What is an Escape Room?

Don’t miss Emma Vossen‘s talk at the Games Institute (East Campus 1, University of Waterloo) this Thursday, July 30th from 12:00pm to 1:00pm! Emma is a PhD candidate in the Department of English.

Her presentation, titled “’What’s the most immersive thing you’ve ever done?': The Escape Room Genre and Physical Game Play Experiences,” is part of the Games Institute’s “Brown Bag Seminars.” Here’s a snippet from her abstract:

“What is an escape room? Is it larping? Is it role playing? Is it a haunted house with puzzles? Is it a game? In this talk I will look at the escape room as a genre and compare it to everything from puzzle room video games to haunted houses, extreme horror experiences and murder mystery dinners.”

The Games Institute is headed by Neil Randall, Department of English.

For more information and further details, please see the event page: https://uwaterloo.ca/games-institute/events/gi-brown-bag-serieswhats-most-immersive-thing-youve-ever

A Week in the Life of a Graduate Student: Salman Jivani

Super Mario, Princesses, and Zombies: this week in the life of a grad student guest post has it ALL. Thank you to Salman Jivani for making time to talk about his life in the UWaterloo English graduate program. If you want to know why Salman describes himself as shameless–or what Zombies and gardening have in common–read on.–JLH

To begin, I’d like to say that my week doesn’t look like the week of a typical grad student—I’m doing a part-time Masters while also working full-time as a Development Officer for the Faculty of Engineering. That being said, much of my time is consumed with the average activities of a grad school student: procrastination, napping, and plenty of skimming through texts. I feel like grad school is designed to teach students how to best manage their time—it’s about learning to balance school, work, and other highly valued activities. When you are required to read, more or less, the equivalent of a novel each week, it becomes imperative to create a schedule that allows you to be both efficient and effective: how do I use my time in such a way that I am able to perform well at school and work, while also meeting my personal goals and maintaining my social commitments? Generally speaking, I have a rather structured week. As most of my weeks are similar in terms of tasks I need to accomplish, I use the previous week as a template when planning the days ahead. With 168 hours in a week, my time is usually spent as follows:

Sleep: I spend at least 56 hours sleeping. Even as an undergraduate student, I placed a great deal of importance on making sure I get adequate sleep. As is the case with most people, I’ve noticed that the amount of sleep I get on a regular basis dictates my mood and energy; as a result, it effects my ability to productive.  I’ve often been told that the luxury of an 8-hour sleep won’t persist during my lifetime, so I’m going to cherish the 8 hours a day while I still can.

Working full time: Officially, I spend 40 hours a week working full time. Usually, this number is higher because of the nature of my work— a sizeable amount of my time is spent driving to and from meetings and meeting with interesting people. Much of my time driving is actually spent sitting idly in terrible Toronto traffic – I’ll often use this time to think about all the schoolwork that I have yet to do and plan out the rest of my day, motivated to get everything done as soon as I get home. It never really pans out that way, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Working on my start-up: I recently started a software company called Cultivaid with two of my good friends. Cultivaid builds software that helps fundraisers maximize the number of dollars that they are able to raise by helping them better manage their relationships with donors; this is done by using algorithms to help prioritize donor interaction and analyze donor patterns. Yes, I just shamelessly plugged my startup. KW has a distinctly entrepreneurial spirit; it has been the perfect place to begin and grow a startup endeavour. Some days, I spend time at Communitech, building relationships and promoting our product. I also have ongoing discussions throughout the day with my team to ensure that we’re hitting our development goals and sticking to a predetermined schedule. Startup-related commitments take up a varied amount of my time, as the types of tasks that need to be accomplished are so diverse. On average, I spend about 15 hours per week here.

Playing video games: I don’t think I could function if I wasn’t able to unwind by shooting zombies or saving princesses. Naturally, as my workload fluctuates, so too does the amount of leisure time I have at my disposal. I would approximate that I spend about an hour gaming on a regular weekday; weekends allow for a lot more.

