Category Archives: Awards

Dr. Sarah Tolmie Shortlisted for Griffin Prize

Congratulations to UWaterloo English professor Dr. Sarah Tolmie, who has been shortlisted for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize, for The Art of Dying (McGill-Queen’s University Press). The jury described her work as a “multifaceted meditation on mortality beneath its deceptively simple lyric surface.”  Tolmie has been invited to read, alongside fellow nominees including Dionne Brand and Eve Joseph, June 5 at Koerner Hall in Toronto. The following night two winners will be celebrated at a gala ceremony.



An Award for Dr. Veronica Austen

Congratulations to Dr. Veronica Austen, who won a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2018) for her project “Artful (Un)Belonging: Expressing Racialization through the Visual Arts in Contemporary Canadian Literature.”  As she writes in her proposal:

This project will examine how contemporary Canadian literature (CanLit) conceptualizes experiences of racialization and (un)belonging through reference to and the incorporation of the visual arts. By examining contemporary Canadian literary texts that either include the visual arts (paintings, drawings, photographs) or narrate the experience and/or creation of visual art, I place visual and verbal communication in relation to each other. In doing so, I will interpret representations of the visual arts as expressions of previously silenced histories; of loss, trauma, and the pursuit of healing; and of experiences of hypervisibility/invisibility. This project will thereby ask how visually artistic expression can be an alternative mode of communication that “speaks” what words cannot. In other words, I position literary texts that address or use the visual arts as creating a discourse of dissent that offers a particularly effective means of critiquing cultural codes. This is a form of literature that explores the efficacies of showing rather than just telling. By focussing on texts that confront experiences of racialization, this project will query constructions of (un)belonging and thereby contribute new insight regarding Canada’s multicultural/transnational metanarratives.

Image credit: Fireworks by Jinta Hirayama


Attention X-Men Fans! Or, why is Neil Gaiman tweeting a UW researcher?

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In case you missed it, last month beloved author Neil Gaiman tweeted about a UWaterloo research project by UWaterloo English faculty and PhD alumnus Dr. Andrew Deman. Gaiman shared a recent article in Salon (and picked up elsewhere) in which Andrew Deman discussed some of his recent research. Now Dr. Deman has received a SSHRC Insight Development grant to further that research. So what was Gaiman so excited to share?

Well, fans of comics will know that the record for the longest run as a single writer on an American comic book title is held by Chris Claremont, author of the Uncanny X-Men for sixteen years. Dr. Andrew Deman is studying just what this has meant. His research project is titled Counting Claremont: Sexuality, Subversion and Symbolic Capital in Comics’ Longest Single-Author Run. The project deliverables include two media articles, four conference presentations, a book proposal, and a website.

Currently there are four UWaterloo research assistants working on amassing data: Rebeccah Redden, Sabrina Wasserman, Tristan Chen, and Lauryn Watters. The project uses quantitative content analysis to build an expansive data set which tracks the progressive representations of female characters, the kind of long-continuity storylines that we now see in binge-worthy television, and character melodrama. The data will be made available to other scholars via a website that launches next month.

Awards for Students!!!


awardI love this part of the year, where we celebrate our students. And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg–there are so many wonderful students not named here. Thank you to everyone who participated, with especial thanks to Dr. John Savarese and Dr. Andrea Jonahs for coordinating, with the support of the staff in English to whom we are all, always, indebted. Read on to see who won what!

Undergraduate Academic Awards

English Society Creative Writing Award for Poetry: Joanna Laurie Dixon Cleary

Rhetoric and Digital Design Award: Neha Ravella

Rhetoric and Professional Writing Award: Sara Akbarzadeh-Zahraia Kohan, Aarjan Giri, and Dylan Yip-Chuck

Andrew James Dugan Prize in Rhetoric and Professional Writing: Eden McFarlane

Award in American Literature and Culture: Emily Pass

Canadian Literature Prize: Dinah Shi

Walter R. Martin English 251 Award: Abigail Hamann

Diaspora and Transnational Studies Prize: Trenton McNulty

Andrew James Dugan Prize in Literature: Judith Blasutti

The Hibbard Prize for Shakespeare Studies: Selin Elyay

Masternak Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship in English: Joanna Laurie Dixon Cleary and Hanna Colbert

English Society Creative Writing Award for Prose: Xin Niu Zhang

Albert Shaw Poetry Prize: Xin Niu Zhang

Graduate Academic Awards

Beltz Essay Prize, MA: Renée Belliveau

Beltz Essay Prize, PhD: Christopher Cameron (Honourable Mention: Lindsay Meaning)

Rhetoric Essay Prize, MA: Robyn Peers

Rhetoric Essay Prize, PhD: Devon Moriarty

Graduate Creative Writing Award: Hannah Watts and Evelyn Deshane

Graduate Professional Communication Award: Devon Moriarty, Lillian Black, and Danielle Griffin

David Nimmo English Graduate Scholarship: Ashley Irwin

Jack Gray Fellowship: Christin Taylor

W.K. Thomas Graduate Scholarship: Ashley Irwin

Co-op Awards

Undergraduate Co-op Work Report Award: Veronika Mikolajewski

Graduate Co-op Work Report Award: Andrew Myles

Teaching and Professionalization Awards

TA Award for Excellence in Teaching: Hannah Watts

Independent Graduate Instructor Award for Excellence in Teaching: Meghan Riley

Lea Vogel-Nimmo Graduate Professionalization Scholarship: Ian Gibson and Jin Sol Kim

More on our awards–including additional photos!–have been posted by Dr. Bruce Dadey on the UWaterloo English Department site.

