As a teaching stream lecturer in English, Sonja Nikkila’s primary research interests are pedagogical — she loves thinking and talking about teaching almost as much as she loves being in the classroom itself. Her teaching interests range from introductory literary analysis to gender and queer theory to genre fiction like fantasy and the Gothic, but her heart lies with the Victorian novel, which she studied as an undergraduate at Harvard and then as a graduate at the University of Edinburgh. She sees 19th-century literature as necessarily contextual, which means in her classes you might well find her focusing on extra-textual areas like material culture (including “book history” concerns such as publication format, sales, and distribution), “domestic” as opposed to political history (the importance of clothing, fashion, needlework, etc.), and ecocriticism (the impact of place and space, including geography, maps, and urban planning). Most importantly, she hopes to make the Victorian era and its literature “alive” and explorable for 21st-century Canadian students, synthesizing it with our contemporary world via current social and political struggles, pop culture, and digital media.
Victorian literature, the novel, realism, genre fiction, and theories of identity