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Narrating Childhood

The Narrating Childhood working group brings together eight scholars, whose work engages with a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, including memory studies, oral history, creative writing, gender studies, ethnomusicology, sensory history, Irish studies, and the history of the emotions.  Situated at the intersection between scholarly and creative writing, this working group provides a locus for dialogue and exchange between literary scholars, historians, writers, and performers. This project aims to create a dynamic space for exploring narratives of childhood and telling family stories in ways that are at once rigorous in their modes of inquiry and creative and experimental in their modes of expression. 

The working group is composed of doctoral students, a Banting post-doctoral fellow, and faculty. Its members seek to explore the methodological issues that arise when transmuting family stories into works of scholarly and creative writing and to broaden the scope of their research methods and creative practice.  Through a series of discussions and workshops structured around the themes of “Narrative Experiments”, “Troubling Methodologies”, and “Silences & Secrets,” participants will have the opportunity to gain critical perspectives on their work by engaging with writers across diverse literary genres.

Planned activities include a guest lecture and afternoon-long workshop, offered by a creative writer, who is herself fluent in marrying the forms of historical writing and literary non-fiction. In addition, a historian and documentary film-maker will give a public lecture, reflecting on her work of telling difficult family stories. Please check back soon for further details.


Kelly Norah Drukker, PhD student, Humanities PhD Program

Barbara Lorenzkowski, Associate Professor, Department of History

  • How can scholars reconstruct children’s emotional worlds, lived experiences, and the gendered spaces of childhood, given the ephemeral nature of childhood?
  • What insights can we glean from literary scholars who have explored both the discursive construction of childhood and children’s literary cultures?
  • What are some of the ethical issues that arise when working with sensitive stories and difficult knowledge in a scholarly and creative context?
  • How can a combination of scholarly and creative writing provide an alternative means of creating and disseminating family stories, one that leaves room for both rigorous inquiry and imaginative breadth?

Kelly Norah Drukker is a writer and doctoral student in Concordia University's PhD in Humanities program, working at the intersection of creative writing, oral history, Irish studies, and memory studies. Her family oral history projects have been presented at Concordia University, Rutgers University, and the University of Ulster. Kelly's first collection of poems, Small Fires (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016), was awarded the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the Concordia University First Book Prize, and was a finalist for the Grand prix du livre de Montréal.  A French-language version, Petits feux (trans. Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné), was published by Le lézard amoureux in 2018. Kelly is a holder of a Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship, and continues to write and study in Montreal.

Barbara Lorenzkowski, PhD, is an Associate Professor of History and former Co-Director of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Montreal. She is the author of Sounds of Ethnicity: Listening to German North America (University of Manitoba Press, 2010) and has published several book chapters and articles on the history of migration, culture and transnationalism. Dr. Lorenzkowski’s current research explores the social spaces of childhood in Atlantic Canada during the Second World War. Based on around ninety oral history interviews conducted in the port cities of Halifax, St. John’s, and Saint John, she examines the ‘small spaces’ of childhood, children’s mobility in the city, and children’s sensuous geographies in the wartime city.

Susan Cahill is an Associate Professor of Irish Literature in the School of Irish Studies at Concordia University.  She completed her PhD on Contemporary Irish Writing and the Body in University College Dublin in 2007. Her monograph, Irish Literature in the Celtic Tiger Years: Gender, Bodies, Memory, was published by Continuum in 2011. She is the co-editor of two collections of essays on contemporary Irish authors: Anne Enright: Irish Writers in Their Time, eds. Claire Bracken and Susan Cahill (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2011) and This Side of Brightness: Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann, eds. Susan Cahill and Eóin Flannery (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012). Other publications include articles on historical children’s literature, gender and the body in contemporary Irish fiction, and fairytale cinema, and Irish literary girlhood. In the spring of 2013, Dr. Cahill was awarded a three-year FRQSC grant for her project, "Ireland's Daughters: The Literary Cultures of the Irish Girl, 1870-1922" and is currently working on a monograph based on this research. Dr. Cahill is on sabbatical for the academic year 2017/2018 and will be a Visiting Research Fellow in the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Ailie Cleghorn is a Full Professor in the Department of Education at Concordia University.  A comparative sociologist of education, she received her PhD in 1981 from McGill University. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses since 1989 in the Educational Studies Masters program at Concordia. Her research has centered on language and cultural issues in education with particular reference to African pre-primary and primary school settings. In addition to numerous publications in academic journals, her publications include Shades of globalization in three early childhood settings: Views from India, South Africa and Canada (Sense Publishers), Complex classroom encounters: A South African perspective (Sense publishers), Missing the meaning: The development and use of print and non-print text materials in diverse school settings (Palgrave), and Teacher education in diverse settings: Making space for intersecting worldviews (Sense publishers). Her interests are now turning to historical biographical non-fiction about the Second World War, featuring the life narratives of one woman and ten children.

