Author Archives: jharris124

Congratulations Dr. Lacey Beer

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It’s been quite the week of defenses! We are pleased to offer congratulations to our newest PhD graduate, Dr. Lacey Beer. Today Dr. Beer defended her dissertation, “Tongues Tide: Translingual Directions for Technologically-Mediated Composing Platforms.

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Her supervisor was Dr. Frankie Condon,· with committee members Drs. Jay Dolmage and Vershawn Young. Dr. Jerry Won Lee of the University of California, Irvine served as external examiner. Dr. Beer’s research was supported by a SSHRC award and a President’s Graduate Scholarship, and she has published in The New Quarterly.

 

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Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Phil Miletic

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You may remember English PhD candidate Phil Miletic from previous posts, such as “A Week in the Life of a Graduate Student” and “Rewriting Gertrude Stein.” Well, now he has defended his dissertation, “Only Connect: The Virtual Communities of Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace,” and he is DOCTOR Phil Miletic. Congratulations!

Dr. Miletic has been active with UWaterloo’s First Person Scholar as well as our graduate student association. His publications have appeared in African American Review, Canadian Review of American Studies, and The International Journal of Comic Art and he has a piece forthcoming in Biography. His dissertation research was supported by a SSHRC award as well as the President’s Graduate Scholarship.

Dr. Miletic’s supervisor was Dr. Aimée Morrison, and his committee members Drs. Kevin McGuirk and Marcel O’Gorman. The internal examiner was Dr. Ian Milligan; the external examiner was Dr. Lori Emerson, University of Colorado at Boulder. Phil’s description of his dissertation follows.

“Only Connect: The Virtual Communities of Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace”

My dissertation compares Modernist imaginations and applications of early radio with Late Postmodernist imaginations and applications of the early internet. The American authors that I focus on and compare in my dissertation are Gertrude Stein, a Modernist, and David Foster Wallace, a Late Postmodernist. My dissertation asserts that Stein and Wallace each incorporate the techno-cultural imaginations and feelings of community through the democratic poetics and aesthetics of their work. Both Stein and Wallace engage with facilitating literary communities that form around emerging mass media––for Stein, the radio, and for Wallace, the blog––and provoke readers to participate in auto/biographical practices as a mode of discussing American identity, community, and democracy. Where the orality of Stein’s texts invites readers’ auto/biographical engagement, Wallace’s written depictions of mental health, addiction, and loneliness prompt readers to share auto/biographical narratives/disclosures related to those topics in the reading group discussions. Altogether, my dissertation engages with a unique media archeological combination of literary analysis, media studies, and critical media production in order to suss out the dynamic exploration of identity, community, and democratic participation these authors and their readers feel for within the mediascape of their respective eras.

Speculative Fiction & Identity

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. Victoria Lamont and PhD candidate Meghan Riley, who have together received a Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement (LITE) Grant for the project “Changing Bodies, Changing Minds: Utilizing Speculative Fiction to Teach Intersectional and Postcolonial Theories.” The project, which runs from fall 2018 through August 2019, will “investigate innovative approaches to enhancing teaching and learning” by examining students’ awareness of the interrelated aspects of identity based on race, sex, class, and gender, as well as how discrimination is often based on multiple intersecting identity markers, through science fiction, fantasy, horror, and alternate history. The intent is to “foster deep student learning” through engaging students in a consideration of how shapeshifters – human characters who can change form and assume different races and sexes – are indicative of race and gender as social constructions. Moreover, it will pair speculative fiction literature with popular speculative fiction television, appealing to students’ interests across media and increasing the likelihood that students will use course concepts to analyze speculative fiction TV.

Image credit: Deviant Art

 

English PhD student joins GRADtalks

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Join English PhD candidate Evelyn DeShane, who will be participating in GRADtalks, an initiative of UWaterloo’s Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. The topic is social networks, and Evelyn will be joined by Robert Gauthier, PhD Candidate, Public Health and Health Systems Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. Robert investigates how online communities are supporting sensitive topics such as addiction recovery; Evelyn studies how trans people take back narrative control through stories, films, apps, and other social networks. Evelyn’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic’s Tech Channel, Plenitude Magazine, Bitch Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, Vitality Magazine, and The LGBTQ Policy Journal, and elsewhere. Details are below.

September 27, 2018
3:30 – talks, including question and answer
4:45 – wine and cheese
NH – Ira G. Needles Hall Room 3407 – Board and Senate Room

Registration is required.

Welcoming Dr. Stacy Denton

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You may have thought we were done with the blog posts welcoming new faculty, but we have one more to sneak in as classes start! Dr. Stacy Denton earned her PhD at Concordia, and most recently taught at York University; she will be dividing her time between UWaterloo English and Arts First. During her interview day she gave a teaching presentation that generated significant debate and discussion among faculty, while also providing significant humour. I’m positive students will be as enthusiastic as we are!

