Author Archives: jharris124

A Novel about UWaterloo

Normally, we tend to confine our posts to the happenings in and around UWaterloo’s English department. But a novel by a UWaterloo alumnus which is partially set on campus, and involves werewolves and vampires–as well as explosions on campus–would seem to merit some sort of notice! James Alan Gardner, a math graduate from the 1970s, is the author of All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (MacMillan, Tor, 2017), a science fiction/comedy in the vein of Terry Pratchett.  As the press writes:

Monsters are real. But so are heroes. Sparks are champions of weird science. Boasting capes and costumes and amazing super-powers that only make sense if you don’t think about them too hard, they fight an eternal battle for truth and justice . . . mostly.

Darklings are creatures of myth and magic: ghosts, vampires, were-beasts, and the like. Their very presence warps reality. Doors creak at their approach. Cobwebs gather where they linger.

Kim Lam is an ordinary college student until a freak scientific accident (what else?) transforms Kim and three housemates into Sparks―and drafts them into the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. They struggle to master their new abilities―and (of course) to design cool costumes and come up with great hero-names.

Turns out that “accident” was just the first salvo in a Mad Genius’s latest diabolical scheme. Now it’s up to four newbie heroes to save the day, before they even have a chance to figure out what their team’s name should be!


Where is undergrad Tyler Black going?

Waterloo English Undergraduate Research

By Paula de Villavicencio

University of Waterloo English undergraduate student Tyler Black secured a spot in the first round competition of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Design of Communication (ACM SIGDOC) Student Research Competition. The competition will take place this summer at the association’s annual conference, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Microsoft-supported event provides up to 500 dollars (US) to assist with travel costs for students selected to participate. Black’s research investigates several post-secondary courses that incorporate cross-disciplinary material, and the manner in which the course instructors communicate not only the core disciplinary content, but also cross-disciplinary lessons.

Black’s interest in cross-disciplinary technical communication stems from their own educational and work experience. Having worked as a technical communicator, and completed studies first in Physics and then in English, Black has a range of experience to help frame these pedagogical questions. Black also developed their research skills during several research assistantships as part of a Fall 2017 co-op term. Black worked on three different University of Waterloo projects: Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher’s Networked Expertise project; with the Games Institute’s Virtual Reality group (work Black has been involved with as a research assistant will be presented at the upcoming Lake Ontario Visionary Establishment 2018 Conference), and with Dr. Randy Harris’s Computational Rhetoric group (work Black has been involved with as a research assistant will be presented at the upcoming CMNA 2018 Conference and the IACS 2018 Conference).

As a continuing research assistant with the Networked Expertise project in the Waterloo Science and Technical Communication Group (@WatSciComm on Twitter), Black recognized their own research interests in terms of post-secondary education and training. “Being at the University of Waterloo itself has really allowed me to work in such an interdisciplinary field, and has given me a place to do this amount of research at an undergrad level,” commented Black. “Being part of the WatSciComm team has also aided me in my research, not just because of the amazing resources, but also the great team I’ve worked with.” Black was granted ethics approval for their study of cross-disciplinary classrooms, allowing them to publish the results, the culmination of which will not only be presented at the 2018 ACM SIGDOC student research competition, but will also form the basis for Black’s Undergraduate Honours Essay.

Black will be continuing their education at the University of Waterloo as a Master’s student in the Rhetoric and Communication Design program in Fall 2018. They will also stay on the WatSciComm team as a research assistant with Dr. Mehlenbacher. Black explained, “if you have something that you want to do, something that might benefit not just your own education but the education of other people, then you should go for it.”

Photo credit: Paula de Villavicencio

Poetry and Complexity Event

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What do the following three people have in common?

Madhur Anand, Waterloo Institute for Complexity & Innovation (WICI) Director, theoretical ecologist, and poet

Roald Hoffman, Nobel Prize-winning theoretical chemist and poet

Rae Armantrout, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Guggenheim Fellow

They are all participating in the event Poetry & Complexity, Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at the University of Waterloo Davis Centre, Room 1301, from 4pm-5pm, with a cocktail reception to follow from 5pm-6pm (complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cash bar). The event will be moderated by English’s Dr. Sarah Tolmie.

Please RSVP to:

Alumna Eleanor Sudak wins HeforShe

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Congratulations to English alumna Eleanor Sudak, who is among the winners of the 2018 HeForShe writing contest at University of Waterloo. Eleanor won first place in the poetry category for her poem “Today We Say Thailand.” The winning submissions have been published in a special anthology presented by the Book Store and Writing Centre in support of the HeForShe 10x10x10 IMPACT framework.

English was well represented on the judging panel and included Dr.  Sarah Tolmie (English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts), PhD candidate Tommy Mayberry (who is also an Instructional Developer, Centre of Teaching Excellence), and MA candidate Marisa Benjamin.

