Cynthia SUGARS


Cynthia SUGARS
Professor, Department of English

ARTS 330

Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 1140

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Cynthia Sugars


Member of the Modern Language Association (MLA), the Association for Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE), the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (CACLALS), and the Association of Canadian and Quebec Literatures (ACQL).

Member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and thereby authorized to supervise theses.

For current course descriptions, see the graduate and undergraduate brochures in the Programs of Study section of this site

My research and teaching focus on the links between national identities and cultural narratives. I am interested in the broad range of ways that Canadians, past and present, make sense of themselves as members of a national community that is shaped by a multiplicity of contending perspectives. Connected to this is an interest in the disciplinary history of Canadian Literature within English studies. I have published on a wide range of Canadian writers and critics, including Margaret Atwood, Andre Alexis, Michael Crummey, Malcolm Lowry, L.M. Montgomery, Jane Urquhart, Robertson Davies, Wayne Johnston, Fred Wah, Alistair MacLeod, John Steffler, Northrop Frye, Eden Robinson, Tomson Highway, Katherine Govier, Aimee LaBerge, and Vincent Lam, as well as on theoretical and historical debates about postcolonialism and the formation of Canadian literary culture. I also have a particular interest in the fiction of Atlantic Canada and the Gothic tradition in Canadian writing.

I have recently co-edited a two-volume anthology of Canadian literature (published by Pearson/Penguin in 2009), and have edited two collections of essays that trace the history of theoretical debates about postcolonialism in Canada. I have also recently co-edited a volume of essays that explores the psychic and social complexities of postcolonial gothic narratives in Canadian literature. My current research (funded by a SSHRC grant) extends these interests in new directions by looking at the links between colonial nostalgia, public history, and the trope of ghosts and haunting in Canadian literature.

University degrees

1998 – PhD, English, McGill University 
1988 – MA, English, University of British Columbia 
1986 – BA, English honours, University of British Columbia

Fields of interest

  • Canadian Literature
  • Postcolonial Studies
  • The Gothic
  • Atlantic-Canadian Literature
  • Critical theory


2004- Associate Professor, University of Ottawa 
1999-2004 Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa 
1999 Sessional lecturer, Simon Fraser University 
1998-99 Sessional lecturer, University of British Columbia

Scholarly and professional activities

2009- Editorial Board, Canadian Literature
2009- Editorial Board, Journal of New Brunswick Studies
2009-11 Letters in Canada Reviewer, University of Toronto Quarterly
2007-08  Board of Directors, Ottawa Suzuki School of Music
2005 – Editorial Board, Studies in Canadian Literature
2001 – Editorial Board, Australasian Canadian Studies 
2001 – Contributing Editor, Books in Canada

Awards and Honours

2011 - Invited Plenary speaker. German Association for Canadian Studies. “Rethinking Post/Colonialism.” Grainau, Germany. 25-27 February 2011.

2010 - Finalist for the 2009 ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian Literary Criticism. For Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic. Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2009.

2009 - Keynote address, “Playing Fort-Da with History: Ghost-Writing and the Mirage of Memory.” Association for Canadian and Québec Literatures (ACQL). Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities. Carleton University, 23 May 2009.

2004-09 - SSHRC Standard Research Grant

Selected publications


Canadian Literature in English: Texts and Contexts, ed. Cynthia Sugars and Laura Moss. Toronto: Pearson/Penguin, 2009. 2 vols. Volume I: 1534-1920 (592 pp.). Volume II: 1920-2008 (768 pp.).  [This is a two-volume historical anthology of Canadian literature and debates about literary culture in Canada, particularly debates about the links between literary production and national identity. Its contents range from the 17th century to the present. Each section contains an extensive introductory essay, and each author entry is preceded by a lengthy introductory segment that examines their work and situates it in the context of the period.]

Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic, ed. Cynthia Sugars and Gerry Turcotte. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2009. 297 pp. Finalist for the 2009 ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian Literary Criticism.

Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism, ed. Cynthia Sugars. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2004. 382 pp.

