Professor Edward Chamberlin

Department of English

Faculty of Arts and Science

Appointed a University Professor in 2004

Professor J. Edward Chamberlin is a world-renowned literary scholar, critic and teacher.  His internationally recognized scholarship is in four important areas of humanities research: Theories of Orality and Oral and Written Cultures; Interdisciplinarity; Aboriginal Studies and Rights; and West Indian Poetry. 

Professor Chamberlin’s combination of literary, linguistic, anthropological, and sociological expertise has allowed him to make a major contribution to the study of our human need, or hope for, peaceful co-coexistence.   His study of oral traditions in North America, Africa and the Caribbean has led to a body of work that marks a watershed in postcolonial interdisciplinary studies.  Professor Chamberlin’s work among aboriginal groups has altered and renewed the direction of postcolonial research and pedagogy.  His book If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? (2003) focuses on the telling of stories and fights the current political and social desire to stress differences between cultures.  Professor Chamberlin’s contribution to interdisciplinarity is evidenced in his work on Oscar Wilde and the larger area of decadence and modernism (both literary and visual) whereby he changed the direction and focus of research in literary studies toward more interdisciplinary models.  Professor Chamberlins’s first published book, The Harrowing of Eden (1975), marked the start of a strong and continuing commitment to the study of First Nations peoples and white attitudes to (and representations of) them.  Not only has Professor Chamberlin made important contributions to the scholarship in the area of native history and art, he has also been an invaluable figure in public policy development for over two decades.  Beginning in the 1970s, Professor Chamberlin has served in a series of advisory roles to senior government officials, and has frequently been called upon to testify at land rights and self-government hearings (by provincial and federal governments, as well as aboriginal organizations).   Professor Chamberlin’s critically and popularly acclaimed book Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies (1993), confirmed his reputation as one of the leading critics and theorists of the emerging literature of the West Indies.  His work in this area is not only important in terms of the breadth and depth of its coverage of the field, but especially for the sensitivity of the critical response of the author and his impressively informed understanding of the historical, social and political contexts of the writing studied. 

Professor Chamberlin has demonstrated impressive pedagogical and scholarly achievement, as well as a high level of public engagement.  In addition, he is recognized as a popular and dedicated teacher at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

Professor Chamberlin holds a BA in Mathematics from the University of British Columbia (1964), a BA in English Language and Literature from Oxford University (1966) and a PhD in English from the University of Toronto (1969).  His thesis was entitled “Wallace Stevens and the Aesthetics of Modern Art’ and was produced under the supervision of H. Northrop Frye.  Professor Chamberlin also holds an honourary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa), awarded to him by the University of the West Indies in 2002.

Professor Chamberlin has been a faculty member in the Department of English since 1970.  Since 1985 he has also been cross-appointed to the Centre of Comparative Literature.  He became a Senior Fellow, Massey College in 1997.  He served as Principal of New College, University of Toronto from 1985 – 1990.  In 2000, Professor Chamberlin became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

May 2004