Category Archives: Friends of English

Bring your high school students!

Screenshot 2017-04-12 13.17.28
Every so often I get asked if I can host a few high school students–or even a whole class–in one of my English classes. It can be a lot of fun–if you can fit everyone in the room! I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a group of students from St. Benedict C.S.S. in Cambridge in the past; this year they visited classes taught by Jay Dolmage and Victoria Lamont. Their teacher, Denise Wittmann, composed a report for the school newspaper, and has graciously allowed us to reprint it.

Enriched English Class goes on their Annual Trip to the University of Waterloo
By Mrs. D. Wittmann

Tuesday, March 7th, the Grade 10 Enriched English Class went on their annual trip to the University of Waterloo. The day began with a Campus Tour, and despite the inclement weather, we sojourned on.

After the tour we joined a second-year Academic Writing Course with Professor Jay Dolmage. Here, the students were put in groups and received revision and editing tips from the students to improve their own essays – which the Grade 10 students had brought with them. After lunch, the class sat in on a “Literature and Pop Culture” lecture with Professor Victoria Lamont. The day’s subject was visual rhetoric. Students saw examples from numerous television programs and how they are constructed.


Networking Event Countdown


We’re counting down to the English + Innovation networking event at the Tannery, in downtown Kitchener, Thursday, June 2, 2016 – 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Cost: $20. You can meet alumni, network with alumni and others in industry, chat with UW English professors, and see amazing student projects. And yes, there will be food.

More information–including how to buy tickets–is here.

English Career Networking Event

Thinking of changing jobs? Graduating soon and starting your career? Wondering how to market your English degree? Here’s your chance to network with friendly English alumni with ties to the local high-tech industry in an informal social setting. Representatives from OpenText, Google, Communitech, Microsoft, D2L, and more will be there, not to mention English professors (maybe yours?) and students. Concerned you won’t know how to start a conversation? Don’t worry, there will be amazing student projects on show, guaranteed conversation starters (see image above). Still feeling shy? Bring a friend: it’s only $20, it’s the Tannery, and there will be food. You never know what it might mean for your future.

More information–including how to buy tickets (and please do!)–is here.


Theatre review: Transience

Review by Walter Monheit Jr.

Created by Robert Motum
Advisors: Dr. Andy Houston and Dr. Marcel O’Gorman
A Fourth Year Honours Project, Department of Drama and Speech Communication

“What you are witnessing is a performance created by a senior drama student at the University of Waterloo. We’re extremely sorry if this has negatively impacted your commute—this was not our intention.”


The evening was sultry. It whispered of Chaos and Old Night. What terror awaited you on…The Old Number Eight?

You catch the 8 bus at the Charles St. Terminal. The bus takes a 42 minute loop through Kitchener Downtown, Old Westmount, and the University, before returning to the bus station. You’ve been given a late model HP IPAQ personal digital assistant, a clunky looking device that works like a walkie-talkie with ear buds. You’ll be able to hear the narrator.

This worthy fellow begins with some existential musings on the isolation and forced distancing that we undergo when riding a bus, despite being crammed cheek to jowl with our fellow human beings. The bus is a metaphor, you suppose. You hear his voice in your head, droning on, subtly commandeering your attention, directing you to start noticing things going on around you. After a while, you do.

Somebody across the aisle asks you for the time. Too soon, the same person will ask again. Time requesting becomes a motif: people–actors, you presume– solicting you and other bus riders to provide that information. At one point, someone who has asked you for the time announces in a loud voice to the whole bus, “It’s 9:28!” Another person–a well-dressed young woman–turns in her seat and yells back sarcastically, “Thanks for sharing!”


You begin to notice other mini-dramas, if that is what they rise to, transpiring in the seats around you: a young man crosses the aisle to speak earnestly for a moment to another person, hand to her elbow; a woman stands in the aisle and shakes her hands as if to air-dry them; a burly man bellows about something to do with his favorite seat; a woman with pale skin is trying hard not to cry. At every stop, the principles get up, move to new seats, stand elsewhere in the aisles. But you start to lose track of who’s who. Are the folks who get on part of this thing? Some of them seem to be. They certainly act like they’re acting. But maybe that’s not an act. Is all this for your benefit? Who is the audience, anyway?

