Dr. John Van Rys

Professor of English

Associate Dean of Arts

Phone: (905) 648-2139   Ext:4212

Email: jvrys@redeemer.ca

Office: 239A

Programs: English Literature, English Writing, Media Production


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)
  • American Literature Survey (ENG-232)
  • Contemporary American Literature (ENG-332)


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, The Dalhousie Review, Dappled Things, and Blank Spaces. He has also co-authored several writing textbooks and handbooks with 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 (Cengage); The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching (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 fifteen from Redeemer.

Van Rys lives with his wife April 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 fifteen years and are almost finished. His oldest son has an MFA in Motion Graphics, his daughter is a vet, and his two youngest sons recently graduated from high school and are seeking to make their way in the world.

Van Rys’ author site.

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
  • Writing Pedagogy (particularly argumentation, research methods, and creative writing)

Research Funding

  • Canada Council for the Arts: Professional Development for Artists Grant, 2023-2024.
  • Sabbatical, Redeemer University, 2022-2023.
  • 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


“An Incarnational Imagination? Christianity, Narrativity, and Alice Munro’s ‘The Love of a Good Woman.’” Christianity and Literature 69.2 (June 2020): 272-293.

“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.


 “Canadian Story Cycles: A Conversation with author John Van Rys.” Interview with Doug Sikkema for Front Porch Republic. December 20, 2021.

“Peddling Moonshine.” The Angle (Newsletter of ACCUTE: The Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English). Fall 2021: 24-26.

The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching (7th edition 2021; 6th edition 2017; 5th Edition 2014; 4th Edition 2011; 3rd Edition 2009; 2nd Edition 2006; first edition 2004). Lead author; co-authored with Randall VanderMey, Verne Meyer, Dave Kemper, and Pat Sebranek.  Burlington, WI: Write Source (development house for Cengage Learning).

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.

COMP, 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: “Excavations.” Prairie Fire 40.2. Summer 2023: 7-16.

Short Story: “Parking Spots.” Blank Spaces 0702. December 2022: 49-52. 

Short Story: “The Homely Dreams of a Silly Soul.” Solum Literary Journal. Summer 2022: 27-68.

Novel: Moonshine Promises. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock. 2021.

Short Story: “Nether Lands.” Blank Spaces. June 2021: 47-51.

Short Story: “Eggsistential Crisis.” Agnes and True. March 9, 2021. 

Poem: “Egg Shells.” Dappled Things 15.2 (Pentecost 2020): 39-40.

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

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

Short Story: “Dome.” 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)
The Word Guild
Canadian Authors Association

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
  • Former Board Member of Smithville Christian High (2017-2021, Chair 2018-2021).

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)
Cengage Learning publications
UpWrite Press

Related Experience

May 1993 to present: Author and editor for Write Source Educational Publishing, a development house for Cengage Learning, and UpWrite Press, a division of The Sebranek Group. Work has included reviewing present books and materials and suggesting revisions, drafting new assignments and book chapters, and co-authoring writing handbooks, with sourcebooks and other support materials, for middle school, high school, college, university, and business.