Laura Moss

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Classification

Research Interests

Canadian Literatures
Postcolonial/ Decolonial/ Anticolonial Theories
Climate Fiction and Poetry
Environmental Humanities
Medical Humanities
Literary History

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Diagnosing disparities : unsettling settler-colonial standards of health and normality in Canada and the United States (2023)

My dissertation offers an interdisciplinary analysis of settler-colonial rhetorics of health and illness in English-speaking Canada and the United States, demonstrating how “otherness” and “abnormality” are often amplified or misrepresented in relation to a presumed norm of able-bodied white health. By interrogating specific instances of systemic racism and biases in medical practice and pedagogy from the early twentieth century to present, I illuminate inequalities in North American society that remain significant obstacles to healthcare. Diagnosing these disparities allows me to identify and challenge rhetorics of health and citizenship, while rendering clearer the health privileges associated with whiteness. What bodies are read as normal? How do medical norms create barriers to equitable healthcare? And how can we decouple these medical norms from institutionalized whiteness? My research is both problem- and place-based: I focus on Canada and the US due to their geographical proximity, their settler-colonial legacies, and the white supremacy that has characterized both nations’ public policies. While politics, demographics, and healthcare models vary significantly between Canada and the US, I highlight some of the transnational strategies—involving eugenics, race science, physical education programs for national fitness, and print media propaganda—through which medical and governmental authorities have independently and collectively conflated white supremacist norms with health and citizenship. My dissertation chapters build upon historical, rhetorical, and literary analyses. I deploy multidisciplinary methodologies to explore “normality” and standardization from various vantage points, and I consider the ways in which these ideas move across different discursive contexts. The rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM) analyzes the impact of language and persuasion in health communication, medical encounters, and scientific writing. Combining RHM with postcolonial theory allows me to examine power dynamics that impact medical encounters in settler-colonial states. I draw on literary analysis to show how fiction and non-fiction can offer insights into the lives of marginalized people and provide counternarratives that critique the ostensible objectivity of scientific and medical discourses. Historicizing the changing conceptions of health and normality helps me contextualize and problematize contemporary medical practices as I examine the stereotypes and rhetorical subtexts of Standardized Patient Programs (SPPs) in medical schools.

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Subjects of history: reading South Africa after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2022)

“Subjects of History: Reading South Africa after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,”asks how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has operated as the infrastructurethrough which the South African nation, its subjects, and its literature have been imagined in the post-apartheid era. I argue that the TRC worked as a nation- and subject-making project that helped embed new forms of subjection and capital accumulation within the idea of the “new” South Africa. The Commission continues to shape the possibilities for engaging with South African literature, and as such it demands a sustained critical re-reading.Chapter 1 begins with an exploration of the contemporary manifestations of the TRC’slogics and limitations. Drawing on poetry and short fiction by young writers published by theindependent presses Chimurenga and Prufrock, I investigate how the 2015-2016 universitystudent protests revealed ongoing systems of racialized subject production that are in conflictwith the hegemonic “non-racial” discourses of the state. These contradictions inform my reading of the South African bildungsroman in Chapter 2. I argue that the genre and the Commission participate in the same project of subject-production; the bildungsroman offers a parallel infrastructure of development which, at times, may threaten to undermine the project of the TRC. Chapter 3 explores the TRC’s historiographic project, one that attempted to write a new national history that entered South Africa into the progressive time of capitalist modernity. I offer a reading of texts that refuse the state’s claim over temporality and recognize the radical other times that these texts create. My final chapter investigates the conditions under which “truth” could be articulated within the structures of the TRC. I ask how the demand for parrhesia was complicated by the aims of the Commission and the legacies of race that shape the post-apartheid subject. I conclude by reflecting on the South African state’s abandonment of the nation-building project and its impacts on reading contemporary South African literature in the future.

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Red tiles, white mosaic: Indigeneity and the institutionalization of multiculturalism in Canada and Canadian literature:towards a literary and political history (2020)

