Category Archives: Literature

New Faculty Book: Shakespeare On Stage and Off

Cover Shakespeare On Stage and Off

It’s not surprising that summer in Waterloo is Shakespeare season for many, given the proximity of the Stratford Festival. This makes it the perfect time to congratulate English faculty Dr. Kenneth Graham and Dr. Alysia Kolentsis on their forthcoming edited collection, Shakespeare On Stage and Off. The description from the press promises a lively and current volume, covering everything from Star Trek to “a Trump-like Julius Caesar”–read on to find out more!

Today, debates about the cultural role of the humanities and the arts are roiling. Responding to renewed calls to reassess the prominence of canonical writers, Shakespeare On Stage and Off introduces new perspectives on why and how William Shakespeare still matters.

Lively and accessible, the book considers what it means to play, work, and live with Shakespeare in the twenty-first century. Contributors – including Antoni Cimolino, artistic director of the Stratford Festival – engage with contemporary stagings of the plays, from a Trump-like Julius Caesar in New York City to a black Iago in Stratford-upon-Avon and a female Hamlet on the Toronto stage, and explore the effect of performance practices on understandings of identity, death, love, race, gender, class, and culture. Providing an original approach to thinking about Shakespeare, some essays ask how the knowledge and skills associated with working lives can illuminate the playwright’s works. Other essays look at ways of interacting with Shakespeare in the digital age, from Shakespearean resonances in Star Trek and Indian films to live broadcasts of theatre performances, social media, and online instructional tools. Together, the essays in this volume speak to how Shakespeare continues to enrich contemporary culture.

A timely guide to the ongoing importance of Shakespearean drama, Shakespeare On Stage and Off surveys recent developments in performance, adaptation, popular culture, and education.


Creative Writing from Engl 332


End-of-term launch party.

Creative Writing is always popular–students are excited to take it, and those who teach it enjoy talking about their students’ achievements. This year’s English 332 course was no exception. Taught by Carrie Snyder (a nominee for the Governor General’s Award for fiction), it was a resounding success, as Carrie documented on her blog. She has generously given us permission to share her post. Read on to hear about the work, and see photos of the students with their final projects, stories in comic form.

The time for this is always with us
–Carrie Snyder

I’m done teaching for another term. My course was on the creative process: how to set goals, envision a major project, and lay the groundwork necessary to complete the work. I spent a couple of days this week and last meeting with students to hand back their final projects (stories in comic form), and to chat about the term. Some themes emerged in our conversations. Here’s what we learned.

2019-04-18_01-13-012019-04-18_01-12-532019-04-18_01-12-44The importance of mistakes. So many students talked about how important their mistakes had been in shaping their project, how an apparent mistake had turned out to be important or valuable to their drawing, or how freeing it was to allow themselves to make mistakes. My theory is that through mistakes our unconscious mind gives us important information we couldn’t otherwise access; and drawing is the perfect medium for this communication with the self, because we see our “mistakes” pretty much instantly, and have to figure out what they’re trying to tell us.

2019-04-18_01-12-352019-04-18_01-12-262019-04-18_01-12-16The freedom of stepping away from perfectionism. Students also expressed how freeing it was to embrace their mistakes, or even how freeing it was just to give themselves permission to make mistakes. Creating a major project by hand is time-consuming and laborious, and if you don’t accept the mistakes you’ll inevitably make, you’ll never finish what you’ve started.

2019-04-18_01-12-082019-04-18_01-12-002019-04-18_01-11-40The calm that exists inside creation. Every student in the class put a lot of time into their projects, and some put in vast swathes of time, far more than they’d anticipated, or really, that was required to meet the project’s guidelines. (In other words, they didn’t care about the rubric, they cared about the work itself.) Students talked about losing themselves in what they were doing. It didn’t feel like work. It was fun, it was relaxing. The time flew. There is a meditative quality to making things by hand, to being focused in this way; engaged.

2019-04-18_01-11-012019-04-18_01-10-472019-04-18_01-10-40The time for this is always with us. (To paraphrase Lynda Barry.) This feeling of calm, this experience of getting lost inside a pleasurable task, is available anytime. And yet, we seem to need someone to remind us of this, we need a reason to get engaged in this way, a task, a project for a class to give us the excuse to get lost in making something that requires focus and effort, that is time-consuming, and that ultimately may have no material or monetary value. We feel like we have to prove that it’s worth it. I wonder why? When it seems so obvious, looking at these wonderful students and their amazing artwork — their unique, truthful, serious, funny, silly, brave, thoughtful beautiful art — that it is worth it.

2019-04-18_01-10-322019-04-18_01-10-242019-04-18_01-10-16This course gave the students permission to make art. To draw. To colour. To turn their lives, their observations, their ideas into cartoons. Many expressed how valuable this practice was for them, and how much they hoped others would get the chance to take the course too. “Everyone should have to take this course!” “You have to teach it again for the sake of future students!” In truth, I’m not sure what I taught was a course so much as a concept: what I tried to do was make space for the students to make space for themselves.

2019-04-18_01-10-082019-04-18_01-10-002019-04-18_01-09-49Anyone can draw. Most of the students had no idea what they were signing up for when they entered my classroom on day one. They thought they were taking a creative writing course; the course description was vague; they were surprised to learn they’d be doing so much drawing. They weren’t sure they could do it. Many hadn’t drawn since high school, or even grade school. “I never thought I could draw well enough to …” And to a person, they could — they could tell the stories they wanted to tell through cartoons. (“Well enough” went out the window; “well enough” had no place in our classroom.)

2019-04-18_01-09-392019-04-18_01-09-272019-04-18_01-09-182019-04-18_01-09-07Pride in accomplishment. The final projects undertaken by the students were big!! This was no small undertaking. And everyone did it! The deadline got met, and each project proved to be as unique and individual as the person who created it.

