Guest post by Sarah Wylie Krotz
The Canadian Literature Centre (CLC) was established in 2006, thanks to the leadership gift of noted Edmontonian bibliophile Dr. Eric Schloss. The Kreisel Lecture Series is an annual event dedicated to nurturing public as well as scholarly engagement with the pressing concerns of writers in Canada.
This series was established in honour of Professor Henry Kreisel, author, university professor, and Officer of the Order of Canada.
An inspiring and beloved teacher who taught generations of students to love literature, Professor Kreisel was among the first to champion Canadian literature in university classrooms and to bring the experience of immigrants to modern Canadian literature. His works include two novels, The Rich Man (1948) and The Betrayal (1964), and a collection of short stories, The Almost Meeting (1981). His internment diary, alongside critical essays on his writing, appears in Another Country: Writings by and about Henry Kreisel (1985). He died in Edmonton in 1991. The generosity and foresight of Professor Kreisel’s teaching at the University of Alberta continues to inspire the CLC in its research pursuits, public outreach, and continued commitment to the ever-growing richness, complexity, and diversity of literatures in Canada.
The Kreisel Lectures showcase how writers help us understand the textures of life in this country. Each year, an established author is invited to speak about an issue that is important to them, whether because it is close to their heart, foundational to their experience, or pressing and of-the-moment; often, it is all of these things at once.
The Kreisel series includes lectures about Indigenous resurgence, oppression and social justice, cultural identity, place and displacement, the spoils of history, storytelling, censorship, language, reading in a digital age, literary history, personal memory, and, now, the necessity of art during a pandemic.
During the covid-19 pandemic, nothing at the CLC could happen in the usual way. We were tremendously lucky to have the innovative and talented Vivek Shraya as the 2021 Kreisel Lecturer. Shraya is a prolific multimedia artist and writer as well as an important community leader and mentor. The founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books, through which she offers mentorship and publishing opportunities to Indigenous and Black writers and writers of colour in Canada, she is also a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation, whose mission is to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ women and girls. Her award-winning work ranges across literature, film, and music, frequently combining all three in arresting ways.
Artists like Shraya remind us of the importance of play. Artists and writers are creators: experimenting at the boundaries of genre, testing the limits of form, defying and exceeding our expectations, they give expression to a very human need for playfulness that expands the worlds we inhabit. Breaking up the habitual was precisely what many of us needed after more than a year of living under pandemic restrictions. When it became clear that, for the first time ever, the Kreisel Lecture would have to take place online, Shraya harnessed all of her creative and collaborative energy to produce something truly unique and special. This book expands on the innovative filmed lecture (which can be viewed on the CLC’s website), which reflects on the constraints of living in the pandemic and what she would do differently “next time.” Next Time There’s a Pandemic demonstrates why, as Shraya insists, “art is essential.”
Shraya’s online Kreisel Lecture was presented in March 2021 with an interactive introduction with J. R. Carpenter, an award-winning artist, writer, and researcher working across performance, print, and digital media, and the University of Alberta’s 2020–2021 Writer in Residence. Their conversation was expanded to form an afterword to the book.
Taken from the foreword of Next Time There’s a Pandemic, written in 2020 when Dr. Krotz was the Interim Director of the Canadian Literature Centre. University of Alberta Press is proud to publish the books in the Kreisel Lecture series. The next lecture will be on April 21, 2022. Cherie Dimaline will be speaking on “An Anthology of Monsters: How Story Saves Us from Our Anxiety.”