Category Archives: Faculty

TLS on Dr. Victoria Lamont’s new book

Did you know English’s own Dr. Victoria Lamont recently published a book, Westerns: A Women’s History? And that the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) reviewed it very favorably? From the press:

“At every turn in the development of what we now know as the western, women writers have been instrumental in its formation. Yet the myth that the western is male-authored persists. Westerns: A Women’s History debunks this myth once and for all by recovering the women writers of popular westerns who were active during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the western genre as we now know it emerged.

Victoria Lamont offers detailed studies of some of the many women who helped shape the western. Their novels bear the classic hallmarks of the western—cowboys, schoolmarms, gun violence, lynchings, cattle branding—while also placing female characters at the center of their western adventures and improvising with western conventions in surprising and ingenious ways. In Emma Ghent Curtis’s The Administratrix a widow disguises herself as a cowboy and infiltrates the cowboy gang responsible for lynching her husband. Muriel Newhall’s pulp serial character, Sheriff Minnie, comes to the rescue of a steady stream of defenseless female victims. B. M. Bower, Katharine Newlin Burt, and Frances McElrath use cattle branding as a metaphor for their feminist critiques of patriarchy. In addition to recovering the work of these and other women authors of popular westerns, Lamont uses original archival analysis of the western-fiction publishing scene to overturn the long-standing myth of the western as a male-dominated genre.”

A new faculty book: Academic Ableism

Screenshot 2017-05-15 12.00.46
Congratulations to University of Waterloo English’s Dr. Jay Dolmage, whose new book, Academic Ableism Disability and Higher Education, is forthcoming from University of Michigan Press, fall 2017. In it, Dr. Dolmage will “explore architecture, the logics of accommodation and its defeat devices, universal design and usability, multimodality, racism, eugenics and rape culture, sick buildings, digital curbcuts, checklistification, neurorhetorics, “wellness,” and even popular films about college life — among other things.” This is then linked to what he identifies as “current (and distressing) developments in education policy.” An excerpt:

“Disability has always been constructed as the inverse or opposite of higher education. Or, let me put it differently: higher education has needed to create a series of versions of “lower education” to justify its work and to ground its exceptionalism, and the physical gates and steps that we find on campuses trace a long history of exclusion.
For most of the 20th century, people with disabilities were institutionalized in asylums, “schools” for the “feeble-minded” and other exclusionary institutions, locations that became the dark shadows of the college or university, connected with residential schools, prisons, quarantines, and immigration stations in these shadows. These locations also had steep steps and ornate gates, meant to hold the public out and to imprison people within, or to isolate disabled people as research subjects, ensuring that the excluded couldn’t mix with others within society; they were connected in a perverse way to the hope that the elite would mingle and mix with one another exclusively in colleges and universities. Further, the ethic of higher education encourages students and teachers alike to accentuate ability, valorize perfection, and stigmatize anything that hints at intellectual (or physical) weakness.”

The book will be available for free, online, accessibly, in Fall 2017.

SNL, Trump, and more: Dr. Danielle Deveau

Screenshot 2017-05-15 10.03.32
I am eager to share the news that we are welcoming Dr. Danielle Deveau (back) to UWaterloo’s English Department. Her academic work on the politics of humour has never been more timely, and her work on cultural mapping initiatives is crucial. Read on to find out about these– and how she deliberately seeks surprises in brown paper packages!

JLH: We’re thrilled to have you as part of the department, but recognize you’re not new to teaching, here or elsewhere. Can you tell us a bit about your trajectory?
DJD: I completed my PhD in Communication at Simon Fraser University in 2013. During my degree, I taught professional communication as well as media studies courses on popular culture and sports. I then worked as a postdoctoral research at Wilfrid Laurier University. My project evaluated and curated cultural mapping data in the Waterloo Region. Since that time, I have continued to consult with the City of Kitchener on issues related to cultural mapping, cultural planning, and the development of cultural scenes.

I started teaching part-time here at Waterloo in September 2013. At first, I only taught English 109 Online, which I really enjoyed. I loved the opportunity to work with graduate students. I had a one-year, full-time contract teaching English 109 and 119 in 2014/15. This was a great experience and the primary reason I decided to apply for the three-year contract that I am starting this summer. I’m looking forward to teaching English 109 to Math and Computer Science students again, but also all of the media theory courses that I am slated to teach over the next few years.

