Category Archives: Graduate students

Congratulations Dr. Lacey Beer

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It’s been quite the week of defenses! We are pleased to offer congratulations to our newest PhD graduate, Dr. Lacey Beer. Today Dr. Beer defended her dissertation, “Tongues Tide: Translingual Directions for Technologically-Mediated Composing Platforms.


Her supervisor was Dr. Frankie Condon,· with committee members Drs. Jay Dolmage and Vershawn Young. Dr. Jerry Won Lee of the University of California, Irvine served as external examiner. Dr. Beer’s research was supported by a SSHRC award and a President’s Graduate Scholarship, and she has published in The New Quarterly.



Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Phil Miletic

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You may remember English PhD candidate Phil Miletic from previous posts, such as “A Week in the Life of a Graduate Student” and “Rewriting Gertrude Stein.” Well, now he has defended his dissertation, “Only Connect: The Virtual Communities of Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace,” and he is DOCTOR Phil Miletic. Congratulations!

Dr. Miletic has been active with UWaterloo’s First Person Scholar as well as our graduate student association. His publications have appeared in African American Review, Canadian Review of American Studies, and The International Journal of Comic Art and he has a piece forthcoming in Biography. His dissertation research was supported by a SSHRC award as well as the President’s Graduate Scholarship.

Dr. Miletic’s supervisor was Dr. Aimée Morrison, and his committee members Drs. Kevin McGuirk and Marcel O’Gorman. The internal examiner was Dr. Ian Milligan; the external examiner was Dr. Lori Emerson, University of Colorado at Boulder. Phil’s description of his dissertation follows.

“Only Connect: The Virtual Communities of Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace”

My dissertation compares Modernist imaginations and applications of early radio with Late Postmodernist imaginations and applications of the early internet. The American authors that I focus on and compare in my dissertation are Gertrude Stein, a Modernist, and David Foster Wallace, a Late Postmodernist. My dissertation asserts that Stein and Wallace each incorporate the techno-cultural imaginations and feelings of community through the democratic poetics and aesthetics of their work. Both Stein and Wallace engage with facilitating literary communities that form around emerging mass media––for Stein, the radio, and for Wallace, the blog––and provoke readers to participate in auto/biographical practices as a mode of discussing American identity, community, and democracy. Where the orality of Stein’s texts invites readers’ auto/biographical engagement, Wallace’s written depictions of mental health, addiction, and loneliness prompt readers to share auto/biographical narratives/disclosures related to those topics in the reading group discussions. Altogether, my dissertation engages with a unique media archeological combination of literary analysis, media studies, and critical media production in order to suss out the dynamic exploration of identity, community, and democratic participation these authors and their readers feel for within the mediascape of their respective eras.

Speculative Fiction & Identity

Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. Victoria Lamont and PhD candidate Meghan Riley, who have together received a Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement (LITE) Grant for the project “Changing Bodies, Changing Minds: Utilizing Speculative Fiction to Teach Intersectional and Postcolonial Theories.” The project, which runs from fall 2018 through August 2019, will “investigate innovative approaches to enhancing teaching and learning” by examining students’ awareness of the interrelated aspects of identity based on race, sex, class, and gender, as well as how discrimination is often based on multiple intersecting identity markers, through science fiction, fantasy, horror, and alternate history. The intent is to “foster deep student learning” through engaging students in a consideration of how shapeshifters – human characters who can change form and assume different races and sexes – are indicative of race and gender as social constructions. Moreover, it will pair speculative fiction literature with popular speculative fiction television, appealing to students’ interests across media and increasing the likelihood that students will use course concepts to analyze speculative fiction TV.

Image credit: Deviant Art


English PhD student joins GRADtalks

Join English PhD candidate Evelyn DeShane, who will be participating in GRADtalks, an initiative of UWaterloo’s Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. The topic is social networks, and Evelyn will be joined by Robert Gauthier, PhD Candidate, Public Health and Health Systems Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. Robert investigates how online communities are supporting sensitive topics such as addiction recovery; Evelyn studies how trans people take back narrative control through stories, films, apps, and other social networks. Evelyn’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic’s Tech Channel, Plenitude Magazine, Bitch Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, Vitality Magazine, and The LGBTQ Policy Journal, and elsewhere. Details are below.

September 27, 2018
3:30 – talks, including question and answer
4:45 – wine and cheese
NH – Ira G. Needles Hall Room 3407 – Board and Senate Room

Registration is required.

Congratulating Dr. Dhruba Neupane!

