Dr. Kristina Bidwell

Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Storytelling

In her work as Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Storytelling, Dr. Bidwell focuses on how the study of storytelling can help us to better understand and improve the relationships of Indigenous peoples to one another and to settlers. Challenging the perceived division between Indigenous storytelling and Indigenous politics, she studies Indigenous and settler storytelling in order to better understand the central role of stories in political contexts in Canada. She considers storytelling to include not only formal oral narratives and literary texts, but also the personal, communal, popular, and public narratives that we all tell and consume every day, and she assumes that stories not only mean things but also do things, shaping how we think, feel, and act.

Dr. Bidwell is a member NunatuKavut, the southern Inuit community of Labrador. She earned a PhD from the University of Toronto, and she joined the Department of English in 2001. From 2011 to 2018, she was the first Associate Dean of Aboriginal Affairs in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan. She is the current President of the Indigenous Literary Studies Association.  

Her work suggests that many political conflicts emerge from difficulties in understanding, valuing, and making space for one another’s stories, including conflicts over the ownership and use of land, of Indigenous identity, and of knowledge. Dr. Bidwell’s research addresses such conflicts by investigating how stories create meaning, circulate, and influence actions within inter-cultural collaborations and conflicts. On the basis of these investigations, her research program will offer principles and practical tools to improve inter-Indigenous and Indigenous-settler collaborations across many domains. During her first term as CRC, she will focus her research on three areas of conflict: over land in the Northwest Territories, over identity in Labrador, and around scholarly and artistic collaborations.

As part of her program of research, along with her collaborator Sophie McCall of Simon Fraser University, she hosted a workshop in Saskatoon which brought together a group of scholars, artists, and Elders from across the country who have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the art and politics of Indigenous collaboration. The goal of the workshop was to generate a co-authored list of best practices in such collaboration. This collectively generated list will form the conclusion to a book project on Indigenous-led collaboration. 

Dr. Lisa Vargo

University of Saskatchewan Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Dr. Lisa Vargo was bestowed with the title “Distinguished Professor” on Jan. 1, 2021. The title honours and celebrates exceptional achievement in research, scholarly, or artistic work by University of Saskatchewan faculty.

In January 2018, Dr. Vargo was honoured with a Distinguished Scholar Award by the Keats-Shelley Association of America, presented at the Modern Language Association conference in New York. This award, which recognizes “career-long excellence in scholarship devoted to the writers of our period and the culture in which they lived,” has been conferred on no more than two nominees per year since 1981. In her presentation speech, Romantics scholar Dr. Nora Crook of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge noted that Lisa Vargo’s path-breaking work is “marked by originality and a readiness to follow unexpected paths and explore overlooked figures.” She pointed out that one group of Dr. Vargo’s essays forms “the core of a full-length study of the afterlives of Romantic period women in the Victorian era” and another “the groundwork of a full-scale cultural history of women writers of the 1830s.” In an article in European Romantic Review in 2013, distinguished Shelley scholar Professor Stuart Curran, former editor of the Keats-Shelley Journal and now president of the Keats-Shelley Association, singled out Lisa Vargo as one of two Canadian scholars whose exemplary work has been significant in “the process of recovering a feminine culture of late-Enlightenment Britain.”

Dr. Vargo is a textual scholar par excellence. Her most lengthy and sustained research contribution has been editing three scholarly editions, 250 to 550 pages in length. These bring back into print long-neglected works of literature primarily by women authors of the early nineteenth century and provide scholarly apparatuses including critical introductions, informative footnotes, and selected secondary readings. The editions include two lesser-known works by Mary Shelley, author of the well-known 1818 novel Frankenstein: the novel Lodore (1835), published by the Canadian scholarly publisher Broadview Press in 1997, and Spanish and Portuguese Lives (1837), published by Pickering and Chatto of London in 2002. In 2007, Dr. Vargo produced an edition of Thomas Love Peacock’s allusive and satirical 1818 novel Nightmare Abbey; a July 2017 review in the Times Literary Supplement calls the volume notable for its excellence. Dr. Vargo is currently co-editing two editions of Anna Letitia Barbauld’s writings for Oxford University Press, and she has a contract to edit the 1831 version of Frankenstein, allowing readers to compare it to the 1818 edition.

The overall focus of Dr. Vargo’s research is on textual editing of Romantic literary works and on recovering and recognizing the work of British women writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Over the years, that work has been supported by two SSHRC research grants. As indicated by the books she has edited or is in the process of editing, the two writers on whom the majority of her research has been focused are Mary Shelley and Anna Barbauld, a lesser-known dissenting educator, anthologist, poet, and essayist. As well as the edited editions noted above, Dr. Vargo has published a group of essays that examine intersections in the posthumous reception of both authors as shaped by nineteenth-century biographers.

Her extended research project on Shelley examines the author as a woman of letters. Ten published essays focus on subjects including Shelley’s contributions to The Liberal, the journal edited by her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Leigh Hunt; her novel Lodore; her friendship with Frances Wright; her life writing, especially regarding her mother, famous women’s rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft; the critical reception of Shelley’s writing; her short story “The Swiss Peasant”; and her sources for Frankenstein. A book chapter currently in progress analyzes the nature of Shelley’s liberal politics in her later writings. As a form of public outreach for her research, in the fall of 2018 Dr. Vargo organized “Frankenreads at the U of S” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Shelley’s groundbreaking 1818 novel.