Home-Work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy, and Canadian Literature, ed. Cynthia Sugars. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2004. 530 pp.

The Letters of Conrad Aiken and Malcolm Lowry, 1929-1954, ed. Cynthia Sugars. Toronto: ECW Press, 1992. 350 pp.

Book chapters and papers in refereed conference proceedings

“Canadian Gothic: Gothic Self-Invention and the Mirage of Memory.” A New Companion to the Gothic. Ed. David Punter. Oxford: Blackwell, forthcoming, 2011.

“Past Lives: Aimée Laberge’s Where the River Narrows and the Transgenerational Gene Pool.” National Plots: Historical Fiction and Changing Ideas of Canada. Ed. Andrea Cabajsky and Brett Josef Grubisic. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2010. 21-37.

“‘Drawn from Nature’: Katherine Govier’s Audubon and the Trauma of Extinction.” Other Selves: Animals in the Canadian Literary Imagination. Ed. Janice Fiamengo. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 2007. 67-99.

“‘Saying Boo to Colonialism’: Surfacing, Tom Thomson, and the National Ghost.” Margaret Atwood: The Open Eye. Ed. John Moss and Tobi Kozakewich. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 2006. 137-58.

“‘World Famous Across Canada’: National Identity in the Global Village.” In Global Fissures: Postcolonial Fusions. Ed. Clara A.B. Joseph and Janet Wilson. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2006. 79-101.

“Marketing Ambivalence: Molson Breweries Go Postcolonial.” InCanadian Cultural Poesis: Essays on Canadian Culture. Ed. Garry Sherbert, Annie Gérin, and Sheila Petty. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2006. 121–41.

“(Dis)inheriting the Nation: Contemporary Canadian Memoirs and the Anxiety of Origins.” Moveable Margins: The Shifting Spaces of Canadian Literature. Ed. Chelva Kanaganayakam. Toronto: TSAR, 2005. 177-202.

“On the Rungs of the Double Helix: Theorizing the Canadian Literatures.” In New Contexts of Canadian Criticism. Ed. Ajay Heble, Donna Palmateer Pennee and J.R. Struthers. Peterborough: Broadview, 1997. 265-87.

Journal articles

“Genetic Phantoms: Geography, History, and Ancestral Inheritance in Kenneth Harvey’s The Town That Forgot How to Breathe and Michael Crummey’s Galore.” Special "Newfoundland Literature" issue ofNewfoundland and Labrador Studies 25.1 (2010): 7-36.

“Original Sin, or, The Last of the First Ancestors: Michael Crummey’sRiver Thieves.” English Studies in Canada 31.4 (2005): 147-75.

“Repetition with a Difference: The Paradox of Origins in Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief.” Special "Atlantic-Canadian Literature" issue of Essays on Canadian Writing 86 (2007): 132-50.

“The Impossible Afterlife of George Cartwright: Settler Melancholy and Postcolonial Desire.” Special "Haunting" issue of The University of Toronto Quarterly 75.2 (2006): 693-717.

“Notes on a Mystic Hockey Puck: Death, Paternity, and National Identity in Wayne Johnston’s The Divine Ryans.” Special "Newfoundland" issue of Essays on Canadian Writing 82 (2004): 151-72.

“Strategic Abjection: Windigo Psychosis and the ‘Post-Indian’ Subject in Eden Robinson’s ‘Dogs in Winter’.” Canadian Literature 181 (2004): 78-91.

“Haunted by (a Lack of) Postcolonial Ghosts: Settler Nationalism in Jane Urquhart’s Away.” Essays on Canadian Writing 79 (2003): 1-32.

“‘There’s No Place Like Home’: The Unhomely Paradox of André Alexis’s Childhood.”  Kunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing 25.2 (2003): 7-23.

“Weetigos and Weasels: Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen and Canadian Postcolonialism.”  Special “Canada” issue of Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 9.1 (2002): 69-91.

“National Posts: Theorizing Canadian Postcolonialism.”  Special “Post-Canada” issue of  International Journal of Canadian Studies 25 (2002): 41-67.

