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Susan Billingham

Associate Professor in Canadian Studies and Head of Department, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

Born in Ottawa, Canada, I have dual British and Canadian citizenship and have worked at the University of Nottingham since 1994. I took my BA in English and History (with a minor in French) at Carleton University in Ottawa. My MA and PhD were completed at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

Teaching Summary

My main area of expertise is post-1960 Canadian literature written in English. My special interests include queer writing, women's writing, and Indigenous writing. I incorporate a broad range of… read more

Research Summary

I am currently engaged in a project with the working title, "Is It Getting Better Yet? The Function of Young Adult Literature with Queer Content in Secondary Education." It is now more than 10 years… read more

Selected Publications

  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2010. Écriture au trans-féminine: Trish Salah's 'Wanting in Arabic' Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review. 205, 33-51
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2011. Il/legitimacy: sexual violence, mental health and resisting abjection in Camilla Gibb’s Mouthing the Words and Elizabeth Ruth’s Ten Good Seconds of Silence. In: GUNNE, S. and BRIGLEY THOMPSON, Z., eds., Feminism, literature and rape narratives: violence and violation Routledge. 96-113
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2012. "A wanted man": transgender as outlaw in Elizabeth Ruth’s 'Smoke'. In: MILLER, V. and OAKLEY, H., eds., Cross-cultural connections in crime fictions Palgrave Macmillan. 76-90
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2013. Teach the children well: young adult literature and queer content University of Nottingham e-Repository. Available at: <http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/2167/>

My main area of expertise is post-1960 Canadian literature written in English. My special interests include queer writing, women's writing, and Indigenous writing. I incorporate a broad range of genres in my classes, including novels, short fiction, graphic narratives, poetry, drama, life writing, and 'borderblur' texts that challenge generic bounds altogether. I contribute to the first-year core module Canadian Literature, Film and Culture. Occasionally I teach some American literature as well.

My current optional modules include Recent Queer Writing (Level 3/4) and Contemporary North American Writing (Level 2). In the past I have taught options on women's writing, Native Writing of Canada and the US, and contemporary Canadian literature.

From 2009 I have served as Director of Taught Courses or Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department, so I am actively involved in designing our curriculum and seeking innovative methods of learning and teaching.

Current Research

I am currently engaged in a project with the working title, "Is It Getting Better Yet? The Function of Young Adult Literature with Queer Content in Secondary Education." It is now more than 10 years since gay marriage became legal in Canada. The first national climate survey of Canadian high school students in 2011 revealed that 14% of Canadian youth self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or two-spirit. Yet there remains a disjunction between the growing acceptance of gender and sexual diversity, and a spike in high-profile cases in which misogyny, homophobia or transphobia lead to violence, bullying and teen suicides. What work still needs to be done to make questioning youth feel more included-in the school curriculum, and in Canadian society more broadly? I conceive my project as an example of applied literature, exploring the creative and transformative potential of narrative and other cultural forms to foster political engagement, community formation, and social justice. I aim to combine conventional literary analysis with qualitative and quantitative research into educational and institutional contexts (such as curricula, lesson plans, textbooks, safe school policies), in order to investigate the pedagogical potential of teaching young adult literature with LGBTQ content in the classroom.

I am eager to supervise PhD or M.Res candidates interested in working in any aspect of lesbian, gay, queer or transgender literature and theory, espcially in the North American context. This is an expanding field with numerous areas as yet unexplored. Possible topics include: writing as/and agency; the intersection of trauma (such as incest, rape, genocide, war) and sexual identities; homophobia, backlash and blame; 'female masculinities,' 'brazen femmes,' and other forms of (un)doing gender. Writers for investigation include: Daphne Marlatt, Erin Moure, Dionne Brand, Nalo Hopkinson, Shani Mootoo, Hiromi Goto, Ann-Marie Macdonald, Camilla Gibb, Gail Scott, H. Nigel Thomas, Tomson Highway, Daniel David Moses, Timothy Findley, Shyam Selvadurai, Jane Rule, Dorothy Allison, Leslie Feinberg, Chrystos, Audre Lorde. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive.

I have also conducted research on various women writers such as Carol Shields, Lola Lemire Tostevin and Lorna Crozier. Canadian women's writing is particularly strong, making frequent appearances on short-lists for international awards like the Man Booker and Orange prizes. Apart from well-established names such as Atwood, Shields, Munro and Laurence, much remains to be done on writers such as Barbara Gowdy, Aritha van Herk, Jeannette Armstrong, and Lee Maracle, to name but a few. All inquiries regarding topics on feminist theory or women's writing in general will be welcome.