JLH: Have you found yourself using your PhD research in the classroom?
DJD: My Phd Dissertation was on humour and laughter, so I have definitely found it to be a popular topic in the classroom. I have found that my students consume a lot of comedy programming – be it stand-up videos on youtube, or latenight comedy like the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. They are really engaged with the critical potential of humour in popular culture and we’ve had some great discussions. Because I primarily teach writing, I also show students some of my own academic writing at various stages in order to illustrate the many, many stages between idea to research to draft to finished product. I could do this with any research topic, but I hope that because I’m writing about humour, they find my research a little less boring than they might otherwise….

JLH: Can you tell us a bit about the research you are doing now?
DJD: Currently, I am doing work on the politics of humour (especially related to the newfound relevance of SNL in the Trump Presidency), as well as organizational communication research on the role of humour in reinforcing workplace cultures. In terms of applied local research, I am still evaluating cultural mapping initiatives in the Waterloo Region, especially related to user-experience and audience development.

JLH: You’ve done a fair bit of community outreach in K/W. How has that shaped your experience?
DJD: The work I’ve done with local governments and non-profits completely shifted my research focus. I realized that many of the theories I had been working with had a lot of value in applied research and that I could use my training to help resolve real economic development challenges. It has been very satisfying seeing my work end up in cultural policy documents, or used to direct new cultural initiatives.

JLH: Finally, if you had time to read for pleasure this summer, what would be at the top of your list?
DJD: My undergraduate degree is actually in Canadian Studies and I still find that I gravitate towards CanLit. I received Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle for Christmas and am still trying to find time to read it. Maybe this is the month! Usually when I am in the mood to read a new novel, I go to Words Worth Books uptown and buy one of their “surprise” books (they wrap books in brown paper and leave a note to tell you what genre the book is, but nothing else). I like the element of chance and they always curate great selections!

Dr. Condon on Campus Mental Health

Screenshot 2017-03-07 16.32.03
I am thrilled to share the text of Dr. Frankie Condon‘s speech at the March 30th Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s (OUSA) Partners in Higher Education Dinner. Dr. Condon was there to receive the UWaterloo Federation of Students Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award for 2017. Each year, the Feds awards one instructor at the University of Waterloo who has exemplified innovative teaching and has shown dedication towards ensuring academic success for undergraduate students.Dr. Condon used the opportunity to discuss mental health. The text of her speech follows:

“Thank you so much. I am more touched, more honoured than I have words to express. For me—and I know for my colleagues as well—there is no greater reward than to have earned the respect of our students. The students I have met at the University of Waterloo have taught me, have delighted me, and have challenged me. I have been moved to do the best I can as both a scholar and a teacher by the depth and breadth of their intellectual curiosity and engagement, by their delight in learning, and most of all by the integrity of their commitment not only to their own success, but also to that of their peers—by their courage, their humility, their compassion, and their kindness. To be recognized by them is the greatest honour I can imagine.

But I would be remiss, I think, irresponsible even if I did not say this—to all of you, especially to you. Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s campus newspaper reported this week that during the last 365 days, an estimated 596 of our students have attempted suicide. I am sure many of you know that the University of Waterloo has lost two students to suicide this term. Their tragic deaths have devastated students, faculty, and staff, as well as their families and friends. I did not know the two students who took their own lives at my university, but many years ago, during my second year as an undergraduate student at York University, I lost my father, who was also a professor, to suicide. And so this loss hits particularly close to home for me. In such a moment, when sorrow seems to overwhelm joy and despair threatens to isolate us even as we need each other most, this much seems clear to me: intellectual growth and development can never be separated from emotional and spiritual well-being. We cannot teach well if we do not attend to the fullness of the humanity of our students. There are many matters about which I am uncertain, but this much I believe: we will serve our students, our institutions, our communities, our nation, and the world far better by putting humanity at the centre of our curricula and humaneness at the heart of our pedagogy. There is, in reality, no intellectual cost, no abandonment of “rigour” required to do so. The truth is that kindness, respect, generosity—love—is the enabling condition for all learning. More than our disciplines, more than the subjects we teach, more than the assignments we design, more than the grades we give, the humanity of our students and the quality of humaneness with which we treat our students is at the heart of teaching and learning. I don’t know why our two students chose to end their lives, but I do feel certain that we must change—our institutions, our teaching, ourselves. This is the least we owe to the students who have died, to their families, and to the students now before us in our classrooms. It is to my students and to the labour of humanizing my classrooms and my institution that I dedicate myself; I hope you all will join me, because I really do believe that when we put our hearts and minds, our will and our hard work together we can make a world worth staying for.”

