Category Archives: Uncategorized

Our Newest PhD: Dr. Sarah Whyte!

Screenshot 2018-07-18 14.45.49Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s newest PhD graduate, Dr. Sarah Whyte. On July 17th she successfully defended “The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation.”
Screenshot 2018-07-18 11.18.11Sarah (above left) was supervised by Dr. Jay Dolmage (above centre)–note how genuinely happy a supervisor looks after a successful defense? Committee members were Dr. Randy Harris and Dr. Catherine Schryer.; thank you to Dr. Kathryn Plaisance of Knowledge Integration (above right) who served as internal-external examiner, and Dr. Carolyn Rae Miller, of North Carolina State University, the external examiner.

Dr. Whyte’s work has appeared in Social Science & Medicine; Advances in Health Sciences Education; Cognition, Technology & Work, and elsewhere. A description of her dissertation follows:

The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation
This dissertation uses the terms of Kenneth Burke’s dramatism to identify rhetorical aspects of surgical team checklists as they have been promoted, performed, studied, and surveilled. I argue that these terms can help to account both for the rapid uptake of checklists into policy and for their more variable effects and uptake into practice. I develop this argument by analyzing a large archive of texts published between 1999 and 2016, including popular media, news coverage, promotional campaigns, primary research, and other forms of scholarship. These published texts are considered alongside ethnographic fieldnotes from a study in which I collaborated to design, introduce, and evaluate an early version of a preoperative checklist at four Canadian hospitals. My analyses are guided heuristically by the first principles and central terms of dramatism, including action and motion; motive and situation; identification and division; attitude, form, and circumference. I use these terms to chart the early emergence of checklists within professional literature; to trace their rapid uptake as a standard of professional communication; to discern their multiple functions or purposes; to illustrate how and why they are enacted, accepted, and sometimes rejected in the operating theatre; and to locate blind spots in applied health services research. Taken together, these analyses demonstrate the importance of diverse rhetorical processes both to the uptake and to the basic functions of checklists. They also demonstrate the value and versatility of dramatistic terms. I contend in particular that the concept of rhetorical situation, as elaborated by Burke, holds significant potential for understanding and negotiating the material and symbolic dimensions of practice and practice change. This dissertation points the way toward a uniquely rhetorical approach to the study and practice of knowledge translation in healthcare work.


Five odd questions: PhD candidate Jin Sol Kim

When I approached a number of UWaterloo English PhD candidates to ask if they’d be willing to answer “five odd questions” for the blog, I wasn’t sure the format would work. This interview with Jin Sol Kim, featuring drugged tigers, Tinder, and the hunt for a good hot and sour soup, allayed all of my doubts.

JLH: What has been your strangest experience (or thing overheard) at UWaterloo?
JSK: I’ve been at UWaterloo for quite some time now, so I’d have to dig back a few years to accurately answer this question… but honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is just that overall experience of being here for so long, and seeing all the changes that have taken place over the years – to the campus, the English program, and even myself – and not being able to keep up with it sometimes! That and the strange feeling I get when I realize (more broadly) that first year students in undergrad are now born in… what is it, the year 2000 for this incoming Fall cohort?

JLH: What is the oddest way your research or PhD has been misinterpreted?
JSK: I’m not that far into my PhD yet, so for now, it seems that there’s more so a general confusion as to what my dissertation is about as opposed to a misinterpretation of it. I did complete my MA in this department as well, though, with my final Master’s research project (MRP) on Tinder as life-writing, so of course I was known for some time as “the Tinder girl.” Most of my friends think this means that I’m some sort of Tinder guru who holds the key to creating the perfect Tinder profile; I’ve had a fair number of people throw their phones at me to help “fix theirs up”. While I could definitely offer some tips, what my MRP actually focused on was the image patterns found on the app, and the rhetoric of these images in the self-presentation of its users. Not sorry to disappoint.

JLH: We’ve disposed of a lot of arcane academic traditions. What new one would you introduce?
JSK: Now I’m curious as to what some of these traditions were. I’m trying to think of the remaining traditions, and for some reason I’m drawing a blank, so I’m not sure what I’d introduce… maybe something that would encourage camaraderie amongst the grad students across different faculties? Or even between undergraduates and graduates to bridge the gap, like a mentorship program, if one doesn’t already exist. Whatever it is, it would be something that emphasizes community and is of interest/beneficial to the students.