“Red Tiles, White Mosaic” offers a literary and political history analyzing the settler-colonial processes by which the state-driven project of multiculturalism became Canada’s distinctive, even “indigenous” national feature by settling itself on Indigenous lands. I examine multiculturalism as a politics of colonial misrecognition whose strategies of managing diversity have excluded or reframed Indigenous political difference as “cultural” difference, obfuscating Indigenous nationhood and the colonial dispossession at the formation of the multicultural nation-state. In Part 1, “Politics and Public Policy,” I historicize the “mosaic” and the development of Canadian multicultural nationalism in literary and political discourse since the nineteenth century, showing how official multiculturalism materialized as an extension of the colonial project of nation-building. Chapter 1 offers a novel and sustained historical critique of multiculturalism’s federal institutionalization since 1971 through the spheres of public policy, law, and political philosophy, mapping the strategies of Indigenous appropriation, exclusion, and containment in the architecture of liberal multiculturalism. Chapter 2 explores the ambivalent material effects of early ethnicity-oriented multicultural policy on publishing in Indigenous newsletters in the 1970s, examining the poetry in publications of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs as a case study. In Part 2, “Political Economy, Pedagogy, and Representation,” I study how the policy and ideology of multiculturalism and the state’s multicultural patronage of arts has transmuted within the Canadian literary field and inflected the reception and construction of Indigenous writing as “multicultural” literature, focusing primarily on the institution of the literary anthology. In Chapter 3, I historicize and theorize the anthology’s significance to multiculturalism’s growing visibility and institutionalization in Canadian literary studies in the 1970s and 1980s. In Chapters 4 and 5, I offer sustained close readings of the discrepant approaches to representing Indigenous literatures in two formative “multicultural” anthologies of the 1990s—Other Solitudes: Canadian Multicultural Fictions (1990) and Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature (1996)—examining how multicultural recognition obscures the expressive literary politics of Indigenous nationhood. My conclusion brings this literary and political history into the ostensibly “post-multicultural” present, arguing for the ongoing need to decolonize multicultural Canada and Canadian literary multiculturalism.

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Shadows of the Raj : Anglo-Indian visions of empire, the Raj Revival, and the literary crafting of national character (2013)

In my dissertation, I argue for a relationship of influence between the authors of what I define as the Raj novel genre, or works by British writers who lived in India between 1858 and 1947 and produced novels set in that country, and authors of the so-called “Raj Revival” in 1970s and 1980s Great Britain. The latter encompasses bestselling, award-winning novels (M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions, Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet; J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust) and films (David Lean’s A Passage to India) that nostalgically revisit the Raj experience. Both movements claim ideal British character is manifested by Anglo-Indians, British persons living and working in India, who develop a series of exemplary character traits through the rigors of daily service in the subcontinent. In the Raj novel genre, this model of Anglo-Indian character—and the concurrent denigration of Indian character—is used as a strategy by which to elevate the nascent Anglo-Indian community. In the Raj Revival, the Raj novel genre’s ideals are deployed in support of the conservative shift that occurred during Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s tenure (1979-1990). Where the Raj novel genre’s image of Anglo-Indian ideality is prescriptive, the Raj Revival renders it nostalgic and comforting, a means of asserting lost national prominence through familiar markers of British imperial identity. The specificity and scope of the Raj texts’ influence necessitates, I argue, ongoing attention to the constitutive power of the Raj model of ideal British character in analyses of British literature and rhetoric in the wake of empire.

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Women writers and the study of natural history in nineteeth-century Canada (2013)

During the nineteenth century, women in Britain and Canada read about natural history, wrote about it, drew it, and collected it alongside their male counterparts. Produced during a time when it was widely accepted that, as Charles Darwin succinctly stated in The Descent of Man (1871), “Man is more powerful in mind and body than woman” (597), women’s contributions to the natural sciences were often overshadowed or ignored. However, women in the nineteenth century in Canada contributed greatly to the development of knowledge of meteorology, botany, zoology, and ornithology. Indeed, their work sometimes anticipated the modern ecological critique of a preoccupation with cultivating and controlling nature in the names of science and capitalism.This dissertation examines the intellectual, literary, and scientific experiences of nature for women in nineteenth-century Canada, namely the geographical region known as Upper Canada (1791-1841), Canada West (1841-1867), or Ontario (1867-present), and investigates the language and scientific systems that were available to women to describe those experiences. Instead of struggling amateurs restricted to domestic pursuits, nineteenth-century women writers were sometimes pioneering naturalists, popularizers of science, and innovators of a hybrid approach to the language of natural history. Naturalist observations and the negotiation of how to understand nature, seeing nature as hostile, neutral, or divine, were central elements in the creation of the nineteenth-century woman’s identity. The writers examined in this study— Anna Jameson, Anne Langton, Susanna Moodie, Mary Ann Shadd, Harriet Sheppard, Frances Stewart, and Catharine Parr Traill— read scientific and literary texts and used the information to shape their understandings of the natural world, the weather, flora, and fauna. As educated, reflective thinkers, they use their letters, journals, emigration pamphlets, and autobiographical narratives to respond to systems of Linnaean classification as well as to participate in discussions which anticipated the shift later in the century to ecological perspectives inspired by Darwinism. This study examines the ways in which women writers were actively exploring shifting conceptions of the natural world as it developed alongside settlement and seeks to offer new ways of approaching the work of Jameson, Langton, Moodie, Shadd, Sheppard, Stewart, and Traill. In chapters devoted to meteorology, botany, zoology, and ornithology, this thesis rethinks both nature writing and women’s writing in Canada.

