Congratulating Dr. Sara Gallagher

Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s newest PhD, Dr. Sara Gallagher! She very ably defended her PhD dissertation, “Black Frontiers: Race, Region, and Myth in African American Westerns, 1854-1954.” Co-supervisors were Dr. Victoria Lamont and Dr. Jennifer Harris; committee members were Dr. Chad Wriglesworth and Dr. Carter Neal. The internal examiner was Dr. Andrew Hunt of UWaterloo History, and Dr. Michael K. Johnson (University of Maine at Farmington).

Black Frontiers: Race, Region, and Myth in African American Westerns, 1854-1954
Up until the 1960s the African American West remained largely unexamined in scholarship and, when examined, was marked for its historical absence or, as Eric Gardner notes, “limited to brief biographical asides focusing on the most romantic figures” (Gardner, Jennie Carter, xii). The challenge faced by recent scholarship in Western studies has not only been to recover the works of authors who have remained understudied or unpublished, but also to develop interpretive frameworks that consciously push beyond Anglo-centric visions of the West. One such method is New Regionalism. Espoused by Gardner, New Regionalism emphasizes the role of place and location in the production of a creative text. This approach interrogates the Western genre outside of previous canonical constructions that limit Black presence in literary and cultural history to certain geographic locations (i.e. the South and the Mid-Atlantic) and genres (i.e. the slave narrative). Examining Black textual communities in the West allows scholarship to move beyond acknowledging historical presence, to analyzing how African Americans represent themselves through the Western genre and, perhaps more pointedly, in relation to how they “cite/site under acknowledged Black geographies” (Katherine McKittrick, Demonic Grounds, 111).

Each of the texts that I analyze involves migration to a frontier space on the edge of white society, a place where African American authors and cultural producers adapt to race-based restrictions and limitations, sometimes by challenging these restrictions and other times by assimilating into the white society. By revising a narrative structure that is associated with white American culture, they also claim a place in a society that refuses to acknowledge African American participation in and contribution to frontier history and mythology. The body of works examined in this dissertation analyzes a diverse set of stories to show the ways African American authors and producers of Western texts have participated in the revision of the Western genre in a full range of imaginative forms.

Modernism and Diagnosis

UWaterloo English’s Dr. Heather Love has co-edited an essay cluster on “Modernism and Diagnosis” for Modernism/modernity’s Print+ platform. Do you want to know if Literary History is Sick? Or are you interested in the Harlem Renaissance and “Sexual Radicalism, Race Consciousness, and the Case of Harlem’s Queers”? What about “Diagnostic Spectatorship” or “Psychiatry’s Strange Objects”? These topics and more are all covered–and you can read it here.

Congratulating Dr. Frankie Condon

Congratulations to Dr. Frankie Condon, who has been elected as the Assistant Chair of Conference on College Composition and Communication (abbreviated as CCCC, it is known colloquially as the “Four Cs”). It’s a post that recognizes an individual’s understanding of the field, as well as their ability to overseeing complex large-scale projects. It also comes a four-year commitment, as it leads to becoming Chair of the organization. Responsibilities include acting as Program Chair for the 2023 CCCCs Convention and becoming the 75th Chair in the history of CCCCs in 2024. Dr. Condon’s most recent book is Counterstories from the Writing Center, co-edited with Wonderful Faison (Utah State University Press and the University of Colorado Press, 2021).

Fiery Sparks of Light

In a 2018 interview with CBC, Canadian poet and performance artist Adeena Karasick described “navigating the alphabet as fiery sparks of light, passionately defining and recreating the world with each new articulation.” Fiery Sparks of Light is now the title of a forthcoming collection of performances at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, featuring Margaret Atwood, Nicole Brossard, Canisia Lubrin, and UWaterloo English Professor Sarah Tolmie.

Fiery Sparks of Light is a collaboration between the Griffin Trust, the Canadian Film Centre, and OCAD. The final holographic book will be available on site at Frankfurt, but also via a web interface.

