Miriam Nichols
PhD (York University)

Academic Background
MA, Simon Fraser University
BA, Hons, Simon Fraser University

My objective as a teacher is to coach students in the acquisition of three literacies: basic reading and writing skills, discipline specific discourses, and socio-cultural awareness.

Brief History
Like many teachers, I began my career by drawing on the styles of those professors I had most enjoyed as a student. Robin Blaser, George Bowering, Roy Miki, Frank Davey and Barbara Godard were role models. In different ways, each of these scholars or poet-scholars was thoroughly engaged in a life focused on writing and thinking, and that was very exciting to me as a student. They were going somewhere, it seemed, and I wanted to go too. When I became a teacher myself, my first assumption was Aristotelian: ‘everyone wants to know,’ or more formally, “the act of learning is not only most pleasant to philosophers but, in a similar way, to other men as well . . . .” My second assumption was that I had better be going somewhere if I expected anyone to want to come along. In translating these assumptions to teaching strategies, I aim to empower students. I do this by trying to help them find and extend their own interests as broadly as possible and by modeling engagement with intellectual adventure.

Present Practice
I approach the skills component of teaching English through increment and repetition. Critical reading and good written communication skills do not come about over night any more than skill, say, in basketball or piano playing.
My view of discipline specific literary criticism and theory is that such discourses are valuable tools in opening up literary texts and in discovering new ways to look at the world. I teach the various schools of literary criticism pragmatically, as modes of seeing, rather than dogmas.
In pursuit of the larger aim of my teaching practice--the education of students in social and cultural literacy--I use a comparative approach. I try to build courses where each work studied comments on the others. The point of this strategy is to encourage students to build a context for their studies through the comparison of works that differently address similar issues, thus to discover their own affinities among the multiple perspectives presented.

Certainly the main measure of effectiveness is the degree to which students improve their critical reading and writing skills over time. I also look for increased self-confidence, initiative in carrying out assignments, and independence of thought.

The Importance of Teaching
The broader goal of my teaching is the cultivation of social and aesthetic judgment. Hannah Arendt, my favorite theorist in political philosophy, suggests that judgment comes out of the ability to "visit" perspectives other than our own. Literature is an "as if" discipline: it constantly asks us to imagine unfamiliar positions or unpredictable juxtapositions of characters, images, events, and ideas. It thus asks us to go visiting in order to develop a capacious and imaginatively rich perspective of our own. In a complex and crowded world, it is impossible--and I think undesirable--to make rules for all situations. We very much need people in all disciplines who can move beyond the narrowness of insular perspectives to big picture thinking. My aim as a teacher to address that need.

Selected Publications

Juried Books

Radical Affections: Essays on the Poetics of Outside. Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama Press,            2010.

 Juried Editions

Ed. with introduction and annotations. The Astonishment Tapes. By Robin Blaser, Warren Tallman, et al. Tuscaloosa, U of Alabama P. Forthcoming.

Ed., with introduction, annotations, and commentary.  The Fire:  The Collected Essays of Robin  Blaser.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.

Ed., The Holy Forest: The Collected Poems of Robin Blaser.  Rev. Ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2006.

Ed., with introduction and interview.  Even on Sunday: Essays, Readings and Archival Materials  on the Poetry and Poetics of Robin Blaser.  Orono, ME.: National Poetry Foundation,  2002.


Juried Articles (2008-2013)

"Myth and Document in Charles Olson's Maximus Poems." Contemporary Olson. Ed. David Herd. Manchester: U of Manchester P. Forthcoming

“Jay Macpherson’s Modernism.”  In Wider Boundaries of Daring.   Eds. Barbara Godard and Di Brandt.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. 325-346.  [Wider Boundaries was the Winner of the Gabriel Roy Award, 2010]

Non-juried Articles (2008-2013)

"Some Words for Peter Quartermain." Golden Handcuffs Review 1.17 (Fall-Winter 2013-14): 170-71.

"The Closing of the Field: Modernism at the Wall." Open Letter 15.2 (Spring 2013). Olson @ the Century. Guest-edited by Steve McCaffery.13-24.

“Toward a Poetics of the Commons: Erin Mouré’s O Cidadán and Lisa Robertson’s Occasional   Work.”  Antiphonies: Essays on Women’s Experimental Poetries in Canada. Ed. Nate         Dorward. Special Issue of The Gig (2008): 146-166.

 Juried Conference Papers (2008-2013)

"The Astonishment Tapes: Robin Blaser on the Berkeley Scene." Beyond the Border Conference. University of East Anglia, 23 November 2013.  

"Deep, Dark Ecology: The Story of Little Otik." Conference on Ecopoetics. University of California, Berkeley. 22-24 February 2013.

"Allegories of the Medusa: Nicole Brossard's l'écriture feminine and the unfreezing of the real," National Poetry Foundation, Poetry of the 80s Conference, 27 June - July 2012.

"The Closing of the Field: Modernism at the Wall." Modernist Studies Association, 6 - 9 October 2011.

 “Objectism and the Aesthetic Dimension: Charles Olson’s Maximus, Volume III. Charles Olson Centenary Conference, Simon Fraser University, 3 – 6 June 2010.

“Oppositional Poetics: Negation and Poiesis.” MLA Convention, San Francisco, 27 – 30   December 2008.         

“Writing Opposition: Determinate Negation and the Imago Mundi.” Poets of the 70s. University of Maine at Orono, June 2008.

Invited Talks (2008-2013)

"Variable Measure in Modernist Poetry: Pound, Olson, Hejinian." Conference on French Theory and American Literature. University of California at Berkeley. 1-2 April 2013; revised for Kent University, UK, 27 November 2013.

Works in Progress, 2013-2014

 Performing the Real: A Biography of Robin Blaser. In process.

Phone: 604-504-7441 x4293
Office: D205 Abbotsford

updated November 2013

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