New book from Dr. Ken Graham

Congratulations to Dr. Kenneth Graham on the publication of his book Disciplinary Measures from the Metrical Psalms to Milton (Routledge 2016). The description from the press (see below) is fabulous, which is exactly what I expected.

The press writes:

Disciplinary Measures from the Metrical Psalms to Milton studies the relationship between English poetry and church discipline in four carefully chosen bodies of poetry written between the Reformation and the death of John Milton. Its primary goal is to fill a gap in the field of Protestant poetics, which has never produced a study focused on the way in which poetry participates in and reflects on the post- Reformation English Church’s attempts to govern conduct. Its secondary goal is to revise the understandings of discipline which social theorists and historians have offered, and which literary critics have largely accepted. It argues that knowledge of the  early modern  culture of discipline illuminates some important poetic traditions and some major English poets, and it shows that this poetry in turn throws light on verbal and affective aspects of the disciplinary process that prove difficult to access through other sources, challenging assumptions about the means of social control, the structures of authority, and the practical implications of doctrinal change. More specifically, Disciplinary Measures argues that while poetry can help us to understand the oppressive potential of church discipline, it can also help us to recover a more positive sense of discipline as a spiritual cure.

Money and Awards!

English undergrad and grad students: is there any chance you would like to earn money  for your creative writing or even some of your English course assignments?

Submit your work to the 2016-17 English Department Awards!

Awards given for prose…poetry…essays…digital and communication design projects… professional writing…and more!

The deadline for most awards is February 28, 2017 (The Quarry Communication Award deadline is Feb. 15).

Visit for information about award categories and submission guidelines.

The Awards Ceremony will take place Friday March 31, 2017 at 1pm in HH 373.

Thinking about Thinging

Join us at the University of Waterloo English Department’s Critical Media Lab (44 Gaukel Street in Kitchener) on Thursday January 26th at 6pm.

This will be the third installment of the Salon Series this term and is entitled “Thinging.”  This talk will feature two presentations – one from Ian Pilon, and another from Nicholas Balaisis.

Find abstracts for the presentations below:



In this talk, Ian will share his experience of working in interaction design by tracing his own non-conformist ideologies of graffiti culture to his now unquenchable thirst for new knowledge in the DIY maker movement. The talk will discuss some of the things Ian has learned through his work in an attempt to address the hypothesis that we are witnessing a transitioning stage from an unconscious and unconnected human world into a globally connected and collaborative biosphere.

By linking the Internet of Things to a digital manifestation of a mycelium network, Ian will discuss how biomimicry is a part of this transition, as well as a new frontier to discover how to design the systems of a globally connected consciousness.

Ian Pilon is an Interaction Designer from Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario. He studies the relationship between humans and computers and how to design for interaction with physical objects that are evolving into the digital domain. He is the founder of IoT Waterloo Region, a community and professional networking group of over 1,700+ members who meet-up quarterly to discuss ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things. He is also the founder of KWs annual “Ambient Intelligence Conference”.



This talk looks at the emergent focus on “things” in Cuban films in the contemporary period. Architecture, technology, and everyday objects constitute an emerging area of interest for both Cuban and foreign filmmakers. What is of specific interest for many of these filmmakers is the persistence of older obsolescent objects and residual technologies that continue to find novel expression in Cuba. The talk situates these films within the renewed scholarly interest in things, or the new materialist turn, a turn that is in part connected to the perceived threat posed to materiality by ubiquitous digital media.

Nicholas Balaisis is the author of Cuban Film Media, Late Socialism and the Public Sphere (or Imperfect Aesthetics) (Palgrave 2016). He currently teaches courses in film and communication at U Waterloo and is the author of numerous journal articles.