Congratulations to UWaterloo English PhD student–and now graduate–Dr. Dhruba Neupane. On September 6th Dr. Neupane successfully defended his dissertation, titled  “Plurality, promises and practice: A case of Nepali immigrants’ transliterating and translanguaging in Canada.” Dr. Neupane was supervised by Dr. Jay Dolmage, with a committee composed of Drs. Frankie Condon and Heather Smyth. The external ·examiner was Dr. Iswari Pandey of English, California State University, Northridge.

The description follows.

“Plurality, promises and practice: A case of Nepali immigrants’ transliterating and translanguaging in Canada”

This dissertation is a community-based study among sixteen Nepali immigrant students in graduate and undergraduate programs that have intensive writing, research and communication components. It combines group discussions, interviews, case studies and participant observations to explore the ways featured migrants adapt, appropriate, repel and repeat dominant practices of meaning making in academic and social spaces. Participants’ phenomenological experiences and narratives consist of difficulties in navigating unfamiliar academic and social expectations, especially at the transitional stage; the lack of appropriate support mechanisms; the presence of direct and indirect forms of racism; the resolve to challenge existing strange-making practices, and the hope for a better future. This research further shows that migrants’ hybrid literacy and epistemological practices go beyond what can be contained within the established academic writing grids. While the research problematizes a romanticized narrative within some multilingual scholarships: that multilinguals ‘carry’ mobile and portable language and communicative resources available for an uncomplicated usage and seamless blending; it stresses the need to actively and qualitatively approach difference in ways that appreciates diverse ways of meaning making, doing, being and valuing that the sheer presence of our students, particularly those marked as linguistic and cultural Others, demand of us. The central ask of this this dissertation is to diversify our practices from what appear to be more of the same in different guises. For example, various language and cultural difference-based approaches including the bi-multi- pluri- turns have been identified as not significantly punctuating Eurocentric privileges. More specifically, participants will help us know that English monolingualism persists in academic and institutional settings despite translingual realities outside, because it is defended and framed in terms of student, community, and market needs— often encapsulated in the discourse of “reality outside” and represented as a passport to success, growth, and upper socio-symbolic mobility. Participants in this research join diversity and plurality debates, including multiculturalism, and suggest ways in which to pluralize and diversify existing additive-accretive and discrete-separate ways and views of plurality and diversity.

Tips for an Academic Book Review


It was my first week in an academic position and a colleague decided we should head to the bar for a celebratory drink. As we entered, he made an offhand remark about the scholarship of another new hire. I surprised myself by answering: “I’m tired of people slagging other people’s scholarship just because it doesn’t conform to their theoretical preoccupations.” We ordered drinks, and as my new acquaintance’s attention was claimed by undergraduates, I pondered my need to better self-edit—but also my complete lack of regret for what I had said.

Until that moment I’d never put that simmering frustration into words. But, as a principle, “don’t dismiss the work of others because it doesn’t reflect your interests” is something I’ve come to realize is fundamental to academics. It’s not just that we work in departments with those whose scholarship might be radically different from ours. Rather, as academics, we are rooted in the practices of constructively reading and reviewing the work of others, whether as supervisors, members of writing groups, peer reviewers for a journal or academic press, or book reviewers for academic journals.

After years as book review editor of an academic journal, I can attest that finding reviewers who will read books generously, thoughtfully, and with an understanding of the field can be challenging. Several editors I know have commented on the problem of the (disproportionately junior) reviewer who eviscerates a book as a means of showcasing their own critical acumen. Most often such a reviewer takes issue less with the work on its terms, than with how it doesn’t reproduce their own scholarly orientation. In the end, such a review tells you more about the reviewer than the book. In part, this is the failing of academics: we don’t always do a great job talking about producing academic book reviews. In that vein, if I had one piece of advice for new reviewers it would be: don’t dismiss the work of others because it doesn’t reflect your interests.

For those who are embarking on reviewing, think about what makes book reviews useful. At a basic level, we all want to know: what will I get from reading this book? What is it about? Following that, what is the argument, how is it constructed, what are its implications? Before picking apart a book for its weaknesses, first consider: what are the book’s strengths? I have bought books I suspected weren’t as solid, because they addressed matters or events I wanted to know more about. When you do contemplate a discussion of potential weaknesses, reflect: are they substantive or minor, and will devoting a significant portion of the review to them make you look petty?

