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

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

Pronouns: she/her/hers


Professor and HM Tory 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 popular culture 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


ENGL 220 - Reading Gender and Sexuality

An introduction to dynamics of gender and sexuality in literary and other cultural texts, and to the critical concepts and methods key to their study. Prerequisite: *6 of junior English, or *3 of junior English plus WRS 101.

ENGL 306 - Life Writing

Nonfictional writing and representation in memoir, biography, diaries, letters and digital modes of representing the self. Prerequisite: *6 of junior English, or *3 of junior English plus WRS 101 or 102.

ENGL 372 - Publishing Canadian Literatures

Addresses issues of production, circulation, and consumption in Canadian literary culture. Prerequisite: *6 of junior English, or *3 of junior English plus WRS 101 or 102.

ENGL 483 - Studies in Popular Culture

Prerequisites: *6 of junior English or *3 of junior English plus WRS 101; and *12 of senior-level English *6 of which must be at the 300 level. Note: variable content course which may be repeated.

Browse more courses taught by Julie Rak


False Summit: Gender in Mountaineering Nonfiction

Author(s): Julie Rak
Publication Date: 4/1/2021
Publication: McGill-Queens UP

Life Among the Qallunaat

Author(s): Mini Aodla Freeman, Keavy Martin, Julie Rak
Publication Date: 2015
External Link: https://www.google.ca/search?q=life+among+the+qallunaat&rlz=1C1CHMO_enCA520CA520&oq=Life+Amon&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.5071j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online

Author(s): Anna Poletti, Julie Rak
Publication Date: 2014
External Link: https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5058.htm

Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market

Author(s): Julie Rak
Publication Date: 2013
Publication: Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurer University Press
Page Numbers: 250
External Link: http://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Catalog/rak-boom.shtml

On Diary

Author(s): Philippe Lejeune, eds. Jeremy Popkin and Julie Rak
Publication Date: 2009
Publication: Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press
External Link: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/8351

Negotiated Memory

Author(s): Julie Rak
Publication Date: 2004
Page Numbers: 250
External Link: http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=2993