Long service recognized at UVic

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When Misao Dean started her career in English three decades ago, she was among few women—and even fewer Canadians—in the department. 

Most professors were men from the United States or England. No one took maternity leave. (People had kids on their leave or didn’t have them at all, Dean says).

As a research professor, Dean (pictured above, centre) kept quiet her desire to have a family, and later, when she had two children, she hid that part of her life. 

“Colleagues didn’t think it was possible to combine a serious research career with family,” she said.

“Nowadays, people bring their children to work when they have to. It’s not a fight all the time.” 

Dean specialized in Canadian literature, especially women, as well as BC writers, all radical subject matter at the time. 

“It was a political act in those days to work with local materials and assert their value in the face of people whose eyes were riveted to the south,” she says. “I saw myself as part of wave of youthful people who wanted to change the way literature was taught.” 

Dean had the opportunity to reflect on her career at the recent University of Victoria Long Service Recognition Reception, held in November.

She marked 30 years at UVic along with French’s Marc Lapprand and Marie Vautier, Gender Studies’ Helen Rezanowich, History’s Timothy Haskett, and Humanities Computing and Media Centre’s Judith Nazar.

Philosophy’s Thomas Heyd and Jill Evans were both recognized for their 25 years of service. 

Nowadays Dean’s research interests have shifted to include material history, including the 2013 book, Inheriting a Canoe Paddle; her fascination with the stories of objects further exemplified by her research on motorcycles in literature.

This summer, Dean will teach a graduate-level course on the colonial library at historic Point Ellice House. “I’ve become very interested in material history and how objects work in storytelling and the creation of meaning,” she says. 

Although Dean was the only person hired in her department in 1989, she realized at the recognition ceremony she was part of a group of peers. 

“Standing with the others there, I realized there’s a cohort of us and we all had individual careers together,” she said.