Canadian Literature at UWaterloo


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We are fortunate to have a strong contingent of UWaterloo English faculty working in the area of Canadian Literature. From Linda Warley’s recent book on Canadian Graphic Narratives, to Win Siemerling’s award-winning publication on Black Canadian Literature, to Dorothy Hadfield’s monograph on women in Toronto theatre, our faculty publications span authors, eras, genres, ethnicities, and more. Read on to find out what our faculty with expertise in Canadian Literature are doing.

Veronica Austen writes “I have two projects imminent. Firstly, Ph.D. candidate Masa Torbica and I have co-organized a panel for the upcoming Association of Canadian and Québec Literatures. Our panel is titled “The Presence of Absence: Visual Hauntings in Canadian Literature” and will feature papers concerning intersections between the trope of haunting and the visual arts (photographs, architecture, pictographs). Secondly, I’m working on a couple of papers regarding the poet-painter Roy Kiyooka (I’d like to thank former SJU Prof Charlene Diehl for this interest since it was in her course in the first term of my MA that I discovered Kiyooka). In one paper, I chart his theorization of visual vs. written expression (likely taking his 1990 photoglyphic narrative “Pacific Windows” as my base text). And in the other, I explore elegiac constructions of Kiyooka (he died suddenly in 1994 and much of his writing plus the majority of scholarship surrounding his written work comes to us posthumously).”

Dorothy Hadfield has been working with Ann Wilson (University of Guelph) on the Canadian Women Playwrights Online project, an online resource that is part of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory. CWPO is working with playwrights to develop a bio-bibliographical resource that allows them to include information about themselves and their influences that more prescriptive biographies and listings don’t necessarily consider. She has also been trying to find time to get back into various Canadian theatre archives, trying to trace the historical disappearance of Canada’s first professional Shakespeare festival. For over a decade, the Earle Grey Shakespeare Festival produced a summer season of performances, concerts, lectures, and readings; ran a theatre training program (there’s even a former UW English professor on the audition roster); and toured productions to high schools and remote communities. Then a tent went up at Stratford, totally overshadowing the EGSF’s foundational efforts, and writing them out of Canadian theatre history. There’s a story there that needs to be told.

Jennifer Harris is finishing edits on “Hidden in Plain Sight: Uncovering the Career of Lucretia Newman Coleman” (forthcoming Legacy 34.2), about a 19thC Canadian-born black author. Her essay “Black Canadian Contexts: The Case of Amelia E. Johnson” (African American Review 49.3) recently received Honorable Mention, for the Darwin T. Turner Award for the best essay representing any period in African American or pan-African literature and culture in African American Review. She continues her work on a book about a black man who fled slavery with his family, ending up in Canada where he survived shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, wrestled French sailors, escaped wolves, brawled with circus performers, attended church, married three times, and wrote fiery letters to African Americans urging them to relocate north of the 49th parallel.

Shelley Hulan writes: “I just completed the final ms of a chapter on ethnicity in “Powers,” one of Alice Munro’s strange Souwesto stories. Surprisingly little has been written on the representations of ethnicity and race in Munro’s oeuvre, and both give readers plenty to think about. Now I’m working on a paper about a rhetoric of diplomacy in late eighteenth-century North America. ”

Vinh Nguyen‘s current project is entitled Circuits of Refugee Solidarity, and seeks to understand the relationship between different refugee and historically displaced groups in Canada. Focusing on the Mennonite, Vietnamese, and Syrian communities, Vinh investigates how and why former refugees advocate for, stand in solidarity with, and come to the aid of, those who seek asylum in Canada. He aims to narrate the connections and affiliations between refugee groups that dominant historical narratives fail to highlight. Such stories of “refugees helping refugees” critically reframe humanitarianism as involving the social and political agency of those understood primarily as beneficiaries of humanitarian acts; they enable us to perceive refugees not as passive objects of rescue, but political agents with the capacity to effect social change. He contends that refugee solidarity points to the social ongoingness of “refuge,” how it extends beyond singular moments to critically link together and illuminate multiple histories of displacement, asylum, and activism.

Win Siemerling has just published an essay on “New Ecologies of the Real: Nonsimultaneity and Canadian Literature(s)” (check it out in Studies in Canadian Literature 41.1), and a chapter about Mary Ann Shadd and “Transnational Perspectives on the Americas” in the new Routledge Companion to Inter-American Studies (on order for the library). He is now finalizing a chapter on “Black Activism, Print Culture, and Literature in Canada, 1850-65” for the multivolume African American Literature in Transition by Cambridge University Press, and works on his grant entitled “Call and Responsibility,” which explores how black Canadian texts, film, and music seek to involve audiences.

Heather Smyth is writing a book about the connections between social justice and collaborative writing in Canada: coalitions of writers as activists, editorial and literary collectives, face to face poetic collaborations, open online publicly authored texts, etc. She’s also starting to learn about community-based research methods and partnering with a Toronto women’s drop-in centre called Sistering to do a narrative-based collaborative research project.

Linda Warley will be heading to Dublin in April to deliver a presentation called “Before ‘Secret Path’: Residential School Memoirs from the 1970’s.” Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie recently released an album, a graphic novel (with Jeff Lemire) and a short video, which tell the story of a young Ojibway boy who escaped from one of Canada’s notorious Indian residential schools but died while trying to walk home. ‘Secret Path’ is a response to the 2016 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action and Downie uses his star power to bring attention to this shameful part of Canada’s history. At the “Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years” conference in Dublin, Linda will focus on the memoirs authored by residential school survivors themselves, books that were often published by small presses, reached small audiences, quickly went out of print and have been largely ignored by academics and the general reading audience alike.

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2 responses to “Canadian Literature at UWaterloo

  1. Lots of interesting Canadian Lit commentary to come!

  2. Thank you for the research updates!

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