Dr. Katarina O'Briain

Dr. Katarina O’Briain

Assistant Professor, English

Phone: (403) 254-3720
Email: Katarina.OBriain@stmu.ca
Office: A208

PhD English, Johns Hopkins University
MA English, Johns Hopkins University
BA English (Honours), University of Alberta

Specialization/research interests: Seventeenth and eighteenth-century literature and culture; georgic poetry; the rise of the novel; transatlantic literature.

Originally from Edmonton, I completed my BA at the University of Alberta and my PhD in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University. My work considers the relationship between poetry, labor, and political economy in seventeenth and eighteenth-century literature and culture. An abiding concern of this research is the relationship between ethics, politics, and literary form, which also informs much of my teaching. Encouraging students to develop arguments and to consider different or surprising ways of thinking is one of my favorite things about teaching in the humanities.

I am currently at work on a book manuscript on eighteenth-century poetry, craft labor, and political economy, tentatively titled, Trade Secrets: Georgic Poetry and Early Capital. While the focus of this project is on eighteenth-century georgic poetry (often defined as the poetry of farm labor), I am also interested in how there has been something of a resurgence of the mode in twentieth and twenty-first-century anti-capitalist and eco-poetry. Work from this project has appeared in Eighteenth-Century Fiction; related works-in-progress include an article on Phillis Wheatley’s resistance to craft poetics and an archival recovery project on the settler georgic in early Western Canada. An essay on the importance of accident to Frances Burney and the history of the novel is forthcoming from Novel: A Forum on Fiction.
From the literary survey to more specialized upper-level English seminars, my classes often center around the development of slow, close readings of texts. I am continually impressed by my students’ ability to notice new details about material that I’ve read and reread many times before, and I often leave the classroom thinking about exciting new perspectives on very old works of literature. My courses ask questions about literature’s relationship to the outside world and how, if at all, art is a tool for social justice. I am always eager to talk about these and other concerns and to help students develop strategies for writing and developing clear, persuasive arguments.


“Dryden’s Georgic Fictionality,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 30.3 (April 2018): 317–38.

“Frances Burney and the Art of Accident,” forthcoming in NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, 28 pp. ms.


“Georgic Ethics, Georgic Action.” Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Quebec City (October 2019)

“Phillis Wheatley and the Limits of Craft Labor.” American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Denver (March 2019)

“Phillis Wheatley and the Limits of Georgic.” American Comparative Literature Association, Washington DC (March 2019)

“Swift’s Georgics of the South Sea.” The Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Toronto (October 2017)

“What is the Craft in Statecraft?; or, The Problem of Value in Dryden’s The Medall.” Modern Language Association, Austin (January 2016)

“The Matter of Swift’s Poetry.” The American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Williamsburg (March 2014)

“Monarchical Aesthetics: The Form of the Sovereign in Alexander Pope’s Windsor Forest.” The Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Edmonton (October 2012)

“Specters of the Multitude: Hamlet’s Synecdochical Hermeneutics.” “Afterlives,” UCLA English Southland Graduate Conference, University of California, Los Angeles, (June 2010)

“Auteur Manqué: Figurative Violence and Poetic Force in the Vanity of Human Wishes.” Graduate Student English Symposium, The University of Alberta (April 2010)