Thank you, Artists of ENGL 332! Thank you for your trust. It was an adventure.

xo, Carrie

Dr. Sarah Tolmie Shortlisted for Griffin Prize

Congratulations to UWaterloo English professor Dr. Sarah Tolmie, who has been shortlisted for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize, for The Art of Dying (McGill-Queen’s University Press). The jury described her work as a “multifaceted meditation on mortality beneath its deceptively simple lyric surface.”  Tolmie has been invited to read, alongside fellow nominees including Dionne Brand and Eve Joseph, June 5 at Koerner Hall in Toronto. The following night two winners will be celebrated at a gala ceremony.


David A. Robertson to Read

Join us for a talk and book signing with author/illustrator David Alexander Robertson – part of the 2018-19 Indigenous Speakers Series. David A. Robertson is the bestselling author of children’s books, graphic novels, and novels, many of which have won awards. His works educate and entertain readers about Indigenous Peoples, reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues. He is a member of Norway House Cree Nation, and lives in Winnipeg. To check out his prolific publications, visit David Robertson’s website.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 13, 2:30 to 4:00 PM
WHERE: Theatre of the Arts

Indigenous Speakers Series presents Maria Campbell

If you follow Canadian literature, you may recall that in June this year, Maria Campbell‘s 1973 ground-breaking autobiography Halfbreed was the subject of significant press coverage. The cause was the rediscovery of pages of the manuscript excised by the press without her knowledge or permission “over fears the RCMP would try to halt the book’s publication.” This act of excision is especially resonant, given the issues about which Campbell herself has been so outspoken. For scholars of literature, such a discovery also demands we consider the ways in which the path to publication can involve coerced and involuntary textual violences for writers from historically marginalized publications.

We at UWaterloo are fortunate that Maria Campbell will be joining us on campus as part of the Indigenous Speakers Series on Wednesday, February 13th at 4pm, in Modern Languages Theatre of the Arts. Campbell is a Cree-Métis writer, playwright, filmmaker, scholar, teacher and elder. Campbell’s memoir Halfbreed (1973) is regarded as a foundational piece of Indigenous literature in Canada for its attention to the discrimination, oppression and poverty that some Métis women (and other Indigenous people) experience in Canada.

Campbell has published several other books and plays, and has directed and written scripts for a number of films. As an artist, Campbell has worked with Indigenous youth in community theatre and advocated for the hiring and recognition of Indigenous people in the arts. She has mentored many Indigenous artists during her career. Among many honours and awards, Campbell received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2005, and was named Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.

This Indigenous Speakers Series event is co-presented by the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, the Faculty of Arts, the Department of History, and the Department of Communication Arts. The Series highlights the voices of Indigenous artists, writers, activists, and leaders from across Turtle Island, offering UWaterloo students, faculty and staff opportunities to learn from, understand, and engage with Indigenous issues.

Photo credit: Ted Whitecalf


Author Lee Maracle speaking at UWaterloo

On Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 4 PM – 5:30 PM, the Indigenous Speakers Series presents renowned author and teacher Lee Maracle, who will be joined by choreographer Bill Coleman for an integrated lecture/dance performance, in the Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages.

Lee Maracle is a member of the Sto:Lo Nation; grandmother of four and mother of four who was born in North Vancouver, BC. Her works include the novels, Ravensong, Bobbi Lee, and Sundogs; short story collection, Sojourner’s Truth; poetry collection, Bentbox; and non-fiction work I Am Woman. She was a Co-editor of My Home As I Remember and Telling It: Women and Language Across Cultures, editor of a number of poetry works, Gatherings journals and has been published in dozens of anthologies in Canada and the United States. An award-winning author and teacher, she is currently a mentor for Indigenous students at University of Toronto where she teaches Indigenous studies. Ms. Maracle acts as the Traditional Cultural Director for the Indigenous Theatre School and also functions as the schools part-time cultural instructor.

Bill Coleman is a choreographer and performer whose work has transcended traditional theatrical settings to include mountain tops, rainforests, prairies and urban construction sites. He has created a bold collection of large-scale, site-specific works, collaborating with diverse groups including WWII veterans, Aboriginal communities, fishing villages, ranching towns and urban neighbourhoods. He uses dance as a means to unite communities within their natural environment and past locations include Banff, Gros Morne and Grassland National Parks, the steppes of western Mongolia, Long Plain First Nation Pow Wow in Manitoba, the Great Bear Rainforest in BC and Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood.

The Indigenous Speakers Series is co-presented by the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, the Faculty of Arts, and the Department of Communication Arts. The series highlights the voices of Indigenous artists, writers, activists, and leaders from across Turtle Island, offering UWaterloo students, faculty and staff opportunities to learn from, understand, and engage with Indigenous issues.

Lee Maracle illustration by Catherine Dallaire.

St. Jerome’s Reading Series, 2018-2019

Once again, it’s time to announce the St. Jerome’s Reading Series, here at University of Waterloo. The first event is a reading by poet Julie Cameron Gray (pictured above), on Friday, 19 October, 4:30pm, in SJ1 3027. Gray’s most recent collection, Lady Crawford, was shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets’ 2017 Pat Lowther Award (and was reviewed by Lena Dunham in Lenny). Information about other readings follows–from Canadian football to Lucy Maud Montgomery, this year’s series has it all!

Jael Richardson, Friday 16 November, 4:30pm, SJ1 3027

Richard Cumyn, Friday 1 February, 4:30pm, SJ1 3027

Melanie Fishbane, Friday 8 March, 4:30pm, SJ1 3027

The readings are free and all are welcome. Hope to see you there — and please spread the word

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.