Category Archives: Alumni

Congratulations Dr. Lacey Beer

Screenshot 2018-08-23 18.49.08
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.


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.



Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Phil Miletic

phil defense
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.

Congratulating Dr. Dhruba Neupane!

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.

Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Benjamin Woodford

Congratulations to Dr. Benjamin Woodford, who successfully defended his dissertation “Institutions, Theology, and the Language of Freedom in the Poetry and Prose of John Milton” on August 10th. He was supervised by Dr. Ken Graham, with readers Dr. Rebecca Tierney-Hynes (via Skype) and Dr. Sarah Tolmie. Thank you to his external, Dr. Tobias Gregory, Catholic University of America and internal-external: Dr. Troy Osborne (Conrad Grebel, History). Dr. Woodford is the author of numerous articles, as well as the book Perceptions of a Monarchy without a King: Reactions to Oliver Cromwell’s Power (McGill-Queens UP). A description of the dissertation follows.

Screenshot 2018-08-13 11.15.10

Institutions, Theology, and the Language of Freedom in the Poetry and Prose of John Milton

Freedom is an essential topic in the writings of John Milton, but what he means by this term varies over the course of his career. Milton’s prose works centre on religious and political liberty, which explore how the church and state interact with Christians and citizens. His early prose tracts express skepticism about the contributions of institutions, particularly coercive institutions, to freedom. As the English Revolution progresses, Milton begins to separate religious and political liberty based on the role of institutions in each type of freedom. In Milton’s commonwealth and late prose, religious freedom protects the individual conscience from being coerced by any civil or ecclesiastical institution; institutions are limited to persuasion and admonition in religious matters. Political freedom, in contrast, involves parliament leading, schools educating, and the army compelling the English people so that they accept a commonwealth, as political freedom is only possible in a commonwealth. Although these institutions often act against the will of the electorate, Milton’s language presents them as expressions of popular sovereignty. In his epic poem Paradise Lost, Milton shifts the setting from England to the mythical realm of heaven and presents an additional dimension of liberty. Paradise Lost incorporates much of the language regarding freedom and institutions from Milton’s prose, but it expresses a theological freedom that focuses on a Christian’s relationship with God. Theological freedom involves both free choice and dependence on God. Milton uses the character God to articulate the principles of theological freedom, and the characters Satan and Adam and Eve to illustrate failures in theological freedom. These failures shake the reader’s confidence, but the poem ends with the restoration of freedom, encouraging the reader to accept freedom through dependence on God.

Congratulations Dr. Emma Vossen!

Maybe you remember when UWaterloo English PhD candidate Emma Vossen won the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) annual Storytellers competition. Perhaps you recall her cofounding of the GI Janes, a Games Institute group designed to raise the profile of women in gaming. Then there was that documentary CBC made about her research. Yesterday she successfully defended her dissertation, “On the Cultural Inaccessibility of Gaming: Invading, Creating, and Reclaiming the Cultural Clubhouse,” and is DOCTOR Emma Vossen. Dr. Neil Randall supervised Dr. Vossen’s dissertation; Drs. Aimée Morrison and Jennifer Whitson were committee members.

Dr. Vossen’s forthcoming publications include a co-edited book, Feminism in Play (Palgrave); as of September she will be a postdoctoral fellow at York University on the Refiguring Innovation in Games project. A brief description of her dissertation follows.EV

L-R: Drs Neil Randall, Aimée Morrison, Emma Vossen, and Jennifer Whitson

On the Cultural Inaccessibility of Gaming: Invading, Creating, and Reclaiming the Cultural Clubhouse