The rhetoric of Kickstarter?

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, whose article “Crowdfunding Science: Exigencies and Strategies in an Emerging Genre of Science Communication” in Technical Communication Quarterly received honorable mention for the Nell Ann Pickett Award from the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing. According to the abstract:

Crowdfunding is a novel mechanism for garnering monetary support from the online public, and increasingly it is being used to fund science. This article reports a small-scale study examining science-focused crowdfunding proposals from By exploring the rhetoric of these proposals with respect to traditional grant funding proposals in the sciences, this study aims to understand how the language of science may be imported into this popular genre.

Image: Kickstarter

Congratulating our PhD students

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It’s the time of year when our PhD students once again participate in UWaterloo Arts’s Three Minute Thesis competition. The 3MT is “a friendly but intense contest where graduate students present the complexities of their research in an engaging and accessible way before a live audience” in just three minutes. The winner will represent Arts at the University of Waterloo 3MT final competition on March 21. And this year’s winner is English’s Jason Lajoie, who presented “Queering Media Technology, Queer Media Practices 1890-2018.” Meghan Riley, also a PhD candidate in English, placed third with “Changing Bodies, Changing Minds: Reading and Watching Speculative Fiction for Teaching Social Change.” Jason is being supervised by Dr. Marcel O’Gorman and Meghan by Dr. Victoria Lamont. Congratulations to our winners!

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Unsettling Conversations at Waterloo

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English’s Dr. Frankie Condon is one of the many UWaterloo faculty participating in a teach-in titled “Unsettling Conversations at Waterloo.”

In the wake of recent acquittals in the murders of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine and the ensuing national discussions, a diverse group of faculty are opening their classrooms or hosting teach-ins and conversations during the week of March 5, to talk about the ways in which structural racism exists and supports systemic and interpersonal violence toward Indigenous people. All are welcome at these events, whether you have experience with the ideas or are simply curious about what different disciplinary or interdisciplinary lenses bring to the table.

As researchers and teachers, we are exploring how we think and feel about these trials and the connections between them, our research, and our presence as settlers/guests on the Haldimand Tract. We are putting together a series of events not because we share a unified vision of what needs to be done, or a political position, but rather to initiate a culture of robust, respectful and uncomfortable conversation around indigenous-settler relations among non-indigenous peoples. We hope that this will expand the space available for facilitating the exchange of experiences, challenges, and questions as we address the complexity of socially relevant issues in education.

Some of the topics we invite everyone to consider include:
Where does racism come from historically, and how is it maintained presently, in the very fabric of what is currently called Canada?
What is settler privilege and power, and how does it contribute to ongoing genocide?
How does land ownership operate in the production of a nation, and what other ways are there to think about land?

Monday, Mar 5, 2018
Hagey Hall Hub second floor “Treehouse” room*, 11:30 am -12:50 pm
Open Classroom for PACS 301 – Settler Colonial Violence
Narendran Kumarakulasingam, Peace and Conflict Studies
With guest Craig Fortier, Social Development Studies
“Settler (In)justice: A Conversation about Land”

How and why are indigenous bodies continually targeted for elimination in Canada? What is our connection here at the university with the killings of Colten Boushie, Tina Fontaine and myriad others? You are invited to join PACS 301 for a conversation about land, bodies and (in)justice.
*Accessibility note: “Treehouse” is at the top of the first flight of stairs on the left. Hagey Hub elevator does NOT work. Working elevator is in old Hagey wing next to the Hub.

Monday, Mar 5, 2018
Location Brubacher House, 6 pm
Open Classroom for History 247 – Mennonite History
Marlene Epp, History/Peace and Conflict Studies
“Settler Family Stories on Indigenous Land in Waterloo”

Wednesday, Mar 7, 2018
Room ML 349, 11:30-12:50
Open Classroom for  Phil 371 / WS 365 – Philosophy of Race
Shannon Dea, Philosophy
Discussing Chapter 1 of Sheila Cote-Meek’s Colonized Classrooms.

Wednesday, Mar 7, 2018
Room PAS 2438, 3 pm – 4 pm
Presentation and discussion
Sorouja Moll, Drama and Speech Communication
“Rhetoric of Nation Building: Archive, Media, and Discourses of Race”

Friday, Mar 9, 2018
Room PAS 2438, Noon-1:30 pm
Presentations and discussion
Trevor Holmes, Women’s Studies
“Settler and Indigenous figures in the narrative production of Algonquin Park as Crown Land”
Reina Neufeldt, Peace and Conflict Studies
“‘Off my land?’ A story of fear, loss and trying to find a new way forward from Stoney Knoll, Saskatchewan”
Frankie Condon, English Literature
“Rhetorical listening and the decentering of settler dys-consciousness”

We also recommend talks and events the same week, such as:

Resources for further reflection and action


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