Category Archives: News

Professor Marcel O’Gorman in Slate: Confess Your Digital Sins


Read all about our very own English department faculty member, Marcel O’Gorman, in Slate magazine. In addition to being co-director of the Critical Media Lab (with Dr. Beth Coleman), O’Gorman is the creator of “Digital Tabernacle”–see the photo above–staged at Arizona State University’s Emerge: Carnival of the Future.

You can read the entire article and learn more about Dr. O’Gorman’s project and research here. Photo credit: Elite Henderson.

Innovative Art and Waterloo English in the News


The Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area and Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound has announced its 2014 program, and the English Department’s  Dr. Marcel O’Gorman was crucial in the planning process. From The Record: “CAFKA’s ‘utopian daydream’ theme, It Should Always Be This Way, was developed by University of Waterloo professor Marcel O’Gorman, who heads the Critical Media Lab. The He suggested CAFKA rescues that mutual endangered species of ‘contemplation and curiosity’ that have become ‘vanishing skills in our culture of distraction and efficiency.’” You can read the entire article here. The image above is from Toronto artist Shary Boyle and Winnipeg musician Christine Fellows, who craft absolutely magical shows with music, story, and visuals, a bit like large scale magic lantern shows. I’ve seen their work–it is stunning.–JLH

Reading by PhD Candidate Morteza Dehghani, March 25th


The English department’s own Morteza Dehghani will be reading from his poetry collection Send My Roots Rain March 25, 2014 at 4:30pm Bookstore, South Campus Hall.

Morteza is a third-year PhD candidate in the English Department. His  research focuses on different art and media forms drawing on  continental and Middle Eastern philosophical traditions as well as  literary/critical theory. He writes in English and Persian and his  work has appeared in Luvah: Journal of the Creative Imagination. He  won the departmental creative writing award in 2012 and 2013 for his  poems. Send My Roots Rain is his debut collection of poetry in English, published by North Waterloo Press.

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Elise Vist!


Congratulations to PhD Candidate Elise Vist, who won the Faculty of Arts heat for the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, and will be competing against other faculties in the campus finals on March 27th. 3MT encourages graduate students to develop a short synopsis of their dissertation which they could pitch to a non-specialist in an elevator, a coffee shop, in line for a conference badge, etc. Elise’s 3MT presentation is called “When Fans Get Their Hands on Canon”–though as Elise notes “Negotiating Authority: Fans as Authors of Canon” is probably a more accurate title.

Elise is currently studying the intersections of feminism and game studies, and is a member of the Games Institute, housed in English at Waterloo. Thanks to her experiences with locative narratives and tabletop game design, she has become interested in low-tech games and enjoys encouraging people to make “crap games.” As a co-founder of the Games Institute Janes, Elise is currently working towards bringing people who identify as women together to make, play, and talk about games. Other interests include autobiographical games, post-colonial theory, and online activism.

Waterloo 3m

From the website: The 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) is a university-wide competition for research-based masters thesis and doctoral students at the University of Waterloo. Competitors have 1 static slide and 3 minutes to explain the breadth and significance of their research to a non-specialist audience.

Announcing Guest Speaker Dr. Bruce Robbins



Please join the Department of English Language and Literature for “Blue Water: Colonialism in Deep Time,” a guest talk by Dr. Bruce Robbins of Columbia University.

Time & Place:
Friday, February 14, 2 pm Hagey Hall Room 139

Bruce Robbins works mainly in the areas of nineteenth and twentieth century fiction, literary and cultural theory, and postcolonial studies. He is the author of Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State (Princeton, 2007), Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (NYU, 1999), Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (Verso, 1993) and The Servant’s Hand: English Fiction from Below (Columbia, 1986; Duke pb 1993). He has edited Intellectuals: Aesthetics, Politics, Academics (Minnesota, 1990) and The Phantom Public Sphere (Minnesota, 1993) and he has co-edited (with Pheng Cheah) Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (Minnesota, 1998) and (with David Palumbo-Liu and Nirvana Tanoukhi) Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture (Duke, 2011). He was co-editor of the journal Social Text from 1991 to 2000. His most recent book is Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence (Duke, 2012).  A companion volume is in the works to be entitled “The Beneficiary: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Inequality.”  He is also working on a documentary on American Jews who are critical of Israel. (Source:

All are welcome.

