School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & HumanitiesWestern Arts and Humanities

Current Research Fellows

Joel Faflak
Director, SASAH/Dept. of English and Writing Studies

joelI’m Professor of English and Theory at Western University, where I teach courses on literature, theory, culture, leadership, and combinations thereof. My research and teaching interests are nineteenth-century British literature, culture, and philosophy; psychoanalysis; contemporary theory; and film musicals. I’m author of Romantic Psychoanalysis (SUNY, 2008); co-author of Revelation and Knowledge (Toronto, 2011); and editor or co-editor of eight essay collections, most recently The Romanticism Handbook (Blackwell, 2011) and The Public Intellectual and the Culture of Hope (Toronto, 2013). I’ve also edited Thomas De Quincey’s 1821 Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (Broadview, 2009), the first text to deal directly with drug addiction. I’m currently finishing a book on Romantic psychiatry, and working on two further projects, one on Romanticism and happiness (highly overrated) and the other on musicals (film versions, though I love stage musicals as well). I’ve received the Governor General’s Gold Medal for Research Excellence (2000) and the Polanyi Prize for Literature (2001), and was just named Faculty Scholar at Western (2013-2015). In my MA year I got fed up with university and left at 23 to start my own business. I returned to complete my PhD in 1999 and am passionately committed to helping undergraduates and graduates discover the most productive path between an education in Arts and Humanities and what we sometimes call ‘the real world.’

International and Graduate Affairs Building, room 0N14
519-661-2111 ext. 85529

Gillian Barker
Dept. of Philosophy

Gillian Barker
Gillian Barker is a philosopher of science with interdisciplinary training in the philosophy, history, and social studies of science from the University of Toronto and the University of California, San Diego. Gillian’s dissertation research investigated how scientists move from data about particular instances to knowledge about general patterns in the world, looking at the use of idealized models, analogies and metaphors in achieving this transition. She continues to work on questions about the origin and role of the conceptual models that shape scientific thought. She has written on the implications of naturalism—thinking scientifically about philosophical issues—for our understanding of functions, goals, purposes and meanings, and for our conceptions of ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ both in ethics and in the broader sense. Her current work focuses on how organisms actively control aspects of their own environments, including other organisms, and what this implies for our understanding of their evolution and behavior.

Stevenson Hall, room 2136
519 661-2111 ext. 87747

David Bentley
Dept. of English and Writing Studies

bentleyMy areas of specialization are Canadian literature and culture and Victorian literature and art, and I guess it could be said that I have published widely in both fields. I have also done work on the relationships between and among literature, landscape, architecture, ecology, and aesthetics, on the importance of the arts and humanities to society, and, as SASAH students already know, on the relationship between creativity and innovation. When not teaching, researching, or scribbling, I can usually be found at the Canadian Poetry Project (UC 373 and 374), which consists of Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, the Canadian Poetry Press, and  My current projects include a collection of essays on Modernism in Canada, a scholarly edition of an unpublished fragment of a novel by Archibald Lampman, and an essay on the three short stories that Alice Munro published in the English Department’s magazine when she was a student at Western.

Arts and Humanities Building, room 2G25A
519 661-2111 ext. 85813 
or 85834 (Canadian Poetry Project)

Website: or

Laurence de Looze
Dept. of Modern Lanugages and Literatures

laurenceMy home is in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, where I am a Professor of Comparative Literature, but I also teach in the French Department and the Centre for Theory and Criticism. I have published some 45 articles and book chapters on English, French, Icelandic, and Spanish literature of various periods, a dozen short stories, an edition and translation of Jean Froissart’s La Prison amoureuse, and two scholarly studies: Manuscript Diversity, Meaning, and Variance in Juan Manuel’s El conde Lucanor (U of Toronto) and Pseudo-Autobiography in the Fourteenth Century: Juan Ruiz, Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, and Geoffrey Chaucer (UP of Florida). My current book project – almost completed – is on how alphabetic letters have conditioned the Western view of the world from the ancient Greeks to the present day. I have received the university’s Pleva Teaching Award, an Arts and Humanities Faculty Scholar Award, and two SSHRC Standard Research Grants. I absolutely love teaching my classes, and the SASAH course is one of the most thrilling ever. This is going to be a busy and exciting year!

