Research Spotlight: Dr. Wanda Campbell

Research Spotlight aims to shed light on the diverse research culture of Acadia University by celebrating the work and interests of our researchers. Each profile features six questions: five about research, one just for fun. Learn about what’s happening across campus and get to know the faces you see every day.

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Dr. Wanda Campbell

English & Theatre

Faculty of Arts

In terms of research, what are you working on right now?

I recently launched my fifth collection of poetry called Kalamkari and Cordillera. I don’t think people realize how much research can be involved in writing poems. Kalamkari (from the Persian for "pen craft") refers to the hand-painted and block-printed textiles of South India where I was born and grew up, and this section contains poems combining memories of my childhood with contemporary realities, especially those affecting the lives of Indian girls and women. I did a lot of research on the darker side of life in India including feticide, rape, forced marriages, and the difficult though beautiful work of textile production.

Cordillera (from the Spanish for "mountain chain") contains poems inspired by the poetry of Pablo Neruda and the country of Chile where he grew up in the shadow of the Andes. I did considerable research on the history, geography, and literature of Chile, read poems from thirty-three of Neruda’s collections, and wrote in over twenty-six different poetic forms in response.

I am in the process of creating a “Reader’s Companion” that fills in some of this background as I have for my novel and all my previous poetry collections, which allows me to share some of the research that went into their creation. I am also in the process of preparing academic papers on Ontario poet Bronwen Wallace and Nova Scotia poet Anne Simpson.  In Canada, more critical ink is spilled on fiction writers so I do my part to give poets their due; after all, as Coleridge argued, prose is “words in their best order” but poetry is “the best words in their best order.”

How does that fit with your broader research interests?

I teach both Writing by Women and Creative Writing, so I believe this gives me a mandate to publish both academic and creative work.  My PhD is in Canadian Literature, so I try to squeeze in as much Canadian content as possible.

What most motivates you to do research?

I feel that my research informs my teaching and vice versa.  If we are telling our students they are here to think and learn and write, we should be doing the same. In other words, “Do try this at home.” I cannot expect them to be engaged and excited if I am not also taking on quests and making discoveries across the literary terrain.

What tips do you give your students when they embark on a new research project?

I want them to pay attention to everything, ask lots of questions, and find evidence for the positions they take.  I want them to realize that though the web is a powerful tool for research, it is not the only one, and that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. 

Doing research, I tell them, is like joining a conversation; it requires listening carefully to what has already been said, and contributing something thoughtful and new. 

Do you have any forthcoming publications, events, or talks we should look out for?

I have a chapter on comic subversion and gender in L.M. Montgomery’s short stories in L.M Montgomery and Gender forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press, and an essay on the pedagogy of poetic form in Writing Creative Writing: Essays from the Field forthcoming from Dundurn Press.  “The Book of Hours,” a suite of twelve new sonnets inspired by paintings by Alex Colville from our own Acadia Art Gallery will be published in an anthology of works shortlisted for the Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize.

Tell me, what are you reading, watching, or listening to for fun these days?

I just finished Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Tempest set in an Ontario prison, and I admit I’m a sucker for anything Scandi noir on Netflix or historical series like Frontier about the Hudson’s Bay Company and the fur trade.

Contact Dr. Campbell
Phone: (902) 585-1111

Research Spotlight is an initiative of the Research & Graduate Studies office. If you would like to suggest someone to be featured in this series, or if you would like to be featured yourself, please contact Deborah Hemming, Research & Innovation Coordinator:

You can also download the form below, fill in your responses, and return it to Deborah by email.


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