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Paying attention to public readers of Canadian literature: popular genre systems, publics, and canons (2010)

Paying Attention to Public Readers of Canadian Literature examines contemporary moments when Canadian literature has been canonized in the context of popular readingprograms. I investigate the canonical agency of public readers who participate in these programs: readers acting in a non-professional capacity who speak and write publiclyabout their reading experiences. I argue that contemporary popular canons are discursive spaces whose constitution depends upon public readers. My work resists the commoncritique that these reading programs and their canons produce a mass of readers who read the same work at the same time in the same way.To demonstrate that public readers are canon-makers, I offer a genre approach to contemporary canons that draws upon literary and new rhetorical genre theory. I contendin Chapter One that canons are discursive spaces comprised of public literary texts and public texts about literature, including those produced by readers. I study the intertextual dynamics of canons through Michael Warner’s theory of publics and Anne Freadman’sconcept of “uptake.” Canons arise from genre systems that are constituted to respond to exigencies readily recognized by many readers, motivating some to participate. I argue that public readers’ agency lies in the contingent ways they select and interpret a literarywork while taking up and instantiating a canonizing genre.Subsequent chapters examine the genre systems of three reading programs: One Book, One Vancouver, a public book club; Canada Reads, a celebrity “book brawl”; and The Complete Booker, an online reading challenge. Chapter Two explores how a reading public and canon are called forth by organizers and participants of the One Book, One Vancouver genre system. Chapter Three analyzes public readers’ collective literary selection within the canonizing genre of the Canada Reads brawl. Chapter Fourinvestigates how participants in The Complete Booker genre system instantiate the canon of the Man Booker Prize in ways that construct distinct subject positions of public readers who can evaluate the Canadian Booker winners in meaningful ways for their imagined public. My conclusion proposes that paying attention to public readers offers us new insights into reading as shared practice and Canadian literature.

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The Newfoundland Diaspora (2008)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Metaphor and memory: cognitive poetics and the legacy of Al Purdy (2020)

The work of Canadian poet Al Purdy has often been dismissed because of its informal nature, while others see Purdy’s down-to-earth poetics as part of what draws readers to his writing. I use a cognitive poetic analysis of one of Purdy’s most anthologized poems, “Transient,” to contend that the late poet’s body of work merits and can withstand close investigation despite its colloquiality. I then extend cognitive poetic analysis of “Transient” onto poems and songs written in tribute to Purdy that adapt his original poem and conceptual metaphors in order to discuss his life in terms of a journey. In this section I look at works by Bruce Cockburn, Doug Paisley, Grace Vermeer, and Julie McNeill that portray Purdy as a positive influence on Canadian literature. I then examine criticism against Purdy written by River Halen Guri, Michael Lista, Shane Neilson, and Sadiqa de Meijer alongside a review of an anthology of Purdy tribute texts by Lori Fox. I argue in this section that texts written in tribute to Purdy ignore his negative influences on the Canadian literary community, such as the misogyny and racism that appears in much of his work. Finally, I discuss the ongoing work of the Al Purdy A-Frame Association, who have been connected in some way to the publication of all of the collections of Purdy tribute texts published in the past five years. I contend that while Purdy’s writing has been discounted far too often, accounts of his life and legacy that capture both his positive and negative effects on the Canadian literary community are lacking and necessary.

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J.M. Coetzee's occluded intertextuality : reading text, intertext and the archive in Life & Times of Michael K and Foe (2013)

This thesis is a study of occluded intertextuality in two novels by South African author J.M. Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K (1983) and Foe (1986). It examines Coetzee’s novels in concert with intertexts and archival materials to determine how Coetzee employed intertextuality as a means of negotiating his positionality as a white liberal author in late-apartheid South Africa. In Chapter 1 I examine Coetzee’s initial intention, exhibited in a working notebook and early drafts, to rewrite Heinrich Von Kleist’s 1811 novella Michael Kohlhaas, demonstrating how, although Coetzee ultimately moved away from this intertext, its traces remain in Michael K through an inescapable lacuna which creates an experience of hesitation for character, author, and reader. In Chapter 2, I trace Coetzee’s attempts to rewrite Daniel Defoe’s 1724 courtesan narrative, Roxana, although Foe’s typically identified intertext is Robinson Crusoe. A contrapuntal reading of Roxana reveals that imperialism, motherhood, prostitution, and authorship form a knot in that text, which is transferred to Coetzee’s novel via the return of Susan Barton’s lost daughter in the novel’s final section. Chapter 2 thus seeks to supplement readings of Foe that posit Friday as the novel’s ultimate representation of ethical engagement with alterity. This thesis establishes a relationship of comparative exchange between several kinds of intertext and in doing so aims to construct a personal ethics of reading. Derek Attridge describes the ethics of reading as an encounter, through literature, with the other, or an other. For Attridge, “Coetzee’s works both stage, and are, irruptions of otherness into our familiar worlds” (xii) precisely because reading his work is an event. This thesis seeks to expand Attridge’s conceptualization of reading Coetzee’s work as an event beyond the borders of individual texts to consider the ethical force that results from reading text, intertext and foretext concurrently and interactively.

