Dr. John Van Rys

Professor of English

Phone: 9056482139 Ext:4212

Email: jvrys@redeemer.ca

Office: 239A

Department: English


Ph.D. (1991), English, Dalhousie University
Dissertation: Loopholes and Catacombs: Elements of Bakhtinian Dialogue in the Poetry of Al Purdy.

B.A. and M.A. (1985), English, The University of Western Ontario
Thesis: The Language of Landscape: Space in Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley.


  • Expository Writing I (ENG-201)
  • Creative Writing I: Essential Tools and Strategies (ENG-203)
  • Canadian Literature Survey (ENG-222)
  • Contemporary Canadian Literature (ENG-322)
  • Studies in Canadian Literature (ENG-425)
  • Studies in American Literature (ENG-435)
  • Contemporary American Literature (ENG-332)
  • American Literature Survey (ENG-232)


With an MA from Western University and a PhD from Dalhousie University, Van Rys works in two scholarly areas: Modern Canadian Literature and writing pedagogy. In the past decade, he has presented papers on topics ranging from trauma in Yann Martel’s Beatrice & Virgil to the evaluation of research resources in a Wikipedia world. Van Rys has published peer-reviewed articles on narrative truth in historical fiction, as well as on authors Margaret Avison, Alice Munro, and Carol Shields. This work has led to special emphases in Van Rys’s teaching on historical fiction, Canadian women’s writing, and reading ethics.

In addition to his scholarly writing, Van Rys does both creative and professional writing. He is a published poet and fiction writer, with his work appearing recently in The New Quarterly. He has also co-authored several writing textbooks and handbooks with Wadsworth Cengage Publishing in the U.S. and Nelson Educational Publishing in Canada. He is the lead author on the following texts: The Research Writer: Curiosity, Discovery, Dialogue (Wadsworth Cengage); COMP, Canadian edition (Nelson); The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching (Wadsworth Cengage); and Writing Life: A Canadian Student’s Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching (Nelson). In this work, Van Rys has encouraged and published student writers from several institutions in Canada and the U.S., including thirteen from Redeemer.

Van Rys lives with his wife April and their two youngest children on a hobby farm near Dunnville, where they care for horses, chickens, dogs, and cats. They’ve been renovating their old farmhouse for more than a decade. His oldest son has an MFA in Motion Graphics, and his daughter is a vet.

Research Interests

  • Modern and Contemporary Canadian Writers: Alice Munro, Margaret Avison, Al Purdy, Joy Kogawa, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Carol Shields, Yann Martel
  • Canadian Historical Fiction, particularly concerns for historical suffering and trauma in authors such as Timothy Findley, Rudy Wiebe, Margaret Atwood, Joy Kogawa, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Michael Ondaatje, Joseph Boyden, and Jane Urquhart
  • Cross-Border Writing: fiction and poetry of Canadian and U.S. writers who imaginatively address the border between the two countries
  • Writing Pedagogy (particularly argumentation, research methods, and creative nonfiction)

Research Funding

Sabbatical, Redeemer University College, Fall Semester 2012
Internal Research Grant, “Figures of Suffering in Joy Kogawa’s Fiction and Poetry”, 2009-2010
Post-Graduate Study Leave, Dordt College, 1997-1998
Killam Scholarship, Dalhousie University, 1986-87 and 1987-88 ·
SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, 1985 to 1989

Recent Publications


Short Story: “In the Hills and Valleys of Perche.” The Dalhousie Review 99.3 (Autumn 2019): 343-351“A Right Self-Effacement: The Holy Ghost and Margaret Avison’s Poetry.” Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews 80 & 81 (Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter 2017): 75-103.

“Male-Pattern Bewilderment in Larry’s Party.” Chapter in The Worlds of Carol Shields. Ed. David Staines. Reappraisals: Canadian Writers. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 2014. 113-28.

“Narrative Truth in Canadian Historical Fiction: In Between Veracity and Imagination.” Chapter 8 in Truth Matters: Knowledge, Politics, Ethics, Religion. Ed. Lambert Zuidervaart, Allyson Carr, Matthew J. Klassen and Ronnie Shuker. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2014. 155-74.

“Fictional Violations in Alice Munro’s Narratives.” Chapter 18 in Through a Glass Darkly: Suffering, the Sacred, and the Sublime in Literature and Theory. Ed. Holly Faith Nelson, Lynn R. Szabo, and Jens Zimmermann. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2010.

“‘A Tangle of Vegetation’: Suffering in Margaret Avison’s Jo Poems.” Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews 59 (Fall/Winter 2006): 62-81.


Writing Life: A Canadian Student’s Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching. Lead author; co-authored with Randall VanderMey, Verne Meyer, and Pat Sebranek. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2014.

The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching (5th edition 2014; 4th edition 2011; 3rd edition 2009; 2nd edition 2006; 1st edition 2004). Co-authored with Randall VanderMey, Verne Meyer, Dave Kemper, and Pat Sebranek. Burlington, WI: Write Source (division of Houghton Mifflin).

, Canadian edition. Lead author;co-authored with Randall Vandermey, Verne Meyer, and Pat Sebranek. Toronto: Nelson Education Publishing, 2013.

COMPWrite. (3rd edition 2015; 2nd edition 2012; 1st edition 2010). Co-authored with Randall VanderMey, Verne Meyer, and Pat Sebranek. Boston: 4LTR Press (a division of Wadsworth Cengage Learning).

The Research Writer: Curiosity, Discovery, Dialogue. Lead author; co-authored with Verne Meyer and Pat Sebranek. Burlington, WI: Write Source (development house for Wadsworth Cengage Learning), 2011.

Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing & Communicating in the Workplace. (2nd edition 2010; 1st edition 2004). Co-authored with Pat Sebranek and Verne Meyer. Burlington, WI: UpWrite Press.

WRITE1: Sentences to Paragraphs and WRITE2: Paragraphs to Essays. Co-authored with Verne Meyer, Dave Kemper, and Pat Sebranek. Burlington, WI: Write Source. Developed for 4LTR Press of Cengage Learning.

Write for Work. Co-authored with Kathy Henning, Dave Kemper, Verne Meyer, and Pat Sebranek. Burlington, WI: UpWrite Press, 2010. A writing handbook for students in technical-college programs.


Short Story: “In the Hills and Valleys of Perche.” The Dalhousie Review 99.3 (Autumn 2019): 343-351

“Skin” and “Circumstantial Pomp” (poems). The New Quarterly 148 (Fall 2018): 94-96.

“Dome” (short story). The New Quarterly 147 (Summer 2018): 51-57.

Professional Memberships and Associations

ACCUTE (Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English) – CLSG (Christianity and Literature Study Group)
NCTE / CCCC (National Council of Teachers of English / Conference on College Composition and Communication)
CCL (Conference on Christianity and Literature)

Community Involvement

  • Have led business-writing workshops at a number of organizations: Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (Washington, DC), National League of Cities (Washington, DC), Cooperative Credit Company (Sioux Center, Iowa).
  • Former member of Dunnville Christian School Board (chair 2013-2014); member of DCS Community Relations Committee
  • Communications Committee, Grace United Church, Dunnville
  • Board Member of Smithville Christian High School (2017-present,Chair 2018-present).

Relevant Links

The Worlds of Carol Shields (University of Ottawa Press)
Truth Matters: Knowledge, Politics, Ethics, Religion (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Through a Glass Darkly (Wilfred University Press Publication)
Nelson Education Publications
Cengage Learning publications
UpWrite Press