Fred Wah, former Canadian Poet Laureate, to read

Fred Wah
One of our favourite writers ever is back! Fred Wah gave a spectacular reading at St Jerome’s University at University of Waterloo several years ago — if you were there, you’ll remember and want to see him again, and if you weren’t there, now’s your chance!

Please join us at 4:30pm on Friday 21 October in SJ1 3027.

We continue our tradition of featuring local talent from SJU creative writing classes as opening acts. Opening for Fred Wah is Sammi Zhao.

Fred Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1939, grew up in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia and now lives in Vancouver. His work has received many honours, including the Governor General’s Award. He was Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2013 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013. He has published over 20 books of poetry and prose, including Sentenced to Light (2008) and is a door (2009). A recent collaboration, High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, An Interactive Poem, is available online. His current project involves the Columbia River.

The readings are free and all are welcome, so please spread the word.

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We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil  a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

Image source.

What UW English Taught Me About Design at Google

UWaterloo English alumnus Patrick Hofmann will speak Thursday Oct 20 4:15-6pm at the University of Waterloo English’s Critical Media Lab. The title of his talk?  “What UW Taught Me About Design at Google.”

Patrick Hofmann UWaterloo alumnus (Honours English Rhetoric & Professional Writing) discusses how his training helped him move from technical writer to information architect and finally as a user experience designer at Google. He talks about the foundations of audience analysis, technical writing, and digital arts that he employs in his work today.

Critical Media Lab
44 Gaukel Street
Kitchener Ontario N2G 4P3

Image credit: “Best Google Doodles”

Confessions of a Feminist Killjoy


Dr. Erin Wunker (English, Acadia University) is a feminist killjoy, and she thinks you should be one, too! She brings memoir, literary criticism, pop culture, theory, and feminist thinking together to introduce Sara Ahmed’s figure of the feminist killjoy as a lens through which to read the world.

Wunker’s brand new book Notes from a Feminist Killjoy (2016) has been named Quill and Quire Fall 2016 Non-Fiction Preview Selection and 49th Shelf Most Anticipated Fall 2016 Non-Fiction Preview Selection. She is Chair of Canadian Women in the Literary Arts and co-founder–with UWaterloo English’s own Dr. Aimée Morrison–of Hook & Eye: Fast Feminism, Slow Academe.

Thursday, November 3, 2:30 p.m. Room SJ1-3014, St. Jerome’s University at University of Waterloo. Free. Open to all.

Sponsored by the St. Jerome’s University HeForShe Committee in support of the UN Women Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. St. Jerome’s is part of the University of Waterloo’s commitment to the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign:, and I am SJU’s Faculty Advocate for the HeForShe Impact 10x10x10 initiative (

New book from Dr. Greenwood


Dr. John Greenwood, who currently teaches in the Human Sciences Program and the Department of English at St Jerome’s in the University of Waterloo, will be launching his newest book, Reading the Humanities: How I Lost My Modernity, on Monday, October 17th at 4pm at the University of Waterloo book store (South Campus Hall). Dr. Greenwood previously published Shifting Perspectives and the Stylish Style: Mannerism in Shakespeare and His Jacobean Contemporaries (University of Toronto Press, 1988). The press writes of Reading the Humanities:

“The modern revolution has been both a blessing and a curse. Its break with the past has liberated us from traditional thinking and brought a new excitement to politics, economics and science. But a marked discontent remains: anxiety, frustration, busyness, theoretical fog and spiritual exhaustion strain the modern psyche. A seemingly unreachable ideal hovers over every modern ambition. Reading the Humanities offers a fresh new perspective on the modern malaise by reinventing the lost habit of dialogue, examining the contrasting postures of modernity and tradition. Offering a virtual tour through the ‘Great Books, ‘ the argument reconsiders the relevance of traditional sources while focusing a critical lens on our contemporary predicament. Authors from Homer to Joyce, Machiavelli to Marx, Shakespeare to Shelley, Plato, Virgil, Kant, Hume, Austen, Eliot and Arendt, among others, are examined both for their sharply contrasting views and for their continuing modern relevance. A new vision emerges of what Socrates called the ‘examined life, ‘ the ‘good’ life, the only life worth living. New ideas about individual agency, purposeful action, moral striving and sacred intention arise out of debates forged over classical, Christian, Enlightenment and contemporary voices in literature and philosophy. The exciting result is a modern project revitalized by the energy that flows from the habit of engaging difference.”

All are welcome.

