Dr. Coleman in UW Magazine

Dr. Beth Coleman of the Department of English Language and Literature is featured in the latest University of Waterloo Magazine. The article is titled “Ceiling Breakers“; Dr. Coleman appears in part 2. The issue, which includes articles on equity and diversity, was in part a response to a question posed to the editor: “Where are the women in your magazine?” Another piece, by alumna Leslie Woo, cites the deeply funny tumblr “Congrats, you have an all male panel!” (David Hasselhoff features prominently). Follow the links to hear what Beth Coleman has to say about it all.




Thinking Machines

machanical turk
Join speakers Dr. Fiona Coll, SUNY Oswego (English) and Dr. Bruce Pitman, University of Buffalo (Mathematics) for a lecture linking Arts and Math, titled “Thinking Machines.” According to the description, “This lecture will consider how our conceptions of thinking machines have evolved over the past 200 years and what issues may arise in the future.”

Thinking Machines
In the nineteenth century, mathematician Charles Babbage designed a programmable calculating machine that could execute algorithms with an accuracy and speed surpassing human abilities. Though Babbage’s mechanical computer remained unbuilt during his lifetime, his interest in developing machine intelligence anticipated twenty-first-century concerns about the promises, limitations, uses, and misuses of machine-generated data. This lecture will consider how our conceptions of thinking machines have evolved over the past 200 years and what issues may arise in the future. What does it mean to imagine machines “thinking”? What avenues are made available to us by the power of machine mathematics? And in what ways do calculating machines challenge our sense that human cognition is an exceptional phenomenon?

Friday, November 27, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo


Fiona Coll, Department of English and Creative Writing, SUNY Oswego

Fiona Coll is an Assistant Professor of Literature and Technology at SUNY Oswego. Her work explores the mutual constitution of machine intelligence and human agency in the new mechanical age of the nineteenth century. She is working on a book project about the appearance and function of the automation in nineteenth-century fictional, scientific, and political writing. Her writing can be found in Victorian Review, University of Toronto Quarterly, and at The Floating Academy.

Bruce Pitman, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University at Buffalo
Bruce Pitman holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Northwestern University and earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Duke University in 1985. His work at UB is marked by academic research and development of new and innovative graudate and undergraduate programs. He is the author or co-author of more than 70 papers and has been principal investigator or co-investigator on more than $10 million in research and equipment awards. He has conducted research in mathematical biology and in the field of granular materials; his recent work involves the modeling, computation and analysis of geophysical mass flows.

Moderator: Mario Coniglio, Associate Vice President, Academic, University of Waterloo

Note: The Campus Renewal Project is currently underway at St. Jerome’s University; therefore, parking is not available at St. Jerome’s.

African American Literatures of Resistance

Maybe you’re an undergrad shopping around for a winter 2016 400 level course, or maybe you’re just looking for some good winter reading: either way this description of English 486: African American Literatures of Resistance (T/Th 1:00-2:20) might be of interest. (Also note: it’s a seminar course, so no exams!)

What will happen in English 486? Which authors are featured? How about:

Frederick Douglass, who successfully escaped from slavery. His narrative includes the famous chiasmus “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”

Danzy Senna, who manages to work both 1980s rockers Hall & Oates and the funk band Earth, Wind and Fire into the same novel.

Etheridge Knight, who after serving an eight-year term published his first book, Poems from Prison, in 1968.

The spectacular Zora Neale Hurston, raised in the all-black town of Eatonville, which now holds an annual festival in her name.

Zora Neale Hurston, Class of 1928, Chicago, Ill., November 9, 1934

Zora Neale Hurston

Slam poet Saul Williams, who blends poetry, hip hop and more in his performances–and was featured in the 1998 film Slam. Oh yes, he also played Tupac Shakur on Broadway.

Harriet Jacobs, who escaped slavery but stayed in the same town, living in an attic for seven years until she could make her way north. While the attic was awful, she still managed to troll the man who held legal title to her while in hiding.

Octavia Butler, who wrote a science fiction novel which asks: what would happen if someone time travelled to the antebellum South?

Percival Everett, who so hated the novel on which the 2009 movie Precious was based that he wrote a whole book about it.

Not to mention: speeches by Malcolm X, Martin Luther King; poetry by Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez; “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”; music by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, as well as Marvin Gaye, and more…





Why is Dr. Warley “Digging up the Doll”?

UWaterloo English’s own Linda Warley will be giving a talk on Thursday, November 26, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. in ML 245. The talk is titled “Digging up the Doll: Inherited Memories of the Removal of German Nationals From Eastern Europe” and will be hosted by the Department of German & Slavic Studies.

“Digging up the Doll: Inherited Memories of the Removal of German Nationals From Eastern Europe”
In this paper I consider my mother’s experiences as a child refugee in 1945. She was just one of millions of German nationals who were forced from their homes in various parts of Eastern Europe during the final months of WWII when Hitler and Stalin moved the borders. I discuss how my mother’s story—and those like it—are passed on to their children and become part of the next generation’s subjectivities.

Literatures of Migration… and a Game

Dr. Vinh Nguyen is teaching English 280, Literatures of Migration, next semester (T/Th 11:30-1pm). It’s a study of migration in literary and cultural texts and features authors like Junot Díaz, Randa Jarrar, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kim Thúy, and more—including Susanna Moodie! So I thought a game would be fun. I’ve chosen excerpts from a number of the texts below; can you guess which one is by the iconic 19thC Canadian author Susanna Moodie? (Hint: she’s not the one writing about dal puri.) Have fun!