Perversely, some people presume you have to say something explicitly negative in order for the positive things you say to be judged objective. I have a former colleague who believes this about letters of reference for undergraduate students as well as PhDs on the job market. Let me be clear: this is bad advice for writers of letters of reference and it is bad advice for writers of academic book reviews. If you think there is a glaring weakness that deserves to be addressed, do not go for the jugular or release your inner snark: depending on the concern, either state it clearly, or find a way to signal it to your reader. For instance, the statement “the author is less concerned with the scholarly revelations of the last twenty years, instead focusing on the close reading of variations between the first and second editions” can convey volumes in the right context.

For those embarking on their first academic book review—or even those squeezing in a review and needing to organize their ideas—here are a list of questions to consider. A good book review need not address all of these or even the majority; but the attentive reading required to produce a decent review does mean that the reviewer should have a handle on them. Remember: in the end, a good academic review in a scholarly journal doesn’t summarize, it considers; it doesn’t eviscerate, it responds. If you have doubts about your approach—even if you don’t—consult a few issues of the journal you are writing for, and ensure you are matching their goals.

  • What is the book about? Does it cover an area that has been neglected?
  • What is the author’s theoretical and/or methodological framework?
  • Does the author introduce a new framework or perspective?
  • How does the author engage previous scholarship? Is the book indebted to particular authors, works, or trends?
  • Is the research and approach suitable given the subject?
  • Does the author mine neglected or underutilized sources?
  • Is scholarship or insight produced by other disciplines utilized? If so, how, and is it successful?
  • Is the research current?
  • What does the book add to the existing scholarly conversation?
  • Is it successful? Does it do what it sets out to do?
  • Are there potentially controversial moves? Is it provocative?
  • Is this work timely in relation to the field and/or current events?
  • Does it lay the groundwork for future scholarship? How?
  • Is there something in the book that brought you joy? Or that you wanted to emulate in your own scholarship? Or made you see something differently?
  • Is the structure logical? Stylistically, does it flow? Is the language appropriate?
  • Are there useful appendices, images, or visual aids?
  • Who would be interested in the scholarship or find it useful? Disciplinary specialists? Armchair scholars? Local history societies? Literary groups? Fan communities?
  • Is it teachable? Are there portions that would be useful readings in courses? Would graduate students benefit from reading it?
  • Does it feel as if it will stand up?
  • Can you think of one thing that might have substantially strengthened the work?

Image credit: Ten Academic Books that Changed the World

Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Benjamin Woodford

Congratulations to Dr. Benjamin Woodford, who successfully defended his dissertation “Institutions, Theology, and the Language of Freedom in the Poetry and Prose of John Milton” on August 10th. He was supervised by Dr. Ken Graham, with readers Dr. Rebecca Tierney-Hynes (via Skype) and Dr. Sarah Tolmie. Thank you to his external, Dr. Tobias Gregory, Catholic University of America and internal-external: Dr. Troy Osborne (Conrad Grebel, History). Dr. Woodford is the author of numerous articles, as well as the book Perceptions of a Monarchy without a King: Reactions to Oliver Cromwell’s Power (McGill-Queens UP). A description of the dissertation follows.

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Institutions, Theology, and the Language of Freedom in the Poetry and Prose of John Milton

Freedom is an essential topic in the writings of John Milton, but what he means by this term varies over the course of his career. Milton’s prose works centre on religious and political liberty, which explore how the church and state interact with Christians and citizens. His early prose tracts express skepticism about the contributions of institutions, particularly coercive institutions, to freedom. As the English Revolution progresses, Milton begins to separate religious and political liberty based on the role of institutions in each type of freedom. In Milton’s commonwealth and late prose, religious freedom protects the individual conscience from being coerced by any civil or ecclesiastical institution; institutions are limited to persuasion and admonition in religious matters. Political freedom, in contrast, involves parliament leading, schools educating, and the army compelling the English people so that they accept a commonwealth, as political freedom is only possible in a commonwealth. Although these institutions often act against the will of the electorate, Milton’s language presents them as expressions of popular sovereignty. In his epic poem Paradise Lost, Milton shifts the setting from England to the mythical realm of heaven and presents an additional dimension of liberty. Paradise Lost incorporates much of the language regarding freedom and institutions from Milton’s prose, but it expresses a theological freedom that focuses on a Christian’s relationship with God. Theological freedom involves both free choice and dependence on God. Milton uses the character God to articulate the principles of theological freedom, and the characters Satan and Adam and Eve to illustrate failures in theological freedom. These failures shake the reader’s confidence, but the poem ends with the restoration of freedom, encouraging the reader to accept freedom through dependence on God.