Shannon Russell was born in Canada, lived in the United Kingdom for eleven years, and moved to Italy over twenty years ago. She did her BA in English Literature, with a Philosophy minor, at the University of Western Ontario, her MA at Dalhousie University, and her DPhil at Oxford University. Upon completion of her doctorate at Oxford she was awarded a Post-doctoral Fellowship and taught there for a number of years. While she loves to read and teach poetry, she has maintained a consistent fascination with the novel, completing her undergraduate thesis on Virginia Woolf, her Master’s thesis on Jane Austen, and her doctoral work on Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, and Elizabeth Gaskell.
The libraries of Oxford opened her eyes to the importance of history and historical processes, particularly those related to race, class, and gender, which continue to be the focus of her research in Victorian literature. She believes that the Victorians are closer to us than we assume, and that they have much to teach us about ourselves. She has published on a range of eighteenth and nineteenth century writers and has edited novels by Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Hamilton. She has also done work on the American writers Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers. She is currently writing a book for Routledge Press on Charles Dickens and Frederick Douglass. In this project, she considers how Dickens reimagines Douglass’s famous autobiography to tell a woman’s story in his novel Dombey and Son. She published preliminary work on this project in the Dickens Quarterly (March 2021).
Shannon Russell believes that there is no job more interesting than teaching literature, and no more inspirational place to teach it than in Rome and the multi-cultural environment of John Cabot. The greatest discoveries in the classroom are, for her, collaborative ones. Her primary goal in teaching is to inspire curiosity and to provoke students to ask questions about what they read so that they become better interpreters – and creators – of our world. She enjoys teaching the historical survey courses (EN 230, EN 231, EN 232) for the opportunities they offer to reveal narrative connections between different texts and times. She has developed and taught Special Topics courses (EN 399) on Dickens, The Gothic, and most recently, a course slavery and literature. She especially admires the mental gymnastics beneath the elegant veneer of Jane Austen’s artistry, and the way her novels exercise and develop our critical thinking. In the course Jane Austen: In Her Time and Ours (EN/GDR 350) she loves to watch students discover the complexity of Austen’s language, and the political revelations in her irony and humour. Her desire to know more about foreign writers’ constructions of Italy led her to invent Italian Visions (EN 282), a course which traces the historical creation of cultural stereotypes about Italy, and which challenges students to think carefully about the narratives they tell about others and themselves. That course has also led her to collaborate with Professor Alessandra Grego on the future development of a digital humanities project, WROME, which is dedicated to foreign writers in Rome.
List of publications