UWaterloo English Profs in the News


Many of us are glued to the news right now, refreshing pages, delving into new sources, following and subscribing. If this is you, you may have noticed appearances by a variety of UWaterloo people. Here’s a brief round up of recent interviews and contributions.

Dr. Kofi Campell (VP, Academic and Dean at Renison, and a PhD in English)
“UW should have consulted Black faculty before issuing anti-racist statement”
The Record

“Academic says universities too worried about bad PR to deal with systemic racism”

Dr. Clive Forrester
Interviewed on the subject of monuments

Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young
“Banning the N-word on campus ain’t the answer — it censors Black professors like me”
The Conversation

Dr. Frankie Condon
“Bogus science in racist flyers a ‘classic’ white supremacist tactic, profs say”

Dr. Aimée Morrison
“How to avoid burnout from online activism”

“Universities respond to racist videos posted by students”


Performance Awards for Faculty


Congratulations to the UWaterloo English faculty who received Outstanding Performance Awards for 2019: Drs. Bruce Dadey, Jay Dolmage, Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, and Neil Randall.

Celebrating Our Newest PhDs

Congratulations to our most recent UWaterloo English PhD graduates. There may not have been an in-person ceremony this year, but that’s no reason not to recognize their achievements!

Dr. Judy Ehrentraut
Thesis: Disentangling the Posthuman: Broadening Perspectives of Human/Machine Mergers Through Inter-Relational Subjectivity

Dr. Jason Lajoie
Thesis: Technologies of Identity: A Queer Media Archeology

Dr. Evelyn Morton
Thesis: Wish You Were Here: Representing Trans Road Narratives in Mainstream Cinema (1970-2016)

Dr. David Thiessen
Thesis: The Flesh Made Mind: Language and Embodiment in Late Middle English Literature

Maša Torbica wins teaching award

Congratulations to PhD candidate Maša Torbica, who is the recipient of an Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching by a Student for 2020. As the committee writes: “She puts herself in the shoes of her students and as one-student states, she knew “that most of the class were international students whom did not speak English well, she realized that they were misunderstanding [class content] … and sought after ways to help those students understand the content better.” Torbica also supports student learning by making lessons more engaging through fun and personal activities that promote participation, and by assigning reflection journals to give students the opportunity to freely express their thoughts and opinions about the course. As another student describes, these teaching methods “not only made the lessons more memorable but made them more meaningful as well, helping to better connect to course content.” ” You can read more here.

Congratulations to Monique Kampherm

View More: http://clickphotography.pass.us/sageCongratulations to English PhD candidate Monique Kampherm, who was awarded a SSHRC and President’s Scholarship for 2020-2021. Monique was recently featured in the HASTAC Scholar Spotlight for the month of May. HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) is an alliance of more than 14000 humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning.

From Monique’s interview:

Digital scholarship fits into my research through the lens of social media and rhetoric. My dissertation examines how federal leader debates are evolving because of the rhetorical influence of social media. I also connect social media and rhetoric in my most recently published peer-reviewed article in Rhetor 8 (2019), “Democratic Prosopopoeia: The Rhetorical Influence of the I-Will-Vote Image Filter on Social Media Profile Pictures during the 2015 Canadian Federal Election.” Here I take an ancient concept first explored in the oratory of our earliest democracies, the notion of representative speaking, and show how it explains a very contemporary phenomenon, social media image filters. My research features the “I-will-vote” image filter worn over personal profile pictures in the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, showing how it leads individuals into becoming a stronger electoral advocate through the process of identification, observed through recurrent political online statements, voting selfies, and the inclusion of political hashtags.

Engl 346R: Global Asian Diasporas

Screenshot 2020-06-18 14.11.36Join Dr. Vinh Nguyen this fall for the online course English 346R: Global Asian Diasporas. In Fall 2020, the theme of Global Asian Diasporas will be on “Asian-Black Relations.” According to Dr. Nguyen: We will take up the question of Asian diasporic or trans(national) formation through the lens of comparative racialization, particularly how “Asian” is understood in relation to “Black.” Focusing primarily on North America, we will examine racialized constructions of Asians and how they function with and against Blackness. We will look to moments of conflict and collaboration to understand past and present forms of coalition-building as well as decolonial, antiracist, and solidarity activism.

Black Lives Matter Here: a virtual safe space


Black community members from University of Waterloo and the broader community are invited to a virtual space for support, community care, to voice their experiences with anti-Black racism, and action, facilitated by Dr. Christopher Taylor, and Victoria Rodney.

Black Lives Matter Here will be held online using a video link that will be provided once you register. This session will be an opportunity to explore individual and collective experiences on campus/KW/life as Black beings; and, to heal together. Register on the event webpage.

Thank you to Karice Mitchell for her artistry and vision in creating the Black Lives Matter Here graphic: http://www.karicemitchell.com/ and Instagram @yourblackauntie

Amplifying Voices

We’re all disheartened to hear the Central Park incident was perpetuated by a person with ties to UWaterloo. Our university president has released a strong statement condemning racism and affirming our desire to do better, alongside a list of initiatives. He includes a reminder that “if you have experienced racism, hate or oppression in our community, there are people here at the University who can help” including Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion and Campus Wellness. The ongoing commitment of the University of Waterloo Black Association for Student Expression (UW-BASE) also deserves recognition.

I’d also like to amplify the voices of those doing important work in Canada and elsewhere, through highlighting their work. This is, obviously, in no way exhaustive.