JLH: Welcome to UWaterloo. You have an interesting position, in that you will be teaching in English as well as the Arts First Initiative.  Do you anticipate any differences?
SD: Thanks — I’m really looking forward to this upcoming year! I do think that there will be significant differences in my experience with the English classroom and the Arts First classroom at UWaterloo. The most important difference that I anticipate is the fact that Arts First is focused specifically on first-year students who are just beginning to navigate their postsecondary education and may not know what discipline they want to pursue. This will require me to introduce concepts related to the fields that we associate with English at UWaterloo, as well as provide a sustained focus on the process of engaging with these concepts in an academic setting. As a result, my Arts First classrooms will spend a lot of time drawing out critical thinking and analysis of texts and ideas, and how this can be accomplished through both writing and — gasp — presentation. In the English classroom, at least for non-academic writing courses, there will be less emphasis on strengthening skills and “finding one’s voice” in the same kind of way. Because we can focus less on adjusting to the academic context, my content-driven English courses will more deeply engage with theoretical concepts and close reading of texts (literary, filmic, or otherwise) in light of the unique expertise that students bring to these materials.

JLH: You have significant experience teaching academic writing at different levels: what has been the most rewarding part of that for you?
SD: In order to answer that question, I think that I need to refer to the phrase just mentioned in my last response: the most rewarding part of teaching academic writing is helping students “find their voice” in an academic context that may initially seem alienating or, at the very least, impersonal and strange. I have worked with students at all levels of their academic careers, from first-year students to PhD candidates, and I have noticed that while students at these different stages face different challenges, there is a resounding similarity in the struggles surrounding “academic” writing. For example, writers at all levels will face, at some point, writer’s block or just a feeling of not being able to write anything coherently. In my experience (with my own writing and in guiding other people’s writing), these issues arise due to the anxiety that occurs as people push themselves beyond their comfort zones, as they engage with new ideas and incorporate them with their own perspectives. Instead of ignoring this uncomfortable feeling, I encourage students to embrace it, as it is my belief that the discomfort and insecurity that accompanies this stage of inquiry is an important part of growing as a writer and a scholar. “Finding one’s voice,” then, becomes more than one’s writing style (although, of course, this is fundamental!), but to embrace all the aspects (both positive and negative) that make someone a unique and important contributor to knowledge — and when somebody “gets” that, it is a nice thing to see.

JLH: Can you tell us a bit about your academic research, and how you might bring it into the classroom?
SD: In a general sense, I have been (and continue to be) interested in the postwar (1945-1970) period in the US. It was such a fascinating time period due to the seismic social, cultural and economic shifts that occurred in what must have seemed like an instant. It is also fascinating because these changes and their aftereffects still resonate in the 21st century. But what I have been primarily interested in researching are the ways that representations of the rural, white, working-class were (are) used to help make sense of these changes. The similarity of these postwar representations across journalism, the social sciences, literature, film, and popular culture is very striking; it is almost as if this demographic became one of the important characters in the narratives of progress and development that were propagated across the postwar. However, while I love to talk about this specific time period and this particular kind of representation in my courses, I can’t always do so given the mandate of a given course. But what I concretely bring into my classroom from my research is an emphasis on the usefulness of interdisciplinarity in helping us understand the many layers of a society through its different kinds of “texts.” Through this emphasis, I also try to highlight how different disciplines speak to and strengthen each other.

JLH: Many academics find their interests either shift post-dissertation, or broaden. Has this been the case with you?
SD: Absolutely! There is a lot of unfinished business that I feel I could only touch upon in my dissertation and wanted to explore further. For example, in my dissertation, I was very much concerned with isolating a potential counter-narrative to the discourse that pushed a very specific kind of “American-ness” that seemed to be largely defined through a middle-class sub/urban lens. I want to further understand how this narrative/counter-narrative continues to influence the US in the late-20th/early-21st century, and more recently, I have pursued this interest through analyzing the ways that film engages with the larger socioeconomic shifts occurring in rural areas in the 1980s and 1990s. I also think things in this arena have gotten infinitely more complicated in the last five years, and I am only starting to touch on that topic. I have also found that, because of my focus on teaching across disciplines and the time that is required to organize different kinds of classrooms, I have become fascinated by some topics that are quite different from what I originally started researching. For example, I am currently investigating the work of the postwar painter and writer Rosalyn Drexler, something that is certainly adding to the quilt of texts that I am using to understand the importance of the postwar period. And, finally, I want to embark on a new scholarly avenue that considers the role of interdisciplinary pedagogy in the 21st century university. This scholarly interest is very much inspired by my experience of teaching in different places, across different disciplines, in the last ten years.