JLH: What is your favourite food for academic inspiration?
JSK: If I’m being frank – and people who know me well know this to be true – I’d say beer, even though that’s not really food. Beer and soup. It’s a weird combination, so I don’t typically have it together (I don’t think?), but usually if I’m stuck in my head, I’ll have one or the other, and even the first bite or sip is enough to ease my tension and get me thinking clearly again. Pho is always a nice go-to here in KW, and a really good hot-and-sour makes a world of difference, but I’ve been struggling to find the latter in the area lately. In a different interpretation of this question, if we’re talking about being academically inspired about food, I’m not sure… probably also soup? I’d have to rewatch Ugly Delicious on Netflix and think it through.

JLH: If we were to look at your works cited, what is the most unusual thing you’ve cited?
JSK: Since I do research in new/digital/social media, there’s probably a lot of things unusual about my works cited (the internet is an exciting and also crazy place to be). Going back to my MRP, one example is a source that looked at the Tigers of Tinder – that is, the constant appearance of tourist photos where the individual is posing with a drugged-up tiger. I’m currently working on a paper for a course that looks at plastic surgery in light of psychoanalysis, so the works cited for that should be interesting as well.

Award for PhD student Monique Kampherm

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English PhD candidate Monique Kampherm. She was one of many UWaterloo English scholars participating in this year’s Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric conference at Congress. Monique’s paper was titled “Democratic Prosopopoeia: The Rhetorical Influence of Embodying a Political Statement Online” and resulted in her being named the RhetCanada 2018 Graduate Student Prize Winner. As the judges write:

Monique’s paper drew from a wide variety of rhetorical critics and adroitly integrated figurative analysis, digital technology studies, and political studies to examine the rhetorical effects of image filter use on social media during the 2015 Canadian election. While her paper drew on a specific case, it also spoke more generally to the rhetorical implications of how text and image are integrated on social media.

How to play critically?


On Wednesday, May 9th, join UWaterloo English’s Dr. Aimée Morrison, UWaterloo English PhD alumnus Dr. Steve Wilcox, and Dr. Leah Zhang-Kennedy at The Museum in Kitchener, for “INTERACTION Dialogue: Learning Through Play.” The event is presented in partnership with UWaterloo Games Institute, founded and headed by English’s Dr. Neil Randall. According to the event page:

“Experts in digital media and game studies as the discussion covers the cultural, educational, social and political role of games and gameplay in our lives. Topics include digital literacy skills, creating and playing games critically, and learning through play.”

More information, including how to pre-register, is here. The event will be moderated by current UWaterloo English PhD student Betsy Brey.

Mouthy badgers and alumnus Tom Cull

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Some of you may remember UWaterloo English alumnus Tom Cull from a previous interview on Words in Place; others may remember him as a classmate or student. He’s also the author of the chapbook, What the Badger Said (Baseline Press, 2013), and now, the just released book of poems, Bad Animals (Insomniac Press). As the press writes:

“Tom Cull’s debut collection is equal parts zoo, funhouse, and curio cabinet. A mouthy badger tells off a search committee, a family of beavers conspires to commit murder, a celebrity seal slips his cage. In these poems, human and animal spaces overlap, often marking moments of transgression, rebellion, escape, and capture. Home and habitat are flooded with invasive species, cute animal videos, and rising tides.”

Award for Dr. Ashley Mehlenbacher


The spring awards announcements continue with news that Dr. Ashley Mehlenbacher has won the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Communication, Rhetoric, & Digital Media program at North Carolina State University. Congratulations!

How to prevent (or survive) a goose attack

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In case you were unaware of it, Goosewatch is an actual thing at UWaterloo. Nesting geese are mapped by campus volunteers–maybe you?–and the updated map is made available online. The purpose: providing information on how to get across campus without disturbing geese who are protecting their nests. As the site advises you: don’t act hostile or show fear. If the goose acts aggressively, calmly and slowly back away. Maintain direct eye contact and keep your chest and face pointed at the goose. If you should be messaging a friend and unwittingly stumble into a nest, back away quietly. And if you happen to shout in surprise, and the goose flies towards your face, “duck or move away at a 90 degree angle to the direction of the flight still facing the attacking goose” (Ohio Geese Control). Though if it gets that close, I think we’d all advise covering your eyes.

So far, none of this year’s geese have reached the national media, as with Hagey Hall’s 2015 Branta canadensis, nicknamed “Spawn of Satan.”

Image credit: Imgur