Erika Behrisch Elce, Assistant Professor, Distance Learning Coordinator

Erika Behrisch-Elce

Office: Massey 309

Telephone: (613) 541-6000 x 6070

Fax: 541-6405

Email: erika.behrisch.elce@rmc.ca

Department of English

Royal Military College of Canada
PO Box 17000, Station Forces
Kingston, Ontario CANADA
K7K 7B4

On Sabbatical 2014-2015

Biography

Since leaving Fairbanks, Alaska at the age of 12 to pursue an adolescence and early adulthood with my family on and around the shores of British Columbia, my route to Kingston, Ontario has been filled with adventure, including two years on a remote fish farm in the wilds north of Vancouver, a senior high-school year as an exchange student in the small whaling town of Albany, Western Australia, and two years in a dingy apartment at Bloor and Christie Pitts. It’s up for grabs which of these experiences was most transformative.

I chose the study of literature as a vocation because I am at heart very nosey. English Literature, so full of opinions, hidden agendas, unintentional revelations and cultural complexity, offered what was in my mind the richest study of culture higher education could afford, and I enjoy my scholarly research, my academic teaching, and my life as a reader immensely.

Main Research Interests

nineteenth-century Arctic exploration narratives, travel writing, literature of science and nationalism, nineteenth-century non-fiction prose, Victorian print culture

Current Research

My current research, a SSHRC-funded project tentatively titled "Science at Sea: Science, the Royal Navy, and Networks of Influence," examines the ways in which the nineteenth-century British Admiralty attempted to engage with the British citizenry over questions of science and discovery, and the consequences of that interaction for both the Admiralty and the scientific community.

I am also a research associate at the award-winning Benjamin Disraeli Project, the Kingston-based research group that publishes the Benjamin Disraeli Letters. We're currently hard at work on volume 11.

Books

As affecting the fate of my absent husband: Selected Letters of Lady Franklin Concerning the Search for the Lost Franklin Expedition, 1848-1860. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.

Recent Selected Publications

  • "'Adapted for Travellers in General': En Route with the British Admiralty's 1849 Manual of Scientific Enquiry." Journeys: The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing 15.1 (2014).
  • "'One remarkable evening': Redemptive Science in Wilkie Collins's Heart and Science." Journal of Literature and Science 7.1 (2014). Science and Literature
  • "'One of the bright objects that solace us in these regions': Labour, Leisure, and the Arctic Shipboard Periodical, 1820-1852." Victorian Periodicals Review 46.3 (2013).
  • "'In Sum, Evil has Prevailed': The Moral Morass of Arctic Exploration in Jacques Tardi's The Arctic Marauder." Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology. Eds Cynthia Miller and Julie Taddeo. Scarecrow Press, 2013.
  • "'A tribute of respect to the dead': Narrative Containment and Focal Substitution in Leopold McClintock's The Voyage of the Fox." Nineteenth-Century Prose 40.1 (2013).

Teaching Philosophy

The study of literature is an elegant – and enjoyable! – method of teaching critical thinking skills. Not only are students exposed to outstanding pieces of writing from different periods of history, but they also learn effective communication – from the writers they encounter as well as from the rigours of critical expression in the classroom. It takes courage to have an opinion, and many students initially hesitate to offer interpretations of what they read for fear it may be “wrong.” In each of my courses I make three statements prominent:

  • FORM = CONTENT
  • “Il n’y a pas de hors-texte” (Jacques Derrida)
  • The text is not the author

These statements declare with confidence that everything we encounter is open to interpretation, and I discuss them in tandem because they underscore the importance of looking at texts simultaneously as objects, products, responses, formulae, and pieces of a larger cultural puzzle. While the resulting broadness of the interpretive horizon can be at first daunting, rejecting the hegemony of author biography can also be liberating, and I take real pleasure in watching students’ critical faculties blossom and flourish in this wide plain of textual interpretation.

Courses Taught

Distance Learning

  • ENE101/102: Introduction to Literature and University Writing Skills (Fiction / Drama and Poetry)
  • ENE202/203: Cross-Currents of Twentieth-Century Literature (Modernism / Postmodernism)
  • ENE309: British Literature of the Victorian Period
  • ENE403: Gender and Literature
  • ENE474: Science Fiction

In the Classroom

  • ENE100/110: Introduction to Literature and University Writing Skills
  • ENE309: British Literature of the Victorian Period
  • ENE371: Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century