Dr. Warley’s book shortlisted

Screenshot 2017-04-24 14.56.34
Last year, UWaterloo English’s Dr. Winfried Siemerling received the Gabrielle Roy Prize for studies in Canadian and Quebec literatures for his book The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past. This year English’s Dr. Linda Warley‘s co-edited collection Canadian Graphic: Picturing Life Narratives has been shortlisted for the same prize! Better yet, it includes chapters by not one but three UWaterloo English alumni. The jury writes:

The individual essays work to articulate the significance of the visual medium for the representation of the vulnerable self in Canadian graphic autobiographies, and range in subject from Seth and Chester Brown, to Sara Leavitt’s heartbreaking narrative about her mother’s death, to Julie Doucet’s early feminist autobiography, My New York Diary. The collection as a whole tells the story of how this important and comparatively new genre evolved in Canada, introducing historically important publications and publishing houses as well as individual cartoonists. The book design is attractive and spacious, and the accompanying illustrations beautifully produced. Canadian Graphic is both a stimulating read and an important scholarly achievement.
Congratulations to Dr. Warley and her co-editor, Candida Rifkind!

Welcoming the newest Banting postdoc, Dr. Derek Gladwin

Screenshot 2017-03-29 15.24.43
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Derek Gladwin has been awarded a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to be held in the Dept of English and under the supervision of Dr. Imre Szeman. This is the second Banting postdoc housed in UWaterloo English.

Derek Gladwin is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of British Columbia. He has previously held visiting research fellowships at the National University of Ireland, Galway (2015), University of Edinburgh (2015), Concordia University (2016), and Trinity College Dublin (2017). His research and teaching explore transformations in environment and society within 20th-/21st-Century British and Irish literature, as well as film and media culture. Gladwin’s books include: Contentious Terrains: Boglands, Ireland, Postcolonial Gothic (2016), Unfolding Irish Landscapes (co-ed, 2016), and Eco-Joyce (co-ed, 2014); his forthcoming book is titled Ecological Exile: Spatial Injustice & Environmental Humanities, which is due out with Routledge in 2017. Contentious Terrains has just been nominated for the Ecocriticism Book Award offered by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment.

Project overview: This Banting PDF project titled Petro-Gothic: Energy, Ecology, Fear explores energy transitions by marking the ways in which creative responses are narrated through fear and then circulated in forms of contemporary British and Irish literature, film, and media. Energy is not only geophysical and economic, but it is also social and cultural in the ways it conceptually and practically influences our lives. As a cultural response to energy, this project explore how literary and visual texts have produced “petro-gothic’ narratives. These narratives about energy transitions and futures inform society and, in some cases, mobilize change by transforming social values and perceptions through image and story. This research examines fear as it relates to energy subjectivity, offshore oil sublime, ecophobia, and post-oil landscapes in works by Bansky, Laura Watts, George Mackay Brown, Greenpeace UK, and China Miéville, among others.

Canadian Literature at UWaterloo

Screenshot 2017-03-29 14.44.54.png
We are fortunate to have a strong contingent of UWaterloo English faculty working in the area of Canadian Literature. From Linda Warley’s recent book on Canadian Graphic Narratives, to Win Siemerling’s award-winning publication on Black Canadian Literature, to Dorothy Hadfield’s monograph on women in Toronto theatre, our faculty publications span authors, eras, genres, ethnicities, and more. Read on to find out what our faculty with expertise in Canadian Literature are doing.

Veronica Austen writes “I have two projects imminent. Firstly, Ph.D. candidate Masa Torbica and I have co-organized a panel for the upcoming Association of Canadian and Québec Literatures. Our panel is titled “The Presence of Absence: Visual Hauntings in Canadian Literature” and will feature papers concerning intersections between the trope of haunting and the visual arts (photographs, architecture, pictographs). Secondly, I’m working on a couple of papers regarding the poet-painter Roy Kiyooka (I’d like to thank former SJU Prof Charlene Diehl for this interest since it was in her course in the first term of my MA that I discovered Kiyooka). In one paper, I chart his theorization of visual vs. written expression (likely taking his 1990 photoglyphic narrative “Pacific Windows” as my base text). And in the other, I explore elegiac constructions of Kiyooka (he died suddenly in 1994 and much of his writing plus the majority of scholarship surrounding his written work comes to us posthumously).”