Not another actuary: UW English alumni Dr. Kris Singh

We’ve shared a few stories about UWaterloo students and alumni who started out in other programs before landing in English. But this is the first time I’ve come across someone who came to UWaterloo for actuarial sciences–and from another country–only to land in English, continuing with a Masters (before travelling elsewhere for a Ph.D.). I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Kris Singh give a paper at a conference in Toronto; now I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him for Words in Place. Read on to find out more.–JLH

JLH: Can you tell us a bit about how you ended up at UWaterloo studying English?
KS: I’m from Trinidad, where UWaterloo has cultivated a reputation as offering an exceptional Actuarial Science program. Having studied mathematics and accounting in high school, I pursued admittance into the elite club that UWaterloo seemed with grand plans for becoming an actuary. After my entry into the mathematics program and despite excelling in terms of grades during my first semester, doubts pecked at my commitment to this subject. It gradually became clear that math and actuarial science were not for me as I witnessed amongst my peers a passion that made me envious. I wanted to be that passionate about what I was studying. At the same time, it was becoming more apparent to me how privileged I was to be pursuing tertiary education, and I felt that in order to make the most of this opportunity, I should be able to delight in my studies. I began exploring courses in the arts program because I was curious as to how they would contrast with the math, economics, and computer science courses I had done. English readily stood out to me. I did a short story course with Bruce Wyse, which exposed me to authors I had heard of but never had a chance to read. I realized that this is a field to which I could gladly give myself over.

JLH: In retrospect, do you think you things you privileged as a high school applicant actually mattered as much once you were in the program? Or did other things come to the fore?
KS: To some extent, I re-evaluated my priorities in my time at UWaterloo. As with most undergraduate students, my values either came under scrutiny or became especially hardened. My high school experience, which was largely structured by inherited British models, stressed individual competition and specialization from a young age. My education had been, in a sense, streamlined as it emphasized efficient, goal-oriented learning and unforgiving, highly consequential modes of assessment. At university, slowing down and broadening my intellectual scope became a priority. It may sound trite, but I desired the opportunity to roam and ruminate. I discovered that English afforded me this freedom and even necessitated such flexibility, unhurried reflection, and curiosity. So I made it my refuge. This transition allowed me to revise my perception of education as necessarily linear or as an investment in hopes of subsequent financial reward. I also began to note the wealth of Caribbean literature and history that I had never been aware of or had not taken the time to explore. Realizing that game-changing figures like Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant, C.L.R. James, and Sylvia Wynter were from these tiny islands humbled and invigorated me. If in my high school years I was readied and encouraged to move beyond my islands, then in my undergraduate years I began to realize how much those islands hold and how sincerely I must reflect on my relationship with them.

JLH: You did your MA here as well, before going on to do a PhD elsewhere. How did your time at UWaterloo prepare you for graduate school? Did it shape your interests?
KS: My MA at UWaterloo was crucial because it showed me how much I didn’t know and thereby renewed within me a craving to learn. Moreover, it highlighted the fact that while I needed to appreciate the boundaries and categories that organize knowledge into something that is approachable, I should not become defined by those limits. Though my MA allowed me to decide on my speciality of postcolonial literature, it also instilled within me a fear of becoming too comfortable within the perceived limits of this category. I say fear because I was/am afraid of missing out on all that is available to me through literature. The wide selection of graduate seminars at UWaterloo encouraged me to abandon any naïve notions of mastering an entire field or even a subset of that field in favour of accruing the skills and disposition needed to engage with literature of all types.

JLH: Now, with a PhD in hand, you are on the other side of the classroom. Do you regard your UWaterloo professors differently from that vantage point?
KS: Having now taught in various capacities, I have certainly developed renewed respect for the effort and intelligence of my former teachers. UWaterloo professors like Victoria Lamont, Tristanne Connolly, and Rebecca Tierney-Hynes directly influence my current pedagogical philosophy. Prof. Lamont’s graduate seminar modelled the academic rigour I try to inculcate in my class conversations. Her willingness to engage with students one on one informs the relationships I build with my students and my inclination toward honest dialogue. I distinctly remember Prof. Connolly’s graduate seminar because I was often stumped by some of our reading materials, but her passion for the material always came across in class and made me want to delve into the texts further. I’ve realized that modelling such contagious enthusiasm is much harder than it may seem, but I continue to strive for it. Finally, Prof. Tierney-Hynes, who made me think realistically about my reasons for entering graduate school, motivates my perception of students not as passive recipients but as active creators of meaning. These professors guide my definition of my classroom as a resource-rich, creative, hopeful space with purpose and consequence. I am deeply grateful for them.