JLH: Finally, what are the books you’ve most enjoyed reading for pleasure this past year?
SD: Three books that I have read for pleasure in the last year and that stand out to me are Alice Munro’s The Lives of Girls and Women, Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and a re-read of Thoreau’s Walden. Although I am familiar with Munro, I had never read this particular work, and I felt that it was time to pick it up. There aren’t many writers who can capture the quiet desperation of people with seemingly few choices, but as with Munro’s other writing, this work really draws out just how complex such an experience can be. I mention Edwards’ novel here as well because I was surprised at how enjoyable it was (I had randomly picked it up at a used book store and didn’t bring any expectations to it). Among other things, it is a beautifully written meditation on the failures of the American Dream, and what people feel they need to give up to achieve it. And, finally, in light of the current political and cultural divisions of our present context, I wanted to return to Walden. Although written in a completely different set of circumstances, I feel that Thoreau still offers us things to think about in light of the pursuit of unthinking economic “progress.” In particular, what do we give up as individuals and as a society when we become too complacent with “the way things are”? Who gets sacrificed for the comfort of the few, and at what environmental and moral price? And, perhaps most importantly, he seems to be asking the reader what it is they are going to do once they have answered these questions for themselves.

Congratulating Dr. Dhruba Neupane!

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English PhD student–and now graduate–Dr. Dhruba Neupane. On September 6th Dr. Neupane successfully defended his dissertation, titled  “Plurality, promises and practice: A case of Nepali immigrants’ transliterating and translanguaging in Canada.” Dr. Neupane was supervised by Dr. Jay Dolmage, with a committee composed of Drs. Frankie Condon and Heather Smyth. The external ·examiner was Dr. Iswari Pandey of English, California State University, Northridge.

The description follows.

“Plurality, promises and practice: A case of Nepali immigrants’ transliterating and translanguaging in Canada”

This dissertation is a community-based study among sixteen Nepali immigrant students in graduate and undergraduate programs that have intensive writing, research and communication components. It combines group discussions, interviews, case studies and participant observations to explore the ways featured migrants adapt, appropriate, repel and repeat dominant practices of meaning making in academic and social spaces. Participants’ phenomenological experiences and narratives consist of difficulties in navigating unfamiliar academic and social expectations, especially at the transitional stage; the lack of appropriate support mechanisms; the presence of direct and indirect forms of racism; the resolve to challenge existing strange-making practices, and the hope for a better future. This research further shows that migrants’ hybrid literacy and epistemological practices go beyond what can be contained within the established academic writing grids. While the research problematizes a romanticized narrative within some multilingual scholarships: that multilinguals ‘carry’ mobile and portable language and communicative resources available for an uncomplicated usage and seamless blending; it stresses the need to actively and qualitatively approach difference in ways that appreciates diverse ways of meaning making, doing, being and valuing that the sheer presence of our students, particularly those marked as linguistic and cultural Others, demand of us. The central ask of this this dissertation is to diversify our practices from what appear to be more of the same in different guises. For example, various language and cultural difference-based approaches including the bi-multi- pluri- turns have been identified as not significantly punctuating Eurocentric privileges. More specifically, participants will help us know that English monolingualism persists in academic and institutional settings despite translingual realities outside, because it is defended and framed in terms of student, community, and market needs— often encapsulated in the discourse of “reality outside” and represented as a passport to success, growth, and upper socio-symbolic mobility. Participants in this research join diversity and plurality debates, including multiculturalism, and suggest ways in which to pluralize and diversify existing additive-accretive and discrete-separate ways and views of plurality and diversity.

Typewriters! Femme fatales! Zeppelins!


English 460A: Early Literature of the Modernist Period in the United Kingdom and Ireland, taught by Dr. Dorothy Hadfield this fall, promises modernism as you’ve possibly never imagined it. Typewriters! Zeppelins! ZEPPELINS! There’s something delightfully steampunk about it all. Read on to find out more about English 460, which runs Tuesday/Thursday 10:00-11:20am.

Vampires. Prostitutes. Typewriters. Femme fatales. Zeppelins.
As the world moved towards the 20th century, the spirit of modernism was in the air… and on the ground, and in the machines…. Literature of the fin-de-siècle reflected both the optimism and the anxiety of a nation in transition. This is the age of Dracula and Sherlock Holmes—villains intent on destroying the sociopolitical order and agents intent on thwarting them. It’s the age of Major Barbara, pitting a Salvation Army crusader against her arms-dealer father in an argument over which of them will save the world. But some of the most controversial literature of the period revolved around Grant Allen’s notorious novel The Woman Who Did, hotly debating the propriety of what the woman did – or didn’t – do. In this course, we will look at both the literary texts and the historical and social contexts in which they were written to examine how a range of early modernist writers were coming to terms with the future they see approaching.