Category Archives: Research

A PhD dissertation that is also a game?

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UWaterloo English PhD grad Steve Wilcox didn’t write a conventional dissertation by any stretch. Rather, his thesis combined allergies, education, and games studies. Specifically, Steve argued that “games can be used to translate knowledges between communities and cultures. This is accomplished by training the player’s imagination to discover knowledge that is situated in unfamiliar social and cultural situations.” As part of this, Steve created a game titled Allergory. It features a young girl named Mia who has a peanut allergy. Through the game, “Players work with Mia as she migrates to a new school where she is the first food-allergic student. The game is intended to help non-food-allergic persons understand the social, cultural, and practical reality of having a food allergy.” Now you can play the game online. Dr. Wilcox is a full-time faculty member in the Game Design & Development program at Laurier-Brantford.

Steve Wilcox’s dissertation committee members were: Drs. Aimée Morrison, Beth Coleman, and Marcel O’Gorman.


Welcoming the newest Banting postdoc, Dr. Derek Gladwin

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We are pleased to announce that Dr. Derek Gladwin has been awarded a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to be held in the Dept of English and under the supervision of Dr. Imre Szeman. This is the second Banting postdoc housed in UWaterloo English.

Derek Gladwin is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of British Columbia. He has previously held visiting research fellowships at the National University of Ireland, Galway (2015), University of Edinburgh (2015), Concordia University (2016), and Trinity College Dublin (2017). His research and teaching explore transformations in environment and society within 20th-/21st-Century British and Irish literature, as well as film and media culture. Gladwin’s books include: Contentious Terrains: Boglands, Ireland, Postcolonial Gothic (2016), Unfolding Irish Landscapes (co-ed, 2016), and Eco-Joyce (co-ed, 2014); his forthcoming book is titled Ecological Exile: Spatial Injustice & Environmental Humanities, which is due out with Routledge in 2017. Contentious Terrains has just been nominated for the Ecocriticism Book Award offered by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment.

Project overview: This Banting PDF project titled Petro-Gothic: Energy, Ecology, Fear explores energy transitions by marking the ways in which creative responses are narrated through fear and then circulated in forms of contemporary British and Irish literature, film, and media. Energy is not only geophysical and economic, but it is also social and cultural in the ways it conceptually and practically influences our lives. As a cultural response to energy, this project explore how literary and visual texts have produced “petro-gothic’ narratives. These narratives about energy transitions and futures inform society and, in some cases, mobilize change by transforming social values and perceptions through image and story. This research examines fear as it relates to energy subjectivity, offshore oil sublime, ecophobia, and post-oil landscapes in works by Bansky, Laura Watts, George Mackay Brown, Greenpeace UK, and China Miéville, among others.

English Student Society Symposium

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Celebrate the end-of-term with an evening of food, drinks, and student lectures at the English Student Society Symposium! Students are encouraged to sign up and give a short presentation on a topic related to English Language and Literature.

Theme: The Secret Garden
Dress code: Semi-Formal
Friday, March 31, 7-10 p.m., HH 373

Students are encouraged to sign-up and present on:
· Creative writing pieces
· Academic projects or papers
· International exchange or volunteer experiences
· Academic research projects
· Co-op projects
· Other topics related to English

An RSVP is required for this event.
Please RSVP and/or sign-up to present by March 30th.

Please direct questions to

Canadian Literature at UWaterloo

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We are fortunate to have a strong contingent of UWaterloo English faculty working in the area of Canadian Literature. From Linda Warley’s recent book on Canadian Graphic Narratives, to Win Siemerling’s award-winning publication on Black Canadian Literature, to Dorothy Hadfield’s monograph on women in Toronto theatre, our faculty publications span authors, eras, genres, ethnicities, and more. Read on to find out what our faculty with expertise in Canadian Literature are doing.

Veronica Austen writes “I have two projects imminent. Firstly, Ph.D. candidate Masa Torbica and I have co-organized a panel for the upcoming Association of Canadian and Québec Literatures. Our panel is titled “The Presence of Absence: Visual Hauntings in Canadian Literature” and will feature papers concerning intersections between the trope of haunting and the visual arts (photographs, architecture, pictographs). Secondly, I’m working on a couple of papers regarding the poet-painter Roy Kiyooka (I’d like to thank former SJU Prof Charlene Diehl for this interest since it was in her course in the first term of my MA that I discovered Kiyooka). In one paper, I chart his theorization of visual vs. written expression (likely taking his 1990 photoglyphic narrative “Pacific Windows” as my base text). And in the other, I explore elegiac constructions of Kiyooka (he died suddenly in 1994 and much of his writing plus the majority of scholarship surrounding his written work comes to us posthumously).”