Masters-related work: I am currently enrolled in one course, which only demands 3 hours of my time per week in class – extremely reasonable. Last week I had a seminar in my ENGL 770 class that I had to prepare for and it was done in a two person group. I spent at least 8 hours working with my partner face to face preparing for this seminar, in addition to working for about 12 hours on my own. In total, last week I spent around 20 hours on schoolwork. I feel as though collaboration is critical in grad school. Everyone brings their own unique ideas and perspectives to the table and there is so much to learn from your peers. Everyone I’ve met has been remarkably bright, which makes it so that group work is a real collaboration and an intellectually enriching experience (not always the case as an undergrad). Schoolwork has always been a time-consuming task for me; I usually take an hour to do 45 minutes of work. Personally, I can’t read for a long period of time, so the second I get to the point where I’m re-reading the same passage for the fourth time because I’m staring up at the ceiling trying to determine whether or not that black dot is a bug (and I swear that I see it move every time I look away), is when I know that I’ve got to take a break. Sometimes I’ll walk around my house aimlessly, other times I’ll play some sort of video game that I know I can turn off after 15 minutes. I also think it’s important to take mini breaks to maintain mental clarity and keep the body and mind working in a relaxed, productive state.

Miscellaneous: This includes going to the gym, hanging out with friends and family, driving, watching tv shows, eating, and whatever else people generally do with their time. I started gardening in my backyard, so that’s been pretty cool.

Doing this Masters part-time has been a great experience for me because after taking some time off after my undergrad, I’m coming back to school because it’s something that I genuinely want to do, not because it’s expected of me. I also find that the way courses are structured for part-time students makes work-life balance achievable, which has been a wonderful experience. The downside of doing my Masters part-time is that at times, I don’t feel like I’m part of the grad student ‘ecosystem,’ if you will. I don’t have office hours, I don’t TA, and I don’t have the same hours as my classmates, so I haven’t built the same relationships that I would’ve been able to, had I been full time. However, as a full-time working adult, I feel confident that the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I’m glad that I’m able to take part in this grad school journey at my own pace. To conclude, I was trying to think of how to end this blog post; I thought I’d end by saying something witty. Something witty.

Image credit: Waterloo Engineering Advancement Team’s 2015 CanBuild Entry

One Sentence Competition 2014: Game ON!

etsytheoldrooster“Words in Place,” from the University of Waterloo’s English Department, is announcing our first ever One Sentence English Contest!
(We’re calling the contest OneSEC, because that’s how long it will take you to submit the shortest academic application ever.)

The OneSEC prize is for the best single sentence in an academic essay in a peer-reviewed journal in 2014 by a scholar trained or nested in English. How is “best” defined? The judges are academics, so through peer review by a disparate group of scholars with competing priorities, naturally.* No affiliation with the University of Waterloo is required.

Please send the following to onesecwaterloo@gmail.com:
1) your sentence (self-nominations only, please)**
2) publication information (place, volume, etc.)
3) your affiliation, if applicable
4) your contact information

30 September 2015, when everything else is due.

1) The academic essay must have appeared in a peer-reviewed venue dated 2014.
2) It must be one sentence only. Ellipses are fine, semicolons and colons are fine; more than one sentence is not fine.
3) The contest is open to graduate students, post docs, adjuncts, contract faculty, tenure-line faculty, independent scholars, retired faculty, etc.
4) Unlike some committees, we do count online publications.
5) The journal need not be a journal specifically in the discipline of English, though we ask you be trained or nested within the discipline.
6) You may submit more than one sentence if you have more than one publication, but only one sentence per publication please.
7) English language submissions only.

As always, a line on your CV.
A large 30″ Gold Number 1 Balloon. You will be responsible for inflating and circulating if you wish your peers to recognize you for your achievements.
A congratulatory letter and a thoughtful gift.

*including the ever-cranky Reviewer #2.
**For examples, see our previous post; note the wonderful Dr. Dolmage would be disqualified.

Image Source: The Old Rooster.

English undergrad and Medical school: Alumnus Matt Strauss

Matt Strauss
A UWaterloo English faculty member was caring for a family member at a local hospital, only to discover their family member had been assigned a doctor who was a UWaterloo English alumnus. Synchronicity or saturation? Read on to find out how Matt Strauss went from Science to English, to med school.–JLH

JLH: What made you decide on UWaterloo and on English?
MS: I was a very hard-nosed math and sciences type in high school and chose Waterloo because it seemed like the hardest-nosed math and science institution. (I was 15 at the time and hardly recognize that kid today)

I started undergrad in Honours Science and took John North‘s Shakespeare class as an elective. I remember getting 100% on my biology midterm, 105% on my chemistry midterm and a C- on my first paper for John North. Kind of ridiculous logic: but I remember having the realization that maybe the arts weren’t airy-fairy bird courses after all. Also, the lectures were enthralling.

