University of British Columbia, PhD

I earned my PhD from the Department of English at UBC, and joined the faculty in 2012. My research has focused on contemporary instances of “folk genres” of autobiography, such as the diary and the obituary. Rhetorical genre theories have helped me frame questions about access and agency in self-representations, and think about how consumers and producers recognize auto/biography, in its various forms, as the way to respond to contemporary cultural situations. My current research examines digital life narratives, including blogs and social networking sites; with John Zuern, I am co-editor of Online Lives 2.0, a special issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly (2015).

I am also engaged in projects related curriculum design and renewal and the first-year experience, work initially funded by TLEF and carried out in partnership with Dr. Kathryn Grafton. I am co-editing, with Dr. Kate Douglas (Flinders U), Teaching Lives, a special issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies (2017).

I teach in both English and the Coordinated Arts Program, offering courses in autobiography studies, archival studies, and academic writing. I have a background in both rhetorical genre studies and Canadian literature, and teach material related to trauma, memory, and disability studies as well as digital life narratives. My courses ask students to consider the role of contemporary literary, archival and cultural practices in society. How does the study of how and what people write, about themselves and others, in fictional and non-fictional forms, help us understand the work these texts do in the world (what rhetorician Carolyn Miller would call their “social actions” (1984), and why does that work matter?

  • “Witnessing Without Testimony: The Pedagogical Kairos of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies2 (Autumn 2015): 1-24.
  • McNeill, Laurie and John Zuern. Online Lives 2.0. Special issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 38.2 (Spring 2015). 215 pp (“Introduction” v – xlvi).
  • “Life Bytes: Six-word Memoir and the Exigence of Auto/tweetographies.” Identity Technologies: Producing Online Selves. Ed. Anna Poletti and Julie Rak. Madison: U of Wisconsin, 2013. 144-64.
  • “There is No ‘I’ in Network: Social Networking Sites and Posthuman Autobiography.” Biography 35.1 (Summer 2012): 101-18.
  • “Memory Failure: The Limits of Memorial Writing as Collective Auto/biography.” Auto/Biography and Mediation. Ed. Alfred Hornung. Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2010. 51-60.
  • “Brave New Genre or Generic Colonialism? Debates over Ancestry in Internet Diaries.” Genres in the Internet. Ed. Janet Giltrow and Dieter Stein. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. 143-61.
  • “Diary 2.0?: Blogs and Internet Diaries.” Language and New Media: Linguistic, Cultural, and Technological Evolutions. Ed. Charley Rowe and Eva Wyss. New Jersey: Hampton Press, 2009. 313-26.
  • “Death and the Maidens: Vancouver’s Missing Women, the Montreal Massacre, and Commemoration’s Blind Spots.” Canadian Review of American Studies 3 (2008). Spec. issue on popular auto/biography. Ed. Julie Rak. 375-98.
  • “Writing Lives in Death: Canadian Death Notices as Auto/biography.” Auto/biography in Canada: Theory, Criticism, Practice. Ed. Julie Rak. Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2005: 256-281.
  • Reconsidering Genre. Special issue of Life Writing (Curtin University of Technology, Perth: Australia), 2:2 (2005). 216 pp. (Guest-editing and introduction, pp. 1-15.)