Category Archives: Teaching

Celebrating our Students: Awards!

In March, just before the cancellation of on-campus activities, the English awards committee was in full swing preparing for our annual Awards Ceremony. The English Awards are an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding work our undergraduate and graduate students have produced in the previous calendar year (for this cycle, January-December 2019). Certificates are given out, hands are shaken, photographs are taken, poetry is read, and faculty try to describe to the audience, in a few broad brushstrokes, the exceptional qualities of each student’s winning work.  The awards ceremony has always been a highlight of the winter term, celebrating its end in a convivial environment with English students, faculty, and the family and friends of award winners.

While the ceremony has been cancelled, we still wish to celebrate the achievements of our students.  To that end, we would like to take this opportunity to announce the names of the winners with our English community as a small way to ensure that our students’ talents and achievements get the recognition they deserve.

So, without further ado, this year’s award winners are:

Undergraduate Academic Awards
Albert Shaw Poetry Prize: Kurt Dutfield-Hughes
English Society Creative Writing Award for Poetry: Philip Hohol
English Society Creative Writing Award for Prose: Kristie Shannon
Andrew James Dugan Prize in Rhetoric and Professional Writing Award: Sarah Casey
Rhetoric and Digital Design Award: Danielle Griffin
Rhetoric and Professional Writing Award: Jonathon Jackson
Walter R. Martin English 251 Award: Joyce Kung
Diaspora and Transnational Studies Prize: Linhui Luo
Hibbard Prize for Shakespeare Studies: Rachel Zehr
Canadian Literature Prize: Eden McFarlane
Award in American Literature and Culture: Tristan Mills
Andrew James Dugan Prize in Literature Award: Wajiha Parvez
Masternak Foundation Undergraduate Scholarships in English: Philip Hohol and Julianna Suderman

Graduate Awards
Graduate Professional Communication Award: Marion Gruner
Rhetoric Essay Prize, Master of Arts: Jordan Kam
Rhetoric Essay Prize, PhD: Shannon Lodoen
Beltz Essay Prize, Master of Arts: Ryan Van Til
Beltz Essay Prize, PhD: Shannon Lodoen
Graduate Creative Writing Award, Poetry: Masa Torbica
Graduate Creative Writing Award, Prose: Chelsea La Vecchia
Masternak Foundation Graduate Scholarship in English: Jin Sol Kim
Jack Gray Graduate Fellowship Award: Zachary Pearl
David Nimmo English Graduate Scholarship: Lindsay Meaning

Co-op Awards
Undergraduate Co-op Work Report Award: Hanna Colbert
Graduate Co-op Work Report Awards: Carmen Barsomian-Dietrich and Pamela Schmidt

Teaching and Professionalization Awards
Lea Vogel-Nimmo English Graduate Professionalization Awards: Neha Ravella and Jerika Sanderson
TA Award for Excellence in Teaching: Valerie Uher
Independent Graduate Instructor Award for Excellence in Teaching: Hannah Watts

Pictured above: Masa Torbica, Danielle Griffin, Jin Sol Kim. Thank you to Dr. John Savarese and Dr. Andrea Jonahs for facilitating the awards. The awards committee would also like to offer a big thank you to our English office staff—Jenny Conroy, Tina Davidson, Deb Nahlik and Margaret Ulbrick — who do so much work behind the scenes, and all the faculty that served as adjudicators this year.

Top Ten Posts of 2019

Art Deco Billiard Ten
It’s that time of year again, when everyone posts a top ten list, including the UWaterloo English blog. This year, I’ve deviated from previous lists, including posts published in previous years which still made our top ten for 2019. Some made sense–whenever the weather is miserable everyone wants to know how to get coffee without going outside–but some were confusing. Feel free to speculate about why a particular post from 2013 made a surprise comeback!

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

9) Congratulations to our six new PhDs!

8) Faculty Teaching Recognized

7) They did it! Class of 2019!

6) Alumna Sara Kannan: Making a Difference

5)The Englies, 2013

4) 11 Novels about Syria

3) Waterloo Tunnel Tour (Or, how to get coffee without going outside)

2) Special Honour for 2 PhD Candidates

1) Honours for Dr. Randy Harris

Engl 208L: Reading Race Through Literature

English 208L

Thinking about winter 2020 courses? Dr. Fraser Easton will be teaching ENGL 208L: Race and the Literary Tradition. From William Shakespeare to Bharati Mukherjee, this course is a basic introduction to some ground-breaking writers and their eye-opening explorations of “race.” Open to all students, the course will appeal to those interested in how ideas of race have been represented, transmitted, and resisted in English literature. Topics will include: the invention of race, Eurocentrism and geography, racial beauty myths, and internalized racism. Readingsinclude–but are not limited to–Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, Camie Kim, “They Speak Quickly,” and Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine. Just for fun, can you match the description below with the course reading?