Arts and Humanities Building, room 3B24           
519-661-2111 ext. 85859 

John Hatch
Dept. of Visual Arts

John Hatch I am an Associate Professor of Art History as well as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at Western. I also served as Associate Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities from 2009 to 2015.  My academic career began with an undergraduate degree in economics and liberal arts from Concordia University in Montreal and after working for two years I finally accepted the fact that economics did not like me. Consequently, I turned to my true passion, art history, and after a BFA from Concordia, an MA from Queen’s University, and a PhD from the University of Essex in the UK, I settled on teaching and researching modern and contemporary European and American art with a specific focus on the influence of the physical sciences on modern art, the topic of my dissertation at Essex.

The bulk of my publications have focused on moments of interaction between science and art in the 20th century, Relativity and entropy in particular as themes, although oddly enough my most downloaded piece is a study of Keplerian thought on the architecture of the 17th-century Italian Borromini who not only appears to have embraced Kepler's description of the motion of the planets as elliptical, but the Trinitarian framework Kepler adopted as well. This 2002 article marked my growing interest in astronomy as a subject of art resulting in the majority of my recent work focusing on the topic. I recently completed an article on the Chinese artist Shi Zhiying’s watercolour series inspired by the Italian writer Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar, which is in press, as is my study of the German painter Anselm Kiefer’s paintings that draw together astronomy, alchemy and the Holocaust. My recent publications include the articles "The Story Behind Asteroid 14060 Patersonewen" (2015), "Wrestling Proteus: The Role of Science in Modern Art and Architecture’s New Images of Nature” (2014), "A Sense and Essence of Nature: Wave Patterns in the Paintings of František Kupka" (2013), "Nature, Entropy, and Robert Smithson's Utopian Vision of a Culture of Decay" (2012), and "Some Adaptations of Relativity in the 1920s and the Birth of Abstract Architecture" (2010).

Visual Arts Centre, room 200C
519-661-2111 ext. 86181

Mary Helen McMurran
Dept. of English and Writing Studies

M McMurran
I am an associate professor in the Department of English & Writing Studies and affiliated with the Theory Centre and the Comparative Literature program. My first book, The Spread of Novels (Princeton, 2009), is a study of translation’s constitutive role in the rise of the novel in the 1700s. I have published several articles on related topics, and continue to write and lecture about various aspects of translation, transnationalism, and cosmopolitanism. My second project, which is ongoing, explores hotly contested ideas about the relation of matter and spirit, and of soul, mind and body in Europe from about 1650 to 1780. I argue that shifting views of pagan religion had a deep impact on these philosophical debates and also on literature. I have written articles on the topic, and edited a collection of essays with my colleague Alison Conway, Mind, Body, Motion, Matter (University of Toronto, 2016). Research grants and awards include SSHRC, the National Endowment for the Humanities (US), Chateaubriand (French Government), the Huntington Library, and the William Andrews Clark Library.

I have been at UWO for over a decade, and have also taught at University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago, and New York University. My education, like my interests have always been interdisciplinary: I went to a “great books program” as an undergraduate and then received an M.A. an Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University. Much of my classroom experience has been in small seminar courses. This is also how I prefer to teach because it fosters lively discussions of texts and emphasizes a personalized relationship to intellectual inquiry. Recently, I have become interested in contemplative pedagogy, which incorporates mindfulness practice into the classroom. It is a pleasure and a privilege to teach in the SASAH program.

Arts & Humanities Building, room 3B22
519 661-2111 ext. 85839

Christine Sprengler
Dept. of Visual Arts

christineI’m an Associate Professor of Art History in the Visual Arts Department, an affiliate member of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, and part of the Graduate Faculty of Film Studies. I hold a BA in Political Science, an MA in Art History (both from Western), and a PhD in Film Studies (2004) from the School of the History of Art, Film and Visual Media, Birkbeck College, University of London.