In the News: Almunus and Tech Blogger Tom Emrich


Below, an excerpt of the article in The Record by journalist Terry Pender.

“Tech obsession becomes career for UW grad”

Tom Emrich walks into a coffee shop for an interview about wearable technology sporting a snazzy black plastic bowtie made on a 3D printer.

After settling into a chair, Emrich reaches into his satchel and fills the table with wearable gadgets — Pebble smartwatch, Sony smartwatch, Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Google Glass glasses, Jawbone UP, Misfit Shine, Nike Fuelband, the Fitbit Flex and LumoBack

Emrich blogs and consults full-time on this stuff.

“When I got Glass that’s when I decided I would switch my career focus to wearable technology,” Emrich says.

“I put it on, that is when I said: ‘Whoa, this is where we are going. This is the future. I need to be part of this in anyway I can,’ ” he says.

Google Glass is expected to hit the market this year. It has a voice-controlled computer inside eyeglass frames with a small display screen in front of the right eye. It can translate documents in foreign languages, take pictures, shoot video, display maps, make calls, take calls and much more.

“My angle has always been understanding the value proposition for the end user,” Emrich says. “Making technology approachable for the everyday person and making sure they see value in it.”

After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a degree in English literature in 2000, Emrich carved this niche for himself in tech.

You can read the rest here. Where to find Tom online: “He is the co-founder of Wearable App Review, the first app review site for wearable devices, editor-in-chief for Designers of Things, a blog focused on the Internet of Things, and writes for MobileSyrup and Betakit, specializing on wearable tech and emerging technology.”

Announcing a new book from Dr. Kevin McGuirk


Congratulations to Dr. Kevin McGuirk on the release of his book, An Image for Longing: Selected Letters and Journals of A.R. Ammons, Ommateum to Sphere. You can read more below, and then there is the fantastic video interview done by my Words in Place predecessor. –JLH

From the press:

A.R. Ammons was a member of a remarkable generation of American poets. Born in the 1920s, these poets came of age with the second world war and came to prominence in the 1960s, a decade with which some of their most characteristic work is still closely identified. They are now part of our cultural and literary history. A generous selection of Ammons’s letters and journals, An Image for Longing will promote a renovated understanding of this important poet, sending readers back to his classic work with new appreciation, by drawing a picture of his career from its beginnings in the 1950s, through the 1960s, the decade of his remarkable ascendancy, to the culmination of its first phase with the publication of his major work, Sphere: the Form of a Motion, in 1974.

The story covered in An Image for Longing has several interconnected strands. It is a story of a career, the external matter of it: journal publications, contacts in the field, trying to publish a book; books published, positions, awards, fame. It is also the story the growth of a poet’s mind, as Ammons as an artist and intellectual, fulfilling certain potentials present in the letters of the 1950s, and gradually finding a way—a form and rhetoric—to articulate them fully in Sphere. Finally, it is the story of a man, awkward in the human realm, troubled in relations, but gradually finding a rest there. As he writes to his friend Harold Bloom on completing Sphere again: “I never felt as connected to other humans as I have since I finished the poem.”

Mennonites & Migration: Book Launch for Dr. Rob Zacharias


On Friday, January 17th, there will be a book launch for Rewriting the Break Event: Mennonites & Migration in Canadian Literature by UWaterloo post-doctoral fellow Dr. Rob Zacharias. It will be held at Conrad Grebel College, Room 1301, from 12:30-1:30. No RSVP required.