* A book by a Nigerian author who hauled gunpowder during the Seven Years’ War between France and England
* A story set approximately 10,581 km from Waterloo, Ontario
* A short fiction where a slave revolt is led by… a person who sold people into slavery
* A novel about a yam farmer obsessed with tradition
*A novel with the murder of a character known as Half-Face

For more information, email Prof. Fraser Easton at

Science Communication Certificate

In 2018, the Royal Canadian Institute for Science (RCIScience), Canada’s oldest scientific society, branched out to hold public events in the Waterloo area. RCIScience holds public events, including lectures from scientists as well as hands-on science events. Events are often held at the Waterloo Public Libraries. The University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) is one of RCI’s partners, and, recently, UWaterloo’s Departments of English Language and Literature and Communication Arts have been working closely with RCI on a new program.

Jenessa Doherty, the Regional Coordinator – Waterloo, for RCIScience and English professor Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher have been working together to develop a new Science Communication Certificate. English professors Andrea Jonahs, George Lamont, and Brad Mehlenbacher and Communication Arts professor Jennifer Reddock have also provided crucial insight and feedback throughout the development of this certificate.

The UWaterloo Departments of English Language and Literature and Communication Arts have recently taken on an important initiative to teach first-year students about the kinds of communication they will need as scientists and engineers. In several courses, students learn about professional genres of communication, the norms and values communicated through those genres, and the epistemic commitments of different fields of science and engineering. RCIScience’s Science Communication Certificate builds on these courses.


Students in these courses now have the opportunity to complete a Science Communication Certificate from RCIScience. RCIScience Waterloo recently held the first talk of the season at the Waterloo Public Library. Dr. Nandita Basu, an Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a new member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists gave a brilliant lecture on the problem of algae blooms. In her talk, Dr. Basu bridged engineering and science, which is necessary to implement the scientific and engineering interventions needed to address algae blooms. She also spoke of how regulatory frameworks and politics shape different possibilities for technical intervention.

At the event, a large group of UWaterloo students, from both the Faculty of Science and Engineering programs in Computer, Electrical, and Management Engineering as well as Architectural, Civil, Environmental, and Geological Engineering were in attendance, and they shared with us that Dr. Basu’s talk was fascinating in science and engineering content and as an example of the strategies discussed in their communication courses.


  • Students must successfully complete a course in science, technical, or engineering communication (ENGL/SPCOM 191, ENGL/ SPCOM 192, or ENGL/ SPCOM 193; or GENE 199 taken fall 2017 or fall 2018; or GENE 191 taken in fall 2018; or SPCOM 193).
  • Students must attend four RCIScience events within a one-year time period.
  • Students must submit a summary of at least one talk they attended. The top submission among these summaries will be published in RCIScience Magazine, and others may be considered for the blog.

Questions about the Science Communication Certificate can be addressed to Jenessa Doherty, Regional Coordinator – Waterloo, Royal Canadian Institute for Science at the email address You can also check out RCIScience on Twitter (@RCIScience)!


Please join us for RCIScience talks in Waterloo! We would be delighted to have faculty members and students attend. Indeed, we welcome anyone in the community to attend our talks and you can register online to secure your spot! RCIScience speakers offer a range of insights into social and technical aspects of their science, which should provide everyone with something of interest to learn.


Our next event in Waterloo is “Social Animals: What Animal Behavior Can Teach Us About Collective Decisions” with Dr. Noam Miller, Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology & Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University, and event information can be found here:

Sweet Smoke! It’s English 492!


Just like the excitement generated by the announcement of award nominees,or upcoming movies, there is enthusiasm in our halls timed to the announcement of special topics courses. This semester’s offerings include: English 492 “Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric!”: Shakespearean Persuasion in Theory and Practice, taught by Dr. Michael MacDonald. A description follows:

Although humanism was closely associated with the rediscovery of key manuscripts of ancient rhetoric, Renaissance theorists and artists were not content with parroting classical authorities—they appropriated Greek and Latin rhetoric for their own purposes. The plays of William Shakespeare provide a dramatic example of this transfiguration of ancient rhetoric at work. Ranging over the tragedies, histories, comedies, and romances, this course investigates how Shakespeare “figured and disfigured” the classical rhetoric drubbed into him as a boy at the King’s New School. At the level of practice, it examines how Shakespeare retools classical rhetoric in the “quick forge” of his imagination, fashioning a new kind of vernacular English eloquence for the London commercial theatre stage. At the level of theory, it examines how Shakespeare rehearses the vexing ethical, political, and philosophical problems rhetoric posed for his culture. Over the course of the semester, we will see how Shakespeare dramatizes the arts of persuasion in all their comic and tragic ambivalence: rhetoric can be both intoxicating and toxic, “ravish like enchanting harmony” and poison the mind with “pestilent speeches.”

Image: Postcard showing the destruction of Shakespeare Memorial Theatre by fire, 6 March 1926 (Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust)

Creative Writing from Engl 332


End-of-term launch party.