The Skin We’re In, Desmond Cole

Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada, Edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware

White Tears/Brown Scars, Ruby Hamad

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, asha Bandele

Policing Black Lives, Robyn Maynard

So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo

BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom, Rinaldo Walcott & Idil Abdillahi

Award for Dr. George Lamont

George Lamont
Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. George Lamont, who is the recipient of a 2020 Arts Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Those who have worked with Dr. Lamont can attest to the dedication he brings to his position, his advocacy for student experience, and his commitment to student learning.

Alumnus Joe Frank on Children’s Lit

Home-schooling during self-isolation has meant many people are attending to children’s literature and authors like never before. UWaterloo alumnus and picture book author Joe Frank and I had a virtual conversation about the value of children’s literature in a pandemic, what he enjoyed about UWaterloo, and the process of publishing his first book. Which is, in another timely twist, about a barber. Read on!

JLH: You’re a graduate of the now-defunct Independent Studies program–but the bulk of your courses were in English. What made you gravitate to our department?
JF: My plan applying to university was to study English Literature. I loved writing fiction and I wanted to do it myself. I entered the Independent Studies program at Waterloo, completed a number of self-directed courses, and wrote a collection of linked short stories. I gravitated to UWaterloo’s English department because, though I loved the independent work, I wanted community with fellow students, the guidance of English professors, and many of the courses related to the work I was doing on my own. The English Department’s courses were just too good to pass up. They introduced me to critical ideas on such subjects as alienation and isolation, the history of the novel, and Irish literature, to name a few that left a particularly lasting impression on me. I was lucky to find many great mentors, including Danine Farquharson, John North, and Whitney Hoth. I was like a dual citizen of the Independent Studies and English departments and recall those years as some of the most rewarding of my life.

JLH: Can you tell us a bit about how you ended up writing for children?
JF: Before I wrote I illustrated. Until I was 19 or 20, drawing was what I spent most of my time doing. I put that away, foolishly, when I began taking writing seriously as an undergrad. I focused on writing through my years at UWaterloo. I spent time at the Humber School for Writers and did a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. I tried to do a PhD, but while working on that I felt I was no longer doing the writing I wanted to do, and the absence left by my abandonment of drawing became very clear to me. What I really wanted was a life in which I could do both. By then, I was married and the father of three children, to whom I read several picture books every evening. I realized I was studying the picture books. Clear, concise short stories have always been my passion. The best picture books are clear and concise, with great illustrations to go with the prose. It seemed obvious that I should give this a try. It was while walking home, having dropped my kids off at school, that I came up with the idea for my rhyming kids book Arthur Garber the Harbor Barber. The words “harbor” and “barber” rhymed so perfectly and their cadence, said aloud, matched the pace of my footsteps. I wanted a name to go with them and I began saying the name of Canadian actor Victor Garber along with them. I couldn’t use his name in the story, so I chose the name Arthur for its phonetic similarity to the other words. At home, I quickly wrote the first draft. The book’s title, it’s premise, the rhymes, along with everything I had learned from reading so many picture books and studying the appetites of my kids’ imaginations – it all seemed to come together rather spontaneously. I allowed myself to listen to my silly ideas. I shared the subsequent drafts with my family. They were encouraging. I did some drawings to go with the words. Then I shared this rough work with a friend in publishing. I think she feared the story I begged to send her would turn out to be garbage. But when she saw it, she loved it and presented it to the publisher. It wasn’t long before I was signing a publishing contract.

JLH: What surprised you most about the process of publishing Arthur Garber the Harbor Barber?
JF: I was most surprised by my immediate desire to start writing and illustrating another book straight away. As soon as the final page of Arthur Garber the Harbor Barber was accepted, I was ready. There was no lag, no desire to not do it again, so shortage of idea number two, three, or four. I’ve published fiction for adults, and I love writing that, but that process is as torturous as it is pleasing and rewarding. I never know how serious I’m supposed to pretend I am. I’ve published academic research. That was considerably more difficult and, I’m sorry to say, not my passion, though I do reflect on that process fondly and regard the importance of research. It just wasn’t for me; I didn’t want to do it again straight away. But with the picture book it was different, a new thrill without the need to recover from the process. Perhaps this is because I get to do the two things I love most – writing and illustrating. Or maybe it’s because I have a short attention span, an inner restlessness, and the desire to do anything that impresses my kids.

JLH: Those of us social distancing with children at home have noticed how active children’s authors have been in reaching out to families at home. Do you see children’s authors as having a special role?
JF: I do think that children’s authors and artists have a special role to play during social distancing. I don’t think they’re obligated to fulfill that special role, but if they’re willing and able then they’re uniquely positioned to bring a lot of joy to kids and some relief to guardians. As an illustrator, I’ve been connecting with families online, participating in What Should I Draw campaigns. Kids propose illustration ideas and artists create them. I’ve also created and shared personalized colouring pages online and to friends and family. Other children’s literature creators are sharing rhymes, stories, illustration workshops, and recorded read-alongs. As a parent, I can say my kids have had a lot of fun with these activities. I believe it’s helped them process some anxiety they may feel being pent up at home and constantly exposed to a narrative of human vulnerability. At the very least, maybe it’s entertained them when they’ve needed a brief distraction.

JLH: Finally, because it’s fun to ask, what are you currently reading? Children’s book suggestions are especially welcome!
JF: I’m currently reading Charles Portis’ True Git. It’s a fun, succinct story full of truly engaging characters, meaningful stakes, and a lot of heart. I’m also reading – and I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t read this as a teenager or undergraduate – Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. When I can sneak it in, I’ve been picking away at Jeff Smith’s complete Bone comic. And to my kids I’ve been reading a lot of Curious George and William Joyce stories lately.