Category Archives: Publications

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.


New Book from Dr. Ken Hirschkop

Cover of Linguistic Turns
Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. Ken Hirschkop, whose book Linguistic Turns, 1890-1950 Writing on Language as Social Theory, has just been released by Oxford University Press. As the press writes:

Linguistic Turns rewrites the intellectual and cultural history of early twentieth-century Europe. In chapters that study the work of Saussure, Russell, Wittgenstein, Bakhtin, Benjamin, Cassirer, Shklovskii, the Russian Futurists, Ogden and Richards, Sorel, Gramsci, and others, it shows how European intellectuals came to invest ‘language’ with extraordinary force, at a time when the social and political order of the continent was itself in question. By examining linguistic turns in concert rather than in isolation, the volume changes the way we see them—no longer simply as moves in individual disciplines, but as elements of a larger constellation, held together by common concerns and anxieties. In a series of detailed readings, the volume reveals how each linguistic turn invested ‘language as such’ with powers that could redeem not just individual disciplines but Europe itself. It shows how, in the hands of different writers, language becomes a model of social and political order, a tool guaranteeing analytical precision, a vehicle of dynamic change, a storehouse of mythical collective energy, a template for civil society, and an image of justice itself. By detailing the force linguistic turns attribute to language, and the way in which they contrast ‘language as such’ with actual language, the volume dissects the investments made in words and sentences and the visions behind them. The constellation of linguistic turns is explored as an intellectual event in its own right and as the pursuit of social theory by other means.

New Book on Citizen Science from Faculty


Congratulations to English’s Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher on the publication of her book Science Communication Online: Engaging Experts and Publics on the Internet.

Bringing together genre studies and the rhetoric of science, Mehlenbacher examines a range of new forms of science communication that challenge traditional presumptions about experts and nonexperts—including Twitter and Reddit AMAs, crowdfunding proposals such as Kickstarter and, civic-minded databases such as Safecast, and the PLOS blogging network. Science Communication Online illustrates the unique features of these genres and connects them to their rhetorical functions and the larger context leading to their emergence and evolution—from the democratization of science, challenges to expertise and expert status, and new political economies. Science Communication Online captures the important moment we find ourselves in now—one not defined by science and society but science in society.

Science Communication Online is a novel and thoroughgoing exploration of trans-scientific genres. The analyses presented provide a critical snapshot of the emerging digital scientific communication landscape. I fully expect the book to serve as an important touchstone for future scholarship on trans-scientific genres.” —S. Scott Graham, University of Texas at Austin

“Mehlenbacher’s insights on trans-scientific genres—genres in-between the professional and popularizing genres of scientific communication, such as crowdfunding sites, open databases, and blogs—expand our understanding of both genre-ing activity (how genres coalesce, evolve, and work) and the emerging ways scientists communicate in online spaces.” —Jonathan Buehl

Science Communication Online: Engaging Experts and Publics on the Internet was published by The Ohio State University Press (, and is available from major retailers. An open access copy under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND license is also available from OSUP, and you can download a copy here:


Local Black History and a Fishing Expedition

Screenshot 2019-02-04 09.34.30I don’t generally use the department blog to promote my own work—but in this instance, there’s good reason. Last week my essay “Peter Susand, Lost Texts, and Black Canadian Literary Culture of the 1850s” was published in Canadian Literature. I first encountered Susand in Linda Brown-Kubisch’s The Queen’s Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers 1839-1865. In 1856, twenty-five years after arriving in Canada as a fugitive from slavery, Susand published a book of poetry in Kitchener, The Prose and Poetical Works of Peter Edward Susand. To date, no copy of the volume has been found.

We do have accounts of speeches by Susand, as well as other evidence of engagement with literary culture. I have located hundreds of primary source documents related to his family: an interview with one of his children; patents filed by others; advertisements related to their businesses; accounts of their participation in horticulture competitions. But the book remains elusive—hence the fishing expedition. While the essay makes the argument that we shouldn’t wait around for the book to emerge before discussing Susand’s place in the literary landscape of the era, the truth is, for all kinds of reasons, it would be very nice if a copy were to be found. So for anyone cleaning out an attic, emptying a trunk, wriggling through a crawl space, or perusing used books at a sale: please keep this hunt in mind. And if you come across other such materials by nineteenth-century Black Canadian authors: please, don’t discard them. I’m one of many scholars who would be happy to talk to you about preservation.

Photo: In August 2017, following best practices for preservation, I cleaned the Susand family gravestones, to determine what verses were included and if they might have been original compositions by Peter Susand. Location: Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario.