JLH: Finally, what is on your list of fiction you can’t wait to read?
KS: Right now, I’m working through Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series. I first encountered Le Guin’s work in a science fiction course at UWaterloo, and I always meant to explore her work further. I’m finally able to get to it, and getting lost in the world she built affords me some space to decompress between semesters.

I’m also sitting with Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman, a necessary exploration of the legacy of indentureship. It helps me parse my cultural inheritance while also prodding my wonder about the generations of women in my family, how much I owe to them, how much I have learnt and can learn from them, how much I don’t know and may never know about them.

I’m looking forward to reading The Last White House at the End of the Row of White Houses, a poetry collection by fellow Kingstonian Michael e. Casteels. I also hope to get my hands on The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla. Finally, I must make time for Chelsea Vowel’s Indigenous Writes and Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake.

Top Ten Words in Place of 2016

Many of us are still reflecting on the events of 2016, and in that vein I decided it’s not too late to do a round-up of our top ten Words in Place posts published in 2016. This doesn’t mean they necessarily got the most hits; a few older posts have remarkable traction (anything to do with a certain Boy Who Lived, turkeys, Syria, or yoga). But they do represent the most read posts published during the calendar year. Read on to find out which posts had the furthest reach, perused by readers from Australia to Zimbabwe. And once again, thanks to all who participated in Words in Place in 2016.–JLH

  1. Congratulations to our newest PhDs
  1. The tragic hero, Twitter, and a teach-a-thon?
  1. Welcoming Dr. Vershawn Young to English
  1. English alum Rupi Kaur makes top seller list
  1. Using his degree at Microsoft: Alumnus Richard Lander
  1. How did Brittany Rossler’s MA jumpstart her career?
  1. A new book on Antiracist Pedagogy from our faculty
  1. Alumna Airlie Heung: where did her MA take her?
  1. An English MA by co-op?
  1. Rigel Nadaf: undergrad and onward!


Intersectional Identities in a Networked World

Join us for a talk “Not One: Intersectional Identities in a Networked World,” a lecture by Dr. Susan Brown, Friday, January 27, 2017 – 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM EST, Hagey Hall 373.

Susan Brown is Professor of English at the University of Guelph, where she holds a Canada Research Chair in Collaborative Digital Scholarship, and Visiting Professor in English and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta. She directs and co-edits Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present, an ongoing experiment in digital literary history published online by Cambridge University Press since 2006. She is also President (English) of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities / Societé Canadienne des humanités numérique, and leads the development of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory, a CFI-funded online repository and research environment for literary studies in Canada. Her current research focuses on using digital technologies for literary history, and spans aspects of text encoding, text mining, visualization, interface design and usability, and the impacts of technological innovation on Victorian literature.

Alumna Jill Waters on English & education


By her own admission, UWaterloo English alumna Jill Waters was “never the girl who said, ‘When I grow up I will be a teacher.'” Now she’s the head of English at a local high school. Her unexpected career path, her take on the value of English, and the ways in which the discipline is shifting in the high school as well as the university, make for compelling reading. And her book recommendations may be my favorite yet for a wintery January. Thank you to Jill for participating in Words in Place.–JLH

JLH: How did you decide to study English at UWaterloo? Was it a logical choice, do you think, or more of an intuitive one?
JW: It was definitely an intuitive decision. When I started university I had no idea what I wanted to study. While I was filled with uncertainty about the subject matter I wanted to focus on, I always knew I wanted to go to the University of Waterloo. During my high school years my father had been the manager at the CIBC located in the Student Life Center. As a result I spent time on campus and knew that UW was where I wanted to be. Studying English was something I stumbled into. During my first year I took an English course at St Jerome’s. I fell in love with the SJU campus, the class and the subject matter. I was so excited to attend the class, and to read the books that I decided to major in English with no idea of my future career plan. While I was envious of my friends who had clear paths, I was finally on an educational journey that made me question, think and engage.

JLH: We now have English degrees by co-op, streams in Rhetoric and Professional Writing, as well as Digital Media, and courses in everything from Chaucer to Harry Potter to Games Studies–do you think you would make different choices if you were enrolling now?
JW: I love language, literature, and media with equal passion. I would still want to study literature, but I would not want to focus so greatly on the Canon. When I attended university we all had the Norton Anthology, we all read the classics, took Shakespeare 1 & 2 and many courses in British literature. I am glad to have been exposed to these great works, but if I were to study English today I would love to take courses that look at more modern and international literature.