From the Publisher:

Despite the fact that Russian Mennonites began arriving in Canada en masse in the 1870s, much Canadian Mennonite literature has been characterized by a compulsive telling and retelling of the fall of the Mennonite Commonwealth of the 1920s and its subsequent migration of 20,000 Russian Mennonites to Canada. This privileging of a seminal dispersal, or “break event,” within the broader historic narrative has come to function as a mythological beginning or origin story for the Russian Mennonite community in Canada, and serves as a means of affirming a communal identity across national and generational boundaries.

Drawing on recent work in diaspora studies, Rewriting the Break Event offers close readings of five novels that retell the Mennonite break event through specific narrative strains, including religious narrative (Al Reimer’s My Harp is Turned to Mourning), ethnic narrative (Arnold Dyck’s Lost in the Steppe), trauma narrative (Sandra Birdsell’s The Russländer), and meta-narrative (Rudy Wiebe’s Blue Mountains of China). The result is an exciting new methodology through which to examine not only the shifting contours of Mennonite collective identity but also the discourse of migrant and minoritized writing in Canada.

“Anyone interested in the history, scope, and reception of ‘Mennonite/s Writing’ in Canada must read this book. This timely, comprehensive, and insightful work richly informs our reading of Canadian Mennonite literary texts and offers a comprehensive survey of the emergence of a modern Mennonite collective memory. At the same time, it places Mennonite literature in the context of Canadian migration fiction, trauma theory, and diaspora studies. A wonderful book from an exciting new voice.”

– Hildi Froese Tiessen, Professor Emerita, Conrad Grebel University College

“The stories that remain in the wake of a violence so great it breaks and scatters a community are stories that must be repeated. Zacharias traces the shape and function of such crisis narratives in five Canadian novels that recount the destruction of Mennonite colonies in southern Imperial Russia (present-day Ukraine). His judicious study shows how literature can sustain communal memory, construct ethnic identity, and serve or subvert national agendas.”

– Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Pennsylvania State University, author of The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life

Maybe you remember his time-travelling monkey? Alumnus Author Evan Munday


Sometimes you just get lucky: that’s how I feel about: a) discovering Evan was a Waterloo English grad; and b) him agreeing to be the first interview of 2014. Enjoy! –JLH

JLH: What made you decide on Waterloo? Had you already started writing then?
EM: Waterloo really fulfilled my need to marry creative efforts with serious practical-mindedness. The university’s rhetoric and professional writing program was what sold me on the school. My main goal at the time was to become a better writer (still is), and the RPW program seemed to promise that, with the bonus real possibility of finding a job in writing (whether that be speech writing or technical writing). But once I arrived and saw students studying and LARPing on the weekend as frequently as they hit the bar or club, I felt like I’d made a wise choice.

At the time, I was writing, but mostly comic books and comic strips. I did a comic strip for the Imprint for several years about a time-travelling man and his monkey.

JLH: You’re the author of the children’s book series, The Dead Kid Detective Agency, published by ECW Press. What is it about detective fiction for children that appeals to you? And why do you think it appeals to them? (Full disclosure: my five-year-old is currently hooked on a 1930s detective series.)
EM: I have no idea. I know it appealed to me as a child reader – I was constantly reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries or John Bellairs books – so that’s what appealed to me as a children’s writer. If I had to guess or attempt to psychoanalyze, I’d say it has something to do with a younger person’s need for there to be a right answer or solution to everything. It’s very satisfying to know that a correct answer, whatever it is, will be reached by the detective by the end of the book. Whenever I hold mystery-writing workshops for children, they’re confounded by the idea that there is no ‘right answer’ to the mysteries they write. The solution is whatever they as the writers decide. To some kids, that’s like telling them they can make their own numerical system. But there’s also the limitless appeal (especially to voracious readers) of a protagonist who is able to win the day primarily through his or her smarts.

