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Norman Ravvin ACTIVE EMAIL, PhD

Professor / Interim Director Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies , Religions and Cultures


Norman Ravvin ACTIVE EMAIL, PhD


Norman Ravvin is a critic, fiction writer, and journalist. His essays on Canadian and American Jewish literature are collected in A House of Words: Jewish Identity and Memory (McGill-Queen's). The essays included in this volume focus on such writers as Eli Mandel, Leonard Cohen, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Mordecai Richler, and Chava Rosenfarb. A House of Words also considers the role of multiculturalism, postcolonialism, and the Holocaust in the reception of Canadian writing. He is co-editor of The Canadian Jewish Studies Reader (2004), which includes two essays by him, focusing on Eli Mandel and Matt Cohen.

His recent fiction publication is the novel, The Girl Who Stole Everything (2019, Linda Leith Publishing), which is set in Poland and VancouverPrevious fiction includes The Joyful Child (2011, Gaspereau),  Lola by Night, which appeared in Serbian translation, and the story collection Sex, Skyscrapers, and Standard Yiddish.  A story from it is in the The New Spice Box: Contemporary Jewish Writing (2020).  Other books include Hidden Canada: An Intimate Travelogue (2001) and the novel, Cafe des Westens, which appeared in 1991 and won the Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism New Fiction Prize. He is the editor of Not Quite Mainstream: Canadian Jewish Short Stories (2001) and Great Stories of the Sea (1999). Recent articles include a chapter on Canadian Jewish writers in the Oxford Handbook to Canadian Literature (2016); essays on Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, and A.M. Klein in his co-edited volume Failure's Opposite: Listening to A.M. Klein (McGill-Queen's UP, 2011).  He contributed an introduction to George Walker's wordless biography of Leonard Cohen, which appeared in trade paperback and artist's special editions.  Earlier work includes an essay on "memory tourism" in Poland in Canadian Literature, a chapter on Jewish identity in a collection called Religion and Ethnicity in Canada, and an introduction to the reissue of Gwethalyn Graham's Earth and High Heaven from Cormorant Books. He is at work on a novel set in Poland and Vancouver, which will be excerpted in a forthcoming anthology from Toronto's Guernica Editions.

As general editor of a series in association with Red Deer Press at the University of Calgary and the Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies, he oversaw the publication of books dedicated to Canadian Jewish writing and history. Among the publications from the Institute is Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind, by Joel Yanofsky. Norman Ravvin acted as editor of this study, which won awards in Canada and the United States. The Institute brought out, in collaboration with Red Deer Press, Henry Kreisel's 1948 novel, The Rich Man.  While chair of Concordia's Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies Ravvin oversaw two chapbook series focused on Canadian Jewish literature and history. The titles in these series include a long short story by Toronto writer Cary Fagan, and a translation of a document dealing with early Montreal Jewish history, by Ira Robinson.


PhD (University of Toronto)



Research interests

Canadian Jewish Studies
Holocaust Studies
Religion and Literature
Contemporary Canadian and American Literature
Memoir and Creative Writing
Jewish Eastern Europe, esp. Poland

Field areas

Religion and Literature
Creative Writing and Autobiography
Contemporary Religions and Popular Culture
Theory, Ethics, and Philosophy

Kanade, di Goldene Medine? Perspectives on Canadian Jewish Literature and Culture, co-edited with K. Majer, J. Fruzinska and J Kwaterko (Brill 2018)
Cordova Street, setting of my new novel.
Dom Literatury, Lodz Poland
Photo credit: Aritha van Herk

Selected publications

A novel, The Girl Who Stole Everything, set in Poland and Vancouver, 2019, Linda Leith Publishing, Montreal.

"Glendale, North of Alhambra, East of Burbank," in The New Spice Box: Contemporary Jewish Writing, 2020, ed. Ruth Panofksy.  U of TP.

Selected Critical and Fiction publications: 

Kanada, di Goldene Medine? Perspectives on Canadian Jewish Literature and Culture. (Brill 2018) Co-edited with K. Majer, J. Fruzinska and J. Kwaterko. Essays in English and French.

"You Say You've OD'd on Leonard Cohen: Canadian Jewish Writing and the Mainstream," in
The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Literature, ed. Cynthia Sugars.  2016.

"Words, Music, Image." Introduction to 
The Wordless Leonard Cohen Songbook by George Walker.  2014.

"Myths of Montreal: Irving Layton, Jewish Thematics and the Mainstream."  
Canadian Poetry.  No. 73 Fall/Winter 2013.  Proceedings of the Irving Layton Symposium, University of Ottawa, 2013.

The Joyful Child
. Gaspereau Press, 2011. 

"The War and Before: Responses in Mainstream Canadian Literary Life" in Nazi Germany, Canadian Responses, Confronting Antisemitism in the Shadow of War. McGill-Queen's, 2012.

Failure's Opposite: Listening to A.M. Klein. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2011.

Canadian Literature, a special issue on Mordecai Richler (co-edited with Nathalie Cooke). UBC (Winter, 2010).

Involvement with the more recent Hungry I Chapbooks:

Hungry I Chapbooks' Blessing (2009), includes an essay entitled "Kaddish in Literature."

Hungry I Chapbooks' translation of Franz Kafka's Josephine the Singer or The Nation of the Mice, trans. Karin Doeer, Barbara Galli and Gary Evans.

Hungry I Chapbooks' Shuln and Shulelach: Large and Small Synagogues in Montreal and Europe, by Sara Ferdman Tauben, 2008.

Hungry I Chapbooks' Opening The Star: Three Responses to the New Translation of Franz Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption, 2005.

Teaching activities

Areas of teaching and research interest include Jewish literature, Holocaust Studies, Canadian and American literature, Creative Writing, Biblical literature, Religion and literature, Yiddish, Jewish eastern Europe, memoir, Religion and music, and Religion and film.

Recent graduate seminars and reading courses

Hebrew Bible and Contemporary Literature
Jewish Eastern Europe
Autobiography and Jewish Identity 
Religion and Literature 
Contemporary North American Jewish Culture 

Artistic performances

As part of the launch of The Girl Who Stole Everything Ravvin took part in a writers' round table in Lodz, Poland, introducing the novel to Polish readers.  The event took place in Sept. 2019, at Lodz's Dom Literatury on ulica Roosevelta, along with writers Bill Gaston, Dede Crane and John Gould.

Online reading and introduction of my novel, The Girl Who Stole Everything, with music by Alexander Ravvin, as part of the Jewish Public Library's virtual literary salons (May 2020) at:

Recent Work

Introduction, "Leonard Cohen: Image, Words, Music," in George A. Walker's Leonard Cohen: A Woodcut Biography (2020, Firefly)

"Glendale, North of Alhambra, East of Burbank," in The New Spice Box: Contemporary Jewish Writing.  Ed. Ruth Panofsky (2020, U of TP)

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