This dissertation uses intersectional feminist theory and Autoethnography to develop the concept of “cultural inaccessibility”. Cultural inaccessibility is a concept I’ve created to describe the ways that women are made to feel unwelcome in spaces of game play and games culture, both “in real life” and online. Although there are few formal barriers preventing women from purchasing games, playing games, or acquiring jobs in the games industry, this dissertation explores the formidable cultural barriers which define women as “space invaders” and outsiders in games culture. This dissertation illustrates the parallel development of games culture and women’s continued exclusion from it, from the exclusionary sexism of J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing to the development of the “Gamer” as a fixed (and stereotypically cis-male) identity in the pages of video game magazines of the 1980s and ‘90s, to the online “Gamer activism” of today. At the same time, I also explore my own experiences as a female gamer and academic in the 2010s, using projects I have been a part of as a means of reflecting on developments in the broader culture. I first discuss a short machinima (a film made within a video game) that Elise Vist and I created within the 2007 Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Lord of the Rings Online entitled Lady Hobbits. I then discuss the gender and games advocacy group that I co-founded at the University of Waterloo, The Games Institute Janes (GI Janes), and the many gaming events that we ran, comparing the experience of our gender-integrated and women-only game nights. Lastly, I discuss my experiences as a staff member, and eventual first female editor-in-chief, of game studies publication First Person Scholar (FPS). The conclusion of this dissertation asks how women can study games culture and the politically-motivated violence with which it has recently been linked if doing so puts us at risk of becoming a target of harassment and abuse.

Our Newest PhD: Dr. Sarah Whyte!

Screenshot 2018-07-18 14.45.49Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s newest PhD graduate, Dr. Sarah Whyte. On July 17th she successfully defended “The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation.”
Screenshot 2018-07-18 11.18.11Sarah (above left) was supervised by Dr. Jay Dolmage (above centre)–note how genuinely happy a supervisor looks after a successful defense? Committee members were Dr. Randy Harris and Dr. Catherine Schryer.; thank you to Dr. Kathryn Plaisance of Knowledge Integration (above right) who served as internal-external examiner, and Dr. Carolyn Rae Miller, of North Carolina State University, the external examiner.

Dr. Whyte’s work has appeared in Social Science & Medicine; Advances in Health Sciences Education; Cognition, Technology & Work, and elsewhere. A description of her dissertation follows:

The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation
This dissertation uses the terms of Kenneth Burke’s dramatism to identify rhetorical aspects of surgical team checklists as they have been promoted, performed, studied, and surveilled. I argue that these terms can help to account both for the rapid uptake of checklists into policy and for their more variable effects and uptake into practice. I develop this argument by analyzing a large archive of texts published between 1999 and 2016, including popular media, news coverage, promotional campaigns, primary research, and other forms of scholarship. These published texts are considered alongside ethnographic fieldnotes from a study in which I collaborated to design, introduce, and evaluate an early version of a preoperative checklist at four Canadian hospitals. My analyses are guided heuristically by the first principles and central terms of dramatism, including action and motion; motive and situation; identification and division; attitude, form, and circumference. I use these terms to chart the early emergence of checklists within professional literature; to trace their rapid uptake as a standard of professional communication; to discern their multiple functions or purposes; to illustrate how and why they are enacted, accepted, and sometimes rejected in the operating theatre; and to locate blind spots in applied health services research. Taken together, these analyses demonstrate the importance of diverse rhetorical processes both to the uptake and to the basic functions of checklists. They also demonstrate the value and versatility of dramatistic terms. I contend in particular that the concept of rhetorical situation, as elaborated by Burke, holds significant potential for understanding and negotiating the material and symbolic dimensions of practice and practice change. This dissertation points the way toward a uniquely rhetorical approach to the study and practice of knowledge translation in healthcare work.

Welcoming (back) Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher

As many know, UWaterloo English hired several new faculty this year. Oddly, the people who assessed the needs of the department and proposed this particular position were unaware of Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher, his close ties to the institution, and his motivation to return to the region
. Read on for more–including his comments on when Fed Hall. was “the largest dance hall on any university campus in Canada.” Welcome Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher!

