Author Archives: jharris124

Turning Back the Doomsday Clock

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On January 29, join English’s Dr. Andy McMurry for a discussion with colleagues from the Humanities to understand the real threats, and possible actions for turning back the clock. The event is being held at the Kitchener Public Library, main branch — 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener, from 7-9pm.

Alexander Lanoszka, Political Science

Back to the Future? Nuclear weapons modernization and great power competition seem to make global politics more dangerous than ever. But what, if anything, is different about our current situation from what we experienced during the Cold War?

Andrew McMurry, English Language and Literature

Everybody talks about climate change but nobody does anything about it. Why are we failing to adequately address this existential threat to the planet? It turns out that communicating the threat of climate change is as challenging as the problem itself. How do our favoured narratives and metaphors condition us to do nothing as the catastrophe unfolds?

Kate Henne, Sociology and Legal Studies

Disruption, Debilitation, Doom? What threats do disruptive technologies pose? According to the Doomsday Clock settings, they undermine democracy and political institutions. But, how do they disrupt other aspects of everyday life? Looking at their mundane effects may tell us a lot about risk and social change.



Games: Make, Explore, Interact

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The Games Institute, founded and headed by English’s Dr. Neil Randall, is hosting a Global Game Jam, an opportunity to MAKE games, explore new game ideas, and interact with fellow game-lovers in an exciting and relaxed environment. Learn something, teach something, make something, and play something!

You can build your own games from scratch along with helpful advice and guidance from our GI mentors. You can create your own game mechanic, gameful art, game characters and narrative, or try your hand at coding for your very own game prototype.

This Winter 2019 term, the GI is proud to be a Global Game Jam Site:

The upcoming Jam will be Friday, January 25th at 4:30pm – Sunday January 27th at 6:00pm, at Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum Nano Centre (QNC) Room 1502, University of Waterloo.

To learn more about the event, you can visit here:

This event requires registration. Register here:… and pay for your ticket here:…/game-jam-reg….

LEARN Event: January 24th, @Games Institute (EC1), 5pm – 9pm, FREE EVENT.

MAKE Event: January 25th at 4:30pm through January 27th at 6:00pm – $15/ticket – QNC 1502 & 2502:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Tickets are $15 can be purchased online via Shopify. Please note that both the online payment form AND the Eventbrite guest registration are necessary to attend this event. The cost of your ticket gives you access to the event, lunch on both days, and use of our equipment throughout the weekend.

Where did the Critical Media Lab go?

Planning on attending a CML event? Then this will be important information! The Critical Media Lab, of the University of Waterloo English Department, is now located in the Tannery, within Communitech‘s corporate innovation lab, 151 Charles St W., Kitchener. They report: “We’re excited to bring our lens on critical making and ethical tech into this environment.” Expect to hear more about upcoming events hosted in this space.

Jason Lajoie’s PhD Research: video + award

Congratulations to English PhD Candidate Jason Lajoie, who received second place in UWaterloo’s GRADFlix competition. GRADflix competitors are judged on a video, moving slide show, or animation of no longer than one minute in length that describes their research.  Jason’s submission, Making gay identities: Queer media practices queering media technologies, explains his dissertation work. To learn more about GRADFlix, visit their site.

Finding readers in the margins: a new faculty book

It’s not at all odd that I love marginalia, is it? I once wrote all of the archives libraries that held a copy of a particular eighteenth-century book and asked them if they would share all hand-written notes in the book with me. The results were fantastic. I found family arguments inscribed on title pages, emotional responses to tragic events–“THE HORROR!”–and failed courtships remembered. Marginalia has the potential to tell us so much about how people used literature and related to books. That’s why I am thrilled that UWaterloo English professor Dr. Katherine Acheson has just edited a new collection Early Modern English Marginalia, published with Routledge. Here’s more evidence of why this is an absolutely fascinating book:

