Category Archives: Graduate students

Congratulations to our six new PhDs!

Spring convocation this year involved the robing of a number of highly accomplished new PhDs from UWaterloo English! All of them have appeared on the blog in the past year, as we’ve celebrated their successful defenses–but never before in a single photo.

Lacey Beer
Tongues Tide: Translingual Directions for Technologically-Mediated Composing Platforms (Supervisor: Frances Condon)

Clare Bermingham (University Finalist for the Governor General’s Gold Medal)
Feeling Queer Together: Identity, Community, and the Work of Affect in the Pre-Stonewall Lesbian Magazine, The Ladder (Supervisor: Victoria Lamont)

Morteza Dehghani
“In Works of Hands or of the Wits of Men”: The Elegies of Wim Wenders, Laurie Anderson and Alexander Sokurov (Co-supervisors: Kevin McGuirk & Alice Kuzniar)

Amna Haider
A Transmogrifying Discourse of Sexual Violence: Resisting, Redressing, and Re-writing Racial Scripts in Contemporary African American Women’s Theatre (Co-supervisors: Frances Condon & Vershawn Young)

Philip Miletic
Only Connect: The Virtual Communities of Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace (Supervisor: Aimée Morrison)

Dhruba Neupane
Plurality, promises and practice: A case of Nepali immigrants’ transliterating and translanguaging in Canada (Supervisor: Jay Dolmage)


I Know What You Did Last Weekend

ACCUTE photo of panel
We are right in the middle of the 2019 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, held at the University of British Columbia from June 1-7. At this year’s conference over thirty papers and presenters represent the scholarly contributions of UWaterloo’s English department. This includes a wide range of graduate students and faculty.  Dr. Winfried Siemerling  co-organized and co-chaired (with Dr. Karina Vernon) the ACCUTE panel “Call and Response-ability: Black Canadian Art and the Question of Audience” (pictured above). PhD students Ashley Irwin and Sara Gallagher each presented single-author papers, as well as a co-authored paper titled “Remembering the Future: Afrofuturism as Testimony,” while department chair Dr. Shelley Hulan presented “Bridesmaids Revisited, or Canadians and Race in the Neverending Story of Royal Happiness.” PhD candidate Devon Moriarty shares her essay “A New Reddit: Reviving Hope through Rhetorical Citizenship” on June 6th, while fellow PhD student Asma Khaliq is presenting today, on The Wasteland. On Wednesday, Dr. Randy Harris and PhD candidate Kyle Gerber, Danielle Bisnar Griffin (undergrad), and Katherine Tu (MA alumna) will be presenting a co-authored paper “A Figure Is a Figure Is a Figure: The Cognitive-computational Approach to Rhetorical Figures.” To find out more about our research and who else from UWaterloo has or will present, see this (admittedly incomplete) list.

Photo credit: ACCUTE President Dr. Jennifer Andrews

PhD Alumna wins Dissertation Award!

Screenshot 2018-07-18 14.45.49
This is fantastic news! UWaterloo PhD graduate Dr. Sarah Whyte has received the 2018 Award for Best Dissertation from the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing for The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation. Dr. Whyte was supervised by Dr. Jay Dolmage with committee members Dr. Randy Harris and Dr. Catherine Schryer. The committee had this to say about her dissertation:

Dr. Whyte’s doctoral research makes substantial contributions to the theoretical foundations of writing and discourse studies. She pushes Burke—as a theory and method—into new territory in a return to dramatism as she interrogates and deepens the notion of rhetorical situation, in particular through an examination of the concept of circumference. She traces the circumference of the surgical checklist through a deep and rich analysis of the wide range of texts around and about its efficacy/performance in the operating theatre. Within the theatre itself, her participant observations reveal that rhetorical situation is as multifold as the number of participants, and that shared experience does not make for a single/homogenous situation. Thus, circumference has multiple dimensions, and rhetorical situation might be more spherical than our field has grasped to date. Overall the committee agreed that this work will go on to be of key importance to those in our field—including but not limited to Burke scholars and medical rhetoricians—and to policy makers and practitioners in surgical teams.

Congratulations again to Dr. Whyte. Now for a little UWaterloo trivia. Can you guess which UWaterloo English faculty member also won a dissertation award from CASDW?

Our newest PhD studies Nelson Mandela

Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Patricia Ofili, who has successfully defended  her dissertation: “Contextual Complexities and Nelson Mandela’s Braided Rhetoric.” Her supervisor was Dr. Frankie Condon, with committee members Drs. Michael MacDonald and Heather Smyth. Dr. James Walker was the internal external, and Dr. Geneva Smitherman served as the external.

This dissertation revolves around the complex political circumstances in apartheid South Africa that produced Nelson Mandela the rhetorician, human rights activist, and the longest political prisoner in human history. The manner in which Nelson Mandela deploys a braided rhetoric that is a combination of the African and Western rhetorical traditions for spearheading the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa is investigated. Mandela draws upon the African rhetorical tradition through which his identity, selfhood, and ethos were forged, while appropriating the Western rhetorical tradition through which he attained his education and training as a lawyer. Also examined is the complexity of inter-ethnic strife among Black South Africans; a situation that was exploited by the apartheid regime and which made the western rhetorical tradition inadequate for the addressing apartheid domination. The dissertation also studies Mandela’s dynamism as he navigates the murky waters of apartheid policies, which were not only smoke screens for veiling their racist intent, but enactments that kept morphing for the purpose of crushing any form of dissent. The complex situation produced an audience that was very diverse, and to appeal to these local and international audiences, Mandela required a rhetoric that was nuanced and effective enough to dismantle the apartheid racist order. Mandela employs narratives, which are performed in keeping with the African oral tradition – to unify, organize, and inspire his people; to call on the world beyond the borders of South Africa to account for their support of Apartheid; and to call out whites South Africans for implicit and explicit consent to the evils of a racist social, political, and economic order. Mandela’s rhetoric is strengthened particularly because, even as he speaks and writes in service of a struggle against systemic racism, he rises above the reification of essentialism and thus resists complicity.

Learning with Machines

Screenshot 2019-04-09 21.49.42

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

Screenshot 2019-04-01 10.39.07


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!