Lisa Ndejuru is a PhD INDI student at Concordia University.  She received her master's degree in clinical counseling from Université de Sherbrooke, and is certified in Moreno psychodrama, community mediation and third party neutral conflict resolution facilitation. She is a skilled practitioner of Playback Theatre and is a founding member of the Montreal-based Living Histories Ensemble. She has served the Rwandan diaspora in North America for over 20 years as an organizer and activist. For seven years Lisa was a community co-applicant and steering committee member of the major SSHRC-funded community-university project “Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by Genocide, War and other Human Rights Abuses”. Motivated by her own family's story of trauma and displacement, her current PhD studies at Concordia University are at the intersection of community engagement, clinical practice, and arts-based research. Her extensive experimentation with storytelling, play and improvised theatre in post-trauma settings aims for individual and collective meaning-making and empowerment in the aftermath of large-scale political violence. She has presented and published internationally on these themes. As a teacher she seeks to facilitate and nurture self reflection, creativity and engaged learning.

Eleni Polychronakos is a PhD student in the Humanities Department at Concordia University. Her interdisciplinary research-creation project combines Oral History, Creative Writing and Literary Criticism, and centres on the life stories of women who came of age during salient events in twentieth-century Greek History. For her dissertation, she will conduct oral history interviews in order to write a book of short stories based on their lives. Eleni holds a Masters in Journalism and a Masters in Literature. From 2011 to 2015, she was an editor with Room Magazine, Canada’s oldest feminist literary journal. As a freelance journalist, she has written for magazines in Canada and Japan, and produced radio programs. Her fiction has been shortlisted in contests by the Malahat Review and Walrus Magazine. Her short stories and poetry appear in The New Quarterly, The Puritan, Joyland, Plenitude, and Filling Station.

Stephanie Olsen, PhD, FRHistS, is the author/co-author of two monographs, Juvenile Nation: Youth, Emotions and the Making of the Modern British Citizen (Bloomsbury, 2014) and Learning How to Feel: Children’s Literature and the History of Emotional Socialization, c. 1870-1970 (Oxford University Press, 2014), and the editor of the collection, Childhood, Youth and Emotions in Modern History: National, Colonial and Global Perspectives (Palgrave, 2015). Her new research focuses on the ‘Lived Nation’ in the context of the British Empire and specially on children’s education and the cultivation of hope in the First World War. It is supported by a Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada Insight Development Grant. She is also the general co-editor of the forthcoming 6-volume Bloomsbury Cultural History of Youth.

Leila Qashu, an ethnomusicologist, received her PhD from Memorial University in Newfoundland. Her dissertation “Towards an Understanding of Justice, Belief and Women's Rights: Ateetee, an Arsi Oromo Women's Musical Dispute Resolution Process in Ethiopia" examined how Arsi Oromo (Ethiopian) women use expressive arts to protect, promote, and assert their rights and to achieve justice in a rapidly changing society. As a Concordia Banting Postdoctoral, Leila Qashu plans to investigate how expressive arts help women share their stories and question and change harmful social practices. Her project, “Voices of Resistance to Marriage by Abduction: Arsi Oromo Women’s Expressive Strategies for Change in Ethiopia” draws upon her multidisciplinary interests – ethnography, community activism, music, storytelling, filmmaking, and other expressive arts.

Over the course of the academic year 2018-2019, we will convene three workshops on “Narrative Experiments”, “Troubling Methodologies” and “Silences & Secrets”.  These four-hour long workshops will offer a space for group members to discuss selected interdisciplinary readings, refine their methodological repertoire, experiment with narrative forms, reflect on their scholarly and creative practice, and share their own work-in-progress. We also hope to host two visiting speakers, with further details announced in the fall. Planned activities include guest lectures by both visiting speakers, which will be open to the public, followed by afternoon-long workshop with group members.

Group Meetings

Thursday, January 31, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Family Stories (LB-1019)

Friday, February 15, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Narrative Experiments 1 (LB-1019)

Friday, March 15, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Narrative Experiments 2 (LB-1019)

Friday, April 12, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Troubling Methodologies (LB-1019)

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