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Heather McAlpine

Heather McAlpine

Associate Professor , On Sabbatical


Abbotsford campus, B372

Phone: 604-504-7441 ext. 5144

email Heather

Twitter: @hey_mcalpine


I grew up in a small town north of Montreal, Quebec, where I spent most of my time reading and listening to my Walkman. At McGill, I took courses in English, History, and Art History, and discovered that I had a passion for the confluence of all three disciplines. After completing my MA I took two years away from school, working as a journalist at a small weekly newspaper and as an educator for adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.

During that time, questions arising from a paper I had written during my MA about the possible influence of the English emblem tradition on Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and Other Poems nagged at me: could this be part of a larger pattern in her work? Were other Pre-Raphaelites inspired by emblems too? If so, how? And what could it mean? Finally, I started a Ph.D. to further explore these and other questions, ultimately learning that arriving at an answer wasn’t going to satisfy me: I needed to just keep asking questions.

As well as a teacher and a researcher, I’m a cinephile, a fan of contemporary Canadian poetry, a web design novice, and a parent of two small children.


BA(Hon.) (McGill), MA (Western), Ph.D. (Ottawa)



Teaching Philosophy

I believe in the shaping power of language and in literature’s transformative ability to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. My academic work centers on the conviction that no art form exists in isolation, and that cherishing traditional generic and disciplinary boundaries can only weaken our understanding and appreciation of art.

As an educator, therefore, my primary aim is to facilitate encounters that push us to re-examine and re-define our relationships to self and other. In pursuit of this aim, my teaching also seeks to foster the linked skills of intentional reading, critical thinking, and effective communication.

Above all, I want my students to value literary studies as an integral part of their personal, intellectual, and academic growth, regardless of their disciplinary specializations or future goals.

Teaching Interests

Romantic and Victorian poetry; Pre-Raphaelite literature and art; poetics; didactic and devotional modes; illustrated literature and emblematics; digital pedagogy; composition.

Research Interests

My doctoral dissertation (Victorian Emblematics: Structures of Representation in Pre-Raphaelite Literature) and subsequent book project (Devious Symbols:Faith, Doubt, and Emblematics in Pre-Raphaelite Literature; in-progress) trace the genealogy of the emblem through the literature and art of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Conceived as a hybrid verbal-visual language which promises to supply the communicative deficiencies of both image and text, emblems are a self-conscious attempt to establish a system of signs with inherent, necessary, and stable meanings.

This project attempts to show that reading Pre-Raphaelite literature with an awareness of its engagements with the emblem tradition can provide new insights into the connections between faith, doubt, and language in Victorian culture.

Other ongoing projects include an examination of the subversive and ironic use of emblem strategies to interrogate Victorian attitudes in late-Victorian illustrated children’s literature by Robert Louis Stevenson, Hilaire Belloc, and others, and the creation of The WellSpring Project, an interdisciplinary, collaborative, searchable, open-access online exhibit on the culture of public bathing for physical and spiritual health in the United Kingdom and North America from the Restoration to the Early Modern period. 



“Constructive Communication: Socialist Emblematics in William Morris’s Design Work.” Victorian Communities: VSAWC Conference, Banff, AB, 26-27 April 2014.

“Reading the Room: William Morris’s Socialist Emblematics.” ACCUTE Conference, Congress 2013: @ the Edge. University of Victoria, 1-4 June 2013.

“‘Ring and tell of him’: Hopkins’ Hieroglyphics and the Poetics of Particularity.” North American Victorian Studies Association Conference, Montreal, 11-13 November 2010.

“‘The Prince’s Progress’: Christina Rossetti’s Meta-Emblematics.” Christianity and Literature Study Group, ACCUTE Conference, Congress 2009: Capital Connections. CarletonUniversity, Ottawa, 23-25 May 2009.

“Christina Rossetti’s ‘Wise Upbraidings’: Reading Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862) as a ‘Naked’ Emblem.” International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies, Winchester College, Winchester, England, 28 July-2 August 2008.

“‘Thoughts Towards Nature’: Pre-Raphaelite Emblematics and Illustration in The Germ.” ACCUTE Conference, UBC, Vancouver, 31 May – 3 June 2008.

“‘Take a Story in Illustration’: Christina Rossetti’s Time Flies as Occasional Meditation.” The 18th and 19th Century British Women Writers Association Conference, University of Kentucky, Lexington, April 12-15, 2007.



“Fleshing out the Peculiarities of Christina Rossetti’s Christian Orientations: A Review of Elizabeth Ludlow’s Christina Rossetti and the Bible: Waiting with the Saints and Serena Trowbridge’s Christina Rossetti’s Gothic.” Journal of Victorian Culture 20.4 (Fall 2015).

Book review: Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Poetry, Pictures, and Popular Publishing: The Illustrated Gift Book and Victorian Visual Culture, 1855-1875. The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 21 (Spring 2012).

“Thoughts Towards Nature: Pre-Raphaelite Emblematics in The Germ.” The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 20 (Fall 2011).

Book review: Krista Lysack, Come Buy, Come Buy: Shopping and the Culture of Consumption in Victorian Women’s Writing. University of Toronto Quarterly 80.2 (Spring 2011).

“‘Would not open lip from lip’: Grotesque and Sacred Orality in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market.’” Victorian Review 36.1 (Spring 2010).

“‘Grafted Warmth’: Dante Rossetti’s Spiritual-Sensual Aesthetic and ‘English May.’” The Explicator 65.3 (Spring 2007): 151-154.

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