Congratulations to Dr. Lai-Tze Fan!

Congratulations to Dr. Lai-Tze Fan, who has received a UW-SSHRC Explore Seed Grant for her research project Unseen Hands: A Material History of Women and Technoculture in 20th/21st C Writing Machines. The funding also facilitates the hiring of a UWaterloo research assistant.

English Awards Ceremony 2019

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Please mark your calendars for our upcoming Awards Ceremony.  This is a special occasion where we recognize and celebrate the talent and achievements of our department’s undergraduate and graduate students.  This year’s event takes place on Friday, March 22nd, from 12:30-2:30pm in AL 211.  The first half an hour allows you to mingle and enjoy some light refreshments, and then the ceremony begins promptly at 1pm.

Alumna Sara Kannan: Making a Difference


There are some students whose names you hear over and over, even if you’ve never taught them: Sara Kannan is one of those students. Read on to find out why we all know of her, how she made her co-op degree work for her, and how she is giving back to the department. Thank you to Sara for participating in Words in Place! –JLH

JLH: What made you decide to attend UWaterloo?
SK: It’s actually a pretty great story – I was born in Canada but moved to the U.S. as a child and grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. During Grade 12, I focused on applying to U.S. universities in the northeast so that I could be between my parents and my maternal grandparents in Waterloo, who I’m very close with. I never considered applying to university in Canada because I did all my schooling in the U.S., from Grades 1 to 12, and because all of my friends were also going to university in the same area. During spring break, I visited my first choice school in New York (on the way to Waterloo) and found that it wasn’t what I expected. We finished the week by visiting my grandparents in Waterloo, who immigrated to Canada in the 1960s because my grandfather was offered a professorship in the Pure Mathematics Department at UWaterloo. With my grandfather as a professor emeritus and all five of his children (including my mom) as UWaterloo alumni, I was persuaded to at least visit UWaterloo before ruling it out. I went on a campus tour and immediately fell in love – I was so sure that I wanted to attend UWaterloo that I actually declined all my acceptance offers to U.S. universities before applying to UWaterloo!

JLH: How important was the co-op stream to you in thinking about your potential future career?
SK: Co-op was essential to my career path. I initially applied to the co-op stream with the comfort of knowing that I could always change my mind later, but ended up completing four co-op terms. The skills and experience I gained in going through the job application process and working in a professional setting were invaluable and highly transferable. Additionally, I was able to try out several different jobs to find what I liked and what wasn’t a good fit for me, which helped me focus my efforts when applying for a full-time job post-graduation. Having about 1.5 years of full-time, professional experience in various jobs related to my degree (before I even graduated!) was absolutely necessary to finding a job in the “real world.”

JLH: Some people will know your name from our posts on awards ceremonies: you received numerous awards from the English department, including the Albert Shaw Poetry Prize, Rhetoric and Professional Writing Award, English Society Creative Writing Award for Prose, Quarry Integrated Communication Co-op Award, and others. Can you talk a bit about how those were important to you?
SK: Honestly, winning those awards meant the world to me. To receive tangible evidence in recognition of my writing abilities, from my professors and in front of my peers, really validated my confidence in my skills and the worth of my degree. I’ve known that I would be a writer since I was 6 years old, but not everyone has been supportive or encouraging. Winning these awards almost every year felt like proof that my lifelong dreams could become reality – some of them, at least (I don’t think that I’ll end up a princess, but hey, it happened to Meghan Markle!).

JLH: Fewer people might know that you decided to fund an award, and quite soon after graduating. What made this a logical choice to you?
SK: I became very passionate about postcolonialism during my time at UWaterloo, taking postcolonial literature classes and bringing postcolonialism into traditional literature/rhetoric classes. I started writing about things like magical realism as a method of resistance in understanding the Haitian Revolution or the Dreaming as a way for Aboriginal Australians to displace colonizers, but quickly noticed that my essays didn’t fit into any of the existing awards categories and couldn’t be submitted. Since winning awards was very important to me personally and professionally as an undergraduate student, I wanted to give back to the English Department and future students by filling the void.

Once I was no longer eligible to receive awards and in a position to pay it forward, I collaborated with the English Department and Sherri Sutherland from Arts Advancement to establish and sponsor the annual Diaspora and Transnational Studies Prize. To me, the significance of this award lies in recognizing the importance, relevance, and pervasiveness of diaspora, transnational, and postcolonial topics – topics that are increasingly acknowledged, studied, and explored through a variety of methods and mediums, in an effort to understand our world and the people in it. My goal was to make the award as inclusive as possible to reflect the nature of postcolonial studies, opening submissions to essays and projects submitted by any student or professor, as long as it is related to postcolonial studies (which can be very broadly interpreted).

JLH: If you were to imagine your dream course in postcolonial literature, what texts would be on it?
SK: That’s a really difficult question, because so many texts (not just literature!) can be interpreted as postcolonial. I think the three most important books to establish the framework of postcolonialism as a literary theory are Orientalism by Edward Said (who is considered the founder of postcolonial studies); The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin; and Decolonizing the Mind by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. From the classes that I took at UWaterloo, my favourite texts to analyze were Frida Kahlo’s paintings, Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Spanish flamenco music.

At its heart, postcolonialism is about intersectionality (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.) through the lens of historical imperial-colonial power struggles. Almost any text post-contact can be analyzed for these influences – I challenge everyone to find the postcolonial in their favourite text!