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Reading the field of Canadian poetry in the era of modernity: the Ryerson Poetry Chap-book Series, 1925-1962 (2013)

From 1925 to 1962, the Ryerson Press published 200 short, artisanally printed books of poetry by emerging and established Canadian authors. Series editor Lorne Pierce introduced the series alongside other nationalistic projects in the 1920s in order to foster the development of an avowedly Canadian literature. Pierce initially included established Confederation poets in the series, such as Charles G.D. Roberts, and popular late-romantic poets Marjorie Pickthall and Audrey Alexandra Brown. In response to shifting literary trends in the 1940s, Pierce also included the work of modernists such as Anne Marriott, Louis Dudek, and Al Purdy. Following Pierre Bourdieu, I read the Ryerson series as a sub-field of literary production that encapsulates broader trends in the Canadian literary field in the first half of the twentieth century. The struggle between late-romantic and modernist producers to determine literary legitimacy within the series constitutes the history of the field in this period. Pierce’s decision to orient the series towards modernist innovation during the Second World War was due to late romantics’ loss of their dominant cultural position as a result of shifting literary tastes. Modernist poets gained high cultural capital in both the Ryerson series and the broader field of Canadian literary production because of their appeal to an audience of male academics whose approval ensured their legitimacy. Late-romantic poets, by contrast, lost cultural capital due to their inability to captivate an audience of academic “tastemakers” and, in some instances, due to their gender, as editors frequently framed female poets as opposed to emerging modernism to dismiss their work. My examination of Pierce’s editorial policies and the poetry in the series will re-contextualize a now-canonical Canadian modernism in relation to concurrent literary trends and will assert the importance of the chap-book genre for both late-romantic and modernist poets struggling to determine the shape of Canada’s poetry in the early to mid-twentieth century.

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Consensual hallucinations: cyberspace, narrative, and poetics in Asian North American literature (2012)

This thesis examines the effects and applications of Web 2.0 in contemporary Asian diasporic literature. Since the early days of cyberpunk, cyberspace has long been considered an object of science fiction to be depicted through futuristic tropes. With the advent of Web 2.0, however, cyberspace has become integrated into our everyday lives and virtual subjectivity is now as much a part of daily experience as racial subjectivity. Previous scholarship on cyberspace in literature has focused largely on the past generation of cyberpunk, and although it acknowledges that imagined Asian subjects are intimately tied to understandings of cyberspace, it has not yet turned its attention to the growing number of texts that treat cyberspace as a quotidian reality. I argue that the recognition that cyberspace is no longer science fiction but is instead a realistic part of ordinary life allows several Asian North American writers to use cyberspace to comment on racialisation. This study is split into two main parts, which explore cyberspace's relationship with narrative and with poetics in non-canonical Asian North American literature. In the first part, a chapter on the Internet's effect on narrative, I analyse the short stories of Wena Poon's Lions in Winter and a graphic novel by Jen Wang, Koko Be Good. I read the ways in which cyberspace as a literary concept affects these authors' approaches to racial issues of class and representation. In the next chapter on poetics, I examine Rita Wong's forage and its use of what Fred Wah has defined as alienethnic poetics. I then attempt to read Sachiko Murakami's online experimental poetry site, Project Rebuild, through the non-traditional application of alienethnic poetics and propose a new methodology for reading the virtuality of the Internet. This thesis contributes to the existing body of critical work on cyber literature by suggesting new directions for the mobilization of cyberspace as a literary mode.

