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

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


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


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.


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


Associate Editor, “Identities” thematic section, Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory. General Editor, John Frow. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 25 articles.


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 print culture and book history, 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). I am the PI of the six-person SSHRC Insight project Government Agent, Literary Agent: Inuit Books and Government Intervention 1968-1985. With Bill Mullins, I edited a special essay cluster on Academic Freedom and Censorship for the journal Biography. 


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 2019-2020 I taught courses about autobiography, class and ideology theory, and the histories of reading. The last two graduate courses I taught were English 693 Auto/biography in Canada and English 693 Canadian comics.

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 now 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.

Fall Term 2022

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.

Fall Term 2022

Browse more courses taught by Julie Rak

Scholarly Activities

Research - SSHRC Project: Government Agents, Literary Agents: Inuit Books + Government Intervention, 1968-1985

20180701 to 20210701

Role: Principle Investigator

Investigative project with Warren Cariou (Manitoba), Heather Igloliorte (Concordia), Keavy Martin (Alberta), and Armand Ruffo (Queens).


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