I knew I wanted to go into medicine and figured I would end up being a science-type for life. It seemed like my undergrad was an opportunity to explore a whole new realm of human knowledge that I clearly didn’t have any sort of a grasp on. So I switched my major to English.

JLH: What was the most memorable or influential part of your undergrad English degree?
MS: I’ve already mentioned John North’s lectures. They were quite something and I can still quote some of his aphorisms today. He also hosted an “ask me anything” session at the end of the course (15 years before Reddit popularized the mode) that was exceptional.

Fraser Easton ran a Race and Literature course where we read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. So much of that book and that course influence my thinking on these issues. In fact, just today, I was thinking about the book in reference to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. I’m glad to have developed that sensitivity sooner than later.

JLH: When did you know you wanted to do medicine?
MS: Since age 13. Under-publicized fact: humanities majors actually have a higher rate of acceptance to medical school. I never saw the switch as deleterious to my career intentions.

JLH: When I interviewed Alok Mukherjee, he talked about how English gave him a different perspective as chair of the Toronto Police Services Board. Do you think having English has done the same for you?
MS: I think all physicians will eventually realize that a lot of what we call “medicine” is, in fact, theatre. 98% of the time, very little additional information is gleaned when a doctor puts their stethoscope on your chest. And if white coats aren’t very obviously a costume, I don’t know what is. I don’t say this to be disparaging of either medicine or theatre; something is not disingenuous because it is theatrical. The rituals and the costumes hold meaning and purpose in medicine just as the theatre has meaning and purpose. As an intensivist, my patients and I spend a lot of time at the end of the line together. Communicating that sort of thing compassionately and effectively could never be possible without the theatrical aspects. I think all those plays I read brought me to this perspective sooner than most.

JLH: Finally, what are you reading for fun?
MS: Descartes’ Meditations. Long story.

Thanks to Matt for participating. You can find him on Twitter at @strauss_matt.

One Sentence Research: 2014 Edition

I love this post. Why? I asked various department members who published essays and book chapters in 2014 to each send me a single evocative sentence from their publication. The results are alternately funny, insightful, and compelling. There are dogs, lies, cynical mothers, and greasy leachate–what’s not to love? In each instance they sold me: I need to read these!

Jay Dolmage
“The Pier 21 museum makes Canadian immigration processing at Pier 21 seem so much more consistent, organized and monolithic than it actually was. That one’s pathway through this museum becomes part of the vicarious historical experience speaks to the ways this particular museum actually limits diverse spaces or spatial diversity: the museum building is a kind of lie.” From “Grounds for Exclusion: Canada’s Pier 21 and its Shadow Archives.” Diverse Spaces: Examining Identity, Heritage and Community within Canadian Public Culture. Ed. Susan Ashley. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholar’s Press, 2014. 100-121.

Kenneth Graham
“Just to have enough is not enough:  the satisfaction of need is cold comfort in an economy of excess, and leaves no possibility of the truly unfettered expenditure that Bataille sees as the essence of the alternative to the economy of thrift.” From “The Sidney Psalms and the Meaning of Abundance.”  From The Return of Theory in Early Modern English Studies, Volume II. Ed. Paul Cefalu, Gary Kuchar, and Bryan Reynolds. Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 257-75.

Jennifer Harris
“Things that polite people are not supposed to find funny, including drowned animals, presumably bloated and decomposing, appear in the text as a source of amusement.” From “‘The True History of My Brother Tom’s Dog’: A Lost Autobiographical Tale by Catharine Parr 
Traill.” Studies in Canadian Literature 39.2 (Spring 2014): 230-47.

Ashley Kelly
“A thoughtful account of the rhetoric of digital environments begins not with the provocation that rhetoric is impoverished and requires fresh import from other disciplines to account for new media technologies but, instead, asks what is different about how new media technologies afford or constrain certain utterances, interactions, and actions.” From “Considering Chronos and Kairos in Digital Media Rhetorics” (with Megan Kittle Autry and Brad Mehlenbacher). In Gustav Verhulsdonck and Marohang Limbu, eds., Digital Rhetoric and Global Literacies: Communication Modes and Digital Practices in the Networked World. Hershey: IGI Global, 2014. 226–246.