Meet our newest PhD grad, Dr. Van de Kemp

Congratulations to our newest English PhD grad, Dr. Jess Van de Kemp (top right). She successfully defended her dissertation, titled ‘The Objectifying Gaze’: The Role of Adaptation in Perceptions of Gender on Television. Her supervisor was Dr. Michael MacDonald and her committee members consisted of Dr. Marcel O’Gorman and Dr. Gordon Slethaug. Her external examiner was Dr. Andrew Welsh, Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University and her internal/external examiner was Toni Serafini, Associate Professor in the Department of Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies at UW.

Abstract

For too long, adaptation studies has been limited to film and focused on adaptation as a product (i.e. the transformation of a novel into a film), but expanding the field to television and emphasizing the process of adaptation (i.e. how different texts share meaning) invites critics to contemplate between television and society by considering the concepts of adaptation (e.g. doubling, architextuality, citation, and de(re)composing) that perpetuate stereotypes and myths about women across various texts and spaces. My dissertation therefore expands the scope of research on gender representation in television by using adaptation theory to reveal the intertextual composition of portrayals of women. Many critics have examined intertextuality in film, and some in television, but none have evaluated the role that concepts of adaptation play in constructing representations of women in television, especially in the fields of justice, science, and technology. The main research question is: What is the impact of television on society? I argue that the relationship between television and society is influenced by intertextuality and apply Fredrickson and Roberts’ theory of objectification, in line with Mulvey’s famous concept of the male gaze, to demonstrate how concepts of adaptation enforce the objectifying gaze on women in television and reinforce mostly stereotypical gender roles. This dissertation is composed of an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion. Using a case-study methodology, I analyze eight American drama television series that exercise adaptation and the gaze, with many passing references made to art, film, and literature to open the landscape of television to its intertextual roots: uncanny doubles in House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, architexts between drama and detection in CSI: Cyber and Person of Interest, citations of trauma in Criminal Minds and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and de(re)compositions of media and society in Wisdom of the Crowd and The X-Files. Four key findings stand out from these case studies: (1) uncanny doubles manifest a spatiality of death around female and/or LGBT characters, (2) architexts between drama and detection form through play to debunk gender role stereotypes, (3) citations of torture make and maintain a visual style of terror on screen, and (4) de(re)compositions of media and society insulate the voyeuristic POV. These findings show that violence against women continues to be eroticized on prime-time, but that adaptation plays a role in making a spectacle of rape and other harms. Several original concepts emerge during the research process to describe the role that adaptation plays in shaping perceptions of gender, sexuality, and violence on television, including but not limited to: embodied detection, figural déjà vu, forensic adaptation, and ludic forensics. All told, this dissertation forges a new way of discussing gender representation by applying adaptation theory to television studies.

Our newest PhD grad: Dr. Doug Sikkema

Please join me in congratulating out newest PhD graduate, Dr. Doug Sikkema. Dr. Sikkema’s dissertation was titled “The Myth of Disenchantment: Religion and the Environment in Contemporary American Literature.” Dr. Sikkema was supervised by Dr. Chad Wriglesworth, with committee members Dr. Andrew McMurry and Dr. Kevin McGuirk. Dr. Scott Kline of the Department of Religious Studies served as the internal/external examiner, while Dr. Christopher Douglas of the University of Victoria was the external examiner. A description is below.

Religion and the Environment in Contemporary American Literature

In the following project, I look closely at three living American writers whose work explores the important relations between the religious and ecocritical “turns” in American literature, with particular attention to ways religious belief might inform human understandings and interaction with the material world. The opening chapter explores the ways that the human-nature relationship is configured in a post-Enlightenment “secular” age that has given rise to the current Anthropocene era. Alongside Charles Taylor, I argue that the secular age is funded by a narrative, or lived “myth,” of disenchantment that has left many ill-at-ease with the ongoing destruction of the natural world. This uneasiness has led many to envision new “myths,” or narratives, of re-enchantment along a host of postsecular lines. The postsecular options under investigation in this project are particularly those that return to religious claims in general, and confessional Christian claims in particular.

In this context, I look closely at variations of postsecular Christian myths of re-enchantment on offer in contemporary American poetry and prose through three writers: Christian Wiman, Marilynne Robinson, and Wendell Berry. I argue that each of these writers has articulated a confessionally Christian narrative of re-enchantment that challenges dominant forms of secularism while also taking issue with other-worldly, disembodied forms of Christianity that exhibit a low view of the material world. The choice of these authors and their arrangement in this project is not to suggest a clear aesthetic movement in contemporary American writing, but rather it is to note subtle progression in how the myth of disenchantment is challenged and myths of re-enchantment envisioned through postsecular forms of Christianity.

