Category Archives: Graduate students

Learning with Machines

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Today, at 6pm, the UWaterloo English Critical Media Lab is hosting “Learning with Machines.”

What does the future of work and learning look like for educators and students? For entrepreneurs and startups? Join Diana Moreno Ojeda, a UWaterloo PhD student in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo and Mitacs researcher with Deloitte, and UWaterloo PhD alumnus Dr. Robert Clapperton of Ryerson and co-founder of Ametros Learning, a machine learning pedagogical company, for a conversation of the role of AI in classrooms and skills we can learn alongside and from these technologies.

The Critical Media Lab is located in Area 151 of Communitech, 151 Charles St West, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 1H6. A Q&A and light refreshments will follow the talk.


“In Works of Hands or of the Wits of Men”: meet our newest PhD graduate

Congratulations to our newest PhD graduate, Dr. Morteza Dehghani. On April 3rd he successfully defended his dissertation, titled “In Works of Hands or of the Wits of Men”: The Elegies of Wim Wenders, Laurie Anderson and Alexander Sokurov. Co-Supervisors were Drs. Kevin McGuirk and Alice Kuzniar, with committee members: Drs. David Williams and Ken Hirschkop. Dr. Élise Lepage served as the internal/external examiner, and the external was Dr. Angelica Fenner of Germanic Languages & Literatures and Cinema Studies, University of Toronto. Thank you to all who participated.

“In Works of Hands or of the Wits of Men”: The Elegies of Wim Wenders, Laurie Anderson and Alexander Sokurov

This dissertation explores the concept of loss and the possibility of consolation in Wim Wenders’s The Salt of the Earth, Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog and Alexander Sokurov’s Oriental Elegy through a method that inter-reads the films with poetic elegies. Schiller’s classic German elegy “Der Spaziergang” (“The Walk”) and Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies have been used in examining The Salt of the Earth and a late Hölderlin poem “In libleicher Bläue” (“In Lovely Blue”) is utilised in perusing Oriental Elegy. In Heart of a Dog, Rilke’s “Schwarze Katze” (“Black Cat”) and Derek Walcott’s “Oddjob, a Bull Terrier,” among others, shed light on the working of the elegiac. I have put these films in a conversation with poems to investigate how a filmic elegy can be informed by poetic elegies and how the two arts operate similarly while they are governed by varied sets of rules. While most studies on loss are informed by psychoanalytical theories, I have focused on the formal ways in which these films portray loss and consolation, using one art, poetry, as a guiding framework to illuminate the other art, film. I propose that in The Salt of the Earth, the movement of the elegiac benefits from Deleuzian montage as the film strides towards solace manifested in resuscitation of Amazonian forests and the art of photography. The technical montage and the thematic elegiac converge. Heart of a Dog, however, bases such a motion of elegy on the Buddhist concept of Bardo, where the narrator “decreates” and then re-creates her self through the remedy of love. Finally, Oriental Elegy operates within an apophatic discourse, proposing metaphor and poetic thinking as potential yet transitory sources of consolation. While these films grieve different object of loss, ranging from humans, animals, lands, and even abstract, philosophical concepts such as the meaning of life and happiness, and whereas they introduce various remedies such as art, love, and metaphor, they function similarly formalistically. Taking its cue from Diana Fuss who revisits Freudian melancholia and benefitting from the idea that correlates loss and creativity or “figuration” as observed in Julia Kristeva and Peter Sacks, this dissertation shows how the grieving subjects are positioned in an in-between status which allows them to move forward in the face of loss. This in-betweenness, I have proposed, is manifested in an elliptical structure in the films. In their passage from sorrow, the bemoaning subjects resort to small sources of solace, loci amoeni, signified by different formal and technical elements in the films. Once analysed cinematically and placed in a dialogue with poetic elegies, the Epilogue brings all the films in one place, examining them in relation to Robert Hass’s poem “Meditation at Lagunitas.” Inter-reading the films with this poetic elegy reveals that the musing speaker in the poem and the narrators in the films face loss similarly. What defines loss is the distance between the subjects and their loved lost ones or things, a lacuna that cannot be filled and, hence, the bewailing subjects resort to a kataphatic expression, to naming, which is repetitive, open-ended, and elliptical.

