University of Guelph, BA
University of Toronto, MA, PhD

Sandra Tomc is a scholar of nineteenth-century U.S. literature. Her research focuses on book and magazine history, romantic authorship, the gothic, and nationalist visual iconography. Her most recent book, Industry and the Creative Mind: The Eccentric Writer in American Literature and Entertainment, 1790-1860 (2012), is on Romantic authorship and U.S. magazine history, with an emphasis on Edgar Allan Poe and his circle. It analyzes the emergence of modern art economies that sequester creative and mental work from systems of monetary exchange. Her current project, Fashion Nation, focuses on the development of visual itineraries for “Americanness” in the early nineteenth century. She is also a filmmaker and screenwriter. Her most recent documentary feature is Citizen Marc (2013). She is co-screenwriter on a new documentary, Cool Daddy, about Vancouver jazz legend Ken Colman, which is due out in 2018.

I am currently Chair of the Graduate Program in English at UBC. I teach nineteenth-century U.S. literature, twentieth-century U.S. entertainment and film, gothic literature and film, screenwriting (I am a screenwriter and filmmaker as well as a literature scholar). My current theory interests include affect and psychoanalytic theory — especially to do with fear and horror – and film and image theory.

Winter 2018

ENGL472D American Studies - AMERICAN STUDIES Sections

Please see the Department website for further information on topics offered in the current session.

Winter 2018

ENGL500 Research in English Studies Sections

Required of all graduate students in the M.A. program. Pass/Fail.

Selected Scholarly and Creative Publications


  • Industry and the Creative Mind: The Eccentric Writer in American Literature and Entertainment, 1790-1860. University of Michigan Press, 2012. This book looks at the figure of the eccentric, alienated writer in the U.S. arts and entertainment industry in the first half of the nineteenth century. I argue that romantic myths of writerly brilliance, rebelliousness, and anti-sociality, which are usually understood as markers of modern artistic autonomy, were foundational in the United States to the development of a highly capitalistic cheap entertainment industry in the 1830s and 1840s.  My scrutiny of this industry illustrates how veneration of “artistic” qualities in writers was directly tied to their exploitation as cheap labour in an early instantiation of cognitive capitalism.  Precisely to the extent that writers were deemed other-worldly and transcendent of normative appetites, they were readily dismissed by entrepreneur publishers as personnel who did not need to be paid. These writers, I argue, formed a large invisible labour force in what historians call the antebellum print explosion. The book looks at the careers of Joseph Dennie, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Rufus Griswold, Park Benjamin, and Fanny Fern.

Feature Films

  • Citizen Marc (feature documentary). Written by Sandra Tomc and Roger Evan Larry.  Directed by Roger Evan Larry.  Produced by Roger Larry, Sandra Tomc, and Lianna Walden.  Made in association with the UBC Hampton Research Fund, the Canadian Media Fund, the Telefilm Rogers Documentary Fund, Superchannel, and Cinemavault.  World premiere:  the Montreal World Film Festival, 2013.  Exhibited at Whistler Film Festival, 2013. This film is a critical biography of Canadian marijuana legalization activist, Marc Emery, the so-called “Prince of Pot,” who was extradited to the U.S. for international drug trafficking.
  • Crossing. A Roger Evan Larry and Sandra Tomc Film.  Written and produced by Sandra Tomc. Directed and produced by Roger Larry.  Starring Sebastian Spence, Crystal Bublé, Fred Ewanuick and Bif Naked.  Made in Association with Telefilm Canada, CityTV, Astral, Corus.  115 mins.  Premiere: Cinequest Film Festival, San Jose, 2005. Worldwide Distributor: Cinemavault.  Soundtrack: Warner Canada.  Six Leo Award Nominations, 2007: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress.


  • Book Chapter(s) or Journal Article(s)
  • “A Form of Life in Which Art is Not Art”: “Life in the Iron Mills” and the Artist as Worker in the Nineteenth-Century U.S., American Literature (forthcoming).
  • “’Sticks Upon Clothes’: James Fenimore Cooper and the Flat Frontier.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 51:2 (Summer 2009): 142-178.
  • “Revisions of Probability: An Interview With Judith Thompson.” The Masks of Judith Thompson. Ed. Ric Knowles. Toronto: Playwright’s Canada Press, 2006. Rpt. from The Canadian Theatre Review 59 (Summer 1989): 18-23.
  • “Re-styling An Old World: Nathaniel Parker Willis and Metropolitan Fashion,” Representations 85 (Winter 2004): 98-124.
  • Co-Authored with Patricia Badir. “The New and the Noteworthy in the Making of a Civil Society.” English Studies in Canada 29: 1-2 (2003): 7-16.
  • “A Change of Art: Hester, Hawthorne and the Service of Love.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 56 (2002): 466-494.
  • “Poe and His Circle.”  The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe.  Ed. Kevin J. Hayes.  Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.  21-41.
  • “’The Missionary Position‘: Feminism and Nationalism in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.” and intro. Harold Bloom. Modern Critical Interpretations. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001. Rpt. from Canadian Literature 138/139 (1993): 73-87.
  • “David Mamet’s Oleanna and the Way of the Flesh.” Essays in Theatre 15 (1997): 163-75.
  • “An Idle Industry: Nathaniel Parker Willis and the Workings of Literary Leisure.” American Quarterly 49 (1997): 780-805.
  • “Dieting and Damnation: Anne Rice’s Interview With the VampireAnne Rice With the Vampire Generation.
  • “Dieting and Damnation:  Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire.” Blood Read:  The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture.  Eds. Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger.  Philadelphia:  U of Pennsylvania P, 1997.  95-113.
  • “Questing Women: The Feminist Detective After Feminism.” Feminism in Women’s Detective Fiction. Ed. Glenwood Irons. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1995. 46-63.
  • “‘Disentangled Doom’: The Politics of Celebration in Howard Brenton’s Bloody Poetry.“ Howard Brenton: A Casebook. Ed. Ann Wilson. New York: Garland, 1992. 127-44.

My current research is on images of the United States generated in U.S., British and European media over the course of the nineteenth century.  In particular, I am interested in the association of a stereotypical “America” with various forms of aggressive visuality – loud clothes, electric lights, flashing screens, garishly colored panoramas.  Although popularized by European travellers at the turn of the twentieth century, these ideas about the United States originated, I suggest, in the early nineteenth century and were related to the development of ethnic and racial nationalism in Europe and Britain. The study looks at ethnic theatre; American dandyism; “frontier” literature; and museums and amusement parks at the end of the nineteenth century. This research is supported by a SSHRC Standard Research Grant.

Research Interests