Brock English prof honoured as new Royal Society of Canada Fellow

Brock University’s Lissa Paul has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the country’s top academic body honouring career achievement in the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences.

Paul, Professor of English Language and Literature and Graduate Program Director of Brock’s PhD Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities, was elected to the Academy of Arts and Humanities, announced by the RSC on Sept. 5.

Paul is the second Fellow to be elected to the RSC from Brock’s Department of English Language and Literature, joining RSC Fellow and Professor of English Elizabeth Sauer in the distinguished recognition.

“I am thrilled; joining The Royal Society of Canada is an honour,” Paul said. “It is wonderful to know that the kind of work I do — that I think needs to be done, and I love to do — is contributing to a common good in society.”

Paul’s scholarly work is engaged with transnational histories, feminist theory, 18th-century studies, children’s literature and poetry, literacy education and studies in enslavement and abolition.

In reflecting on her academic path, Paul said that her work and research have been an evolution, one idea leading to the next.

Through her doctoral work on Ted Hughes (1930-1998), a children’s poet who would later become a Poet Laureate in the U.K., Paul became an expert in children’s literature. Paul developed a specialization in poetry for children demonstrated by her involvement with Johns Hopkins University Press journal The Lion and the Unicorn, as editor for many years, and establishing an award for children’s poetry.

As part of a recent Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, Paul has been investigating and championing the work of 18th-century author Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840), uncovering her life story and impact on children’s literature.

By discovering Fenwick’s unreferenced letters in archives in Niagara and Toronto, Paul is sharing the author’s commentary on the sociopolitical environment in 18th-century England through a recently-submitted two-volume edition of her letters (1797-1840). Paul’s first monograph on Fenwick, The Children’s Book Business: Lessons from the Long Eighteenth Century was published in 2011 and her biography, Eliza Fenwick: Early Modern Feminist, in 2019.

Paul’s research into Fenwick’s life, including her time living in Barbados (1814-1822), evolved into her leading an initiative to digitize two endangered colonial newspapers, The Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette and The Barbadian. Both were eventually funded by British Library Endangered Archives Program grants.

“These digital records are now being referenced for historical podcasts in Barbados, as well as serving as a resource for the British Library’s crowd-sourced ‘Agents of Enslavement’ project designed to create a database for the fugitive slave ads,” Paul said. “These are stories that need to be told.”

As a new Fellow of the RSC, Paul looks forward to continuing her work in making public authors and poets whose work and lives greatly contributed to society and culture, especially closer to home in Niagara, while exposing graduate students to professional learning and development opportunities in their scholarly fields.

“Being elected to the Royal Society of Canada, the highest research recognition in the country by a college of peers, is a tremendous achievement,” said Brock University Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon.

“We congratulate Lissa Paul on her impressive academic research, including the national and international impact of her work in children’s literature and literacy education, as well as her tireless commitment to sharing the untold stories of historically under-represented or marginalized groups.”

New RSC Fellows will be inducted on Friday, Nov. 17, celebrating their outstanding and scholarly achievement.

The Royal Society of Canada: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada was established in 1882 as the senior Canadian collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists. The primary objective of the society is to promote learning and research in the arts, the humanities and the natural and social sciences.

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