Dorothy Hadfield has been working with Ann Wilson (University of Guelph) on the Canadian Women Playwrights Online project, an online resource that is part of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory. CWPO is working with playwrights to develop a bio-bibliographical resource that allows them to include information about themselves and their influences that more prescriptive biographies and listings don’t necessarily consider. She has also been trying to find time to get back into various Canadian theatre archives, trying to trace the historical disappearance of Canada’s first professional Shakespeare festival. For over a decade, the Earle Grey Shakespeare Festival produced a summer season of performances, concerts, lectures, and readings; ran a theatre training program (there’s even a former UW English professor on the audition roster); and toured productions to high schools and remote communities. Then a tent went up at Stratford, totally overshadowing the EGSF’s foundational efforts, and writing them out of Canadian theatre history. There’s a story there that needs to be told.

Jennifer Harris is finishing edits on “Hidden in Plain Sight: Uncovering the Career of Lucretia Newman Coleman” (forthcoming Legacy 34.2), about a 19thC Canadian-born black author. Her essay “Black Canadian Contexts: The Case of Amelia E. Johnson” (African American Review 49.3) recently received Honorable Mention, for the Darwin T. Turner Award for the best essay representing any period in African American or pan-African literature and culture in African American Review. She continues her work on a book about a black man who fled slavery with his family, ending up in Canada where he survived shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, wrestled French sailors, escaped wolves, brawled with circus performers, attended church, married three times, and wrote fiery letters to African Americans urging them to relocate north of the 49th parallel.

Shelley Hulan writes: “I just completed the final ms of a chapter on ethnicity in “Powers,” one of Alice Munro’s strange Souwesto stories. Surprisingly little has been written on the representations of ethnicity and race in Munro’s oeuvre, and both give readers plenty to think about. Now I’m working on a paper about a rhetoric of diplomacy in late eighteenth-century North America. ”

Vinh Nguyen‘s current project is entitled Circuits of Refugee Solidarity, and seeks to understand the relationship between different refugee and historically displaced groups in Canada. Focusing on the Mennonite, Vietnamese, and Syrian communities, Vinh investigates how and why former refugees advocate for, stand in solidarity with, and come to the aid of, those who seek asylum in Canada. He aims to narrate the connections and affiliations between refugee groups that dominant historical narratives fail to highlight. Such stories of “refugees helping refugees” critically reframe humanitarianism as involving the social and political agency of those understood primarily as beneficiaries of humanitarian acts; they enable us to perceive refugees not as passive objects of rescue, but political agents with the capacity to effect social change. He contends that refugee solidarity points to the social ongoingness of “refuge,” how it extends beyond singular moments to critically link together and illuminate multiple histories of displacement, asylum, and activism.

Win Siemerling has just published an essay on “New Ecologies of the Real: Nonsimultaneity and Canadian Literature(s)” (check it out in Studies in Canadian Literature 41.1), and a chapter about Mary Ann Shadd and “Transnational Perspectives on the Americas” in the new Routledge Companion to Inter-American Studies (on order for the library). He is now finalizing a chapter on “Black Activism, Print Culture, and Literature in Canada, 1850-65” for the multivolume African American Literature in Transition by Cambridge University Press, and works on his grant entitled “Call and Responsibility,” which explores how black Canadian texts, film, and music seek to involve audiences.

Heather Smyth is writing a book about the connections between social justice and collaborative writing in Canada: coalitions of writers as activists, editorial and literary collectives, face to face poetic collaborations, open online publicly authored texts, etc. She’s also starting to learn about community-based research methods and partnering with a Toronto women’s drop-in centre called Sistering to do a narrative-based collaborative research project.

Linda Warley will be heading to Dublin in April to deliver a presentation called “Before ‘Secret Path’: Residential School Memoirs from the 1970’s.” Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie recently released an album, a graphic novel (with Jeff Lemire) and a short video, which tell the story of a young Ojibway boy who escaped from one of Canada’s notorious Indian residential schools but died while trying to walk home. ‘Secret Path’ is a response to the 2016 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action and Downie uses his star power to bring attention to this shameful part of Canada’s history. At the “Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years” conference in Dublin, Linda will focus on the memoirs authored by residential school survivors themselves, books that were often published by small presses, reached small audiences, quickly went out of print and have been largely ignored by academics and the general reading audience alike.

Autobiography & Life Writing at UWaterloo

When reading our faculty areas of expertise page, it struck me how many of our faculty research in the area of Autobiography & Life Writing. Contributions range from Dr. Aimée Morrison’s work on digital lives–selfies! Facebook!–to Dr. Linda Warley’s writings on graphic narratives and life writing, to Dr. Vinh Nguyen’s publications about refugees, photography, and memory. There’s also an interesting cluster of people considering life writing in relation to war, memory, and trauma, including Dr. Carol Acton, author of several books on the subject, and Dr. Lamees Al Ethari, who has completed a monograph on Iraqui women, memory, and the diaspora. Click on the links below to find out more about their research.