JLH: Welcome to UWaterloo—we know you have a history with the institution. Can you tell us a bit about that, and how it feels to be returning?
BM: I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to UWaterloo after many years away from what’s always felt like my educational home. Being Canadian and growing up in Southwestern Ontario, I spent the bulk of my childhood in Stratford and in and around Toronto, Ontario. During my visits home, I’ve watched Kitchener-Waterloo grow from a small university town to what feels like a futuristic high-tech hub and cultural centre. I completed my BA and MA in English Co-Op at UWaterloo, and then moved to the United States to earn my PhD in Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University, before taking a position as an Assistant Professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. After receiving tenure, I moved from the humanities to the College of Education at NC State.

In 2015, my wife, Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, took a tenure-track position in the Department of English Language & Literature at UWaterloo, and we’ve been enjoying re-acquainting ourselves with the university, city, and region ever since. During my last few years traveling back-and-forth between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Waterloo, Ontario, I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to join the department and to give back to the Canadian research and teaching context what’s been so generously given during my university years. It’s wonderful to be home again.

JLH: What do you see as the biggest change at UWaterloo since you graduated?
BM: The 1980s and 2018 feel dramatically different, particularly in terms of campus resources and architecture (and my lack of familiarity with it!). For example, when I attended UWaterloo, Fed Hall, “the largest dance hall on any university campus in Canada,” was lined up at the door every night of the week. It hosted the likes of Billy Bragg and The Indigo Girls, students danced till 1 AM, and in those days you could smoke inside. The University Club was an unknown to me, and the Bombshelter played “Leave it to Beaver” re-runs every Friday afternoon. Thankfully, they appear to have upgraded the furniture we routinely slept on in what was then called the Campus Centre. I recall there being less food available on campus and many of the spaces between buildings are now filled with new buildings. Fed Hall, the Bombshelter, and the Grad House were where most students ate, studied, and built life-long friendships, or at least that’s my happy memory of the time. I also have vivid memories of Hagey Hall, where I spent the majority of my time and shared an office with three other MA students.

JLH: You’ll be teaching English across faculties: what do you see as the most rewarding part of teaching non-English majors?
BM: I’ve been teaching non-English majors for most of my career, a lucky byproduct of being an English major interested in computers in the 1980s. Working with Dr. Paul Beam on computational analyses of Alexander Pope and Thomas Hardy, and with Dr. Phillip Smith as a TA for Introduction to Computing Technology for Arts majors, I had unique experiences that led me to teach courses enrolled by students across disciplines. Later, at North Carolina State University, I taught engineering communication, science communication, and business communication. And even later I taught training and development and education majors at the graduate level. Personally, I’ve also learned a lot from hearing my eldest daughter talk about her own experiences as a Computer Science major at Duke University, and now, working in the high-tech industry. I have also enjoyed working on numerous grants and dissertation committees that involved non-majors. I haven’t taught first-year students since I was at Carnegie Mellon University, so I’m looking very forward to reacquainting myself students new to their disciplines and to University of Waterloo in general. It’s an exciting time for me to begin teaching first-year students again, as my youngest daughter is just beginning her first year in college this August at UNC-Asheville.

JLH: Can you share a bit about your current research projects?
BM: I am currently working on a book-length manuscript, tentatively entitled “Learner,” an exploration of the rhetoricity of learning across the life span. Drawing on research from education and contemporary rhetoric, I explore the movement from behavioural to cognitive to social theories of learning.

I’ve also been collaborating with Ashley Mehlenbacher on a chapter where we discuss how online genres are used to communicate climate change information. This is part of work I’ve been conducting related to rhetorical studies of science and technology, a field I’ve only been reacquainting myself with over the last few years, last having worked in the area as a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University while completing a dissertation on proposals in biochemical research.

JLH: Finally—because I often ask—what are you reading for fun?
BM: I’m currently reading Timothy Findley’s final novel, Spadework, a book that I picked up in a used bookstore in Stratford, Ontario, and coincidentally, a murder mystery set in Stratford, Ontario, where Findley lived. The inside cover has a map of Stratford which, happily, I haven’t had to rely upon in my reading!