Alysia Kolentsis
“As decades of scholarship have demonstrated, the idea of a Shakespeare as a lonely prodigy – divinely inspired and toiling away in a garret somewhere – runs counter to early modern English theater practices, which were heavily collaborative and commerce-driven.” From “Shakespeare’s Linguistic Creativity: A Reappraisal.” Literature Compass 11.4 (2014): 258-266. 

Kate Lawson
“In the opening chapter of the novel, six-year-old Francis Temple, on first having ‘the pebbly beach, bathing machines and fishing boats’ of the English seaside pointed out to him, judges it all to be ‘ugly and cold'; ‘I shall go home to Melbourne when I am a man,’ he declares.” From “Indian Mutiny/English Mutiny: National Governance in Charlotte Yonge’s The Clever Woman of the Family.” Victorian Literature and Culture 42.3 (2014): 439–455.

Andrew McMurray
“We would love to keep the beautiful objects apart from the rest of the shite, but the poem cracked and in oozed a greasy leachate from the chemical plant upriver.”  From “Media Moralia: Reflections on Damaged Environments and Digital Life.” Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. Ed. Greg Garrard. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 487-501.

Aimée Morrison
“Discussions of cartoons, usually ironic and provoked by enforced watching of these shows, crop up regularly and bloggers seem to enjoy the kind of conjecture that Beck indulges in here (‘I think [Max and Ruby’s] mother is actually home, passed out drunk upstairs,’ one commenter offers, with gleeful malice).”     “Compositional Strategies of Conflict Management in Personal Mommy Blogs.” Feminist Media Studies 14. 2 (2014): 286-300.

Win Siemerling
“Sarsfield’s text emphasizes the wealth of black geographies and traditions in Montreal, while relying at the same time on intertextualities that are at least ‘double-voiced’ (Gates xxiii), as demonstrated by repeated references to the black tradition and the Harlem Renaissance but also Lucy Maud Montgomery.” From “Jazz, Diaspora, and the History and Writing of Black Anglophone Montreal.” Critical Collaborations: Indigeneity, Diaspora, and Ecology in Canadian Literary Studies. Ed. Smaro Kamboureli and Christl Verduyn. Wilfrid Laurier UP 2014. 199-214.

Heather Smyth
“Compton’s challenge to the unidirectionality of diasporic circuits is expressed through his evocation of musical remix and the sonic movement of culture through electronic circuits and the airwaves, making black Vancouver culture not a detour of the Black Atlantic but rather the generation of the Black Pacific.”  From  “The Black Atlantic meets the Black Pacific: Multimodality in Kamau Brathwaite and Wayde Compton.” Callaloo 37.2 (Spring 2014): 389-403.

Linda Warley
“More subtly there are elements that when placed beside one another speak to the thematic subtext of the book: the narrative of class mobility that was struggled for but is not celebrated in the text by the father, and the situation of middle-class comfort and privilege that the son enjoys but did not have to work to attain.” From “Remembering Poverty: Bannock, Beans, and Black Tea, a Tale of Two Lives.” Canadian Literature and Cultural Memory. Ed. Cynthia Sugars and Eleanor Ty. Toronto: Oxford UP, 2014.

For previous posts on faculty research, see “Read Our Faculty Research Without Leaving Your Sofa.” Image: Bathing Machine

5 Reasons to take Dr. Warley’s Indigenous Lit Course

Who grew up chasing goats in Willowdale? Who was offered a job by a dying patient while driving an ambulance–and took it? Who cites everything pre-Cujo by Stephen King as an influence? Who draws cartoons where French actress Brigitte Bardot marries an Inuk man and is stalked by a large baby harp seal wielding a club? (pictured above) The authors you’ll read in Linda Warley‘s fall course English 211, “First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literature,” that’s who! Read on for 5 (more) reasons to take the class, and the answers to the questions above.
5 Excellent Reasons to take English 211
1) Encounter what Canada looks like from an indigenous point of view.
2) Consider how storytelling is connected to shaping and passing on knowledge.
3) Learn how the study of orature and literature can help you understand what is at stake when indigenous people talk about their relationship to land.
4) Discover how works of orature and literature are connected to current events, such as the #IdleNoMore movement and the recent publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on residential schools.