Marginalia in early modern and medieval texts – printed, handwritten, drawn, scratched, colored, and pasted in – offer a glimpse of how people, as individuals and in groups, interacted with books and manuscripts over often lengthy periods of time. The chapters in this volume build on earlier scholarship that established marginalia as an intellectual method (Grafton and Jardine), as records of reading motivated by cultural, social, theological, and personal inclinations (Brayman [Hackel] and Orgel), and as practices inspired by material affordances particular to the book and the pen (Fleming and Sherman). They further the study of the practices of marginalia as a mode – a set of ways in which material opportunities and practices overlap with intellectual, social, and personal motivations to make meaning in the world. They introduce us to a set of idiosyncratic examples such as the trace marks of objects left in books, deliberately or by accident; cut-and-pasted additions to printed volumes; a marriage depicted through shared book ownership. They reveal to us in case studies the unique value of marginalia as evidence of phenomena as important and diverse as religious change, authorial self-invention, and the history of the literary canon. The chapters of this book go beyond the case study, however, and raise broad historical, cultural, and theoretical questions about the strange, marvelous, metamorphic thing we call the book, and the equally multiplicitous, eccentric, and inscrutable beings who accompany them through history: readers and writers.

Image credits: Routledge, Centre for Material Texts

Alumna’s new memoir: Bird-Bent Grass

University of Waterloo English alumna Kathleen Venema is an Associate Professor at the University of Winnipeg. But it is her experience in UWaterloo’s English program, where she completed both an MA and a PhD that she credits with shaping her new memoir, Bird-Bent Grass: A Memoir, in Pieces. Writes Dr. Venema “From start to finish, Bird-Bent Grass evinces critical, analytical, and creative skills and deft rhetorical shaping that honours what I learned throughout my studies at the University of Waterloo.” The press describes the work as follows: 

Bird-Bent Grass chronicles an extraordinary mother–daughter relationship that spans distance, time, and, eventually, debilitating illness. Personal, familial, and political narratives unfold through the letters that Geeske Venema-de Jong and her daughter Kathleen exchanged during the late 1980s and through their weekly conversations, which started after Geeske was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease twenty years later.

In 1986, Kathleen accepted a three-year teaching assignment in Uganda, after a devastating civil war, and Geeske promised to be her daughter’s most faithful correspondent. The two women exchanged more than two hundred letters that reflected their lively interest in literature, theology, and politics, and explored ideas about identity, belonging, and home in the context of cross-cultural challenges. Two decades later, with Geeske increasingly beset by Alzheimer’s disease, Kathleen returned to the letters, where she rediscovered the evocative image of a tiny, bright meadow bird perched precariously on a blade of elephant grass. That image – of simultaneous tension, fragility, power, and resilience – sustained her over the years that she used the letters as memory prompts in a larger strategy to keep her intellectually gifted mother alive.

You can read an interview with the author here, where she talks more about the experience of writing such a book, as well as the events that inspired it. Or follow the CBC coverage here.

New book from new faculty member

You may remember we welcomed Dr. Jennifer Clary-Lemon to our department in 2018. Well, we have more exciting news to share: her book, Planting the Anthropocene Rhetorics of Natureculture, is now available for purchase. To find out more, read this fascinating–treeplanters!–description from the press:

Planting the Anthropocene is a rhetorical look into the world of industrial tree planting in Canada that engages the themes of nature, culture, and environmental change. Bringing together the work of material ecocriticism and critical affect studies in service of a new materialist environmental rhetoric, Planting the Anthropocene forwards a frame that can be used to work through complex scenes of anthropogenic labor.

Using the results of interviews with seasonal Canadian tree planters, Jennifer Clary-Lemon interrogates the complex and messy imbrication of nature-culture through the inadequate terminology used to describe the actual circumstances of the planters’ work and lives—and offers alternative ways to conceptualize them. Although silvicultural workers do engage with the limiting rhetoric of efficiency and humanism, they also make rhetorical choices that break down the nature-culture divide and orient them on a continuum that blurs the boundaries between the given and the constructed, the human and nonhuman. Tree-planting work is approached as a site of a deep-seated materiality—a continued re-creation of the land’s “disturbance”—rather than a simplistic form of doing good that further separates humans from landscapes.

Jennifer Clary-Lemon’s view of nature and the Anthropocene through the lens of material rhetorical studies is thoroughly original and will be of great interest to students and scholars of rhetoric and composition, especially those focused on the environment.