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Philip Roth as Moral Artist at Mid-Career (2010)

As a serious young man in the nineteen-fifties and early sixties, Philip Roth believed writing fiction was an exalted calling with a high moral purpose. He was a committed social realist with a Lionel-Trilling-like ethics of fiction and a grand, unrealized ambition to write about public life. Then, fifteen years into his career, he wrote Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), a rollicking extravaganza of scurrilous comic invention and exaggerated grievance. Revelling in wildness and transgression, he found a voice that galvanized his talent as nothing before had done. Yet he still seemed to feel bound by his old ethical commitments. This was not the artistic breakthrough he had been hoping for. My paper considers how Roth works at reconciling his deep-seated sense of moral responsibility as a writer with his inescapable talent for imaginative recklessness in three novels, each of which marks a turning point in the middle of his career, Portnoy, The Ghost Writer (1979), and The Counterlife (1986). I take this moral/aesthetic problem to be an important preoccupation of Roth’s and make that preoccupation the basis for readings of the novels. In doing so, I try to show that his ethics and aesthetics are much deeply entangled than is usually acknowledged. In Portnoy he does all he can to contain Alex Portnoy’s rampaging monologue inside a morally proper narrative frame. With The Ghost Writer, he eschews his old ethics of fiction and makes a complex declaration of aestheticism by appropriating Anne Frank’s life story and voice to his pointedly reckless fiction. The Israel chapters of The Counterlife are a watershed in his career. In them, he puts his aesthetic wildness to work for his moral probity, while opening his fiction up to the public scene. He presents a dialogical, non-normative moral fiction investigating the question of Israeli settlement on the West Bank by imaginatively projecting himself into a range of ethically engaged Israeli subject positions and having the characters he invents debate the controversy in variations on his characteristic voice. In the mid-eighties as in the early sixties, Roth’s objective as a moral writer is the "expansion of moral consciousness."

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  • A diamond anniversary (2019)
    Canadian Literature, 239, 6-9
  • An editor's advice: How to increase your chances of publication in an academic journal (2018)
    Canadian Literature, 2018 (236), 6-13
  • Literary History: Business Arising (2017)
    Canadian Literature, 2017 (233), 6-9
  • Meanwhile, home: Tinder-dry conditions (2017)
    Canadian Literature, 2017 (232), 6-9
  • On refugees, running, and the politics of writing: An interview with lawrence hill (2017)
    Canadian Literature, 2017 (232), 11-27
  • "Beyond the hungry edge": An interview with Daphne Marlatt (2016)
    Studies in Canadian Literature - Etudes en Litterature Canadienne, 41 (1), 248-265
  • Notes from a CanLit Killjoy (2016)
    Canadian Literature, 2016 (228-229), 6-17
  • "a science of uncertainty": Bioethics, narrative competence, and turning to the "what if" of fiction (2015)
    Studies in Canadian Literature - Etudes en Litterature Canadienne, 40 (2), 5-24
  • Canadian literature 6.0 (2015)
    Canadian Literature, 2015 (225), 6-9
  • Auditing, counting, and tracking CanLit (2014)
    Canadian Literature, 2014 (220), 6-15
  • Guy-Guys, CWILA, and going down the Hall to the archives (2013)
    Canadian Literature, 2013 (217), 6-16
  • Sustaining the humanities (2013)
    Canadian Literature, 2013 (219), 6-15
  • 'The multinational's song': The global reception of M. G. Vassanji (2011)
    Postliberalization Indian Novels in English: Politics of Global Reception and Awards, 67-76
  • Celebrating Robert Kroetsch (1927-2011) (2011)
    Canadian Literature, 2011 (209), 199-200
  • Introduction: Generous and grounded connections (2010)
    Canadian Literature, 2010 (204), 103-108
  • Hesitating readers: When the turn of the screw meets disgrace in the classroom (2009)
    English Studies in Canada, 35 (2-3), 129-144
  • Strategic cultural nationalism (2009)
    Canadian Literature, 2009 (200), 6-14
  • Between fractals and rainbows: Critiquing Canadian criticism (2007)
    Tropes and Territories: Short Fiction, Postcolonial Readings, Canadian Writing in Context, 17-32
  • Nice audible crying: Editions, testimonies, and Country of My Skull (2006)
    Research in African Literatures, 37 (4), 85-104
  • Playing the monster blind? The practical limitations of updating the Canadian canon (2006)
    Canadian Literature, 2006 (191), 7-11
  • Is Canada postcolonial? Introducing the question (2003)
    Is Canada Postcolonial?: Unsettling Canadian Literature, 1-24
  • Is Canada postcolonial?: Unsettling Canadian literature (2003)
    Is Canada Postcolonial?: Unsettling Canadian Literature, 1-368
  • Preface (2003)
    Is Canada Postcolonial?: Unsettling Canadian Literature
  • The politics of everyday hybridity: Zadie Smith's White Teeth (2003)
    Wasafiri, 18 (39), 11-17

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