Category Archives: Research

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


Our newest PhD, Clare Bermingham, on “Feeling Queer Together”

I am thrilled to introduce the newest graduate from UWaterloo English’s PhD program, Dr. Clare Bermingham. Some of you may know her as the Director of the Writing and Communication Centre at UWaterloo; you should also know her as the author of the dissertation “Feeling Queer Together: Identity, Community, and the Work of Affect in the Pre-Stonewall Lesbian Magazine, the Ladder.”
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Dr. Bermingham was supervised by Dr. Victoria Lamont, with committee members Drs. Alice Kuznair and Kevin McGuirk. Her internal/external examiner was Dr. Shannon Dea, and her external examiner was Dr. Michael Cobb.

Feeling Queer Together: Identity, Community, and the Work of Affect in the Pre-Stonewall Lesbian Magazine, the Ladder

This project examines the emergence of lesbian identity and community through the work of queer feeling, specifically as it was produced in the American magazine, the Ladder (1956-1972). The Ladder was published by the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first national lesbian organization, whose politics of respectability called for lesbians to conform with and adjust to normative gender and class ideals. While such strategies of assimilation responded to the traumatic discourses of disease and deviance that framed lesbian life in the 1950s and 1960s, they further marginalized women who could not easily or legitimately occupy normative categories of gender and class. As an extension of DOB, the Ladder has been treated as a largely conformist text; however, its short fiction, poetry, and readers’ letters engaged differently with the push towards normativity by challenging ideas of value, happiness, gender, family, strangeness, and love. By examining the Ladder’s literary texts and letters for the ways in which they invoke feeling and affectively produce different ways of being and doing queerness, I explore the ways that queer feeling opens up every day spaces for lesbian possibility as good feelings of happiness, pleasure, recognition, connection, and love are bound up with feelings of trauma, erasure, and loss. In reading the Ladder as a complex affective archive of this period of early lesbian identity and community, I show how a community’s texts during critical historical moments can reveal the workings and movements of, what Raymond Williams calls a “structure of feelings,” the affective currents that constitute a community’s becomings and changes before and as they coalesce into a static history.

Please do not reproduce the images in this post without contacting Dr. Bermingham for further permission information.

Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher for President!

Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, of UWaterloo English, has been elected President of the Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine. As many Words in Place readers know, this aligns perfectly with her research expertise: her book Science Communication Online: Engaging Experts and Publics on the Internet, is forthcoming in Spring 2019 from The Ohio State University Press.

The Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine is an independent scholarly organization that promotes rhetorical scholarship and facilitates networking across disciplines and institutions. Their primary meetings occur in collaboration with two larger conferences: the annual National Communication Association (NCA) meeting and the biennial Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) conference.

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.

Instagram tears

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Tired of the overly filtered world of Instagram? You’re not the only one. Dr. Aimée Morrison, our resident expert in the rhetoric of digital lives, social media, & more, spoke to Nora Young of CBC’s Spark about the recent trend to show a less glossy version of the self–one that might even be unflattering. According to Dr. Morrison, “I think what we’re seeing now is that a much broader range of what people are describing as authentic self-representations are occurring in a number of platforms now where we did not expect to see them.” You can read or listen to the interview online. Spoiler alert: towards the end, a certain professor teases some new research she’s conducting!

Image: Instagram sensation Kirby Jenner trying to take a selfie without getting ketchup on his phone

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.

Read all about it!

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Head on over to UWaterloo English to read our 2018 newsletter, featuring a letter from our new chair, Dr. Shelley Hulan, and updates on faculty and student achievements.