Creative Writing is always popular–students are excited to take it, and those who teach it enjoy talking about their students’ achievements. This year’s English 332 course was no exception. Taught by Carrie Snyder (a nominee for the Governor General’s Award for fiction), it was a resounding success, as Carrie documented on her blog. She has generously given us permission to share her post. Read on to hear about the work, and see photos of the students with their final projects, stories in comic form.

The time for this is always with us
–Carrie Snyder

I’m done teaching for another term. My course was on the creative process: how to set goals, envision a major project, and lay the groundwork necessary to complete the work. I spent a couple of days this week and last meeting with students to hand back their final projects (stories in comic form), and to chat about the term. Some themes emerged in our conversations. Here’s what we learned.

2019-04-18_01-13-012019-04-18_01-12-532019-04-18_01-12-44The importance of mistakes. So many students talked about how important their mistakes had been in shaping their project, how an apparent mistake had turned out to be important or valuable to their drawing, or how freeing it was to allow themselves to make mistakes. My theory is that through mistakes our unconscious mind gives us important information we couldn’t otherwise access; and drawing is the perfect medium for this communication with the self, because we see our “mistakes” pretty much instantly, and have to figure out what they’re trying to tell us.

2019-04-18_01-12-352019-04-18_01-12-262019-04-18_01-12-16The freedom of stepping away from perfectionism. Students also expressed how freeing it was to embrace their mistakes, or even how freeing it was just to give themselves permission to make mistakes. Creating a major project by hand is time-consuming and laborious, and if you don’t accept the mistakes you’ll inevitably make, you’ll never finish what you’ve started.

2019-04-18_01-12-082019-04-18_01-12-002019-04-18_01-11-40The calm that exists inside creation. Every student in the class put a lot of time into their projects, and some put in vast swathes of time, far more than they’d anticipated, or really, that was required to meet the project’s guidelines. (In other words, they didn’t care about the rubric, they cared about the work itself.) Students talked about losing themselves in what they were doing. It didn’t feel like work. It was fun, it was relaxing. The time flew. There is a meditative quality to making things by hand, to being focused in this way; engaged.

2019-04-18_01-11-012019-04-18_01-10-472019-04-18_01-10-40The time for this is always with us. (To paraphrase Lynda Barry.) This feeling of calm, this experience of getting lost inside a pleasurable task, is available anytime. And yet, we seem to need someone to remind us of this, we need a reason to get engaged in this way, a task, a project for a class to give us the excuse to get lost in making something that requires focus and effort, that is time-consuming, and that ultimately may have no material or monetary value. We feel like we have to prove that it’s worth it. I wonder why? When it seems so obvious, looking at these wonderful students and their amazing artwork — their unique, truthful, serious, funny, silly, brave, thoughtful beautiful art — that it is worth it.

2019-04-18_01-10-322019-04-18_01-10-242019-04-18_01-10-16This course gave the students permission to make art. To draw. To colour. To turn their lives, their observations, their ideas into cartoons. Many expressed how valuable this practice was for them, and how much they hoped others would get the chance to take the course too. “Everyone should have to take this course!” “You have to teach it again for the sake of future students!” In truth, I’m not sure what I taught was a course so much as a concept: what I tried to do was make space for the students to make space for themselves.

2019-04-18_01-10-082019-04-18_01-10-002019-04-18_01-09-49Anyone can draw. Most of the students had no idea what they were signing up for when they entered my classroom on day one. They thought they were taking a creative writing course; the course description was vague; they were surprised to learn they’d be doing so much drawing. They weren’t sure they could do it. Many hadn’t drawn since high school, or even grade school. “I never thought I could draw well enough to …” And to a person, they could — they could tell the stories they wanted to tell through cartoons. (“Well enough” went out the window; “well enough” had no place in our classroom.)

2019-04-18_01-09-392019-04-18_01-09-272019-04-18_01-09-182019-04-18_01-09-07Pride in accomplishment. The final projects undertaken by the students were big!! This was no small undertaking. And everyone did it! The deadline got met, and each project proved to be as unique and individual as the person who created it.

Thank you, Artists of ENGL 332! Thank you for your trust. It was an adventure.

xo, Carrie

What do our Harry Potter students do?

spell count per book
I’m in the midst of grading our first ever online offering of English 108P: Popular Potter. As you might imagine we talk about things one normally discusses in English: narrative voice, allusions, intertextuality, cultural capital, and more. Not surprisingly, this is a popular course, which appeals to students from across campus–which is how Ian Minoso, a UWaterloo undergrad, ended up taking 108P in conjunction with Adaptive Algorithms, Distributed Computing and Field Ecology.

Ian wrote about his final project in “A textual analysis of Harry Potter by an amateur data analyst” published on Medium. He writes: “I used this assignment as an opportunity to learn and definitely picked up some interesting natural language processing and textual analysis techniques while using Harry Potter as a basis.” And the images generated are fantastic.

word dispersion in series

I will clarify: Ian wasn’t in the online course. There are reasons for generating different assignments for online courses, versus courses where students are more likely to meet with you. For other examples of student work see: What are our Harry Potter Students Doing? and Harry Potter fiction from 108P.