About Emilia

Dr. Emilia Nielsen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Science, Health and Society Program at York University. Prior to joining York University, she was an Assistant Lecturer and Visiting Scholar at the University of Alberta. And before that a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Quest University, an innovative, private, not-for-profit liberal arts and sciences institution in Squamish, BC.  She holds a PhD in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from the University of British Columbia, an MA in English from the University of New Brunswick, and a BFA in Writing from the University of Victoria.

Portrait of Dr. Emilia Nielsen
Photograph of Dr. Emilia Nielsen, some of her writing materials, and her lovely dog Pippa.
Photos by: Shawna Lemay

Dr. Nielsen’s program of scholarly research and creative activity engages interdisciplinary, arts-based, and research-creation interventions in understanding health, medicine, and society. Specifically, ongoing projects examine life writing, narrative prose, and poetry by women treated for cancer, autoimmune disease, and chronic diagnoses in order to better understand the personal challenge illness presents to quality of life—physically, economically, and emotionally. In employing an intersectional theoretical lens, her scholarly and creative projects attend to and complicate understandings of health, healing, and disability as represented in popular culture, film, and literature. Broadly speaking, her scholarly research and creative activity contributes to the interdisciplinary field of the health and medical humanities.

Scholarly Research

Book cover reads Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives Stories of Rage and Repair, Emilia Nielsen. Cover image is an abstract and decorative painting by Beth Stewart.
Cover image by: Beth Stewart

Dr. Nielsen’s first scholarly book, Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives: Stories of Rage and Repair (University of Toronto Press, 2019), was awarded an Elli Köngäs-Maranda Prize from The American Folklore Society. Her academic writing has appeared in diverse scholarly journals such as Canadian Literature, Disability Studies Quarterly, Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, and Performance Research.

Creative Activity

Book cover reads Surge Narrows poems by Emilia Nielsen. Cover an abstract and decorative image by Leah Rosenberg.
Cover image by: Leah Rosenberg
The cover of my second poetry book. Text reads Body Work, Emilia Nielsen. The cover image shows a crowd walking past a deer designed by Jo Roueche.
Cover image by: Jo Roueche

Dr. Nielsen has attended writing residencies at The Banff Centre, the Sage Hill Writing Summer Poetry Colloquium, and the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Summer Artists and Writers Colony at the University of Saskatchewan’s Kenderdine Campus at Emma Lake. Her debut collection of poetry, Surge Narrows (Leaf Press, 2013), was a finalist for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Her second collection of poetry, Body Work (Signature Editions, 2018), was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and was awarded the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry.

Dr. Nielsen’s poetry has appeared across Canada in literary journals such as Contemporary Verse 2, Descant, Event, The Fiddlehead, Grain, Prairie Fire, Room Magazine, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry by PRISM international. She has also had poetry published in scholarly journals such as English Studies in Canada, Feral Feminisms, and The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Environment and Culture in Canada.


Opportunities to research, write, study, travel, and invest in pedagogical innovations were made possible by financial support from: the Access Copyright Foundation’s Marian Hebb Research Grant; the Alberta Foundation for the Arts; the Banff Centre; the British Columbia Arts Council; Canada Council for the Arts; the Edmonton Arts Council; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; Quest University; the University of Alberta; the University of British Columbia; the University of New Brunswick; the University of Victoria; and most recently, York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, the Office of the Provost and Vice President Academic; and the Office of Research Services. Emilia’s most recent research-creation project is supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant. 

At York University, from 2020-2023 she was an inaugural member of the Graduate Committee in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and during that same period she Chaired the Ethics Committee in the Department of Social Science. At a national level she is an active member of the Canadian Association for Health Humanities and The League of Canadian Poets where she was Chair of the Membership Committee and a member of the Board of Directors in 2022-2023. Currently, she is Program Coordinator for Health & Society in the Department of Social Science.