If I were a student today I would absolutely have to study Digital Media. It is fascinating to me how media has changed in the past decade and the immense impact it has on language, communication, business and entertainment.  I think anyone studying English should have to take courses in Digital Media as it is shaping our lives, choices, language, opinions and thoughts. It would be a shame to have a degree in English and not learn to understand how Digital Media has changed it.

JLH: I’m wondering if you see the same shifts in what it means to study English at the high school level as we have seen at the university level?
JW: I have been teaching for 12 years and in that time there have been several interesting shifts in this subject area. For example early in my career many courses had 5 units: poetry, the short story, the play, the essay and the novel. The focus was mostly on the text and text features. Now we often look at ideas in thematic ways, include digital media, and focus more specifically on developing literacy, writing and communication skills. Our courses are no longer defined by the common course text, but by the building of skills. In my own classroom I often use literature circles, student choice of text and varied media texts to encourage rich discussion, deep connections, and many opportunities for students to build reading, writing and speaking skills. I still find value in having a common course text, but realize this cannot be the only method of instruction. Furthermore a greater focus on inquiry based learning, collaboration, and creating for authentic audiences has shaped my own instruction. For example, my students often research in teams about issues that are presented in the novels they read, which allows them to connect their reading to their questions or real world issues. We use discussion boards and blogging so that the teacher is not the sole audience. While the core skills (reading, writing, analysis, speaking, etc.) in the English classroom remain the same, the means in which we teach and evaluate them have shifted.

JLH: You’ve both taught English and are head of a department currently. Could you chart that for us? Did your experience at UWaterloo shape your teaching in particular ways?
JW: I was never the girl who said, “When I grow up I will be a teacher.” But in my third year I realized I needed to find some focus. I needed a plan. I asked myself the question all English majors ask: what do I do with an English degree?  With some research, I realized there were a lot of options. I knew myself well enough to know that any job that required me to sit behind a desk staring at a computer would make me dreadfully unhappy. Through my class work, study groups and other experiences I knew I was very good at explaining ideas to others and loved working with people. As my work experience was limited to sales and bartending, I decided to volunteer in different potential career areas. I did a lot of volunteering. After volunteering at both an elementary and a secondary school, I realized I wanted to teach at the secondary level. I had a plan: finish 4th year, travel and work for year and then Teacher’s College. Fate intervened when I walked into the Student Life Center and was handed an information page about Griffith University. I realized I could travel and attend Teacher’s College. Upon my return from Australia, I was lucky enough to begin supply teaching right away. After a few months of supply teaching I got my first teaching job. I spent the next ten years teaching, taking courses, attending conferences, and developing my own professional leadership skills. While at university I learned to love learning. It is this love of learning that has made me continue to continually seek opportunities to learn. Last year I took on a new and exciting role: Head of English.  In the past 12 years I have learned a great deal and have continually grown as a teacher, but my time at university taught me a very valuable lesson: passion is important. Anyone who sat in a lecture given by Ted McGee or Eric McCormack knows that passion inspires learning, thinking and questioning. I will always remember that lesson.

JLH: Finally, I’m wondering if you might share a few of your favorite reads from the last year.
JW: I have so many favourite reads that this question is extremely difficult for me to answer. I love fiction, nonfiction, and have an obsession with cookbooks. Over the summer I read The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. The novel broke my heart, intrigued me and left me with a sense that the human spirit is ever resilient. I also really enjoyed The Nest by Cynthia D’apix Sweeney. It was light and funny. I recently read Bryan Cranston’s A Life in Parts. His life has been fascinating and his voice is engaging. I love cookbooks and have been spending my spare time reading Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites: A Cookbook. The mix of storytelling, beautiful pictures and recipes is perfection.

The book I recommend to everyone is Richard Wagamese’s Ragged Company. I read it in a day. I could not put it down. The writing is hauntingly beautiful and the characters are unique and tragic. Everyone should read this book.