’s Montreal.” Etudes Canadiennes/Canadian Studies (France) 64 (2008): 109-22.

With Sarah Casteel: “Canada and Its Americas: Transnational Navigations of the Literary.” Canada and the Americas: Multidisiplinary Perspectives on Transculturality. Ed. Afef Benessaie. Toronto: Antares, 2008. 69-78.

“Ethics as Re/Cognition: Oral Knowledge, Cognitive Change, and Social Justice in the Novels of Marie-Célie Agnant.” Special Issue on Ethics and Literature, University of Toronto Quarterly 76:3 (2007): 838-60.

“Trans-Scan: Globalization, Literary Hemispheric Studies, Citizenship as Project.” Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature. Ed. Smaro Kamboureli and Roy Miki. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2007. 129-40.

“Postindian Re/Visions in Gerald Vizenor’s The Heirs of Columbus.” Discours d’exclusion et d’inclusion: dynamiques de la mondialisation dans les Ameriques. Ed. Patrick Imbert. Ottawa: Legas P, 2005. 167-79.

“’Lights’: Oral History and the Writing of the Other in In the Skin of a Lion.” Michael Ondaatje. Ed. Steven Tötösy. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2005. 92-103.

“May I See Some Identification?: Race, Borders, and Identities in Any Known Blood. Canadian Literature 182 (2004): 30-50. Rpt. in Siemerling and Casteel, Canada and Its Americas, 148-70.

“From Narratives of Emergence to Transculture: Parti Pris and Vice Versa.” Meeting Global and Domestic Challenges: Canadian Federalism in Perspective. Ed. Thomas Greven and Heinz Ickstadt. Berlin: Kennedy-Institut Materalien, 2004. 125-41.

“Comparative North American Literary History and Alterity: Bercovitch, Blodgett, and a Hermeneutics of Non-Transcendence.” Tendances actuelles en histoire littéraire/ Contemporary Trends in Canadian Literary History. Ed. Denis St-Jacques and E.D. Blodgett. Québec: Nota Bene, 2003. 27-51.

“The Metropolis Project and Literary Studies: In/visible Cities?” Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English Newsletter. Laurentian University, Sudbury: ACCUTE, 2002. 40-44.

“Cultural Plurality and Canadian Literature.” Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Ed. W.H. New. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2002. 265-71.

“Michael Ondaatje.” Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, Ed. W.H. New. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2002. 845-48.

“Interkulturalität in der Anglo- und Frankokanadischen Literatur.” With Peter Klaus. Anglo-Romanische Kulturkontakte vom Humanismus bis Postkolonialismus. Ed. Andrew James Johnston and Ulrike Schneider. Berlin: Dahlem UP, 2002. 246-79.

“W.E.B. Du Bois, Hegel, and the Staging of Alterity.” Callaloo: A Journal of African American and African Arts and Letters 24:1 (2001): 325-33.

“Other Canons: Margaret Atwood and the Québécois Reception of English Canadian Literature.” Journal of Indo-Canadian Studies 1:1 (January 2001): 48-59.

“United States/Canadian Writers’ Perspectives on the Multiculturalism Debate: A Roundtable Discussion at Harvard University.” Ed. with Graham Huggan. Canadian Literature 164 (Spring 2000): 82-111.

“Telling Differences: Reading Canada’s Literatures at the End of the Millennium.” Literary Review of Canada 8:3 (April 2000): 22-25 and 8:4 (May 2000): 24-26.

Sixteen further articles & chapters prior to 2000.

Fellowships and Awards

  • 2019 Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
  • 2015 Gabrielle Roy Prize for The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2015).
  • From 1996-2023, ten Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and one Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide a la Rechercher (FCAR) (Quebec) individual or team grants
  • 2012 and 2016 University of Waterloo Outstanding Performance Award
  • 2009 - present Associate of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University
  • 2000 and 2008 Visiting Professor, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Berlin
  • 2000 - 2008 Fellow (non-resident), W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University
  • 1994-2009 Professor, Université de Sherbrooke (Assistant Professor 1994-1997; Associate Professor 1997-2002)
  • 1993-94 Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS/ Ford Foundation/ Mellon Foundation/ Fulbright) and Harvard University Visiting Scholar, Department of English
  • 1991-93 Postdoctoral Fellow, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Berlin

Current Research

2017-23 (Principal Investigator) “Nonsimultaneity and Incomplete Time: From Bloch, Benjamin, and the Frankfurt School to Contemporary Black Critique.” Insight Development Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

2017-24 (Principal Investigator, team grant, with Karina Vernon, University of Toronto) “Call and Responsibility: The Transformative Appeal and Reception Aesthetics of Black Canadian Literature, Film, and Music.” Insight Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

2013-22 (Co-researcher) SSHRC Partnership Grant. "International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation: A Partnered Research Institute"

Areas of Graduate Supervision

  • Canadian literature and culture, North American literatures and cultures
  • Black North American writing (including francophone Quebec)
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Diaspora studies
  • Hemispheric studies
  • Literary and critical theory (including Frankfurt School)
  • Jazz and literature
  • The Anthropocene, Theory, Literature