Betty Schellenberg retires from SFU English

December 15, 2023

Earlier this year, SFU English celebrated the retirement of Professor Betty Schellenberg, who joined the department in 1991. Professor Leith Davis penned this tribute to Betty as a friend and colleague:

2023 marked the retirement of Dr. Betty Schellenberg from the Department of English. Dr. Schellenberg came to Simon Fraser in 1991 having completed her PhD at the University of Ottawa. She proceeded on an extraordinary career path researching and teaching women’s writing of the eighteenth-century, the history of the novel, eighteenth-century manuscript culture as well as literary sociability and coterie culture, and earning the honour of being awarded a Distinguished University Professorship at Simon Fraser University and being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Royal Historical Society in the UK.  

Each of Dr. Schellenberg’s three single-authored books has made a major contribution to the field of English Literature. The Conversational Circle: Rereading the English Novel, 1740 – 1775 (1998) constituted a revisioning of the genre of the novel by analyzing it not just as the production of an author but as a reflection of the process of conversation and sociability. The Professionalization of Women Writers in Eighteenth-Century Britain explored what had been seen as a black hole on the map of women writing: the mid-eighteenth century. In examining the unique careers of writers Frances Sheridan, Frances Brooke, Sarah Scott, Sarah Fielding, Charlotte Lennox, and Frances Burney, Dr. Schellenberg found evidence of the many different ways in which women writers negotiated careers for themselves. Literary Coteries and the Making of Modern Print in Britain (2016) offered a re-evaluation of how people in the eighteenth century used manuscripts to interact with each other and with printed genres. In this work, Dr. Schellenberg shattered the myth that manuscript was an outmoded form of communication in the eighteenth century.

Dr. Schellenberg has also co-authored a number of books and special issues of journals. How and Why to do Things With Eighteenth-Century Manuscripts (2021) (co-written with Michelle Levy) provides an overview of the different roles that manuscripts played in the literary landscape of the eighteenth century as well as discussing contemporary scholarly engagements with eighteenth-century manuscript forms. Samuel Richardson in Context (2017), co-edited with Peter Sabor, explored the literary, cultural and linguistic contributions of the major eighteenth-century author and printer Samuel Richardson. Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel (1998), co-edited with the Department of English’s Dr. Paul Budra, considered the nature of texts that follow on from a previous work, from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to Parts 1 and 2 of The Terminator.

Dr. Schellenberg has also co-edited three special issues of academic journals: a 2021 issue of the Huntington Library Quarterly (with Dr. Michelle Levy) on “Women in Book History 1660-1830”; a 2002 issue of Huntington Library Quarterly on “Reconsidering the Bluestockings” (with Nicole Pohl); and a forthcoming issue of Eighteenth-Century Life on “The Manuscript Book in the Long Eighteenth Century” (with Alexis Chema). Also rounding out her impressive output is editorial work which includes Volume 10 of The Cambridge Edition of the Correspondence of Samuel Richardson (2015). Nor has Dr. Schellengerg neglected the digital media. She is the creator of Manuscript Verse Miscellanies, a searchable database of eighteenth-century poetry books curated by individuals from manuscript or printed sources. This work will also form the basis of her next monograph exploring manuscript verse miscellanies and the nature of reading over the long eighteenth century.

Dr. Schellenberg’s teaching has been equally as extraordinary as her research. She has challenged and inspired undergraduate students at all levels with wonderfully well-thought out courses such as English 114: “Are you With Me Yet? Short, Sweet and Persuasive,” English 320: “Poetry and Privilege in the Eighteenth Century,” and English 320: “Sex, Sin, the Self and the City.” She has guided and mentored her graduate students with both rigour and empathy, as well as supporting numerous early career researchers to whom she has reached out to engage in collaborations. Her exceptional efforts were recognized in spring 2023 when, nominated by two former SFU graduate students, she won the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Excellence in Mentorship Award for her “unfailing dedication to her students.” 

Other achievements during Dr. Schellenberg’s career include serving as Chair of the SFU Department of English; co-organizing (with Dr. Diana Solomon) the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies' annual conference in 2015; and serving as president of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies' annual conference. She also helped found the Print Culture Specialization in our department in 2002, as well as the Centre for the Study of Print and Media Culture.

In May 2023, close colleagues, collaborators, and students marked the singularity of Dr. Schellenberg’s career with a two-day academic conference exploring “Women, Literary Networks, and Media Cultures in the Eighteenth Century.” A collection of essays highlighting the innovative work showcased at the conference is in the works, another marker of the Dr. Schellenberg’s remarkable and continuing influence over eighteenth-century studies.

Despite being officially retired, Dr. Schellenberg will undoubtedly continue to do the research that she loves. We will all miss her, but also wish her the absolute best in her retirement after her brilliant career.

Note: On November 29th, 2023, Professor Betty Schellenberg received the lifetime achievement award at the annual Cormack Teaching Symposium and FASS Fall Reception. Here she is pictured on the left with SFU English Chair Professor Carolyn Lesjak and on the right with FASS Dean Professor Laurel Weldon