Erika Behrisch Elce, Assistant Professor, Distance Learning Coordinator

Erika Behrisch-Elce

Office: Massey 309

Telephone: (613) 541-6000 x 6070

Fax: 541-6405


Department of English

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


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 project looks at British Admiralty contributions to the popular “Arctic craze” of the mid-nineteenth century. This study concentrates on two of the Admiralty’s publications from the period, its 1849 Manual of Scientific Enquiry and its series of Arctic Blue Books (1818-1878), and argues that through these texts the Admiralty sought to maintain support for its northern expeditions by transforming Arctic exploration into a popular, national (and nationalist) pastime. Looking at the nineteenth-century politicization of Arctic space has relevance today, as Canada expresses its rights for sovereignty by citing historical precedent.

Selected Publications


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.


  • “ ‘a tribute of respect to the dead’: Narrative Containment and Focal Substitution in Leopold McClintock’s The Voyage of the ‘Fox.’Nineteenth-Century Prose. (forthcoming)
  • “ ‘As far as the eye can reach’: Scientific Exploration and Explorers’ Poetry in the Arctic, 1832-1852.” Victorian Poetry 41.1 (2003): 73-92.
  • “On the Trail of an Arctic Tale: Tracing Sir John Franklin in Wilkie Collins’s and Charles Dickens’s The Frozen Deep.” Storytelling: Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Perspectives. Eds Irene Blayer and Monica Sanchez. New York: Peter Lang, 2002. 58-71.
  • “ ‘The Great Map of Mankind’: Corporeal Cartography and the Route to Discovery in William Blake’s Milton.” English Studies in Canada 27.4 (2001): 435-458.

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:

  • “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

  • ENE101/102/110 Introduction to Literary Studies and University Writing Skills
  • ENE309 British Literature of the Victorian Period
  • ENE3XX Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century