Category Archives: Publications

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.

Flash From the Past: from Chris Masterman

I have seen the book Flash From the Past: 140 Photographs from the Waterloo Region Record at Words Worth Books in uptown Waterloo, but had no idea that the co-author, Chris Masterman, is currently enrolled in UWaterloo as an English student, until one of her professors, Dr. Chad Wriglesworth, wrote me. Masterman, a former librarian, is interviewed here about the experience of sharing the photographs with the public.

Beyond Green Gables: New Books from Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre

Congratulations to University of Waterloo English lecturer Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre on the publication of an edited collection of the writings of Lucy Maud Montgomery, A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 (University of Toronto Press, 2018). Dr. Levebre is editor of The L.M. Montgomery Library, and director of L.M. Montgomery Online. His publications include Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations, an edition of Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, and the three-volume critical anthology The L.M. Montgomery Reader, which won the 2016 PROSE Award for Literature from the Association of American Publishers. He is the author of over twenty peer-reviewed essays and book chapters.

Book signing with Alumna Carolyn Huizinga Mills

UWaterloo Alumna Carolyn Huizinga Mills has published her first book, The Little Boy Who Lived Down The Drain and will be signing copies at Words Worth Books, in Uptown Waterloo, Sunday Nov. 25 from 12-2pm. The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain was nominated for the 2018 Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award as well as being selected by the OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation to be part of their Rainforest of Reading program.

Earlier this year Carolyn reflected on her English courses at UWaterloo: “One memory that still stands out to me from my university days so many years ago is sitting in a class taught by professor Eric McCormack, thinking: Hes written a book! I remember being impressed (perhaps even awed) by the fact that he was an author, a genuine, bonafide author, and he was teaching me about writing. So it seems surreal, now, to be able to call myself an author, too.” (“A Dream“)

Visit Carolyn’s author website at:

Preview Recent Grad’s New Book

Dr. Emma Vossen successfully defended her PhD in English at UWaterloo in July; now you can preview her co-edited book, Feminism in Play, part of the Palgrave Games in Context Series. She also contributed a chapter, “The Magic Circle and Consent in Gaming Practices.” From the press:

Feminism in Play focuses on women as they are depicted in video games, as participants in games culture, and as contributors to the games industry. This volume showcases women’s resistance to the norms of games culture, as well as women’s play and creative practices both in and around the games industry. Contributors analyze the interconnections between games and the broader societal and structural issues impeding the successful inclusion of women in games and games culture. In offering this framework, this volume provides a platform to the silenced and marginalized, offering counter-narratives to the post-racial and post-gendered fantasies that so often obscure the violent context of production and consumption of games culture.