The line between actor, audience, and unwitting bus passenger blurs. You’re no longer sure who’s in this play and who isn’t. People get on and off, some in pairs and groups, and you notice they are carrying on their own conversations and interactions. Are they part of the performance? Are they merely performing their own lives, which aren’t part of this drama, yet which take on a reality that, otherwise unnoticed, the performance itself has served to cast in relief? We’re all on the bus together, and now you’re noticing your fellow travellers as discrete and crucial entities, as if in the past they had only been stage dressing for you, the only character who really mattered.

Meawhile, a tall, lanky fellow is sharing some hand lotion with another young man. Not something you see every day. He’s describing with fluid hand gestures…what?… a video game, a movie, an event? You can’t tell. The burly man is still whining about his favorite seat, insisting someone move so he can sit there; the attractively dressed young woman from before is on her feet, looking pensive.

In what seems to be a dramatic climax, a scruffy man takes a young woman into his arms for a swooning kiss. Then a bus stop is reached and he leaps off. “Did you know him,” someone asks? The young woman, looking distressed, waves the question off. She disembarks at the next stop, and appears to walk back toward the previous one.

It’s all become too much. You fiddle with the IPAQ, try to return to your own space, to screen out these impingements on your armor.  You know you have failed some kind of test. You were a voyeur, but you didn’t learn to embrace those whom you viewed. What of it? It was all a play. There was no fourth wall, but thank god you had a fifth. You are ready to get off.

When you do, you return your device to the director, Robert Motum, shake his hand, thank him for the experience, then return, somewhat gratefully, to the solitude of your own car. One the way home, you notice there are a lot of people standing around, waiting at bus stops, lining the sidewalks. Not everyone is standing stalk-still. Some look to be conversing, some are moving in inscrutable ways under the faint city stars. They must all imagine they are at the centre of things, possibly seeing from the corner of their eyes your black car speeding past, a ghost in the night.

Bus Stop

If you miss only one English department event this year, DO NOT make it this one!

The question heard most frequently around English studies shops like ours is, “Sure, you people are great at parsing sentences and breaking down texts, but can you hit a high C or bust a move?” The answer is: Observe, fool!

Professor Sarah Tolmie, one-time wunderkind and now just plain wunderful, has organized an extraordinary talent event for alumni, friends of English, faculty, and students, to be held next Friday night.

Stop Idling: An Evening with the English Department, SJU English, Alumni and Friends
When: Friday November 16, 6 pm – 11 pm
Where: The University Club, UW

Stop Idling, a multimedia talent night featuring department members, students, alumni and friends, is to be held at the University Club on November 16th from 6 pm onwards. It is going to be pretty cool, a mashup of a kind we have not done before.

Tickets are available from the Alumni Office.

Please come, alumni, current students and friends and supporters of our departments, both on main campus and at St Jerome’s!

Below are some photos and bios of event participants in our ever-evolving lineup. These were written by the performers themselves, uncut and unsullied.

Maggie Clark

Maggie Clark graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Joint Honours in Political Science and English Literature. She has published fiction in The Danforth Review, Vagabondage Press, Lightspeed, and Daily SF, and poetry in RATTLE, The Pedestal, ditch, and Ryga. Her current, dominant interest in speculative fiction resonates with ongoing work as a doctoral student at Wilfrid Laurier University in the narrative analysis of Victorian era scientific non-fiction.

