A Storytelling Performance

UWaterloo English’s Dr. Lamees Al Ethari and Carrie Snyder, in conjunction with writer Tasneem Jamal, facilitated the X Page Workshop, a project in which immigrant and refugee women from the Waterloo region wrote stories based on their life experiences. They were fortunate to received a SSHRC Connection Grant for the project, which funded two UWaterloo students. Other collaborators included Kimberly B. Rygiel at IMRC, Pamela Mulloy and The New Quarterly, Melissa Durrell of Durrell Communications, and Pam Patel of the MT Space. Carrie Snyder has written about the first gathering of participants and the stories they generated. Now you can come hear their work at Quilt of Stories, a storytelling performance about home and belonging.

When: Sunday, May 26, 2-4pm
Where: CIGI Campus Auditorium, 67 Erb St. West

Admission is free. Register at the performance’s Eventbright page.


Nominations for The New Quarterly

Good news! The New Quarterly, a literary journal headquartered at St. Jerome’s University, part of University of Waterloo, has earned five nominations at this year’s National Magazine Awards, two in Poetry, two in Personal Journalism, and one in Fiction.

As he journal writes: “The competition was strong as more than 185 Canadian print and digital magazines put forth submissions in both official languages. In the twenty years that it has participated in the National Magazine Awards, The New Quarterly has won ten gold, seven silver and forty-three honourable mentions. The National Magazine Awards winners will be announced on Friday, May 31, 2019 at a gala in Toronto.”

For more information on the awards, see The New Quarterly.

Image courtesy of the National Magazine Awards. 

Our newest PhD studies Nelson Mandela

Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Patricia Ofili, who has successfully defended  her dissertation: “Contextual Complexities and Nelson Mandela’s Braided Rhetoric.” Her supervisor was Dr. Frankie Condon, with committee members Drs. Michael MacDonald and Heather Smyth. Dr. James Walker was the internal external, and Dr. Geneva Smitherman served as the external.

This dissertation revolves around the complex political circumstances in apartheid South Africa that produced Nelson Mandela the rhetorician, human rights activist, and the longest political prisoner in human history. The manner in which Nelson Mandela deploys a braided rhetoric that is a combination of the African and Western rhetorical traditions for spearheading the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa is investigated. Mandela draws upon the African rhetorical tradition through which his identity, selfhood, and ethos were forged, while appropriating the Western rhetorical tradition through which he attained his education and training as a lawyer. Also examined is the complexity of inter-ethnic strife among Black South Africans; a situation that was exploited by the apartheid regime and which made the western rhetorical tradition inadequate for the addressing apartheid domination. The dissertation also studies Mandela’s dynamism as he navigates the murky waters of apartheid policies, which were not only smoke screens for veiling their racist intent, but enactments that kept morphing for the purpose of crushing any form of dissent. The complex situation produced an audience that was very diverse, and to appeal to these local and international audiences, Mandela required a rhetoric that was nuanced and effective enough to dismantle the apartheid racist order. Mandela employs narratives, which are performed in keeping with the African oral tradition – to unify, organize, and inspire his people; to call on the world beyond the borders of South Africa to account for their support of Apartheid; and to call out whites South Africans for implicit and explicit consent to the evils of a racist social, political, and economic order. Mandela’s rhetoric is strengthened particularly because, even as he speaks and writes in service of a struggle against systemic racism, he rises above the reification of essentialism and thus resists complicity.

Spring convocation speaker announced!

We are fortunate that Lee Maracle, member of the Stó:lō Nation, will be receiving an honorary doctorate at our spring convocation. Her books are on more than one shelf in our department, attesting to her stature as an exceptionally important author in Canada, one who has produced novels, poetry, short story collections, and collaborative anthologies. She has long been an advocate for Indigenous writing and peoples; it has been over thirty years since she stormed the stage of a writer’s festival demanding the inclusion of Indigenous authors.  Maracle has won numerous awards including The Order of Canada in 2018, the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in Ontario in 2014, and the Canada Council Mentor Award in 2010.  Maracle uses poetry, fiction, non-fiction, myth, and memoir to convey Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing in a way with which the broader Canadian society can connect. She is currently at work on a volume honouring Ojibwe author Richard Wagamese.