Digital Abstinence Strikes Again

You are invited to join us for a Digital Abstinence Symposium & Posthumanism Potluck, this Wednesday, December 7, 2016, 4 – 6 pm, at the University of Waterloo English’s Critical Media Lab (44 Gaukel, Downtown Kitchener). The symposium features work by students from Dr. Marcel O’Gorman‘s fall 2016 graduate class.
– Short Introductory Remarks by Stephen Trothen and Marcel O’Gorman
– 15 x 2-Minute Presentations and Objects-To-Think-With from a “Digital Abstinence” Grad Class
– Critical Response by Professor Ron Broglio (Arizona State University)
– Posthumanism Potluck
Lucy Barnett
     “Ping/a Lonesome Heart
Shawn Dorey
     “Traversing the Divide: Intentional Digital Abstinence as a Form of Empathy”
Julie Funk
     “Pace-Taker: Getting to the Heart of our Digital Anxieties”
Miraya Groot
     “Entrepreneurship and Technique: A Conversation with the Conservative Mennonite Managers of the Wallenstein General Store”
Omar Gutierrez
     If (human)

= {survive}
else if (robot)
= {we are doomed}

Stephanie Honour
    “Ditching Devices: Re-enchanting the Self while Disenfranchising Others”
Megan Honsberger
    “(Un)Wearable Tech: From User to Nonuser”
Farzaneh Irani
     “Digital Purity: Discovering and Coping with the Anxieties and Social Oppressions of Digital Abstinence”
Zahra Jafari
    “Rhetorics of Invasion: A Narrative”
Salman Jivani
     “The Sands of Digital Time: An Experiment in the Art of Waiting”
Hari Jnawali
    “Reflections on Digital Fasting: Exploring the Paradox of Agency and Changed Social Perception”
Randy Lawrence
     “The Camera Obscurascope”
Marcel O’Gorman
    “Treachery: Digital Rituals for the End of the World.”
Onie Tam
     “Shush, you’re safe in my hands now”
Caitlin Woodcock
    “Basket Case
CRITICAL RESPONSE by Professor Ron Broglio, Arizona State University

Rewiring Gertrude Stein

Not everyone got to attend the recent “English + Innovation” and Critical Media Lab’s “Graduate XDM Exhibition” events. If you didn’t, and are curious about how some of our English students manage to marry technology, literary study, and media, you’ll want to check out this excellent guest post from PhD candidate Philip Miletic and Stephen Trothen, an alumnus of UWaterloo’s English MA program. Enjoy!–JLH

The Making of “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography”: Critically imagining Stein, Radio, and the Modernist Soundscape
By Philip Miletic and Stephen Trothen

“It was it was really all going on, and it was, it really was, as if you were saying what you were saying and you knew you really knew not by what you knew but by what you felt, that everybody was listening…I was so filled with it. And then it was over and I never had liked anything as I had liked it”

  • Gertrude Stein on radio, in “I Came And Here I Am”

In April at the Critical Media Lab’s “Graduate XDM Exhibition” and in June at the “English + Innovation” event, we featured our radio installation, “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography,” which aims to illuminate the imaginative and ethical encounters of radio in Gertrude Stein’s 1937 Everybody’s Autobiography. The installation remediates Everybody’s Autobiography  as a multivocal, dynamic “radio text,” creatively imagining how Stein incorporates the aural/oral quality of radio into practices of listening and speaking in her own writing of the book. We retrofitted a 1931 Philco radio to play audio recordings of collaborators each reading a selected chapter. Participants at the installation can tune into a choice of eight “book stations” by turning the dial on the radio. Each “book station” is comprised of six chapters read by six separate collaborators. Above is a video demonstrating the radio installation.

The video, even at an hour long, can only show a small slice of the project and of all the voices that come in and out. But we hope this gives a glimpse of the different tonalities, inflections, giggles, sighs, sore throats, pronounciations, and struggles. “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography” is for Philip’s dissertation chapter on Everybody’s Autobiography. The idea for the radio installation formed when encountering the lack of research on Stein and radio in contrast to the amount of research on her (mostly male) contemporaries. There was also the research problem/question of how do we foreground radio as a formal model in her writing. “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography” was the solution.  If Stein felt that she was filled with everybody while on the air, then we had to fill the text with everybody.

Both the process and the product of the radio installation was a creative and imaginative exercise to critically engage with the relationship between Stein and radio and the Modernist soundscape. But what we didn’t expect was the ways “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography” demanded us to go out of our comfort zones: asking people to read and record themselves for an extended period of time; finding a place that sold old radios and then retrofitting one; using the wood and metal shop on campus; and the trial and error of programming. Research can be, at times, very isolating and removed from others. But this project gave us the very opposite of that.