“Can the Canadian Speak?: Lost in Postcolonial Space.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 32.3 (2001): 115-52.

“‘The Negative Capability of Camouflage’: Fleeing Diaspora in Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill.” Studies in Canadian Literature 26.1 (2001): 27-45.

“The Anatomy of Influence: Robertson Davies’s Psychosomatic Medicine.” Special “Literature and Medicine” issue of Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 33.4 (2000): 73-89.

“Recuperating Authority: Plagiarism as Pastiche?” A Darkness that Murmured: Essays on Malcolm Lowry and the Twentieth Century. Ed. Frederick Asals and Paul Tiessen. Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2000.  139-46.

Recent conference papers

“Where Is Here?: English-Canadian Literature and the Desire for Ghosts.” Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute. University of Ottawa, 16 July 2010.

Emily of New Moon and the Genealogical Uncanny.” L.M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature. University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI, 24 June 2010.

“Judging By Appearances: Thomas Chandler Haliburton and the Ontology of Early Canadian Spirits.”  “Rediscovering Early Canadian Literature” Symposium. University of Ottawa, 9 May 2010.

“Playing Fort-Da with History: Ghost-Writing and the Mirage of Memory.” Keynote Address, 23 May 2009. Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures (ACQL). Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities. Carleton University, 23 May-25 May 2009.

“Unpacking the Genealogical Trace: Kenneth Harvey’s Post-Moratorium Gothic.” Atlantic Canada Studies Conference,“‘Unpacking’ Atlantic Canada.” University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI, April 30-May 3, 2009. 

“Doctors without Borders: Gothic Transferences in Vincent Lam’sBloodletting & Miraculous Cures.” Canadian Association of Commonwealth Literature & Language Studies conference (CACLALS) at the Congress for the Humanities. University of British Columbia, May-June 2008.

“Reluctant Canadians and Walking Spirits: Robertson Davies’s Murther and Walking Spirits.” “Reconsiderations of Robertson Davies” conference. University of Toronto, November 2006.

“The Allure of Origins: Genealogical Narration and Contemporary Canadian Memoirs.” “Narrative: An International Conference,” for the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature. Ottawa, April 2006.

Theses supervised

Completed: 5 PhD

Amanda Mullen, Mythic Migrations: Recreating Migrant Histories in Canadian Fiction, Sept. 2000-Jan. 2005.

Andy Belyea, Honouring Mystery: The Evolutionary Fiction of Wayland Drew, Sept. 2001-Jan. 2006.

Atef Laouyene, The Post-Exotic Arab: Orientalist Dystopias in Contemporary Postcolonial Fiction, Sept. 2001-May 2008.

Lia Marie Talia, The Madwoman in the Theatre: A Re-evaluation of Canadian Women Playwrights and the English Canadian Dramatic Canon, 1966-1977, Sept. 2001-Jan. 2009.

Jessica Langston, Exploring the Excerpts: Historical Documents and Narrating Canadian Identity, Sept. 2004-June 2009.

In progress: 2 PhD

Marissa McHugh, Contemporary Canadian World War Dramatizations: Revisiting, Rewriting, and Replaying the Wars at “Home”, Sept. 2006 -

Sarah Mackenzie, topic to be determined, Sept. 2010 -

Completed: 2 M.A.

Danielle Wilson (M.A.), “Maybe Home Is an Uneasy Place”: Dionne Brand’s Uneasy Home-Spaces, Jan. 2008-Oct. 2009.

Sarah Mackenzie (M.A.), Gender Identity in the Plays of Tomson Highway, Sept. 2008-Aug. 2010.

Courses taught


Winter 2009 – Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic 
Fall 2001 – Unhomely States: Theorizing Canadian Postcolonialism 
Fall 2004 – Gone Settler: Canadian Fiction and Colonial Nostalgia


ENG2400 – Introduction to Canadian Literature 
ENG2320 – Practical Criticism 
ENG2142 – World Literatures in English 
ENG3381 – Native Literature in Canada
ENG4382 – Playing Canadian: Contemporary Canadian Drama 
ENG4382 – Canadian First Nations Writing

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