You can follow Lee Maracle on Twitter. llustration by Catherine Dallaire.

Which UW English prof appears in the documentary Assholes: A Theory?

film poster
Award-winning documentary filmmaker John Walker has done it again, with Assholes: A Theory already an official selection of the 2019 Hot Docs festival–featuring actor John Cleese and a UWaterloo English Professor. From the producers:

“With venomous social media, resurgent authoritarianism and rampant narcissism threatening to trash civilization as we know it, the time has come for Assholes: A Theory — an entertaining and oh so timely feature doc from acclaimed director John Walker.

Inspired by Aaron James’ New York Times bestseller of the same name, Assholes investigates the breeding grounds of contemporary ‘asshole culture’ — and locates signs of civility in an otherwise rude-n-nasty universe. Venturing into predominantly male domain, Walker moves from Ivy League frat clubs to the bratty princedoms of Silicon Valley and bear pits of international finance. Why do assholes thrive in certain environments? What explains their perverse appeal? And how do they keep getting elected! Lively commentary is provided by the likes of actor John Cleese, former RCMP officer Sherry Lee Benson-Podolchuk, and Italian LGBTQ activist Vladimir Luxuria who famously locked horns with Silvio Berlusconi, the p****y-grabbing prototype of the 21st century demagogue.”

So which of our faculty was featured? That would be Dr. Aimée Morrison! You can view the trailer here.

Recognizing Excellence in English

Anyone in English will tell you how indebted we are as a department to Jenny Conroy (our Undergraduate Program Coordinator) and Dr. Bruce Dadey. They are among those key players who keep things running smoothly, who are incredible repositories of knowledge, and who make the department a better place to be. Faculty and undergraduate students benefit from their work in ways of which they may not even be aware. Fortunately, the Faculty of Arts has recognized their exceptional work. At the recent Celebration of Arts Ceremony Jenny Conroy received an Excellence in Service Award, while Bruce Dadey received an Excellence in Teaching Award.

Pictured left to right: Dr. Clive Forrester, Dr. Ken Hirschkop, Dr. Megan Selinger, Dr. Dorothy Hadfield, Ms. Jenny Conroy, Dr. Bruce Dadey, Dr. Shelley Hulan, Dr. George Lamont.

Dr. McMurry and the Rhetoric of Climate Change Denial

Screenshot 2019-04-22 10.01.20
English’s Dr. Andrew McMurry’s research on climate change and denial is the subject of a Waterloo Stories profile. As Elizabeth Rogers writes:

It’s easy to spot traditional climate change denial. Just read the comments on social media or comments from public officials. Deniers say it’s a hoax, a cash grab or a natural process. They’re wrong.

Most data suggests that all but a handful of Canadians accept that human behaviour impacts the climate. But that doesn’t mean we’re past climate denial. According to University of Waterloo environmental humanities professor Andrew McMurry, we’re eager to accept that something bad is happening, but are in denial about what’s actually threatening us and that we need difficult transformative action to beat climate catastrophe.

“Our failure to act could be a rhetorical problem,” argues the author of Entertaining Futility: Despair and Hope in the Time of Climate Change. McMurry, who has a background in biology and a long-held interest in conservation, examines how language, narrative and cultural tradition shape our beliefs and understanding about the environment.

And it’s never been more crucial. Nearly everything we do — the food we eat, the goods and services we rely on — produces greenhouse gases. Trying to fix this problem requires a top-down reordering of how we live, especially how we produce and consume energy.

So why aren’t we doing it?

For more see: “Are we all a little guilty of denying climate change?”