Retrofitting the Radio/Recording Collaborators and Programming
The radio was purchased from a small vintage radio repair shop in downtown Kitchener named Merry Melodies. We were after a radio from the early 1930s to pair with the book , and began looking through the small but densely populated store.

(Inside Merry Melodies)

We spotted what appeared to be a pretty old model on a high shelf. According to the owner, this particular radio – the one we ended up purchasing – was the oldest radio in the shop (a 1931 Philco). The radio was completely non-functioning when we purchased it, with a severed power cable, no speaker, and a number of missing tubes and components. Of course, this was perfect for our purposes and perhaps a bit confusing to the shop owner. Although the Philco radio may not have been encountered, its “cathedral” style shape was a popular aesthetic at the time and Stein would’ve likely encountered a model similar to our radio in the 1930s.

The next step was getting readers to read chapters from the book. The process was both easy and difficult. Whereas it was easy to recruit anyone to record the first couple of chapters or the last chapter, it was very difficult to find someone committed to reading Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 because it took approximately three hours and six hours to read respectively. But most of those who did record those long chapters recorded at home and in parts (twenty minutes a day or so). For other recordings, we held recording sessions that collaborators attended, or we set up recording appointments when our schedule didn’t quite match theirs. The recording devices were inconsistent––iphones, android phones, macbooks, podcast mic, regular mic––which created an inconsistent quality between recordings. This risky approach to recording, however, produced a very nice effect: some recordings sound “further away” or have a “weaker signal” than others, giving the recordings a radio feel.

The program we used for these collected audio recordings was written in the Max/MSP language. We managed the collected audio recordings of the 28 readers in order to play them back across 8 different channels. The three knobs of the radio are used to turn the program on or off, adjust the volume, and tune in to different “book stations.” The project is designed to operate as a traditional radio without having to broadcast signals. To add to this aesthetic choice, we also made static recordings from an old handheld radio that we used to swell in and out between channels or readers. So, if a listener were to stay on one channel they would hear the entirety of the book with a new reader taking over after every chapter.

The built of the radio introduced an exercise in attempting to pair together electronics that spanned almost a century. In order to retrofit the radio, we had to remove a number of the internal components, some of which we wished to keep but couldn’t

(Retrofitting the radio)

As a result, we took many trips to several custom electronics shops and paid multiple visits to the wood shop in East Campus to adjust and re-adjust the radio so that the old and new parts would work in tandem. This enabled us to discreetly hide the custom electronics, knobs, and other components we needed to have the computer and radio communicating with one another. Once we started pulling apart the radio, it was fascinating to see the internal – and messy – workings and to begin infusing it with modern electronics. Although we took a digital approach to the project, the organization of the actual program was not unlike the complexity of the radio’s wires.


(a look at “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography”’s Max/MSP programming)

We wanted to ensure that the modern technology we were using didn’t necessarily erase the materiality of the radio and its components (wires and all). This digital approach is a hidden one on the surface, but the depth of the programming reveals a very complicated and sensitive structure that required a lot of tinkering and re-tinkering to get the radio to work (similar to working on a fully functioning radio). Once the infrastructure of the radio was created, the program allowed for some unique characteristics through its digitization – such as non-repetitive ways of sequencing chapters, and the ability to adjust the program based on environmental considerations.

“No problem, it was fun.” We were caught off guard when a lot of collaborators said these very words to us after we thanked them for reading. Even those who read for a total of 5-6 hours said this. The word “fun” isn’t normally encountered when people mention Stein, some people even responding as if Stein offends them. So it was refreshing and wonderful to hear that all collaborators found something that interested them or that they loved, even if some of them wouldn’t necessarily read her again.

In Karin Cope’s Passionate Collaboration, she argues that reading Stein is a passionate collaboration, granting the reader agency. Juliana Spahr argue that Stein’s work decenters the author and lets readers co-author the text. And Harriet Chessman describes reading Stein as a dance that readers are invited to. All of the collaborators, without knowing what these scholars have said, drew attention to this. They noted that they “found their rhythm,” “imposed” their own punctuation, feeling that Stein “left it up to the reader to decide how they wanted to read each sentence.”

And so we would like to thank all the collaborators and everybody else that was involved in the making of “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography.” However, we would like to add that the project will never be “finished.” We are always open to adding more collaborators to the “aether” of the radio installation. As much as “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography” is by Philip Miletic and Stephen Trothen, the radio itself––just as Stein’s text does––decenters the authorial presence as soon as the radio clicks on and the sound of everybody rushes in.