Department of English


English Language and Literature

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Photo: Laura Murray

Laura Murray


PhD Cornell 

  • community-based and oral history
  • southern Ontario treaty and Indigenous history
  • US literature before 1865, particularly focussing on urban life, media, gender, race, Indigenous experience
  • North American history in relation to immigration, colonialism, Indigenous experience, history of the book
  • CV/Bio (PDF 276 KB)

I have been very fortunate in my career to be able to practice curiosity-driven research. And since my curiosity takes me in various directions, my research has been diverse, ranging from 19th century American literature, oratory, popular culture, political struggle, and media to copyright and cultural policy, Indigenous history and literatures, and oral and community history. I’ve also always been committed to drawing from and contributing to knowledge outside the academy. In my early career, I edited the writing of Joseph Johnson, an eighteenth-century Mohegan diarist, which provides moving evidence both of the violence of colonialism and of persistence and resistance in its wake. After that, having been teaching literary theory, my frustrations with the limited way copyright law seemed to construe and constrain cultural practice led me to became engaged in public education, advocacy, and analysis in that area for about a decade. Throughout, I’ve been fascinated by the United States before the Civil War, in whose literature and media I see both contrasts and continuities with today’s issues such as fake news, racial violence, constraining ideologies of class and gender, information overload, and contestations over urban space. The Sir John A. Macdonald bicentennial in 2015 provoked two new directions of research for me. After developing with Paul Carl a critique of how Kingston represents Macdonald, whose political power was rooted here, I began researching and teaching the Indigenous and treaty history of Kingston and what it might mean today. This takes me back to the eighteenth-century archives and also into relationship with Indigenous community members. As a white settler who grew up with very little awareness of my own implication in colonial history, I approach this work with what I hope is the appropriate balance of humility and ambition. I also trained in oral history in order to research Kingston’s working class and immigrant history through the Swamp Ward and Inner Harbour History Project. Check out Swamp Ward Snapshots and blog and podcasts at; 81 interviews conducted for the project have been donated to the Queen’s Archives. With film-maker Dorit Naaman, curator Erin Sutherland, and others, I am embarking this year on a multi-year SSHRC-funded community-engaged project titled “A Totem Pole on a Pile of Garbage: Contending with Environmental and Colonial Violence in Kingston, Ontario” — through which Kingston’s Belle Park, once a wetland, then a dump and a golf course, and now perhaps being given a little room to breathe and be, will become a focus for thinking about natural and “unnatural” processes whose enormity may otherwise be overwhelming.

I am interested in supervising students focused on community-engaged and creative methodologies, colonial literatures and early Indigenous writing, US literatures before the Civil War, and literature and urban space. I am currently the Co-Director of the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies.


2020-21 Courses

  • ENGL 816 Topics in Literary Study II: Talking on the Page: Oral History as Art and Testimony

Research in progress

  • “A Totem Pole on a Pile of Garbage: Contending with Environmental and Colonial Violence in Kingston, Ontario” (SSHRC Insight Grant with Dorit Naaman, Erin Sutherland, et al)
  • Research on Crawford Purchase and Mississauga territories, ongoing

Recent Publications

“Settler and Indigenous Stories of Kingston/Ka’tarohkwi: A Casy Study in Critical Heritage Pedagogy.” Journal of Canadian Studies 52.1 (winter 2018): 249-279.

Stories of the Swamp Ward – a series of 6 audio documentaries.

“Beyond Sir John: Unsettling Public Memory in Kingston, Ontario.” With Paul Carl. Journal of Critical Race Inquiry 3.1 (2016): 61-86.

Putting Intellectual Property in its Place: Rights Discourses, Creative Labor, and the Everyday. With S. Tina Piper and Kirsty Robertson. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Canadian Copyright: A Citizens’ Guide. With Samuel E. Trosow. Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2007. Second edition 2013.

“Exchange Practices Among Nineteenth-century US Newspaper Editors: Cooperation in Competition.” Katherine Strandburg, Michael Madison, and Brett Frischmann, eds., Governing Knowledge Commons. NY: Oxford University Press, 2014.

“Appropriation Appropriated: Ethical, Artistic and Legal Debates in Canada.” With Kirsty Robertson. Teresa Scassa and Mistrale Goudreau, eds., Intellectual Property for the 21st Century: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Intellectual Property Law. Toronto: Irwin Law, 2013.


  • Principal’s Education Leadership Award (2018)
  • Award of Merit from the Rideau Waterway Landscape Strategy Team, Parks Canada (for work on the Swamp Ward and Inner Harbour History Project) (2017)