Our newest department member: Dr. Forrester

In case you missed this fantastic piece of news, I am absolutely delighted to announce that Dr. Clive Forrester is the newest member of the UWaterloo English department. His linguistic research into the operations of Jamaican Creole in courtroom spaces is compelling. He kindly agreed to an interview with Words in Place, discussing everything from snow and swag to comic books. Enjoy!–JLH

JLH: Welcome to Waterloo! You did you PhD abroad–when you started your PhD, did you envision yourself teaching in an English department in Canada?
CF: I didn’t even see myself in Canada full stop! I knew my grandma spent a good deal of her later years there (she returned to Jamaica for her final few years) and that it was almost always cold. I remember asking her to bring back some snow once so I could see what it looked like in real life. Well, when I arrived in 2008 as a Visiting Prof at York University I got my “baptism by ice” that winter. But, if you can survive one winter, you can survive two. And if two, then three. And so on.

JLH: How have you found Waterloo so far? Have there been any surprises?
CF: I quite like it here at Waterloo actually. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of welcome/orientation activities for new faculty members. Usually orientation is focused on students and new faculty are given a map of the university to figure things out. But I’ve attended at least three welcome functions and been treated to all manner of pastries and UWaterloo swag.

JLH: Your research adds a new area of expertise to our department: can you tell us a bit about what you do and how you see it fitting here?
CF: Well, at first I felt like an oddball given the kinds of research and courses in the department – Medieval literature, Chaucer, Shakespeare, even a course on Harry Potter. But then I realized that a lot of the courses really deal with how different genres/styles of language shape and influence the way people see the world in different contexts throughout different time periods. I kinda do the same thing in my own area of research, applied/forensic linguistics, especially when I look at how different linguistic identities are perceived inside the courtroom in a context where two languages of differing status (Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole) occupy the same discourse space. I think I can contribute to the theoretical underpinnings of what comprises one’s linguistic identity and the ways in which this identity is negotiated across concerns such as linguistic discrimination, code switching, language change etc. One of my current works in progress looks at perceptions of hate speech in the Caribbean, and how this perception is framed against a background of a context where indigenous Caribbean languages are often dismissed as inherently hateful.

JLH: Do you have future research projects you are excited about?
CF: I’d say I’m excited about (a) co-editing a volume on language and the law from a Caribbean perspective, and (b) seeing how best I can develop my research on hate speech perceptions in the Caribbean.

JLH: I know most of us don’t have spare time for pleasure reading this time of year, but I’m curious: if could sneak in a few books, what would they be?
CF: Of late, I’ve started to read works from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the Nigerian feminist author who wrote Half of a Yellow Sun (the first one I read). I’m also eager to start Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings; he’s a Jamaican author who shot to fame after winning the Man Booker Prize in fiction for 2016. I also love a good Marvel or DC comic, my favourite story arc of late has been “Injustice: Gods Among Us” where the DC superheroes (and some villains too) decided to use their powers to the full extent and end crime permanently.

Monique Mojica speaks at UWaterloo


The Silversides Theatre Artists Series 2016 presents Canadian actor and playwright Monique Mojica in a talk, “Inscripted Earth: embodiment of place as research, process and performance.”

Monique Mojica will describe her evolving process of creating an Indigenous dramaturgy rooted in land-based embodied research. This presentation looks specifically at work begun in 2011 (along with a collaborative team of Indigenous artists) and focuses on effigy mounds and earthworks as the first literary structures on this land.

DATE:            Monday, October 17th, 2016

TIME:             11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

VENUE:         Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages Building

Monique Mojica (Guna and Rappahannock nations)  is passionately dedicated to a theatrical practice as an act of healing, of reclaiming historical/ cultural memory and of resistance. Spun directly from the family-web of New York’s Spiderwoman Theater, her theatrical practice embraces not only her artistic lineage through mining stories embedded in the body, but also the connection to stories coming through land and place.

Mojica’s first play Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots was produced in 1990 and is widely taught in curricula internationally. She was a co-founder of Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble with whom she created The Scrubbing Project, the Dora nominated The Triple Truth and The Only Good Indian. In 2007, she founded Chocolate Woman Collective to develop the play Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way, a performance created by devising a dramaturgy specific to Guna cultural aesthetics, story narrative and literary structure.

Mojica has taught Indigenous Theatre in theory, process and practice at the University of Illinois, the Institute of American Indian ArtsMcMaster University and is a former co- director of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. She has lectured on embodied research and taught embodied performance workshops throughout Canada, the U.S., Latin America and Europe.  She was most recently seen onstage in Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s world premiere of Re-Quickening choreographed by Santee Smith and with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in I lost my Talk as part of the Life Reflected series.

Image: Mojica’s 2016 installation at the Brantford Institute.

