Centre for Research in Young People's Texts and Cultures


Deborah Schnitzer

Professor Emerita


Deborah Schnitzer
Department of English
University of Winnipeg
515 Portage Ave.
Winnipeg, MB R3B 2E9

Phone: (204) 786-9281

Fax: (204) 774-4134

Deborah Schnitzer

Current Research, Related Course Development and Why I study children’s literature

My interest in inter-arts analysis led to the exploration of correlatives in vision and technique between modernist narratives and experimental forms conceived by writers like Stephen Crane, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein and modernist artists from movements that have come to be known as Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Expressionism and Cubism. Following my doctoral work, I continued that mode of inquiry working more specifically with writers like Woolf and Stein, developing individual author courses that integrated arts-based modes of representation involving multi- and inter-disciplinary work.

That fascination with words and pictures found further application when I taught my first course in children’s picture books. My contribution to the SSHRC funded project, In their places: the discourse of home and the study of Canadian Children’s Literature, focuses on the ways in which windows in Canadian picturebooks construct concepts of home, identity and belonging. The chapter, “Windows as Homing Devices in Canadian Picture Books,” is part of Home Words: Discourses of Children’s Literature in Canada, edited by Mavis Reimer. I am continuing the exploration of 13 window types that operate as homing devices which choreograph the beguiling fragility of interfaces among inside and outside spaces. This research informs part of the study of windowing Shelagh Carter and I developed in the design of our second, short experimental film, Canoe, based on the text of a novella I have written called jane dying again, as well as my own ongoing study of window codes and the reductive homemaking/building formulas they so often endorse. I am particularly interested in how those stereotypic arrangements are being re-negotiated by contemporary cultural theories of race and gender in picturebook window languages that subvert and or challenge illusions of permanence, shelter, and stasis.

My interarts work with Shelagh began with a project we designed that encouraged students to use various visual, auditory, verbal, and found media as a way of conceptualizing and representing their experiences with Gertrude Stein’s Ladies Voices and What Happened. This interest in correspondences between the dramatic and directorial imagination and theatrical and operatic forms led to the further work in the development of rifting/blue and the sung narrative I conceived for that piece. At the same time, I am in the process of completing the third of three pieces that explore concepts of simultaneity, intimacy, and transformation. The first, jane dying again, forms the basis of Canoe. The second, unexpected break in the weather, published by Turnstone Press, won the 2010 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. The third, the woman who swallowed west hawk lake, attempts to reckon the unreconcilable by exploring two children's fragile, penetrating, and tormented understanding of official and unofficial Jewish and German-born Aryan narratives that haunt, implicate, and corrupt a Canadian imagination and landscape. These polypmorphic portraits continue my interest in speculative fiction, interarts, and magic realist traditions.

Equally, I have been exploring the philosophy and practice of university teaching for the past several years and this exploration finds expression in course development, design and delivery, informed by concepts of accessibility, inclusivity, community-university partnerships and experiential and service learning activism. Accordingly, I have developed a Practicum in Language, Literacy and Literature course which offers a number of Winnipeg-based partnership opportunities within family and adult literacy programs, English as an Additional Language Learning Centres, refugee and settlement organizations, alternative learning communities, activist organizations, community-based programs for Aboriginal peoples, and creative cultures including galleries, publishing houses, writing collectives and community newspapers. Conjoining theory and practice, students explore readings that relate to adult learning, literacies, service learning, volunteerism, intern/apprenticeships within university and community-based learning cultures and commit at least two hours per week to their placement site. Further study includes on-site, in-house orientation, training, and support designed by the practicum partner, workshops by literacy and cultural workers, reflective, research and report writing and seminar presentations.

With Kathleen Venema, I am offering a second course, The Making of Peace and War in Literatures, that also combines scholarship and practice. This course evolves out of my continuing interest in how diverse communities might intersect and partner. The course focuses on the tradition of literary and cultural representation of conflict, both the extensive tradition of war literature and the less well-known body of literature that examines peace as something other than the absence of war. It engages representations of violence, death, justice, and hope in relation to gender, ethnicity, nation, culture, creative identities, colonialism, imperialism, memory, and mythology through children literatures, documentary films, visual art and popular theatre. Throughout, the course explores the potential of the university as a site of peace-making. Specific components include informal lectures and discussions, explorations of diverse modes of inquiry, discovery, and analysis as practiced within a range of learning traditions, and a practicum component. The discovery traditions may include learning circles, meditation, body-based healing, and responsible resource practices. The practicum requires that all course participants work within existing community-based projects focused on social justice and activism involving peace work, environmental issues, and Aboriginal, immigrant, and refugee rights.

A further dimension of my scholarship and advocacy refers to the work I’ve been doing as co-director of the Institute for Literacy and Transformative Learning at The Global College (http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/index/gc-ltl). The variety of approaches to learning within the context of transformative learning embrace holistic, process-based, learner-centred, interactive, problem-solving modes of discovery, analysis, and action. The Institute works with university and community educators and activists to develop partnerships that include the offering of university-credit courses, workshops and actions dedicated to literacy, peace and justice making and creative social change. Such partnerships explore advocacy and activism in relation to multiple literacies: human rights education, adult and family literacy, participatory democracy, conflict resolution, compassionate listening, and interfaith dialogue, creative campaigning, and global citizenship. Courses and workshops often engage community service-learning, popular education, and popular theatre techniques and involve participants in the shaping of course materials, actions, learning goals, and modes of assessment and reflection. Related practices support the sharing of knowledge through the building of sustainable networks, idea marketplaces and teach-ins. The Institute is integrally related to the Experiential Learning Initiatives Network (ELIN) which coordinates shared interests in experiential learning among students, staff, and faculty, as part of a university-wide commitment to lifelong learning and community-university learning partnerships.


Degrees received

  • Ph.D., University of Manitoba, The Use and Abuse of Pictorial Terminology in Discussions of Modernist Fiction. Supervisor: Professor Evelyn J. Hinz, 1986
  • Teacher Certification (Secondary), University of Manitoba, 1975
  • M.A., University of Calgary, 1973
  • B.A. (Hons.), English and Philosophy, University of Western Ontario, 1972

Recent Publications

  • Canoe, co-directed with Shelagh Carter, 2010, based on my novel, jane dying again.
  • an unexpected break in the weather. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 2009. Winner of the 2010 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction.

    Find this book in the UW library

  • “Chapter One” from the woman who swallowed west hawk lake. Home Place 3, Prairie Fire Inc. (Fall 2009) 45-57.
  • “brave,” Grain 36.6: 60-61.
  • resolve, with Shelagh Carter and Natasha Torres-Garner, 2009, an experimental dance film shown at Napolidanza, Polazzo delle Arti, Napoli, May 14-15, 2010 and the Moving Image Film Festival, Toronto, October 15-17, 2010.
  • “Windows as Homing Devices in Canadian Picturebooks.” Home Words: Discourses of Children’s Literature in Canada. Ed. Mavis Reimer. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier Press, 2008.

    Find this book in the UW library

  • “a rose.” A/cross Sections: New Manitoba Writing. The Manitoba Writers Guild Silver Anthology. Eds. Katherine Bitney and Andris Taskans. (Fall 2007) 205-09.

    Find this book in the UW library

  • gertrude unmanageable. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishers, 2007.

    Find this book in the UW library

  • “babylon.” Home Place: Prairie Fire Supplement. Winnipeg: Prairie Fire Publishers. April 2007.
  • “bath.” Murderous Signs. May 2006, 13-26.
Full List of Publications

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