Julie Rak, FRSC, PhD (McMaster) MA (Carleton) BA Hons. (McMaster)

Professor, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept
Chair, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept

Pronouns: she/her/hers


Professor, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept

Chair, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept

Please email me for office hours.


Area of Study / Keywords

autobiography life writing nonfiction gender theory Canadian literature book history and publishing


I hold the Henry Marshall Tory Chair in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta for 2019-2024. I live and work on Treaty 6 and Region 4, Metis Nation. My major areas of research are auto/biography and life writing, popular culture and North American literature. I have other interests in book history and publishing, as well as online forms of identity construction and graphic memoirs. I am committed to researching what ordinary people think, do and write about their lives.


The Henry Marshall Tory Chair, University of Alberta, 2019-2024.

The Killam Annual Professorship, University of Alberta, 2017-2018.

The Hogan Prize. For the essay “Radical Connections: Genealogy, Small Lives, Big Data," A/B: AutoBiography Studies special issue “Excavating Lives.” 32.3 (Spring 2017): 479-497.

The Electa Quinney Award for Published Stories, Native American Literature Society (NALS). Life Among the Qallunnaat  by Mini Aodla Freeman. Eds. Keavy Martin and Julie Rak, with Norma Dunning, 2016.

Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher, Manitoba Book Awards. For Life Among the Qallunnaat  by Mini Aodla Freeman. Eds. Keavy Martin and Julie Rak, with Norma Dunning, April 2016.


2022: Fellow, Royal Society of Canada

2017: Eccles Centre Visiting Canadian Fellow in North American Studies Award. British Library and the British Association of American Studies (BAAS). For 'Animals and Machines: Inuit Traditional Knowledge as (New) Materialism.’ (£2500 GBP, approx. $4100)


What I Research

My main areas of research are auto/biography or life writing studies, English Canadian literature, and Canadian culture. I have secondary interests in mountain studies, print culture and book history, feminist and queer theory, and social media.

I have written extensively on popular autobiography, including the books False Summit: Gender in Mountaineering Nonfiction (McGill-Queens UP 2021), Negotiated Memory (UBC Press 2004) and Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market (Wilfrid Laurier UP 2013) and four edited collections about life writing and digital culture, Philippe Lejeune's work on the diary, mountaineering and masculinity and life writing in Canada. With Keavy Martin, I edited a new (and improved) edition of Life Among the Qallunaat by Inuit author Mini Aodla Freeman, with the full participation of the author. With Hannah McGregor and Erin Wunker, I edited the anthology Refuse: CanLit in Ruins (2018). With Bill Mullins, I edited a special essay cluster on Academic Freedom and Censorship for the journal Biography and with Sonja Boon, Laurie McNeill and Candida Rifkind, I edited The Routledge Introduction to Auto/Biography in Canada (2022). With my former students Orly Lael Netzer, Ana Horvat and Sarah McRae, I edited Trans Narratives for Routledge (2021). I am a Co-I for the SSHRC-funded project "Reading for Our Lives: Memoir, Reading and Social Media." I edited volume 2 Identities of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory (General Editor, John Frow).


I can supervise PhD theses in the following areas: autobiography and life writing; cultural studies and popular culture; English Canadian literature and book history. The PhD students I have supervised or am currently supervising are working in these areas: cancer narratives by women, Asian Canadian writing, Utopian landscape in feminist Canadian writing, Canadian women's political memoir, queer and race issues in Canadian writing, Canadian feminist science fiction, lifestyle blogging by women, trans identity, Japanese Canadian writing about the internment, memoirs about sexual violence, the ethics of settler reading in Canadian literature and art, the queer posthuman in art practice. 

I have supervised MA theses and have evaluated MA projects in the following areas: Gender Identification Disorder and queer theory, Gertrude Stein and autobiography, blogs as corporate learning tools, mountaineering writing and Gilles Deleuze, blogs as identity projects, feminism and Louise Erdrich, mountaineering literature and postcolonial theory, Oprah Winfrey as a public intellectual, Aboriginal autobiography in North America, ecocriticism in Patrick Lane's work, the ethics of reading Indigenous comics.  


My undergraduate teaching focuses on popular culture, autobiography, critical theory (including gender and sexuality) and contemporary Canadian literature and cultural studies. In 2021-2022 I taught undergraduate courses about autobiography, gender and sexuality theory, and contemporary Canadian literature. The last graduate course I taught was English 587 #metoo and Canadian Literature.

I have supervised Honors Tutorials and directed readings on the following topics: trauma theory, Jacques Derrida, Alice Munro, Walter Benjamin and the city, mountaineering writing, Canadian women's autobiography, women's autobiography, postcolonial Canadian literature, utopian literature, gender and mainstream radio, queer horror fiction, social media and Baudrillard and digital fan fiction.


For more information about my past and current research projects, please consult my website.

I am on ORCID. For a dynamic list of my research grants and publications and for my ORCID ID, please see my ORCID page

Featured Publications

Sonja Boon, Laurie McNeill, Candida Rifkind, Julie Rak

New York. 2023 January;

False Summit: Gender in Mountaineering Nonfiction

Julie Rak

McGill-Queens UP. 2021 April;

Mini Aodla Freeman, Keavy Martin, Julie Rak

2015 January;

Julie Rak

Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurer University Press. 2013 January;

Philippe Lejeune, eds. Jeremy Popkin and Julie Rak

Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. 2009 January;

Julie Rak

2004 January;

View additional publications