Category Archives: Faculty

Turning Back the Doomsday Clock

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On January 29, join English’s Dr. Andy McMurry for a discussion with colleagues from the Humanities to understand the real threats, and possible actions for turning back the clock. The event is being held at the Kitchener Public Library, main branch — 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener, from 7-9pm.

Alexander Lanoszka, Political Science

Back to the Future? Nuclear weapons modernization and great power competition seem to make global politics more dangerous than ever. But what, if anything, is different about our current situation from what we experienced during the Cold War?

Andrew McMurry, English Language and Literature

Everybody talks about climate change but nobody does anything about it. Why are we failing to adequately address this existential threat to the planet? It turns out that communicating the threat of climate change is as challenging as the problem itself. How do our favoured narratives and metaphors condition us to do nothing as the catastrophe unfolds?

Kate Henne, Sociology and Legal Studies

Disruption, Debilitation, Doom? What threats do disruptive technologies pose? According to the Doomsday Clock settings, they undermine democracy and political institutions. But, how do they disrupt other aspects of everyday life? Looking at their mundane effects may tell us a lot about risk and social change.



Finding readers in the margins: a new faculty book

It’s not at all odd that I love marginalia, is it? I once wrote all of the archives libraries that held a copy of a particular eighteenth-century book and asked them if they would share all hand-written notes in the book with me. The results were fantastic. I found family arguments inscribed on title pages, emotional responses to tragic events–“THE HORROR!”–and failed courtships remembered. Marginalia has the potential to tell us so much about how people used literature and related to books. That’s why I am thrilled that UWaterloo English professor Dr. Katherine Acheson has just edited a new collection Early Modern English Marginalia, published with Routledge. Here’s more evidence of why this is an absolutely fascinating book:

Marginalia in early modern and medieval texts – printed, handwritten, drawn, scratched, colored, and pasted in – offer a glimpse of how people, as individuals and in groups, interacted with books and manuscripts over often lengthy periods of time. The chapters in this volume build on earlier scholarship that established marginalia as an intellectual method (Grafton and Jardine), as records of reading motivated by cultural, social, theological, and personal inclinations (Brayman [Hackel] and Orgel), and as practices inspired by material affordances particular to the book and the pen (Fleming and Sherman). They further the study of the practices of marginalia as a mode – a set of ways in which material opportunities and practices overlap with intellectual, social, and personal motivations to make meaning in the world. They introduce us to a set of idiosyncratic examples such as the trace marks of objects left in books, deliberately or by accident; cut-and-pasted additions to printed volumes; a marriage depicted through shared book ownership. They reveal to us in case studies the unique value of marginalia as evidence of phenomena as important and diverse as religious change, authorial self-invention, and the history of the literary canon. The chapters of this book go beyond the case study, however, and raise broad historical, cultural, and theoretical questions about the strange, marvelous, metamorphic thing we call the book, and the equally multiplicitous, eccentric, and inscrutable beings who accompany them through history: readers and writers.

Image credits: Routledge, Centre for Material Texts

New book from new faculty member

You may remember we welcomed Dr. Jennifer Clary-Lemon to our department in 2018. Well, we have more exciting news to share: her book, Planting the Anthropocene Rhetorics of Natureculture, is now available for purchase. To find out more, read this fascinating–treeplanters!–description from the press:

Planting the Anthropocene is a rhetorical look into the world of industrial tree planting in Canada that engages the themes of nature, culture, and environmental change. Bringing together the work of material ecocriticism and critical affect studies in service of a new materialist environmental rhetoric, Planting the Anthropocene forwards a frame that can be used to work through complex scenes of anthropogenic labor.

Using the results of interviews with seasonal Canadian tree planters, Jennifer Clary-Lemon interrogates the complex and messy imbrication of nature-culture through the inadequate terminology used to describe the actual circumstances of the planters’ work and lives—and offers alternative ways to conceptualize them. Although silvicultural workers do engage with the limiting rhetoric of efficiency and humanism, they also make rhetorical choices that break down the nature-culture divide and orient them on a continuum that blurs the boundaries between the given and the constructed, the human and nonhuman. Tree-planting work is approached as a site of a deep-seated materiality—a continued re-creation of the land’s “disturbance”—rather than a simplistic form of doing good that further separates humans from landscapes.

