University of Western Ontario, BA, MA
Queen’s University, PhD

My critical practice emerged from the study of late modernism and critical theory: my own doctoral dissertation repurposed the thinking of Theodor Adorno and Emmanuel Levinas to engage with the poetry and theatre of W. B. Yeats. I maintain a keen interest in contemporary North American poetics, particularly the work of Robert Bringhurst, Don McKay, Elizabeth Bishop, George Elliott Clarke, P. K. Page, Jan Zwicky and Anne Carson. I have been associated for the past decade with two major research initiatives around improvisation and social aesthetics: Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (2007-2014) and the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (2014-present). My own work in this field has centred on investigating the intersections of music, text and media. I have published critical work on television drama, and have been developing a critical project on intermediality and the poetics of listening. I maintain two blogs on poetry, music and improvisation: frankstyles.blogspot.ca and flowfissuremesh.com. My own poetry and creative work can be found through my website, kevinmcneilly.ca.

My pedagogical interests have involved convergences of literary studies, critical digital humanities and media studies; rather than large-scale compilation and mapping of electronic text (on which much current work in digital humanities concentrates), my teaching has focused on developing and encouraging critical approaches to text and electronic media that enable students, I hope, to begin to cope with the streams of big data in which they find themselves immersed and which they tend often ambivalently to embrace. In my own study, a key question might run something like this: what kinds of thinking – what critical tactics emerging from the investigation of literature and media aesthetics – can equip readers (viewers, watchers, listeners, performers) with viable capacities for self-awareness and for cultural engagement in our increasingly message-saturated worlds?

I have supervised a wide variety of graduate work, from studies of comics and video-gaming to projects on contemporary poetry and music. I would keenly welcome involvement with interdisciplinary work of all kinds, from materialist to theoretical.

Selected Publications

  • (with Julie Dawn Smith) “Extemporaneous Genomics: Nicole Mitchell, Octavia Butler and Xenogenesis.” In Negotiated Moments: Improvisation, Sound and Subjectivity, ed. Gillian Siddall and Ellen Waterman. Durham: Duke UP, 2016. 245-264.
  • “Ecologies of Estrangement: Robert Bringhurst’s Antigone.” In Listening for the Heartbeat of Being: The Arts of Robert Bringhurst, ed. Brent Wood and Mark Dickinson. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2015. 52-61.
  • “‘We jimmied the radio’: Gillian Jerome, Brad Cran and the Lyric in Public.” In Public Poetics: Critical Issues in Canadian Poetry and Poetics, ed. Erin Wunker, Bart Vautour, Travis V. Mason and Cristl Verduyn. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2015.
  • Embouchure: Poems. Sechelt: Nightwood Editions, 2011.
  • “A Few Small Essays on the Poetics of Grace” Lyric Ecology: An Appreciation of the Work of Jan Zwicky, ed. Mark Dickinson and Clare Goulet. Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2010. 94-102.
  • “Dislocating America: Agnieszka Holland Directs Moral Midgetry.” The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television, ed. Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall. New York: Continuum, 2009. 203-216.
  • “‘friend / to any / word’: Steve Lacy Scores Tom Raworth.” Mosaic 42.1 (March 2009): 151-167.
  • “His Own Best Narrator: Franz Boas and the Kwakiutl Tales.Canadian Literature. 154 (Autumn 1997): 29-49.

I am currently a researcher with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, a multi-university initiative that partners with community and arts organizations to implement forms of practice-based research in improvisation, and to foster social engagement. Links to the IICSI website and to our peer-reviewed journal Critical Studies in Improvisation can be found at http://www.improvcommunity.ca.