Category Archives: News

Waterloo English’s GI Janes

GI Janes

There’s a new article on Waterloo English’s GI Janes, featuring PhD candidate Elise Vist. The article, by Megan Scarborough, is currently featured on the University of Waterloo homepage.. Here’s an excerpt:

“Rewriting the story of women in gaming: Can Frodo be a woman?”

When Elise Vist entered the gaming world she felt she had to prove herself not just as a gamer – but as a woman in gaming.

So when she arrived at the University of Waterloo to pursue doctoral studies, she co-founded GI Janes, a Games Institute group designed to raise the profile of women in gaming.

“I wanted a space to talk about what it felt like to be a woman who plays games,” says Vist, a PhD student in the Department of English Language and Literature, who co-founded the group with researchers, Emma Vossen and Judy Ehrentraut

Last semester, the group hosted a number of game nights with an emphasis on teaching women how to play and create games. They hope to expand their offerings to include more workshops for women in gaming. The GI Janes website is also used to talk about games from a female perspective.

The researchers were inspired after taking a class on adaptations of Lord of the Rings. The series didn’t resonate with them so they created a machinima – a short film recorded inside of a video game – entitled Lady Hobbits.

They created female characters in Lord of the Rings Online and reenacted the first four chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring. “We wanted to show that you can change the gender of the main characters and still be true to the text without reinforcing stereotypes,” said Vist. “Being able to rewrite the story for ourselves created a sense of empowerment as women.” With Frodo and Sam portrayed as women, the two felt a stronger attachment to the narrative, says Vist.

You can read more here.

Congratulating Emeritus Professor Ted McGee


The English Department’s own Dr. Ted McGee is the 2014 recipient of the University of Waterloo’s Distinguished Professor Emeritus award. Dr. McGee is a scholar of fifteenth-century English drama, with an expertise in Shakespeare. He has also served on the board of the Stratford Festival, and is on the advisory board of Internet Shakespeare Editions. Dr. McGee continues to teach and lecture at the University of Waterloo, for which we are very grateful. For more, see his faculty webpage.


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. Her entry can be viewed here:

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