JLH: Your series is explicitly Canadian, with references to United Empire Loyalists and the Underground Railroad. And yet you’ve managed to evade the earnestness of some earlier children’s literature that takes up Canadian history. Can you talk a bit about that?
EM: One of the main goals of the Dead Kid Detective Agency series was to tackle Canadian history, but in a fairly irreverent way. More ‘Mr. Peabody and Sherman’ and less ‘Heritage Minute’ (though those are amusing in their own way). I’m a dual citizen and did most of my history learnin’ in the United States. One thing the U.S. does better than Canada is mythologize its history. U.S. history isn’t intrinsically more interesting than Canadian history; it’s just that Americans have packaged it better to themselves than Canada has (Heritage Minutes notwithstanding). So, in a very small way, The Dead Kid Detective Agency is an awkward attempt to add some razzle-dazzle to Canadian history. And the best (and maybe most Canadian) way I knew how to do that was to amp up the oddness and humour.

JLH: Do you find your undergraduate English experience manifests itself in your books? Is there any course or Waterloo experience that you find has really proven seminal?
EM: I had a lot of great instructors and took some amazing classes at the University of Waterloo, and everything I learned has found its way into the books. Strangely, my science-fiction film classes with Jan Uhde were just as important to the writing as my creative writing classes with Gary Draper. And one elective that keeps coming in handy (perhaps unsurprisingly) is the criminology course I took in second year.

JLH: Switching gears, you are also the publicist at Coach House. How did you end up in book publishing? Do you have advice for those who might wish to follow your lead?
EM: I was a book publicist long before I was a published author. Following my schooling at the University of Waterloo I immediately enrolled in the book and magazine publishing program at Toronto’s Centennial College, which led to an internship at Cormorant Books, which led to a job at the Literary Press Group of Canada, and then the publicity role at Coach House Books, where I’ve been for the past eight years. My advice to anyone interested in working in book publishing is two-fold. First, get involved in the industry before you start working in it – attend readings and book launches, participate in online discussions of books, participate in whatever way you can (and works best for you). Second, try to pick up some basic design expertise – learn InDesign or Quark and Photoshop. Those two things can put you at a real advantage when seeking work in book publishing.

JLH:  Finally, what do you know now that you wish you had known right after graduating?
EM: I still haven’t learned, but I wish I’d known how to drive by the time I graduated. I still haven’t picked up this particular skill and I feel like it would have been really handy over the past ten or so years.

You can follow Evan at @idontlikemunday or his site,

Steampunk Author: Alumnus Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.


Waterloo English graduate Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. has published the second novel in his series The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, titled Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War . I’ve shamelessly poached the Booklist review of the first in the series.

“What a glorious novel! What a glorious, steam-filled, larger-than-life, action-packed adventure! Set in the future, about three centuries after an alien attack devastated planet Earth, the tale involves the crew of a steam-powered airship, the Pneumatic Zeppelin, led by the brave Romulus Buckle, mounting a mission to rescue the head of their clan, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the clutches of the mysterious and dangerous Founders, who have kidnapped several clan leaders for their own nefarious purposes. Preston creates a fully realized world, lavishing description on the airship’s mechanical accoutrements (“ . . . panel after panel of ornate levers, cranks, and knobs that spread out like a gigantic church organ, an elegant riot of vacuum tubes, steam switches, quicksilver instruments, brass gauges, and copper dials”) and on its crew (Romulus Buckle: “a tree-tall fellow, six feet and a couple of caterpillar lengths more if he was an inch, his cheeks and chin scruffed with whiskers the color of sand dunes, in ample quantities for a man of the ripe old age of eighteen”). Suitable for adult and young-adult readers, the book is like an old-fashioned movie serial—one crisis after another—and Preston definitely isn’t afraid of asking us to believe the unbelievable (even the most ardent steampunk fan would probably admit that a hydrogen-filled airship, powered by steam-generated flaming boilers, stretches the imagination a bit). Steampunk doesn’t get much more exciting, or more adventurous, than this. The book is the first of a proposed series, and the second installment can’t come soon enough.— David Pitt (Booklist starred review, 15 May 2013 Issue)