Dorothy Hadfield has been working with Ann Wilson (University of Guelph) on the Canadian Women Playwrights Online project, an online resource that is part of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory. CWPO is working with playwrights to develop a bio-bibliographical resource that allows them to include information about themselves and their influences that more prescriptive biographies and listings don’t necessarily consider. She has also been trying to find time to get back into various Canadian theatre archives, trying to trace the historical disappearance of Canada’s first professional Shakespeare festival. For over a decade, the Earle Grey Shakespeare Festival produced a summer season of performances, concerts, lectures, and readings; ran a theatre training program (there’s even a former UW English professor on the audition roster); and toured productions to high schools and remote communities. Then a tent went up at Stratford, totally overshadowing the EGSF’s foundational efforts, and writing them out of Canadian theatre history. There’s a story there that needs to be told.

Jennifer Harris is finishing edits on “Hidden in Plain Sight: Uncovering the Career of Lucretia Newman Coleman” (forthcoming Legacy 34.2), about a 19thC Canadian-born black author. Her essay “Black Canadian Contexts: The Case of Amelia E. Johnson” (African American Review 49.3) recently received Honorable Mention, for the Darwin T. Turner Award for the best essay representing any period in African American or pan-African literature and culture in African American Review. She continues her work on a book about a black man who fled slavery with his family, ending up in Canada where he survived shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, wrestled French sailors, escaped wolves, brawled with circus performers, attended church, married three times, and wrote fiery letters to African Americans urging them to relocate north of the 49th parallel.

Shelley Hulan writes: “I just completed the final ms of a chapter on ethnicity in “Powers,” one of Alice Munro’s strange Souwesto stories. Surprisingly little has been written on the representations of ethnicity and race in Munro’s oeuvre, and both give readers plenty to think about. Now I’m working on a paper about a rhetoric of diplomacy in late eighteenth-century North America. ”

Vinh Nguyen‘s current project is entitled Circuits of Refugee Solidarity, and seeks to understand the relationship between different refugee and historically displaced groups in Canada. Focusing on the Mennonite, Vietnamese, and Syrian communities, Vinh investigates how and why former refugees advocate for, stand in solidarity with, and come to the aid of, those who seek asylum in Canada. He aims to narrate the connections and affiliations between refugee groups that dominant historical narratives fail to highlight. Such stories of “refugees helping refugees” critically reframe humanitarianism as involving the social and political agency of those understood primarily as beneficiaries of humanitarian acts; they enable us to perceive refugees not as passive objects of rescue, but political agents with the capacity to effect social change. He contends that refugee solidarity points to the social ongoingness of “refuge,” how it extends beyond singular moments to critically link together and illuminate multiple histories of displacement, asylum, and activism.

Win Siemerling has just published an essay on “New Ecologies of the Real: Nonsimultaneity and Canadian Literature(s)” (check it out in Studies in Canadian Literature 41.1), and a chapter about Mary Ann Shadd and “Transnational Perspectives on the Americas” in the new Routledge Companion to Inter-American Studies (on order for the library). He is now finalizing a chapter on “Black Activism, Print Culture, and Literature in Canada, 1850-65” for the multivolume African American Literature in Transition by Cambridge University Press, and works on his grant entitled “Call and Responsibility,” which explores how black Canadian texts, film, and music seek to involve audiences.

Heather Smyth is writing a book about the connections between social justice and collaborative writing in Canada: coalitions of writers as activists, editorial and literary collectives, face to face poetic collaborations, open online publicly authored texts, etc. She’s also starting to learn about community-based research methods and partnering with a Toronto women’s drop-in centre called Sistering to do a narrative-based collaborative research project.

Linda Warley will be heading to Dublin in April to deliver a presentation called “Before ‘Secret Path’: Residential School Memoirs from the 1970’s.” Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie recently released an album, a graphic novel (with Jeff Lemire) and a short video, which tell the story of a young Ojibway boy who escaped from one of Canada’s notorious Indian residential schools but died while trying to walk home. ‘Secret Path’ is a response to the 2016 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action and Downie uses his star power to bring attention to this shameful part of Canada’s history. At the “Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years” conference in Dublin, Linda will focus on the memoirs authored by residential school survivors themselves, books that were often published by small presses, reached small audiences, quickly went out of print and have been largely ignored by academics and the general reading audience alike.