Category Archives: Research

The Shakespearean Theatre Conference

As if any more evidence was required that we have active and engaged scholars of Shakespeare at UWaterloo: Dr. Ken Graham and Dr. Alysia Kolentsis have been busy organizing the third Shakespearean Theatre Conference to be held June 19-22, 2019, in Stratford, Ontario. The conference offers an opportunity to think broadly and creatively about the past, present, and future of Tudor-Stuart drama, and this year places special emphasis on our broad theme of “Festival and Festivity.” How do we understand and perform festive, antic, celebratory, or bacchanal elements in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries? How did these plays draw on and contribute to early modern festive cultures, and how have historical changes to such cultures shifted the meaning of theatrical revelry? To what extent is the festive limited or invigorated by genre and convention? In what ways do cultural and theatrical festivals, including dedicated Shakespeare festivals and Shakespearean playhouses, influence and shape contemporary Shakespearean performance? What do the histories of these festivals have to tell us about changing responses to early modern drama, and what new directions seem promising?

The conference is a joint venture of the University of Waterloo and the Stratford Festival, and will bring together scholars and practitioners to talk about how performance influences scholarship and vice versa. It is the successor to the Elizabethan Theatre Conference, which the University of Waterloo hosted 17 times between 1968 and 2005. Paper sessions will be held at the University of Waterloo’s Stratford campus, with plays and special events hosted by the Stratford Festival.
For more information, visit the event website.


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

Dr. McMurry and the Rhetoric of Climate Change Denial

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English’s Dr. Andrew McMurry’s research on climate change and denial is the subject of a Waterloo Stories profile. As Elizabeth Rogers writes:

It’s easy to spot traditional climate change denial. Just read the comments on social media or comments from public officials. Deniers say it’s a hoax, a cash grab or a natural process. They’re wrong.

Most data suggests that all but a handful of Canadians accept that human behaviour impacts the climate. But that doesn’t mean we’re past climate denial. According to University of Waterloo environmental humanities professor Andrew McMurry, we’re eager to accept that something bad is happening, but are in denial about what’s actually threatening us and that we need difficult transformative action to beat climate catastrophe.

“Our failure to act could be a rhetorical problem,” argues the author of Entertaining Futility: Despair and Hope in the Time of Climate Change. McMurry, who has a background in biology and a long-held interest in conservation, examines how language, narrative and cultural tradition shape our beliefs and understanding about the environment.

And it’s never been more crucial. Nearly everything we do — the food we eat, the goods and services we rely on — produces greenhouse gases. Trying to fix this problem requires a top-down reordering of how we live, especially how we produce and consume energy.

So why aren’t we doing it?

For more see: “Are we all a little guilty of denying climate change?”

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.

An Award for Dr. Veronica Austen

Congratulations to Dr. Veronica Austen, who won a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2018) for her project “Artful (Un)Belonging: Expressing Racialization through the Visual Arts in Contemporary Canadian Literature.”  As she writes in her proposal:

This project will examine how contemporary Canadian literature (CanLit) conceptualizes experiences of racialization and (un)belonging through reference to and the incorporation of the visual arts. By examining contemporary Canadian literary texts that either include the visual arts (paintings, drawings, photographs) or narrate the experience and/or creation of visual art, I place visual and verbal communication in relation to each other. In doing so, I will interpret representations of the visual arts as expressions of previously silenced histories; of loss, trauma, and the pursuit of healing; and of experiences of hypervisibility/invisibility. This project will thereby ask how visually artistic expression can be an alternative mode of communication that “speaks” what words cannot. In other words, I position literary texts that address or use the visual arts as creating a discourse of dissent that offers a particularly effective means of critiquing cultural codes. This is a form of literature that explores the efficacies of showing rather than just telling. By focussing on texts that confront experiences of racialization, this project will query constructions of (un)belonging and thereby contribute new insight regarding Canada’s multicultural/transnational metanarratives.

Image credit: Fireworks by Jinta Hirayama


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:


Attention X-Men Fans! Or, why is Neil Gaiman tweeting a UW researcher?

Screenshot 2019-04-01 11.20.17
In case you missed it, last month beloved author Neil Gaiman tweeted about a UWaterloo research project by UWaterloo English faculty and PhD alumnus Dr. Andrew Deman. Gaiman shared a recent article in Salon (and picked up elsewhere) in which Andrew Deman discussed some of his recent research. Now Dr. Deman has received a SSHRC Insight Development grant to further that research. So what was Gaiman so excited to share?

Well, fans of comics will know that the record for the longest run as a single writer on an American comic book title is held by Chris Claremont, author of the Uncanny X-Men for sixteen years. Dr. Andrew Deman is studying just what this has meant. His research project is titled Counting Claremont: Sexuality, Subversion and Symbolic Capital in Comics’ Longest Single-Author Run. The project deliverables include two media articles, four conference presentations, a book proposal, and a website.

Currently there are four UWaterloo research assistants working on amassing data: Rebeccah Redden, Sabrina Wasserman, Tristan Chen, and Lauryn Watters. The project uses quantitative content analysis to build an expansive data set which tracks the progressive representations of female characters, the kind of long-continuity storylines that we now see in binge-worthy television, and character melodrama. The data will be made available to other scholars via a website that launches next month.