Gary Kelly, DPhil (Oxford), BA (Oxford), BA (Toronto)

Professor, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept


Professor, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept
(780) 492-0561
4-45 Humanities Centre
11121 Saskatchewan Drive NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H5



I was raised in Toronto in a lone-parent working-poor family. Mother, grandmother, teachers, part-time employers, administrators, a sympathetic bank manager, and the Canada Council helped me get an Honours BA in History at the University of Toronto and an Honours BA and a DPhil in English at Oxford University. The Canada Student Loans program was introduced in the early 1960s just in time to prevent me from having to drop out and helped me get started at Oxford, when timely Canada Council funding helped me complete my doctorate on the English novel and the French Revolution. I then taught for a year and had a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and a Killam Canada Council post-doctoral fellowship.

I then gladly came to the University of Alberta in 1976. Its excellent library fed my research and teaching. Over the years the University awarded me a J. Gordin Kaplan research prize, two McCalla Professorships, two Killam Cornerstone grants, a Distinguished University Professorship, and other funding. The research the University encouraged and enabled me to do also resulted in award of a Canada Research Chair from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2000 and since 1990 an unbroken succession of Women's Work, Standard Research, and Insight research grants from SSHRC, which I've devoted largely to helping students acquire research training and professional development on a wide variety of research projects, especially in digital humanities.

There have been several high points for me in service to the University and beyond. In the early 1980s I chaired the General Faculties Council's Committee for Improving Teaching and learning. Research, conferences and presentations, organization of workshops and consultations underpinned the committee's report that resulted in the entire structure of resources, funding, and support for improving teaching and learning now in place at the University of Alberta. My most interesting national service was on a SSHRC funding committee for research in literatures, seeing the scope and diversity of such research in Canada. A similar experience was on an Arts Faculty committee for funding in all Arts subjects. My favourite Department service was as co-ordinator for visiting speakers and department seminars (twice). Most rewarding Department service was as student Awards and Prizes Officer in 2014.

Though I'm not "musical" I've always lived through music and have over 30,000 songs on my iTunes, which it struggles to manage. A major turning point in my sense of myself was encountering jazz when I was sixteen. I listen to all kinds of music and have come to feel Latin as the greatest music for combining European, African, and indigenous American traditions. My sport was running, and now it's walking, but I watch all sports, as well as loads of news. I get rebuilt going to galleries and exhibitions, plays and movies, and hoofing around cities I visit, usually on conferences. I don't drive but my sister, Director and Curator of the Owens Gallery at Mount Allison University, likes to drive and with her I experienced the two greatest road trips of my life--Glacier National Park in Montana and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia--both products of the New Deal. 


The outstanding and world-class University of Alberta Libraries have been the bedrock for my research. As Canada Research Chair I obtained funding with which Department staff helped me build a Humanities Computing Studio, where my team created the Streetprint archiving and research application for a wide range of individual projects, which you can find by googling Streetprint. Some are listed in my CV here; version 6.0 is about to launch, with an enhanced feature for narratives and reports about the objects in the archives. We also developed a conference website app and an online journal app.

I've published over twenty volumes of research and many essays, mostly on long eighteenth-century Britain, the novel, women's writing, popular print culture, book history, and related topics, along with a few contributions to Canadian cultural studies. These interests continue.

Thanks to reading Roy Harris on integrational linguistics, Alec McHoul on effective semiotics, and Harold Garfinkel on ethnomethodology I no longer believe that "reading in classrooms" trumps reading in and for everyday life and I've come to see modern expert knowledges, including most of those I've acquired, as illusory and self-serving. That recognition has put me on a quest for valid uses and practices of scholarship and for ways of teaching and researching that answer to my beliefs and the public interest. This has been and is exhilarating if lonely work. Recent attempts in it can be found in my CV here.

My major project now is seeing through the multi-volume Oxford History of Popular Print Culture for Oxford University Press. Current research projects concern a history of fun, sixpenny Romanticism (cheap print and entertainments), plebeian modernity in Romantic Britain, women writers and intellectuals from the "bluestockings" to the "literary lady" and woman of letters, Romantic apocalypse or representations and uses of end-times, Romantic chronotopes or new configurations of time-space.


The University of Alberta has let me teach a wonderful variety of subjects and I've seldom had to teach the same course twice. Recent teaching has included world literature as book history, global popular print culture, Romantic Orientalism, modernity and the essay, long eighteenth-century print culture, proletarian literature, Romantic chronotopes, British Romanticism, case studies in research, popular culture, and the major literary forms of modernity (melodrama, prose romance, song/lyric, and journalism). I've also created courses on women's writing, British drama and theatre in the long eighteenth century, working-class texts, the novel, history of Englishes, institutions of literature and criticism, history of criticism, British Modernist literature, folk and fairy tales.

I've continued to keep up with the Improving Teaching and Learning movement since my GFC CITL work in the early 1980s. I was first in the Department to use student evaluation of teaching in all my courses, one of the first to implement small-group work in the classroom, followed and aimed to implement ideas and practices of the student-centred teaching movement, and emphasize research methods and practice at all levels and hire undergraduate researchers on my projects after a course is over.