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

/Julie Rak/

Professor, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Personal Website: https://sites.google.com/ualberta.ca/julie-rak/home


Professor, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept


Area of Study / Keywords

autobiography life writing nonfiction gender Canadian literature book history publishing diary


Julie Rak, FRSC, is HM Tory Chair and a Professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of English and Film Studies. She holds a BA and a PhD in English from McMaster University and an MA in Canadian Studies from Carleton University.

Rak’s primary research interests include the study of personal nonfiction (the field of life writing) with a focus on biography, autobiography, diaries and personal journals. Other areas of research include American and Canadian literature, popular culture and publishing, focusing on the thoughts, actions and writings of people in the context of their everyday lives. Rak often shares her research findings with the public, with more than 90 media appearances in major newspapers, and on radio shows and television networks.

With more than 25 years of experience in research and teaching, Rak is an influential scholar in her field. She is a dedicated member of the U of A community, currently serving as the interim chair of the EFS Department and holding the Henry Marshall Tory Chair (2019–2024). In 2023, she received the J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Research Excellence, the University of Alberta’s most prestigious research award, and in 2017, she was named a Killam Annual Professor for her exemplary work in highlighting relatively unknown narratives. She is also part of the steering group for Stories of Change, a signature research area at the U of A that explores the interplay between micro-level stories and macro-level social transformation. Rak serves on the editorial board of Critical Gambling Studies, a/b: a journal of auto/biography studies, the European Journal of Life Writing and Canadian Literature. In 2022, Rak was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada for her record of scholarly and educational leadership.

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8470-3202


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

J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research, University of Alberta, 2023

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

2024: Visiting Professor, Merton College, University of Oxford, for research on journaling and commonplace books, Merton College Library and the Bodleian Library. April 22-29.

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)


Books (Monographs and Edited Works)

2023: Ed. with Sonja Boon, Laurie McNeill, Candida Rifkind. The Routledge Introduction to Auto/biography in Canada. New York: Routledge. Series editors Robert Lecker and Lorraine M. York. 227 pp.

2020-2022: Associate Editor, Identities volume 2 of Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Online version published July 2020. 1103-1526.

2021: False Summit: Gender in Mountaineering Nonfiction. Kingston, Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press. 268 pp.

2021: Edited with Ana Horvat, Orly Lael Netzer and Sarah McRae, Trans Narratives: Trans, Transmedia, Transnational. London and New York: Routledge. Reprint of 2019: with Ana Horvat, Orly Lael Netzer and Sarah McRae, Eds. Special issue of a/b: auto/biography studies 34.1, "Trans Narratives."

2018. Edited with Hannah McGregor and Erin Wunker. Refuse: CanLit in Ruins. Toronto: Book*hug Press. 

2015. Life Among the Qallunaat by Mini Aodla Freeman. Eds. Keavy Martin and Julie Rak. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

2014. With Anna Poletti, Co-editor. Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online. Madison, WI: Wisconsin University Press. 

2013. Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 

2009. With Jeremy Popkin, Co-editor. On Diary, by Philippe LeJeune. Translated by Katharine Durnin. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.2005: Editor, Auto/biography in Canada: Critical Directions . Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Press.

2008. with Andrew Gow, Co-editor. Mountain Masculinity: the Life and Writings Nell “Tex” Vernon-Wood in the Canadian Rockies, 1911–1938. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.

2005. Editor. Auto/biography in Canada: Critical Directions. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

2004: Negotiated Memory: Doukhobor Autobiographical Discourse. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Special Issues of Journals

2021: with Ana Horvat, Orly Lael Netzer and Sarah McRae, "Introduction: "Unfixing the Prefix," Trans Narratives: Trans, Transmedia, Transnational. London and New York: Routledge, 1–7. doi.org/10.1080/08989575.2019.1548084

2020: With Bill Mullen, Ed. Special cluster for Biography, "Academic Freedom, Academic Lives." Vol 42, no. 4. 

2015: With Jason Breiter, Orly Lael Netzer and Lucinda Rasmussen, Eds. Special issue of Biography: an Interdisciplinary Quarterly, “Auto/biography in Transit.”

2009: Editor, special issue "Popular Auto/biography" of The Canadian Review of American Studies. Includes a 5 page introduction, "Pop Life."

2008. Reader's Forum "Popular Culture and the Culture of Research Funding." English Studies in Canada 32.4. Spring.

2008. With Sharon Rosenberg and Anne Whitelaw, Eds. Special issue of Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, "What's the Matter: Cultural Studies and Urgency."

Recent Articles

2022: "Mediation Then and Now: Ang Tharkay's Sherpa and Memoires d’un Sherpa." Primerjalna knjiĹževnost [Comparative Literature Slovenia] vol. 45 no. 3:125–144. 8172 words. https://doi.org/10.3986/pkn.v45.i3.08

2022: "Margaret Atwood and Sexual Assault." Canadian Literature vol. 250: 79–111. 13,750 words. 

2022: “Pocket Queens: women, poker, perifeminist strategy.” Critical Gambling Studies. 9400 words. https://doi.org/10.29173/cgs103

2021: “Because it is there? Mount Everest, Masculinity and the Body of George Mallory.” International Journal of the History of Sport. https://doi.org/10.1080/09523367.2020.1854738

Recent Book Chapters

2023: “Auto/biographical Comics in World Literature: Silences and Gaps.” Life Writing as World Literature. Edited by Ioana Luca and Helga Lénárt-Cheng. Bloomsbury. In press. 

2023: “Festival Obscura: Gender, Race, Class in Festival-Driven Mountaineering Documentaries.” Global Mountain Cinema. 6000 words. Eds. Christian Quendler, Kamaal Haque, Caroline Schaumann. Edinburgh University Press. In revision.

2023: Afterword, Routledge Companion to Literary Media. Eds. Astrid Ensslin, Bronwen Thomas and Julia Round. In press.

2023: Foreword. Moving Mountains: Gender, Politics and Change. Edited by Jenny Hall, Emma Boocock and Zoe Avner. Palgrave MacMillan (Springer Nature). 1602 words. In press.  

2021: “Just the facts? Nonfictionality and Life Writing.” Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory. Eds. Paul Dawson and Maria Makela, Routledge. 286–298.

2021: “Performativity.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory. 8600 words. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.013.1079


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.

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;

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