The Silversides Theatre Artists Lecture Series is presented by the Theatre and Performance program in the Department of Drama and Speech Communication.  This series commemorates the donations made by Brian Silversides to the Theatre and Performance program.  Brian Silversides was a Canadian actor, stage technician and entrepreneur who passed away in 1996. Any questions or comments, please contact Janelle Rainville at

Alumnus and CBC producer Chris Wodskou

A disclosure: I’ve been fortunate enough to know UWaterloo alumnus Chris Wodskou for years, long before arriving at UWaterloo. While we’ve talked about literature in great depth–and I still think back to some of the points he made over a decade ago–we’ve never discussed his experience as a UWaterloo student. Find out how he went from UWaterloo undergrad and Imprint writer to what he calls “the dreamiest radio gig for someone with an English degree.” –JLH
JLH: Can you talk a bit about why you chose Waterloo for an undergraduate degree in English? Did it turn out like you expected?
CW: It was kind of by default, to be honest. I had originally chosen Waterloo for the Co-op Physics program, the result of adolescent Carl Sagan fantasies and a high school guidance counsellor who figured my marks in math and science had me earmarked for a career in physics or engineering or some such. He figured wrongly. I flunked first-year calculus and algebra and transferred to English, which was always my first love in high school, anyway. I wasn’t alone, either — my English classes had lots of other castaways from other faculties.
I went in with romantic expectations of what doing an English degree would be like; I thought I’d spend every waking moment parsing literature with iconoclastic professors and debating philosophy and poetics all night with eccentric, charismatic and over-the-top passionate classmates. I found to my surprise that just about everyone was nice, smart, interesting and relatively normal.
I do remember vividly my first-ever class in an English course — a British literature survey. The professor, Eric McCormack, explained in his much-loved Scottish brogue why we were only spending two days on Shakespeare: “I’ll let you in on a secret … Shakespeare was a wanker!” I wasn’t totally convinced Shakespeare was a wanker, but that class totally sold me on the English program.
JLH: What was your motivation for continuing to the MA program? Does anything stand out from that year?
CW: Um, I didn’t have anything better to do. No one was clamouring to hire me as a journalist, I didn’t want to go to teachers’ college, and my friends who were getting jobs straight out of their BAs all seemed to be working as technical writers, which was not an appealing option for me. I didn’t know what else I wanted to do at that point, but I did know I loved having a show at CKMS, writing for Imprint and taking English courses, and I enjoyed living in Waterloo, so it just made sense to keep at it.
I loved my time in the MA program, so much so that I started thinking seriously about a career as an academic. A few things from that time  do stand out in my mind. Murray MacArthur’s Joyce course, which gave me some idea of just how deep you can go into a text. Bill MacNaughton’s 20th Century American Novel course, where I was introduced to Willa Cather, John Dos Passos, Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright. Becoming a teaching assistant and learning how to teach. Initially feeling like I was entering some sort of guild as a fledgling wannabe academic and ultimately learning humility from being surrounded by people way smarter and way better-read than I was.
JLH: How did you end up at CBC?
CW: It was largely serendipity. I had spent a lot of time at Imprint and CKMS while at Waterloo and then at the campus station at York University, while I was working on an PhD. So I was already dipping my toes in the media. And I didn’t have a scholarship while I was working on the PhD, so I worked as a freelance writer and editor to pay the bills. One of the editors at a music magazine I wrote for ended up getting a job at CBC to help build its website in the mid-90s, and he was tasked with putting together the CBC’s first Olympic website for the 1998 Winter Olympics. He remembered that I was a bit of an Olympics geek, so he brought me on to help him write the content for the site.

After that, there was a succession of contracts at CBC TV, Newsworld and CBC Sports Online, and I was lucky enough to work for a number of people who valued graduate work in English more than a journalism degree; I think they reasoned that that sort of background might actually provide better training in researching, writing, editing and narrative structure than journalism school. Eventually, one of those people started The Current and hired me to be one of the original producers there.

JLH: Has your English degree shaped your work at CBC?

CW: My English degree had little direct bearing on my work until I started working on The Sunday Edition, which is possibly the dreamiest radio gig for someone with an English degree. I’ve produced lengthy segments on James Joyce, James Baldwin, George Orwell, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, Willa Cather and Shakespeare, the idea being that great literature is excellent material for a current affairs program because it never loses its currency; Baldwin is as relevant in the context of Michael Brown and Eric Garner as he was when he wrote The Fire Next Time.
But that does speak to one of ways in which an English degree really is great preparation for this kind of work. First, you know that whatever’s happening in the world today — however novel or unprecedented it seems — there are probably writers who have already imagined and thought a lot about it.

And then there’s this: If studying literature teaches you anything, it’s that everything and everyone is more complicated and nuanced than you think at first blush, which is a nice counterbalance to the journalistic impulse to rush to immediately explain and analyse things before you know all the facts, let alone before you’ve had time to process them.

JLH: Finally, what are you reading now?
CW: I just finished This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz, which is brilliant in a let’s-seduce-you-with-electric-prose-and-frustrate-the-hell-out-of-you-with-an-exasperating-protagonist kind of way. Diaz is a seriously great writer.
The real revelation for me this year, though, was John Banville. The same friend who got me my first job at CBC was telling me for years that Banville is the greatest living writer in English, and I always said, “Yeah, yeah, sure, I’ll get around to reading him someday.” So I did get around to reading The Infinities and The Blue Guitar a few months ago. And I think my friend might just be right.