Congratulating Tommy Mayberry

Congratulations to Tommy Mayberry, UWaterloo English PhD candidate, who has been appointed Executive Director of the University of Alberta’s Centre for Teaching and Learning. As U of A’s announcement reads:

Tommy Mayberry is a scholar and professional with a background in diverse teaching and instructional facilitation in academia as well as industry. As a sought-after speaker on the topics of “Gender Pronouns and Cultures of Respect” as well as visual pedagogies and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, Tommy has presented their scholarship and research findings nationally as well as internationally, in places such as Oxford, Washington DC, Tokyo, and Honolulu. Their decolonial, anti-racist, and equity-driven intersectional vision and identity position them perfectly for this new strategic role at CTL toward fostering a university culture in which teaching and the scholarship of teaching is highly valued, promoted, and maintained.

As an academic drag queen, Tommy is uniquely embodied in their scholarship and praxis of teaching and learning and has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications, including their forthcoming co-edited collection of essays on RuPaul’s Drag Race as it relates to teaching and learning as well as contributions in the GEARING-Roles (Gender Equality Actions in Research Institutions to traNsform Gender ROLES) handbook on promoting gender sensitivity in higher education teaching and training, a project funded by Horizon 2020 that seeks to design, implement, and evaluate six Gender Equality plans in six research institutions in Europe.

2020 Outstanding Performance Award

“I am very pleased to announce the Outstanding Performance Award recipients for 2020 and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them for their outstanding contributions to the University of Waterloo,” writes James Rush, vice-president, academic & provost. Congratulations to UWaterloo English faculty Drs. Dorothy Hadfield, Aimée Morrison, and Marcel O’Gorman, all recipients of UWaterloo Outstanding Performance Awards.

Art Installation from Faculty

UWaterloo English’s Dr. Marcel O’Gorman and Dr. Jennifer Clary-Lemon are among those participating in CAFKA (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area) this year. You can read more about their open-air installation, “Hirondelusia,” in The Record (the source of this image).

Meet New PhD graduate Dr. Doug Sikkema

Please join me in congratulating our newest PhD graduate, Dr. Doug Sikkema. Dr. Sikkema’s dissertation was titled, “The Myth of Disenchantment: Religion and the Environment in Contemporary American Literature.” Dr. Sikkema was supervised by Dr. Chad Wriglesworth, with committee members Dr. Andrew McMurry and Dr. Kevin McGuirk. Dr. Scott Kline of the Department of Religious Studies served as the internal/external examiner, while Dr. Christopher Douglas of the University of Victoria was the external examiner.

Dr. Sikkema is currently an assistant Professor of English and Core Humanities at Redeemer University College.

Dissertation abstract from Dr. Sikkema:

In the following project, I look closely at three living American writers whose work explores the important relations between the religious and ecocritical “turns” in American literature, with particular attention to ways religious belief might inform human understandings and interaction with the material world.The opening chapter explores the ways that the human-nature relationship is configured in a post-Enlightenment “secular” age that has given rise to the current Anthropocene era. Alongside Charles Taylor, I argue that the secular age is funded by a narrative, or lived “myth,” of disenchantment that has left many ill-at-ease with the ongoing destruction of the natural world. This uneasiness has led many to envision new “myths,” or narratives, of re-enchantment along a host of postsecular lines. The postsecular options under investigation in this project are particularly those that return to religious claims in general, and confessional Christian claims in particular. In this context, I look closely at variations of postsecular Christian myths of re-enchantment on offer in contemporary American poetry and prose through three writers: Christian Wiman, Marilynne Robinson, and Wendell Berry. I argue that each of these writers has articulated a confessionally Christian narrative of re-enchantment that challenges dominant forms of secularism while also taking issue with other-worldly, disembodied forms of Christianity that exhibit a low view of the material world. The choice of these authors and their arrangement in this project is not to suggest a clear aesthetic movement in contemporary American writing, but rather it is to note subtle progression in how the myth of disenchantment is challenged and myths of re-enchantment envisioned through postsecular forms of Christianity