Dr. Vargo’s research project on Barbauld includes a reading of a short poem on handwriting, situating it within cultural expectations for women; a study of Barbauld’s poem “Inscription for an Ice-House”; and an analysis of representations of animals in late eighteenth-century literature. Professor Vargo has presented conference papers on how nature is portrayed in Barbauld, part of preliminary work on a collection of essays she plans to publish on writings about the environment in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. As well as the projects on Shelley and Barbauld, Dr. Vargo has researched and published on the writing histories of other female authors of the Romantic era, including Anna Jameson, Mary Robinson, and Mathilde Blind. She has two book chapters on gothic writing (one with Blackwell and one with Manchester University Press), and a book chapter on the enclosure of common lands as depicted in writings for children by Charlotte Smith.

In addition to work on the printed page, Dr. Vargo has been active in digital editing and publication. In 2000, with Professor Allison Muri who was then a graduate student, she created an edition of Anna Barbauld’s Poems of 1773, which was accepted by the peer-reviewed online website Romantic Circles for their electronic editions. Dr. Vargo’s attempt to create a “poem web” was an innovative reimagining of how one might place a poem within a number of contexts.

Over the years, Dr. Vargo has supervised or served on the committees of numerous graduate students working on literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She has published eight encyclopedia entries on subjects related to Romantic literature and more are forthcoming. She serves as an associate editor for the journal Women’s Writing. And in September 2018 she was invited to participate in the by-invitation-only international conference Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 1818-2018 in Bologna, Italy.

As well as having an excellent and sustained research career, Dr. Vargo has been active in community outreach work, notably with READ Saskatoon and with the literary festival Word on the Street. She was awarded a Saskatchewan Literacy Award of Merit in 1999, a Canada Post Literacy Award in the category of Educator in 2004, and a University of Saskatchewan Award for Distinction in Outreach and Engagement in 2007. Her international work has included serving as a visiting scholar three times at Durham University in England and holding two visiting professorships at the Jagellonian University in Krakow, Poland. In 2015 and 2017, she participated as an instructor in Summer Institutes at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar in Gujarat, India. In the past three years she has been a participant and active collaborator with Dr. David Parkinson on the innovative Project on International Collaborative Teaching.

Dr. Vargo’s nationally and internationally recognized publication record demonstrates her incisive wit and the consistent beauty and power of her scholarly writing. Taken together with her dedication to outreach, her record is a distinguished one.

Dr. Len Findlay

University of Saskatchewan Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Len Findlay did his early research and publication on Victorian aesthetic theory and practice. From this strongly interdisciplinary base, he then expanded his interests historically and philosophically, before turning to the social functions of the literary, the figure of the public intellectual, the role of institutions and disciplines in determining what counts as knowledge and culture, and the division of academic labor in the contemporary university.

Dr. Findlay’s reputation as a literary critic of nineteenth-century texts rests on a series of essays in leading journals such as Victorian PoetryStudies in RomanticismRomantic PraxisComparative LiteratureEnglish Studies in Canada, and University of Toronto Quarterly. In such venues Findlay produced important new interpretations of canonical works. His essays on iconic works by Tennyson, Browning, and Swinburne have been reprinted in collections of the best criticism on these poets. Findlay’s persistent philosophical bent expressed itself for a time in serious study of the interface between phenomenology and literature, and this resulted in a series of wide-ranging and challenging essays that offered striking new interpretations of canonical works but also provided Findlay with the foundation on which to pursue his engagement with (primarily French) theories of signification, representation, and interpretation. His essays in this area, bringing together as they do immensely difficult theoretical texts with literary works of a comparable extent and complexity (like Browning’s The Ring and the Book), demonstrate in compelling ways how literature comes alive though new lenses but also how literature can both embody and challenge theoretical claims about language and meaning. Dr. Findlay’s work then took two new directions which could be broadly designated Marxist and Canadianist. His materialist critique of deconstruction was expressed in a series of essays in University of Toronto QuarterlyTextual Studies in Canada, and in collections such as Constructive Criticism: The Human Sciences in the Age of Theory.

Dr. Findlay’s contributions to Canadian studies derive in part from his leading roles in professional associations like ACCUTE, the Humanities and Social sciences Federation of Canada, and CAUT. He has made the university a subject of inquiry as well as inquiry’s most eminent locus. Here a series of influential essays and book chapters, as well as an edited collection on Academic Freedom, have argued rigorously for the responsibilities and opportunities that scholars must contend with, especially in the humanities in Canada.

The other component of Findlay’s Canadianist ‘turn’ relates to what he has developed under the aegis of the Indigenous Humanities with Aboriginal colleagues in Law and Education at his university (with their extensive networks in North America, New Zealand, and Australia). The impact of this part of his oeuvre is epitomized by his essay “Always Indigenize! The Radical Humanities in the Postcolonial Canadian University.” First published in Ariel in 2000, it has been reprinted in books from Wilfred Laurier and Duke UP, and was the focus of a two-issue international forum in English Studies in Canada. Findlay has used his knowledge of European and Euro-Canadian print culture to re-Indigenize understanding of the creation and reception of the Durham report, to revalue the role of the Indigene in the poetry and historiography of post-Durham Quebec, and to resituate understanding of treaty-making as cultural ceremony, using such cultural forms as ledger-drawings by incarcerated Indigenes in the later nineteenth-century.

As much at home in archival and historical work as in textual analysis, editing, or cultural and aesthetic theory, Dr. Findlay is a dedicated teacher-scholar, academic leader, and public intellectual. For more than a decade he used the Humanities Research Unit at the University of Saskatchewan as place for the encouragement of interdisciplinary work and as a means of connecting novice and established scholars to wider publics in the exploration and debate of subjects like racism, community, the socialized and medicalized body, and the Canadian response to 9/11. Findlay is an articulate, fearless, and compelling public speaker who has given keynote addresses across North America and in Europe, and been invited to speak in locations such as Harvard, the Sorbonne, Oxford, the University of Utrecht, and the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham, England. An award-winning teacher of undergraduates, he has also been a mentor to scores of graduate students. His scholarly accomplishments are considerable.