Recent Publications:

  • "Detained at Customs: Jane Rule, Censorship and the Politics of Crossing the Canada-United States Border." Parallel Encounters: Culture at the Canada-U.S. Border. Ed. Gillian Roberts and David Stirrup. forthcoming Wilfrid Laurier UP 2013.
  • "Écriture auTrans-féminine: Trish Salah's Wanting in Arabic." Canadian Literature 205 (2010): 33-51.
  • "Fraternizing with the Enemy: Constructions of Masculinity in the Short Fiction of Timothy Findley." Short Story Criticism Vol 145. Gale 2011. Rpt from Yearbook of English Studies 31 (2001).
  • "The Configurations of Gender in Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing." Queer Theatre in Canada ed. Rosalind Kerr. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2007, 112-33. Rpt from Modern Drama 46.3 (2003).

Past Research

My past research interests revolved around 'language-focused writing.' My first book was on the experimental Canadian poet bpNichol. This challenging writer started out in the 1960s in concrete and sound media, and engaged actively with post-structuralist linguistic theory and postmodern approaches to writing. He wrote a multi-volume life-long work entitled The Martyrology, where he invented his own canon of saints from words beginning with 'st' (for example, 'stranglehold' became St Ranglehold). I continue to be interested in writing that plays with language and transgresses generic boundaries.

Future Research

In addition to queer youth and pedagogy, I continue to pursue my interest in Indigenous writing.

I also wish to explore the work of Barbara Gowdy, whose oeuvre has received less critical attention than one might expect.

  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2014. Detained at customs: Jane Rule, censorship and the politics of crossing the Canada-United States border. In: ROBERTS, G. and STIRRUP, D., eds., Parallel encounters: culture at the Canada-U.S. border Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 261-78
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2013. Teach the children well: young adult literature and queer content University of Nottingham e-Repository. Available at: <http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/2167/>
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2012. "A wanted man": transgender as outlaw in Elizabeth Ruth’s 'Smoke'. In: MILLER, V. and OAKLEY, H., eds., Cross-cultural connections in crime fictions Palgrave Macmillan. 76-90
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2011. Il/legitimacy: sexual violence, mental health and resisting abjection in Camilla Gibb’s Mouthing the Words and Elizabeth Ruth’s Ten Good Seconds of Silence. In: GUNNE, S. and BRIGLEY THOMPSON, Z., eds., Feminism, literature and rape narratives: violence and violation Routledge. 96-113
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2010. Écriture au trans-féminine: Trish Salah's 'Wanting in Arabic' Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review. 205, 33-51
  • BILLINGHAM, S.E., 2006. "Two-Spirits and Tricksters": Cross-Cultural Transpositions in Tomson Highway's <i>Kiss of the Fur Queen</i>. In: STURGESS, C., ed., The Politics and Poetics of Passage in Canadian and Australian Culture and Fiction. Nantes: Université de Nantes, CRINI. 83-99
  • BILLINGHAM, S.E., 2003. The Configurations of Gender in Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing Modern Drama. VOL 46(PART 3), 358-380
  • BILLINGHAM, S.E., 2002. Trans-positions: Transforming the Mother Tongue in Lola Lemire Tostevin's Color of Her Speech English Studies in Canada. VOL 28(2), 195-222
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2002. "Migratory Subjects in Shani Mootoo's Out on Main Street". In: SCHAUB, D. and VERDUYN, C., eds., Identity, Community, Nation: Essays on Canadian Writing Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press. 74-88
  • BILLINGHAM, S.E., 2001. Fraternizing with the Enemy: Constructions of Masculinity in the Short Fiction of Timothy Findley The Yearbook of English Studies. VOL 31, 205-217
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2001. Changing the Subject in Daphne Marlatt and Betsy Warland's Double Negative Essays on Canadian Writing. ISSU 70, 1-27
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2001. Canada New Literatures in English Year's Work in English Studies. 79, 849-860
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2000. Lola Lemire Tostevin Writing between Cultures Revue d'etudes anglophones. 9, 111-23
  • BILLINGHAM, SUSAN E. and FULLER, DANIELLE, 2000. "CanLit(e): Fit for Export?" Essays on Canadian Writing. 71, 114-27
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 2000. Language and the Sacred in bp Nichol's The Martyrology Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press.
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 1999. Canada: New Literatures in English Year's Work in English Studies. 77, 872-883
  • BILLINGHAM, S., 1998. Fragile Tissue: The Fiction of Carol Shields British Journal of Canadian Studies. VOL 13(PART 2), 276-287

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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