Dr. Stephen Ahern

Photo of Dr. Stephen Ahern

Position: Professor and Writing Centre Coordinator
Office: Beveridge Arts Centre 417
Phone: (902) 585–1517
Email: stephen.ahern@acadiau.ca

Credentials and Fellowships:
Doctor of Philosophy, McGill University (1999)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University (1999–2001)
Visiting Fellow, Cambridge University (2013–2014)

Research areas:
British literature of the long eighteenth century; history and theory of the novel; affect theory and history of emotions.

Selected Publications:

My research focuses on British literature and culture from the Restoration to the early nineteenth century. My recent book, an edited collection titled Affect and Abolition in the Anglo-Atlantic, 1770–1830 (Routledge), investigates the uses of discourses of feeling for political ends in writings about slavery and abolition. My first book, Affected Sensibilities: Romantic Excess and the Genealogy of the Novel 1680–1810 (AMS Press), argues for the importance of an ethos of emotional excess at work far earlier than is acknowledged in standard accounts of the rise of the novel. My current research investigates the usefulness for literary studies of insights emerging from the turn to affect across the humanities and social sciences. Publications resulting so far from this research program include:

I have also recently contributed the section on “Affect Theory” to the Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, and acted as a guest editor of Lumen, the annual journal of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Current projects include developing a new book project provisionally titled “Mind the Gap: Reconciling Affect Theory, Literary History, and the History of Emotions.”  


I enjoy teaching courses at all levels, from introductory classes for students new to studying literature at university, to seminars on advanced topics for honours and graduate students. As far as teaching style goes, in all classes I try to stimulate discussion so we can discover together the texts we study and come to an understanding together of what they might mean. As far as expectations go, like all professors I assume students have read and thought about an assigned text before they come to class, so they’re ready to jump into the close analysis that is a focus of class discussion. I understand that it takes practice to become an effective literary critic – and so try to create an open and welcoming classroom environment so people can feel comfortable enough to participate, to jump in with an insight they have about whatever we’re talking about.
     If you are planning to write an honours or masters thesis, and have identified a topic you might want to focus on, please get in touch as I welcome theses in any of the research areas I list above.

Courses Recently Taught:
Lecture Classes:
   Writing and Reading Critically 1 & 2 (ENGL 1413/1423)
   Eighteenth-Century Fiction (ENGL 2773)
   Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Literature (ENGL 2383)
   Later Eighteenth-Century Literature (ENGL 2393)
Honours and Graduate Seminars:
   The Literature of Sensibility and the Cultural Politics of Emotion, 1740–1800 (ENGL 5413/4133)