Tristanne Connolly

Tristanne Connolly is a professor at St Jerome’s, teaching courses such as Literature of the Romantic Period (her specialty) and The Superhero. She helps organize the Canada Council-supported Reading Series at St Jerome’s, also known by its motto, Can Lit Kicks Ass. A few of her poems have appeared in literary magazines includingThe Fiddlehead and The Honest Ulsterman. She has written and edited a number of scholarly books and articles, mainly on William Blake, and collaborates internationally (with special connections to the UK and Japan) in research on British and Canadian literature, pop music, and culture.

Michael Aaron Damyanovich
Michael Aaron Damyanovich is in his third year of studying Literature and Philosophy at the University of Waterloo. Previously, he was a student of Biology, Environmental Economics, and Astronomy. His most likely career prospect seems to be educated homelessness (give generously!). He is twenty-two years of age, and has been a rather excellent poet since I was in the sixth grade. He collects fine books, and his favourite authors are Hesse, Goethe, Byron, Shakespeare, and Waugh. He works at sawing lumber in the summers and, to stay sharp in the off-season, he plays the fiddle.

Caitlyn Derderian

Originally from Waterloo, Caitlyn Derderian has been playing violin for the last ten years and have always been in love with music. She met Mike in their grade nine strings orchestra and they have been musical partners ever since, performing for charity events, the mayor of Waterloo, and even in an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day. She is currently in her fourth year at the University of Waterloo studying Drama and English Literature. The arts have always been clost to her heart, and she hopes that everyone enjoys the songs she and Mike have prepared.

Danica Guenette

Danica Guenette grew up in Sudbury, Ontario. While completing her classical vocal training, she sang in Meadowlark Five over the course of several Canada-wide tours. Moving to Kitchener in 2012, Danica joined The Crazy Diamonds, a local 9-piece band whose repertoire consists of Pink Floyd albums and disco and R & B classics. For info on current and future activities, see The Crazy Diamonds facebook page.

Marcy Italiano

Marcy Italiano lives in Waterloo, Ontario with her husband Giasone and twin boys. Books available: Katrina and the Frenchman: A Journal from the Street (2009); Spirits and Death in Niagara (2008); Pain Machine (2003). Marcy has also written many dark fiction stories, the most recent publication is “Dance at My Funeral” in the Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, Issue 4. She has published poetry in both magazines and online. She also works on songwriting with “G”. To find out more please visit her website.

Poppy Kyprianou

Poppy Kyprianou graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Waterloo. She read a book of poetry, Inventing the Hawk, by Lorna Crozier, and ever since then she couldn’t stop writing and being inspired. Poppy has published two poems in The New Quarterly (Issue: 118) and submits whenever she can. She currently lives in Kitchener, Ontario where she dreams, writes and goes on daily adventures.

Tommy Mayberry

Tommy Mayberry has a BA from Waterloo (Joint Hons. English Literature and Fine Arts: Studio Specialization) and an MA from McMaster (English and Cultural Studies). He is a first-year PhD student interested in human bodies. In his practiced-based research as an academic drag queen, through marrying her scholastic roots of English and the Visual Arts, he simultaneously (re)embodies the voice of theory and (re)envoices the body of art. Her work initiates the lip-synching performance of scholars’ words fused with his own as she explores visual/textual argumentation located in both his spoken language and bodily rhetoric. The central question, then, in her project of embodied cognitive research is: “If we can have drag bodies, do we also have drag minds?” Focusing on writers/artists such as Lady Gaga, RuPaul, William Blake, and even William Langland, he is interested in what happens in/to the mind when the form of the body changes and then changes back.

Claire Pella

Claire Pella is a student, scribbler, and compulsive reader completing a Bachelor of Independent Studies with a concurrent BA in Political Science. Her undergraduate thesis for Independent Studies focusses on the treatment of time, selfhood, and ethics in three novels by Ursula K. Le Guin. Other interests include language(s), ethnography, visual art, theatre, grassroots activism, and gardening. Unsurprisingly, she recently arrived at the conclusion that her BA in political science should really have been in cultural anthropology.