Finding readers in the margins: a new faculty book

It’s not at all odd that I love marginalia, is it? I once wrote all of the archives libraries that held a copy of a particular eighteenth-century book and asked them if they would share all hand-written notes in the book with me. The results were fantastic. I found family arguments inscribed on title pages, emotional responses to tragic events–“THE HORROR!”–and failed courtships remembered. Marginalia has the potential to tell us so much about how people used literature and related to books. That’s why I am thrilled that UWaterloo English professor Dr. Katherine Acheson has just edited a new collection Early Modern English Marginalia, published with Routledge. Here’s more evidence of why this is an absolutely fascinating book:

Marginalia in early modern and medieval texts – printed, handwritten, drawn, scratched, colored, and pasted in – offer a glimpse of how people, as individuals and in groups, interacted with books and manuscripts over often lengthy periods of time. The chapters in this volume build on earlier scholarship that established marginalia as an intellectual method (Grafton and Jardine), as records of reading motivated by cultural, social, theological, and personal inclinations (Brayman [Hackel] and Orgel), and as practices inspired by material affordances particular to the book and the pen (Fleming and Sherman). They further the study of the practices of marginalia as a mode – a set of ways in which material opportunities and practices overlap with intellectual, social, and personal motivations to make meaning in the world. They introduce us to a set of idiosyncratic examples such as the trace marks of objects left in books, deliberately or by accident; cut-and-pasted additions to printed volumes; a marriage depicted through shared book ownership. They reveal to us in case studies the unique value of marginalia as evidence of phenomena as important and diverse as religious change, authorial self-invention, and the history of the literary canon. The chapters of this book go beyond the case study, however, and raise broad historical, cultural, and theoretical questions about the strange, marvelous, metamorphic thing we call the book, and the equally multiplicitous, eccentric, and inscrutable beings who accompany them through history: readers and writers.

Image credits: Routledge, Centre for Material Texts

Alumna’s new memoir: Bird-Bent Grass

University of Waterloo English alumna Kathleen Venema is an Associate Professor at the University of Winnipeg. But it is her experience in UWaterloo’s English program, where she completed both an MA and a PhD that she credits with shaping her new memoir, Bird-Bent Grass: A Memoir, in Pieces. Writes Dr. Venema “From start to finish, Bird-Bent Grass evinces critical, analytical, and creative skills and deft rhetorical shaping that honours what I learned throughout my studies at the University of Waterloo.” The press describes the work as follows: 

Bird-Bent Grass chronicles an extraordinary mother–daughter relationship that spans distance, time, and, eventually, debilitating illness. Personal, familial, and political narratives unfold through the letters that Geeske Venema-de Jong and her daughter Kathleen exchanged during the late 1980s and through their weekly conversations, which started after Geeske was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease twenty years later.

In 1986, Kathleen accepted a three-year teaching assignment in Uganda, after a devastating civil war, and Geeske promised to be her daughter’s most faithful correspondent. The two women exchanged more than two hundred letters that reflected their lively interest in literature, theology, and politics, and explored ideas about identity, belonging, and home in the context of cross-cultural challenges. Two decades later, with Geeske increasingly beset by Alzheimer’s disease, Kathleen returned to the letters, where she rediscovered the evocative image of a tiny, bright meadow bird perched precariously on a blade of elephant grass. That image – of simultaneous tension, fragility, power, and resilience – sustained her over the years that she used the letters as memory prompts in a larger strategy to keep her intellectually gifted mother alive.

You can read an interview with the author here, where she talks more about the experience of writing such a book, as well as the events that inspired it. Or follow the CBC coverage here.

New book from new faculty member

You may remember we welcomed Dr. Jennifer Clary-Lemon to our department in 2018. Well, we have more exciting news to share: her book, Planting the Anthropocene Rhetorics of Natureculture, is now available for purchase. To find out more, read this fascinating–treeplanters!–description from the press:

Planting the Anthropocene is a rhetorical look into the world of industrial tree planting in Canada that engages the themes of nature, culture, and environmental change. Bringing together the work of material ecocriticism and critical affect studies in service of a new materialist environmental rhetoric, Planting the Anthropocene forwards a frame that can be used to work through complex scenes of anthropogenic labor.

Using the results of interviews with seasonal Canadian tree planters, Jennifer Clary-Lemon interrogates the complex and messy imbrication of nature-culture through the inadequate terminology used to describe the actual circumstances of the planters’ work and lives—and offers alternative ways to conceptualize them. Although silvicultural workers do engage with the limiting rhetoric of efficiency and humanism, they also make rhetorical choices that break down the nature-culture divide and orient them on a continuum that blurs the boundaries between the given and the constructed, the human and nonhuman. Tree-planting work is approached as a site of a deep-seated materiality—a continued re-creation of the land’s “disturbance”—rather than a simplistic form of doing good that further separates humans from landscapes.

Jennifer Clary-Lemon’s view of nature and the Anthropocene through the lens of material rhetorical studies is thoroughly original and will be of great interest to students and scholars of rhetoric and composition, especially those focused on the environment.