Rita Dirks, PhD, MA, BA
PhD (University of Alberta)
MA (University of Manitoba)
BA (University of Winnipeg)
I believe in a close relationship between art and faith, and especially literature and faith: both require insight, imagination, and devotion. For me, literature is an external expression or symbol of the strivings of the soul. My graduate work and research culminated in a dissertation entitled The Symbolist Novel as Secular Scripture in which the three Symbolist novels that I examined (Huysmans's A Rebours/Against the Grain, Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Bely's Petersburg) portray the novel as shifting from an aesthetics of spirituality to a spirituality of aesthetics. Because the Symbolist novel is written against the grain of popular culture, it has much in common with faith literature; the Symbolists's transcendental view of art, their hermeticism, their anti-materialism and anti-utilitarianism, martyrdom, and commitment to the sacredness of art (combined with personal conversions and visions of Christ) intrigue my scholarly imagination.
Presently, the Symbolist/Decadent age of Modernism remains my primary area of research. My most recent paper, which I delivered at the 2012 conference of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages, was entitled "Soviet Gothic: Eating in Hell in Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.”
I have taught a wide variety of courses, with special emphasis on world literature, literary theory, Modernism, Romanticism, women's literature, Russian literature, and film.
Symbolism/Decadence ("The Yellow Nineties")
Literary Theory (Feminism & Gender)
Scholarly & Professional Activity
Member of the Modern Languages Association (MLA)
Member of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL)
Native command of English, Russian, German, Low German; reading knowledge of Ukrainian, French.
Faculty representative for the English Literature Students Association (ELSA) at Ambrose.
Recent Conference Presentations
Light is Spent Conference Presentations
“Soviet Gothic: Eating in Hell in Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.” AATSEEL Annual Conference. Seattle, WA. January 7, 2012.
"Integration, or Not, of Mennonites into Mainstream Culture in Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness.” 15th Annual Conference: The New Europe at the Crossroads. Dublin, Ireland. July 3, 2011.
"Criticizing Her Own Kind: Mennonite Culture in Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness." Ambrose Research Conference 2011. Ambrose University College, Calgary, AB. March 28, 2011.
"'Oba yo . . . meaning hell, yeah,' or a Life Narrated in English and Mennonite Low German in Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness." Multilingual Lives, MLA Annual Convention 2011. Los Angeles, CA. January 8, 2011.
“Wilde’s Picture of Christ: A New Decadent Religion.” ACCUTE Conference. York University, Toronto, ON. May 2006.
"John Keats and Bright Star." English Community Day. Ambrose University College, Calgary, AB. January 27, 2011.
"Wilde Stuff: Oscar Wilde and Christianity." Community Day. Ambrose University College, Calgary, AB. January 28, 2010.
“J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield as Saint.” Nazarene University College, Calgary, AB. November 9, 2005.
“Approaches to Teaching Feminism in a Christian Liberal Arts College.” Nazarene University College, Calgary, AB. March 29, 2004.
“Art and Christianity.” Campus on Crimson at Pioneer Ranch. Rocky Mountain House, AB. September 26-28, 2003.
“Love.” Chapel. Nazarene University College, Calgary, AB. February 13, 2002.
“The Place of Literary Studies in a Christian Liberal Arts College: Milton’s ‘When I Consider How My Light Is Spent.’” Nazarene University College, Calgary, Alberta. January 23, 2001.