Jack Pender

Jack Pender grew up in Northern Ontario. One day, he stretched some chicken wire down the length of a 2 x 4 and plucked the string — his first guitar. Since then, he’s picked up a couple of literature degrees and is currently proselytizing for William T. Vollmann — a direly underappreciated American writer — in Waterloo’s doctoral program. Whenever bar owners and event planners can be persuaded, Jack still likes to surprise unwitting audiences with his musical stylings.

Lacey Beer

Lacey Beer is a second year PhD candidate in English (Canadian Literature and Composition) who indulges in creative writing and composing music. She has her A.R.C.T. (Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music) Performers certificate in piano and her Grade 10 (RCM) violin. She has also been a dedicated member of both the CCO (Cambridge Community Orchestra) and the KWSYO (Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Youth Orchestra) as well as an independent music instructor. She has a minor in both music and French from Wilfrid Laurier University and has received several bursaries and awards through the KWSYO and the Kiwanis Music Festival.

Veronica Austen

Veronica Austen is an Assistant Professor at St. Jerome’s University and a graduate from the Department of English’s M.A. and Ph.D. programs. Having done a minor in Fine Art during her undergrad, she’d likely say that her genre is drawing, but the freedom and play involved in watercolour is often so much more fun.

Sarah Tolmie and Adam Euerby

Sarah Tolmie and Adam Euerby have been practicing contact improvisation together for two years, and are two-thirds of the Raw Nerve Research Group, a think-in-motion-tank dedicated to helping people use their bodies as instruments of analysis. Sarah is an Associate Professor in the department, and Adam is a UW Systems Design MASc now working as a designer for Desire2Learn.

New semester gets off to a great start!

Item: The new department photocopier continues to perform well.

Item: Several large boxes of books have materialized in the mailroom and around the English department corridors.  Professors and students have been eagerly scooping up the free titles to add to their collections. GUI Bloopers: Don’ts and Do’s is still available, as are some great runs of PMLAs from the heavy theory epoch, the 1980s.

Item: An Arts faculty professor had his third coffee of the day at the ML Tim Horton’s. Why not use a mug, professor? Those disposable cups don’t grow on trees.

Item: Over the hot summer, most of the geese on campus moved closer to water supplies. As a result, the dessicated grass around Hagey Hall is receiving little natural fertilizer. So long, Honky! You won’t be missed.

Item: In HH 227, a man with an Australian accent was heard holding forth on water hole swimming in the Northern Territories. No one should underestimate the scope of liberal arts education.

Item: New and returning students are variously pleased, aghast, and mesmerized by the new-look Grad House. Check it out!

Item: The new Alumni webpage is up and running. Bookmark, share, get involved.

Warren and Mary Ober Study Rooms

If you have visited the 10th floor of the Dana Porter Library in the last 5 months, you will have noticed the following addition to the otherwise unchanging tableau of shelves, books, fluorescent lights, and gun-slit windows:

Warren Ober, of course, has been part of the UW English community since 1965. Thanks to a generous donation from Professor Ober and his wife, Mary, these two study rooms opened in April 2012 after several months of construction.

As well as comfortable chairs and tables, the rooms feature aesthetically pleasing,  smile-producing glass panel wallboards.

A study group of Economics students was gathered in one of the rooms over the exam period. What did they think of the glass boards? “They’re amazing,” said one. “Way better than chalk,” added another. Are they even better than whiteboards? “Whiteboards basically suck,” all agreed. “Somebody always uses, like, the wrong kind of marker and it stays on there. With these you can’t do that. They’re really great.”

The students wondered who Warren Ober was. Would it surprise them to learn that Warren Ober was twice chair of the English department, a scholar of Romantic poetry, and a recipient of a Distinguished Teaching Award. “No, that seems about right,” said one. “That’s the kind of professor you have to name rooms and buildings after.” How about the fact that Professor Ober was a junior officer in the US Naval Reserve during Word War Two, and that he has written extensively on the enigma of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?

“That’s wild,” said a student. “That is so cool. That was such a long time ago.”

Want to know more about Warren Ober?