Play the game: Spot the Susannah Moodie!

“For your information, Mother, it’s 1969. What would you do if you actually left the house one day and saw a girl in a miniskirt?”
Mrs. Croft sniffed. “I’d have her arrested.”

Wait a minute, says the Indians, that is not a good idea. That is a bad idea. That is a bad idea full of bad manners.

The fish in the sink is dying slowly. It has a glossy sheen to it, as if its skin is made of shining minerals. I want to prod it with both hands, its body tense against the pressure of my fingers. If I hold it tightly, I imagine I will be able to feel its fluttering heart. Instead, I lock eyes with the fish. You’re feeling verrrry sleepy, I tell it. You’re getting verrrry tired.

I’ve been to India several times since the seventies. But I’ve never found the dal puri or rotis I grew up with in the Caribbean. To unravel this nagging mystery, I began retracing roti’s long and meandering journey.

I was sweating because I was scared and because it was 104 degrees outside, but I kept reading aloud about the girl who liked to ski. My pronunciation was awful and Mrs. Caruthers was obviously and irritably in need of a drink.

I moved forward in the trace of their footsteps as in a waking dream where the scent of a newly blown poppy is no longer a perfume but a blossoming: where the deep red of a maple leaf in autumn is no longer a colour but a grace; where a country is no longer a place but a lullaby.

We had every reason to be thankful for the firmness displayed by our rough commander. That same evening we saw eleven persons drowned, from another vessel close beside us while attempting to make the shore.

Maybe the swimming pool is the hangout of some racist group, bent on eliminating all non-white swimmers, to keep their waters pure and their white sisters unogled.

We left Cuba so you could dress like this? My father will ask over my mother’s shoulder. [I’ll say] Christ, we only left Cuba because Fidel beat him in that stupid swimming race when they were little.

Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody’s always going on about – he wasn’t no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots on his jock. And except for one period early in his life, dude never had much luck with the females (how very un-Dominican of him).

Our own Dr. Frankie Condon talks racecraft

You may not know it, but due to space issues, the UWaterloo English department is currently spread across three floors of Hagey Hall. While I wouldn’t mind seeing more of my colleagues on the second and third floors, I’m lucky to be in a first-floor hallway filled with amazing English faculty. Right next door to me is Dr. Frankie Condon, who is giving the talk cited above, on Islamaphobia and racecraft. Never heard of racecraft? Barbara Fields has defined it as:

the process by which racism becomes race. You don’t start with a perception of people being different, you start with racism which is a practice and an ideology out of which race emerges. You learn to recognize people as belonging to a race because you have been in the rituals of racism with them.

Dr. Condon’s talk is Wednesday, November 18th. For more information see the poster above.

We Have a Winner! OneSec’s Best Academic Sentence of 2014

You may recall that all the way back in July, Words in Place invited submissions for a prize, named OneSEC, for the best single sentence in an academic essay published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2014 by a scholar trained or nested in English. Reading submissions reminded me: we are a brilliant, witty, inventive discipline. Also, we should celebrate our writing more, read our colleagues more, and at least once or twice a year, deliberately read material that has nothing to do with our research. Here’s where reading submissions confounded me: when deciding what to submit, why did so many academics select sentences with gratuitous mentions of meat? All kinds of meat. Do we find meat inherently funny? Read the winning sentence and our honorable mention, and judge for yourself.

Dr. Peter Schwenger
“The scream is itself the horror, when read as Deleuze reads it: as a gaping hole through which the body tries to escape itself, but from which the flesh descends in all the materiality of meat.”
From “Phenomenology of the Scream,” Critical Inquiry 40 (Winter 2014), 382-395.

Dr. Schwenger is Professor Emeritus, Mount St. Vincent University, now affiliated with the English department at the University of Western Ontario and Resident Fellow at that university’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism.

Dr. Brian Macaskill
“The reading affects simul-prompted here are as much musico-mental as they are visuo-visceral: bodily-complex orthographic prompts shaping our response to characters constructed “only” from letters of the alphabet, like that Leopold Bloom whom by now we know well and whom we soon come to know is now walking along the Liffey quayside, approaching the Ormond where he will eat “with relish the inner organs” again at a supper of sliced liver with bacon and a bottle of cider (11.520), approaching at this or some contiguous point in time the Essex bridge (“Yes, Mr Bloom crossed bridge of Yessex” [11.229]) about to be cuckolded (again), and shaping our response also to the cuckolding agent himself, Blazes Boylan, who by chance stops by at the Ormond about now to drink a sloe gin “thick syrupy liquor for his lips” (11.365), lips on the way to an assignation with Molly Bloom at the Bloom residence on Eccles Street, lips which stop at the Ormond on the way despite being a little late for their date, “slowsyrupy sloe” (11.369). ”

From “Fugal Musemathematics Track One, Point Two: J.M. Coetzee, Ethics, and Joycean Counterpoint.” Word and Text: A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics 4.2 (2014): 115-129.

Dr. Brian Macaskill is Graduate Program Director, Department of English, John Carroll University.

Thank you to all who participated. For those who wish to submit a sentence for consideration in next year’s round, the same rules will apply, and the same email will be used.

Source of balloon and image: Etsy