Come play with us April 3rd

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Join us for Infrastructure at Play, the annual Critical Media Lab exhibition featuring projects developed independently and in classes. There will be interactive games, food, and more.

Exhibitors include graduate students Emily Acton, AC Atienza, Lillian Black, Sid Heeg,  and Brian Freiter from English 799, taught by Dr. Lai-Tze Fan. They will be exhibiting alongside Fine Arts students taught by Dr. Jessica Thompson (Fine Arts), Dr. Dan Vogel (Computer Science), Dr. Lois Andison (Fine Arts), and Dr. Rob Gorbet (Knowledge Integration).

Also, a live performance led by Matthew Borland of the University of Waterloo Tape Music Club will be held at 6PM!


The Nature of the Experiment: A Workshop

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On Monday, April 8th, the UWaterloo English department is co-sponsoring an all-day conference on the nature of the experiment, examining what it means to experiment across a broad spectrum of fields. English faculty members Dr. Fraser Easton and Dr. John Savarese will be participating, along with cross-appointed faculty member Dr. Alice Kuzniar and English PhD candidate Jason Lajoie. The program is available online.


Mary Shelley’s famous invocation of human experimentation gone wrong is more than 200 years old, but remains as vibrant an analysis of the human implication of scientific insight as it did when it was first published; perhaps more so in an age on the verge of breakthroughs in both AI and bioengineering.  This conference will approach the intersections of intelligence, life, and the human from a unique perspective, through the concept and practice of the “experiment,” both today and in the past.

Since the incorporation of the Royal Society in the 1660s, the experiment has been a central locus of both knowledge creation and design in our cultures and societies.  Poets, engineers, scholars, entrepreneurs, and scientists all conduct experiments, and have done so for centuries.  Today, experiment embraces information and data in new ways to create a host of new devices and vehicles.  In this era of emerging AI, it is timely to ask practitioners in all these fields to reflect on what it means to “experiment.”

Sponsored by the Waterloo Centre for German Studies, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, and Department of English Language and Literature.

This is a free event and open to all, but we do ask that you RSVP.

Image by Katy Horan from Literary Witches.

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.

Talking Trash with Lai-Tze Fan and Sabine Weber

Electronics and textiles are two enormous sources of waste. Like most waste, once they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind. So how can we rethink our relationship to waste? And what methods are being developed to differently handle unwanted materials? Join English’s Dr. Lai-Tze Fan and PhD candidate Sabine Weber for “Salon Talk: Talking Trash” on Wednesday March 27th, 5-7pm, at UWaterloo English’s Critical Media Lab, 151 Charles St West, Kitchener.

Grad Students Organize Conference

The Tri-University Conference is a collaboration between English students at the University of Guelph, the UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO, and Wilfrid Laurier University. This year, the University of Waterloo is hosting. Read on for the Call for Papers:

Why do we do what we do? In our increasingly corporatized higher education with more and more emphasis on profits and finding a job, we often have to justify why what we do matters. The Arts in general are significantly underfunded and undervalued due to the perception that our work is irrelevant beyond the walls of the classroom. The public often judges the relevance of a discipline based on how it might translate into a viable source of income. This conference aims to explore the values inherent and provided by the pursuit of higher education in literary studies and the humanities. What do we seek to gain through our education and how does it benefit others? What responsibility do we, as scholars of the humanities, have in our society? How has the humanities changed to address these questions?

Possible topics: Value of Higher Education, Literature/Film/Rhetoric/Garnes and Social Change, Representations of Ethics/Responsibility, Eco-Criticism, Disability/Wellness/Mental Health Rhetoric, Labour/Class and the University, Social Activism, Community-Based Research and Pedagogy, Concepts about the ”Ivory Tower,” Role of Public Scholarship, and More. 

Submit work to Include an abstract of 250-300 words, a short bio of 50-100 words, your contact information, and affiliation as well as your dietary restrictions/ food preferences. Conference will take place on April 12th from 9am-5pm in E2 1732, University of Waterloo.