Jennifer Clary-Lemon’s view of nature and the Anthropocene through the lens of material rhetorical studies is thoroughly original and will be of great interest to students and scholars of rhetoric and composition, especially those focused on the environment.

Top Ten Words in Place Posts of 2018

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Welcome to 2019! Curious about what we celebrated in 2018? Publications, awards, students, and alumni. But which ones were the most read? Read on and find out what were our top posts of 2018.

10) Amazing News x2 from Tommy Mayberry

9) Welcoming Dr. Megan Selinger

8) Jack Halberstam: TRANS* Visual archives of the transgendered body

7) Our Newest PhD: Dr. Sarah Whyte!

6) I asked about the best book and…

5) Five odd questions: PhD candidate Jin Sol Kim

4) Our newest PhD, Clare Bermingham, on “Feeling Queer Together”

3) Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher for President!

2) Welcoming Dr. Carter Neal

1) Award for undergrad Danielle Bisnar Griffin

UWaterloo English: Best book, part 2

Were you waiting for part 2? A looong time? So long that you’d forgotten a part 1? Well, in case you need a good book for the holiday break, here’s a round-up of some of the best books our UWaterloo people have been reading in the past year.

Renée Belliveau (MA graduate)
I recently picked up The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, a Yale English graduate who sadly passed away five days after graduation, and I instantly saw myself reflected back. Her prose is fresh and puts forth a mixture of ambition and anxiety that I think a lot of us graduate students feel, or can at least remember feeling. I’ll tag on Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader to this post, for anyone looking to be reacquainted with their love for literature and the English language.

Andrew Deman (Lecturer)
ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times by Andrew MacLean. Apart from featuring a badass gender positive female protagonist, ApocalyptiGirl is just a really rare SF beast: a whimsical dystopia that doesn’t undermine its own politics. The moving, central relationship of the story is the all-encompassing love between a girl and her cat, rendered without a hint of irony. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a text as free of cynicism or pretense. It’s a joyous read.

Jennifer Harris (Associate Professor)
It has to be Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland, the most original neo-slave narrative I have read in a very long time (apologies to Colson Whitehead).  I’m generally not one to pick up a Young Adult novel with zombies, except this pulled me in: “Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.” As an allegory about slavery and post-slavery it is stunning.

Bibi Ashyana Harricharran (MA graduate)
The Grass Dancer by Susan Power. This is a powerful novel. Power manipulates with the Gothic to her own liking to demonstrate violence, power, and subjugation. The story is told through the first person where each character gets a chapter to tell his/her own story. One of the things that stood out to me the most is when Power integrates the play, Macbeth, to project catharsis. The characters in Power’s text go through a sense of catharsis because they experience the same betrayal as Duncan. It is a difficult narrative for an author to pull off: you either fail miserably or you succeed. Power succeeds because she remains faithful to her subtle perspective.

Linda Warley (Associate Professor and Associate Dean)
The best book I have read recently is Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City. It won the RBC Taylor Prize. The book tells the stories of seven Indigenous teenagers who had to leave their home communities in order to attend high school in Thunder Bay, Ontario. They all died. Their deaths and the handling of the cases by policing and justice services reveals much about the systemic racism in Canada that affects the lives of Indigenous people today. It is a heartbreaking book, but necessary reading.

Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher for President!

Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, of UWaterloo English, has been elected President of the Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine. As many Words in Place readers know, this aligns perfectly with her research expertise: her book Science Communication Online: Engaging Experts and Publics on the Internet, is forthcoming in Spring 2019 from The Ohio State University Press.

The Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine is an independent scholarly organization that promotes rhetorical scholarship and facilitates networking across disciplines and institutions. Their primary meetings occur in collaboration with two larger conferences: the annual National Communication Association (NCA) meeting and the biennial Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) conference.

Beyond Green Gables: New Books from Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre

Congratulations to University of Waterloo English lecturer Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre on the publication of an edited collection of the writings of Lucy Maud Montgomery, A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 (University of Toronto Press, 2018). Dr. Levebre is editor of The L.M. Montgomery Library, and director of L.M. Montgomery Online. His publications include Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations, an edition of Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, and the three-volume critical anthology The L.M. Montgomery Reader, which won the 2016 PROSE Award for Literature from the Association of American Publishers. He is the author of over twenty peer-reviewed essays and book chapters.