My research focuses on issues of cultural memory and history in contemporary art, film, television, and new media. I have published two books, Screening Nostalgia (2009) and Hitchcock and Contemporary Art (forthcoming 2014) and recently began work on a third, The Fifties in the Cinematic Imagination. I have articles and book chapters on contemporary art (Mark Lewis, Harun Farocki, David Reed, Cindy Bernard, Douglas Gordon, etc.), British science fiction television, Mad Men, and various topics in film. I am particularly interested in the relationship between art and film and have pursued this in my teaching; research (I recently compiled a fairly substantial annotated bibliography on the subject for Oxford Bibliographies Online); as the current Co-Chair of a special interest group, CinemArts, within the Society of Cinema and Media Studies; and as a curator (along with Mark Cheetham and Andy Patton) for the exhibition Conspiracies of Illusion: Projections of Time and Space (2012).

Teaching is a passion of mine and I was honored to receive the Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2010. I have taught courses at Western, the University of London, and the University of East London on art and the mass media, paracinema, art theory and criticism, art historiography and methodology, Canadian art, video art, new media art, museum studies, semiotics and critical theory, contemporary American cinema and film theory. I’ve also taught two first-year introductory courses and am truly thrilled to be able to participate in this first run of “Signs and Events: The Changing Face of Modernity.”esearch interests / Specializations: contemporary art practice with a focus on media art, film, animation, video and digital imaging; visual culture studies; Czech culture with a focus on the totalitarian regime of 1968-1989 and practices of resistance; performance and gender studies.

Visual Arts Centre, room 218
519-661-2111, ext. 86198

Mark McDayter
Dept. of English and Writing Studies 

markAs an academic, I received my training in 17thand 18thcentury English literature, and it was in these fields that I commenced my teaching and research in the Department of English and Writing Studies at Western. Our society, however, has been changing in truly dramatic ways, and increasingly, as technology has become a more important presence both in and beyond the university, my teaching and research focus has been upon Digital Humanities, a new(ish) field that explores the intersections between the Humanities and the new technologies that are so profoundly reshaping our culture. I am particularly interested in the degree to which “the digital turn” is changing the ways in which we read, which I most often explore within the context of the history of reading, writing, and books. Unsurprisingly, therefore, I spend a great deal of my time blogging, and building digital tools and texts, such as my ongoing digital editions of Rump Songs (1662) and Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina (1725), as well as other resources such as The Printer’s Devil Project and Indices to Seventeenth-Century Poetry. I am also very interested in the impact upon technologies upon teaching and learning. All of these come together, in fruitful and suggestive ways, in my increasing focus upon the role that the digital world can and should assume in bringing the important work that we in the Humanities undertake to broader publics. The underlying philosophy behind SASAH makes it the perfect place to explore, with a new generation of engaged and connected students, all of these ideas together.

Arts and Humanities Building, room 3B12
(519) 661-2111 ext.85784

Michael Fox 
Dept. of English and Writing Studies

M FoxI have always been suspicious of education, and I spent a long time in and out of school trying to understand how I felt about being taught and teaching. I finished a BA (Windsor) and worked construction on the west coast; I upgraded the degree (Western) and spent some time manning jackhammers inside cement kilns; I earned an MA in medieval languages (Manitoba) and went to England for a PhD (Cambridge). Instead of taking a job in Newcastle or Florence, I came back to Canada to work for a few years in the blood pit of a local mill. I was an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta until 2009, when I came back to Ontario and started a business in instructional design and editing while teaching part-time at Western. I was hired as an Assistant Professor in Writing in 2013. 

My research publications have all been on medieval topics–Old English and Anglo-Latin, mainly–though my current research focused on rhetoric and narrative. I have written for and edited a collection about how the Anglo-Saxons understood the Bible (Old English Literature and the Old Testament), and I have explored points of contact between Christian beliefs and classical mythology (“Feðerhama and hæleðhelm: The Equipment of Devils”). At the moment, I am attempting to understand what made Churchill an effective public speaker (the short answer: he knew a lot about language and its history) and what theories of the folktale can tell us about how Tolkien wrote (the short answer: The Hobbit is best understood as a folktale of the type known as AT 301, “The Three Stolen Princesses”). 

Lawson Hall, room 3270F
519-661-2111 ext. 88187

Past Research Fellows

Samantha Brennan
Professor, Women's Studies and Feminist Research and Philosophy


Susan Knabe
Associate Professor, Women's Studies and Feminist Research and FIMS


Kelly Olson
Associate Professor, Classical Classical Studies


Wendy Pearson
Associate Professor, Women's Studies and Feminist Research


Anthony Skelton
Associate Professor, Philosophy