Biographer, critic and novelist Joan Givner has continually explored the overlapping connections between art and life, particularly in the realm of female artists--most notably Katherine Anne Porter and Mazo de la Roche. Although Joan Givner's literary oevre can be described as feminist, that label is far too restrictive to be definitive. Her widely acclaimed biography of Katherine Anne Porter was cited by the New York Times as one of the outstanding books of 1982. Now a retired professor living in Victoria on Vancouver Island, Givner, formerly of Mill Bay, is unusual in that her writing has been equally divided between her own fiction and her academic non-fiction.

Joan Givner was born Joan Mary Short on September 5, 1936 in Manchester, England. While employed as an English professor at the University of Regina, she edited the Wascana Review. She took early retirement in 1995, moving to Vancouver Island with her husband David Givner, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, 1965. They raised two children, Emily Jane Givner (1966-2005) and Jessie Louise Givner (b. 1967). In B.C. Joan Givner became a biography columnist for B.C. BookWorld and blossomed as a fiction writer. Her first novel Half Known Lives was optioned for film and TV by Gary Harvey and Shelley Eriksen. It's speculative fiction about a group of women who kidnap a pro-lifer named Max and have him impregnated. For a synopsis of her second novel, Playing Sarah Bernhardt, see below.

In 2004 Joan Givner also published her first juvenile novel, Ellen Fremedon, in which a young girl innocently decides to write a novel based on people she knows in the village of Partridge Cove. It became a finalist for the Silver Birch Awards, the Hackmatack and the Diamond Willow Awards. In a sequel, Ellen Fremedon Journalist (Groundwood, 2005), the intrepid would-be writer tries starting a newspaper in Partridge Cover during her summer holidays. Ellen discovers that invading other people's privacy in order to uncover the differences between truth and gossip is easily resented. Larry, the village librarian, finds typographical mistakes and an incorrect muffin recipe doesn't help either, but trouble really starts brewing when she discovers some people are not exactly who they purport to be. Ellen Fremedon, Volunteer is scheduled for spring 2007 and others are in progress.


Katherine Anne Porter: A Life, Simon & Schuster, 1982 (Book of the Month Club Alternate Selection, New York Times Book Review list of Outstanding Books of the Year); Jonathan Cape, England, 1983; Touchstone Press (paperback) 1984.

Tentacles of Unreason, (short fiction), University of Illinois Press, 1985.

Katherine Anne Porter: Conversations, Ed. Introd. by Joan Givner, University of Mississippi Press, 1987.

Unfortunate Incidents (short fiction), Oberon Press, 1988.

Mazo de la Roche: The Hidden Life, Oxford University Press, Toronto & New York, 1989.

Katherine Anne Porter: A Life (Revised Edition in hardcover and softcover), University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Scenes from Provincial Life (short fiction), Oberon Press, 1991.

Special double issue of A Room of One's Own on Joan Givner, Vol .15. nos 3 and 4, 1992.

The Self-Portrait of a Literary Biographer, University of Georgia Press, 1993.

In the Garden of Henry James (short fiction) Oberon Press, 1996.

Thirty-Four Ways of Looking at Jane Eyre, (short fiction and essays), New Star Press, 1998.

Half Known Lives (novel), New Star Press, 2000.

Ellen Fremedon (YA novel), Groundwood Press, 2004

Playing Sarah Bernhardt, Dundurn Press, 2004

Ellen Fremedon Journalist (YA novel), Groundwood Press, 2005

Ellen's Book of Life (Groundwood Press, 2008)

A Girl Called Tennyson (Thistledown 2010) ISBN 978-1-897235-83-6; paper; $12.95; 170 pages

The Hills Are Shadows (Thistledown 2014) -- second volume in the series: A Girl Called
Tennyson. 978-1-927068-91-5; $12.95


B.A. Honours,University of London, England, 1958.
M.A. Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, 1963.
Ph.D. University of London, England, 1972.


High School teacher in the United States, 1959-1961
Lecturer in English, Port Huron Junior College (now St Clair County Community College), 1961-1965.
Lecturer in English, University of Regina, 1965-70.
Assistant Professor of English, University of Regina, 1972.
Associate Professor of English, University of Regina, 1975.
Fellow of the Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, Harvard University,1978-79.
Member of the Senior Common Room, Adams House, Harvard University, 1978-9.
Professor of English, University of Regina, 1981.
Editor: WASCANA REVIEW, 1984-1992.
Member National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar in Literary Theory and Feminist Criticism, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, summer 1985.
Mini-resident University of Nevada at Las Vegas, September 1985.
Member of the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council adjudication committee 1989, 1990.
Adjunct Professor The Union Institute of Cincinnati. Served on doctoral committee in Women's Studies. 1990-1992.
Chair, Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council adjudication committee, 1991.


Jury member, Governor General's Award in non-fiction, 1991.
Jury member and chair, Governor General's Award in non-fiction, 1992.
Judge, National Newspaper Awards, 1995.
Judge, National Newspaper Awards, 1996, 1997.
Jury member, Governor General's Award in non-fiction, 1999.
Judge, Saskatchewan Book Awards, 2001.
Judge, Competition in non-fiction, GRAIN magazine, 2002.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2014] "Fiction" "Criticism" "Literary Biography"