5) Examine what your relationship to indigenous people in Canada might be or become.

ENG 211 in Fall 2015: Mon/ Wed 2:30-3:50, HH150

For answers to the above questions and more, click on:
Joseph Boyden
Thomas King
Eden Robinson
Alootook Ipellie

Marie-Agnès Pilon: Co-op, Cows, and Grad school

pilonWhen I ask Words in Place interview subjects for a photo to accompany thir interview, I often convey it doesn’t have to be of them; if they want to submit a photo of their desk, books, etc., that is just fine.  Masters’ student Marie-Agnès is the first person to take me up on this option, with the most unexpected photo subject. Of course,  having read her interview, full of insightful reflections on strategies to succeed in co-op, coursework, and more, I really shouldn’t be surprised.–JLH

JLH: What were your expectations of co-op before entering the Masters Program? What do you think people should know about it that they don’t?
M.-A.: My expectation of co-op was that I would stretch my work skills and gain new work experiences, so that I could see what I could do with my MA in the workforce. Sometimes job titles don’t totally match with the job descriptions, so I learned to look more at the job descriptions to see if it was a fit for me, what skills I would develop, and what industry I would work in. Also, I looked up companies to see what they were about. If I liked a company, I would look for a job posting for them. This strategy produced a wider pool of possible jobs to apply to and, I thought, increased my chances of finding a suitable co-op job.

JLH: Can you talk a bit about your work terms? Did they meet your expectations? Or surprise you in any way?
M.-A.: My first work term I used previously acquired work skills, applying them in a new environment. I worked with Dr. Randy Harris to create a database of rhetorical figures that had to be loaded with previously entered data. Then it was structured so that it would enable users to find the relations between figures, as well as a definition of the figures. I had to learn PhP admin and also learn about the rhetorical figures and how Dr. Harris saw the relations, and then translate that into a relational database that could continue to grow and allow others to better understand rhetorical figures.

The second work term I was a bilingual marketing intern in a pharmaceutical/medical marketing firm. I applied for that one because they were looking for a bilingual person (French/English). I was more nervous about this second work term than the first, mainly because it meant doing completely different work. I was responsible for all French communication, proofreading, and reviews. In addition, it meant I had to learn new citation and bibliography models and follow new editing guidelines. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the French proofing, translating, and communication. I also got to do some unexpected tasks, like video and audio editing! That looked scary at first, but with the help of Youtube and co-workers, I learned how to adjust audio and remove noise, as well as edit video speed, cut parts of images, and add effects to different portions of the video. I actually quite enjoyed that part of the job—I would never have applied for something like that with no experience!

JLH: What has been the most rewarding part of co-op? And maybe the most frustrating?
M.-A.: The most rewarding part would be that I now feel confident I can apply for a variety of jobs, from coordinator to editor and content creator. The co-op jobs I got met my objectives of being able to market my different university degrees and my previous employment. The most frustrating thing about co-op is applying for jobs where it appears no one is interviewed. It is very hard when you put efforts into creating a cover letter and customizing your resumé, respecting the delays, only to see that the employer never sets up any interviews. And never knowing why the employers was not able to or did not set up interviews.

JLH: Do you choose your courses to complement what you want to do in co-op? Is it a relief sometimes to be in your coursework term?
M.-A.: I selected the degree stream Rhetoric and Communication Design (RCD), thinking not only of co-op jobs, but my eventual ideal position. The courses rarely look like you can directly apply them to the workforce, except maybe a course on discourse analysis if you are interested in a research job in the political arena. However, I think there are a lot of skills we hone in each class that are crucial in a work environment: managing tight deadlines, managing multiple projects, processing what we learn so that we can talk about it and criticise it. As well as writing skills, which really are communication skills; if you can write a good essay then you know how to communicate your ideas properly, and support them with evidence. Some of my undergrad marketing classes were helpful. I am not sure it is a relief to be back for more course work! With work, you have a routine that provides you with free time. Course work does not allow for a lot of free time as there is always something else to read and learn.

JLH: Finally, what have you been reading for fun in the last year?
M.-A.: I read French novels for fun! It is disconnected from my studies so it works well. My mom sent me a book for Christmas about a cow that goes on an adventure in hopes of not becoming hamburger…. This is very funny as I raise grass-fed cows that will probably end up as hamburgers!