Lisa Szabo-Jones

Study program:
Ph.D. English and Film Studies
Current affiliation:
University of Alberta

Lisa wants to use Canadian poetry to cultivate and sustain affiliation and care for the local environment.

Going Local in the Global: A Canadian Literary Bioregional Turn

Lisa Szabo-Jones is a PhD Candidate in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta under the supervision of Professor Dianne Chisholm. Lisa is completing her dissertation Going Local in the Global: A Canadian Literary Bioregional Turn. She examines Canadian nature and environmental poetry and creative non-fiction, specifically the works of Laurie Ricou, Harry Thurston, Daphne Marlatt, and Margaret Atwood. Her research challenges assumptions that bioregionalism with its restricted focus on the local limits understandings of global environmental issues: in other words, it does not have the full potential for cultivating a global ecological literacy. She accentuates how bioregional writings that combine both scientific and philosophical ecological thinking contemplate the agency of the human self in relation to agencies of the nonhuman. These literary representations, she demonstrates, manifest as material, interactive globalised and localised processes and outcomes (migrations, pollution, resource extraction, and habitat degradation) that co-constitute one another. A global ecological literacy emerges through bioregional narratives’ capacity to translate the complexity of local/global material and cultural interplay and open pathways to the cultivation of an ethical environmental and pedagogical praxis.

Lisa completed her Bachelor (2004) and Masters (2007) of Arts in English at the University of British Columbia. Her M.A thesis, written under the supervision of Professor Laurie Ricou, titled Wildwood Notes: Music, Nature Writing, and Newspapers, examines the newspaper writings of British Columbia nature columnist J.W. Winson. She has presented her scholarly research across Canada, the United States, and Ireland as conference proceedings and invited guest lectures. She is a co-founder and co-Editor of The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Literature, and Culture in Canada (est. 2005), a semi-annual, online publication. She has  forthcoming publications (2013/2014): “Taking Flight: From Little Grey Birds to The Goose” in Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context (U of Calgary P); “Adventures in Habitat: An Urban Tale” in Canadian Literature: A Quarterly Criticism and Review (218); and a co-authored chapter with David Brownstein “A Natural History and Dioramic Performance: Restoring Camosun Bog in Vancouver, British Columbia” in Sustaining the West: Cultural Responses to Western Environments, Past and Present (Wilfrid Laurier UP), a book collection from that she co-edited with Liza Piper. She is also co-guest editor with Travis V. Mason and Elzette SteenKamp on the forthcoming special issue of ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature titled Postcolonial Ecocriticisms among Settler-Colonial Nations. Since 2005, she has been a regular book reviewer for Canadian Literature: A Quarterly Criticism and Review. She has co-organized interdisciplinary workshops and conferences that have brought together academics, non-academics, artists, activists, curators, and writers. Notably, in 2012, she co-organized with Trudeau Scholars Julia Christensen, Christopher Cox, and Andrée Boisselle in Yellowknife, NWT the three-day workshop “Activating the Heart: Storytelling, Knowledge Sharing, and Relationship.” Her research situates in Canadian and global environmental humanities with an emphasis on poetry and creative non-fiction, ecological literacy, bioregionalism, phenomenology, and new materialism.

Experience as a Trudeau Scholar

For Lisa, a 2009 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Doctoral Scholar, the Trudeau Scholarship represents a means for cultivating and sustaining optimism in and dedication to making an equitable and healthy world. The collaborative opportunities with Trudeau Foundation community members and networks established through the Foundation not only added new layers of enquiry to her research, but also solidified her conviction on the vital necessity for nonpartisan and interdisciplinary collaboration among academics, non-scholars and wider communities. The Trudeau Foundation has been exemplary on this last point: bringing together a dynamic mix of political backgrounds and creating a forum in which to discuss and debate issues important to Canada and beyond. This is the foundation of the Trudeau Foundation. This eclectic mix has cultivated Lisa’s mentorship as a public intellectual and helped her to connect to diverse groups and find common ground on which to shape and build a praxis of respectful and ethical engagement.