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Irene Gammel

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Irene Gammel
Alma materMcMaster University
Known for- Modernism
- Avantgarde
- Dada
- Canadian Women’s Heritage
Scientific career
FieldsModern Literature and Culture
InstitutionsUniversity of Prince Edward Island
Toronto Metropolitan University

Irene Gammel FRSC is a Canadian literary historian, biographer, and curator. Gammel's works critically examine women's contributions to literature and art within the cultural context of the 20th century, shedding light on their experiences, challenges, and achievements. Her research delves into the lives of influential women artists and writers, who were often historically sidelined and erased, analyzing their creative processes, historical struggles, and impact on society.

Gammel is Professor of English at Toronto Metropolitan University in Toronto. She holds the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture[1] and is the Director of the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre. In 2009, she was elected a member of the Royal Society of Canada.

Gammel holds a PhD (1992) and MA (1987) in English from McMaster University, and a Staatsexamen's degree from the Universität des Saarlandes in Germany. She taught at the University of Prince Edward Island and held Visiting Professorships at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena and Erfurt Universität in Germany. She also served as the President of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association.

Gammel has published numerous books including Baroness Elsa, a groundbreaking cultural biography of New York Dada artist and poet Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. The biography examines the extraordinary life of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, exploring her unconventional path and remarkable artistic pursuits in poetry, sculpture, assemblage, and performance art. Her avant-garde creations blended found objects and unconventional materials, stretching the limits of artistic expression and defying established artistic norms. The book uncovers the profound connections between the Baroness's work and the New York Dada movement—an artistic revolution characterized by its anti-establishment and anti-art stance—and sheds light on her influential role in shaping the movement's aesthetic and ideology. In addition, the biography illustrates the Baroness's radical and unique engagement with everyday life, examining her relentless efforts to dissolve the boundaries between art and reality. For example, the Baroness’s audacious and unconventional personal style, often showcased through eccentric costumes and public displays, fearlessly challenged societal expectations and preconceived notions of femininity and gender roles.

Gammel’s Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic focuses on the life and legacy of acclaimed Canadian author L.M. Montgomery and her beloved novel, Anne of Green Gables. The biography provides a comprehensive exploration of Montgomery's personal life, her inspirations, and the journey that led to the creation of the iconic character, Anne Shirley. The biography takes readers on a captivating journey through Montgomery's upbringing in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and examines the influences and experiences that shaped her as a writer and delves into her struggles, triumphs, and the intricate connections between her own life and the fictional world of Green Gables. Gammel uncovers Montgomery's writing process, revealing her dedication to her craft and the challenges she faced in getting her work published. It provides insights into the social and cultural context of the time, as well as the significance of Montgomery's portrayal of a strong-willed and imaginative young girl like Anne. Furthermore, Gammel explores the lasting impact and enduring popularity of the novel by examining the cultural and literary significance of the Anne Shirley character, and the ways in which Montgomery's work continues to resonate with readers around the world. Gammel’s Looking for Anne of Green Gables also delves into the adaptations and adaptations of the story, from stage plays to television series, highlighting the ongoing relevance and timeless appeal of Anne of Green Gables.[2]

Together with Suzanne Zelazo, Gammel published Crystal Flowers: Poems and a Libretto by Florine Stettheimer, and Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, the first major English collection of the Baroness's poems. Both books were selected for the New York Times’ notable art books for 2011.[3]

In her biography, I Can Only Paint: The Story of Battlefield Artist Mary Riter Hamilton, Irene Gammel explores the art and life of Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton, a pioneering figure and Canada's first unofficial woman war artist. Gammel's biography is the first reliable account of Hamilton's remarkable experiences as she courageously ventured to war-torn Europe, employing her artistic talents to depict the devastation and human toll of World War I. The book illuminates Hamilton's artistic development, delving into her personal struggles and highlighting her significant contributions as a pioneering female artist of her time. By providing insights into the historical and cultural context of World War I, the book examines Hamilton's journey as a woman artist during a time when women encountered numerous challenges and constraints in their pursuit of artistic participation and professional recognition. I Can Only Paint serves as a comprehensive biography and art historical analysis, offering readers a profound understanding of Mary Riter Hamilton's life, her unique artistic vision, and her enduring place in the realms of Canadian and international art history. In 2022, Gammel's I Can Only Paint won the C.P. Stacey Award for the best book in the field of Canadian military history.[2]


  • Irene Gammel curated Anne of Green Gables: A Literary Icon at 100, a cross-Canada centennial exhibition in 2008. With June Creelman, she curated Reflecting on Anne of Green Gables, Souvenirs d’Anne… La maison aux pignons verts at the Library and Archives Canada.


Biography / Non-fiction[edit]

  • I Can Only Paint: The Story of Battlefield Artist Mary Riter Hamilton. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2020.
  • Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic. Toronto: Key Porter Books and New York: St. Martin's Press, 2008.
  • Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada, and Everyday Modernity—A Cultural Biography. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.
  • Die Dada Baroness: Das wilde Leben der Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Berlin: Ebersbach, 2003.


  • Sexualizing Power in Naturalism: Theodore Dreiser and Frederick Philip Grove. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1994.

Edited books[edit]

  • Creative Resilience and COVID-19: Figuring the Everyday in a Pandemic. New York: Routledge, 2022 (jointly with Jason Wang).
  • Florine Stettheimer: New Directions in Multimodal Modernism. Toronto, Book*hug, 2019 (jointly with Suzanne Zelazo).
  • Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011 (jointly with Suzanne Zelazo).[3]
  • Crystal Flowers: Poetry and a Libretto by Florine Stettheimer. Toronto: BookThug, 2010 (jointly with Suzanne Zelazo).[4]
  • Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010 (jointly with Benjamin Lefebvre).
  • I Got Lusting Palate: Dada Verse by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Berlin: edition ebersbach, 2005.
  • The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.
  • Making Avonlea: L.M. Montgomery and Popular Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.
  • Confessional Politics: Women's Sexual Self-Representations in Lifewriting and Popular Media. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999.
  • L.M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999 (jointly with Elizabeth Epperly).

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture". Canada Research Chairs. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b Bolick, Kate (2008-08-14). "Irene Gammel's 'Looking For Anne of Green Gables'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-06-19.
  3. ^ a b Smith, Roberta (2011-11-21). "For Art Lovers, Volumes Meant to Awe and Inspire". New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  4. ^ Bloemink, Barbara (2017-07-06). "Imagine the Fun Florine Stettheimer Would Have with Donald Trump: The Artist as Feminist, Democrat, and Chronicler of Her Time". ARTnews. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Dr. Irene Gammel". MLC Research Centre & Gallery. Ryerson University. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  6. ^ "Scholar Irene Gammel named winner of the 2020-2021 C.P. Stacey Award for best book in Canadian military history". wlu.ca. Retrieved 2023-11-14.