Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Novel about UWaterloo

Normally, we tend to confine our posts to the happenings in and around UWaterloo’s English department. But a novel by a UWaterloo alumnus which is partially set on campus, and involves werewolves and vampires–as well as explosions on campus–would seem to merit some sort of notice! James Alan Gardner, a math graduate from the 1970s, is the author of All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (MacMillan, Tor, 2017), a science fiction/comedy in the vein of Terry Pratchett.  As the press writes:

Monsters are real. But so are heroes. Sparks are champions of weird science. Boasting capes and costumes and amazing super-powers that only make sense if you don’t think about them too hard, they fight an eternal battle for truth and justice . . . mostly.

Darklings are creatures of myth and magic: ghosts, vampires, were-beasts, and the like. Their very presence warps reality. Doors creak at their approach. Cobwebs gather where they linger.

Kim Lam is an ordinary college student until a freak scientific accident (what else?) transforms Kim and three housemates into Sparks―and drafts them into the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. They struggle to master their new abilities―and (of course) to design cool costumes and come up with great hero-names.

Turns out that “accident” was just the first salvo in a Mad Genius’s latest diabolical scheme. Now it’s up to four newbie heroes to save the day, before they even have a chance to figure out what their team’s name should be!


Poetry and Complexity Event

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What do the following three people have in common?

Madhur Anand, Waterloo Institute for Complexity & Innovation (WICI) Director, theoretical ecologist, and poet

Roald Hoffman, Nobel Prize-winning theoretical chemist and poet

Rae Armantrout, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Guggenheim Fellow

They are all participating in the event Poetry & Complexity, Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at the University of Waterloo Davis Centre, Room 1301, from 4pm-5pm, with a cocktail reception to follow from 5pm-6pm (complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cash bar). The event will be moderated by English’s Dr. Sarah Tolmie.

Please RSVP to:

Alumna Eleanor Sudak wins HeforShe

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Congratulations to English alumna Eleanor Sudak, who is among the winners of the 2018 HeForShe writing contest at University of Waterloo. Eleanor won first place in the poetry category for her poem “Today We Say Thailand.” The winning submissions have been published in a special anthology presented by the Book Store and Writing Centre in support of the HeForShe 10x10x10 IMPACT framework.

English was well represented on the judging panel and included Dr.  Sarah Tolmie (English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts), PhD candidate Tommy Mayberry (who is also an Instructional Developer, Centre of Teaching Excellence), and MA candidate Marisa Benjamin.

Congratulating our PhD students

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It’s the time of year when our PhD students once again participate in UWaterloo Arts’s Three Minute Thesis competition. The 3MT is “a friendly but intense contest where graduate students present the complexities of their research in an engaging and accessible way before a live audience” in just three minutes. The winner will represent Arts at the University of Waterloo 3MT final competition on March 21. And this year’s winner is English’s Jason Lajoie, who presented “Queering Media Technology, Queer Media Practices 1890-2018.” Meghan Riley, also a PhD candidate in English, placed third with “Changing Bodies, Changing Minds: Reading and Watching Speculative Fiction for Teaching Social Change.” Jason is being supervised by Dr. Marcel O’Gorman and Meghan by Dr. Victoria Lamont. Congratulations to our winners!

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Unsettling Conversations at Waterloo

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English’s Dr. Frankie Condon is one of the many UWaterloo faculty participating in a teach-in titled “Unsettling Conversations at Waterloo.”

In the wake of recent acquittals in the murders of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine and the ensuing national discussions, a diverse group of faculty are opening their classrooms or hosting teach-ins and conversations during the week of March 5, to talk about the ways in which structural racism exists and supports systemic and interpersonal violence toward Indigenous people. All are welcome at these events, whether you have experience with the ideas or are simply curious about what different disciplinary or interdisciplinary lenses bring to the table.

As researchers and teachers, we are exploring how we think and feel about these trials and the connections between them, our research, and our presence as settlers/guests on the Haldimand Tract. We are putting together a series of events not because we share a unified vision of what needs to be done, or a political position, but rather to initiate a culture of robust, respectful and uncomfortable conversation around indigenous-settler relations among non-indigenous peoples. We hope that this will expand the space available for facilitating the exchange of experiences, challenges, and questions as we address the complexity of socially relevant issues in education.

Some of the topics we invite everyone to consider include:
Where does racism come from historically, and how is it maintained presently, in the very fabric of what is currently called Canada?
What is settler privilege and power, and how does it contribute to ongoing genocide?
How does land ownership operate in the production of a nation, and what other ways are there to think about land?

Monday, Mar 5, 2018
Hagey Hall Hub second floor “Treehouse” room*, 11:30 am -12:50 pm
Open Classroom for PACS 301 – Settler Colonial Violence
Narendran Kumarakulasingam, Peace and Conflict Studies
With guest Craig Fortier, Social Development Studies
“Settler (In)justice: A Conversation about Land”

How and why are indigenous bodies continually targeted for elimination in Canada? What is our connection here at the university with the killings of Colten Boushie, Tina Fontaine and myriad others? You are invited to join PACS 301 for a conversation about land, bodies and (in)justice.
*Accessibility note: “Treehouse” is at the top of the first flight of stairs on the left. Hagey Hub elevator does NOT work. Working elevator is in old Hagey wing next to the Hub.

Monday, Mar 5, 2018
Location Brubacher House, 6 pm
Open Classroom for History 247 – Mennonite History
Marlene Epp, History/Peace and Conflict Studies
“Settler Family Stories on Indigenous Land in Waterloo”

Wednesday, Mar 7, 2018
Room ML 349, 11:30-12:50
Open Classroom for  Phil 371 / WS 365 – Philosophy of Race
Shannon Dea, Philosophy
Discussing Chapter 1 of Sheila Cote-Meek’s Colonized Classrooms.

Wednesday, Mar 7, 2018
Room PAS 2438, 3 pm – 4 pm
Presentation and discussion
Sorouja Moll, Drama and Speech Communication
“Rhetoric of Nation Building: Archive, Media, and Discourses of Race”

Friday, Mar 9, 2018
Room PAS 2438, Noon-1:30 pm
Presentations and discussion
Trevor Holmes, Women’s Studies
“Settler and Indigenous figures in the narrative production of Algonquin Park as Crown Land”
Reina Neufeldt, Peace and Conflict Studies
“‘Off my land?’ A story of fear, loss and trying to find a new way forward from Stoney Knoll, Saskatchewan”
Frankie Condon, English Literature
“Rhetorical listening and the decentering of settler dys-consciousness”

We also recommend talks and events the same week, such as:

Resources for further reflection and action


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I asked about the best book and…

I asked a few UWaterloo graduate students and faculty what was the best novel they read in the last year. Here are the first five responses.–WIP

Marisa Benjamin (MA student)
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Honestly, I had some trouble remembering what fiction I read this year – it was all a blur. I reread all of Harry Potter (as one must do every so often). I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It was a very enjoyable, quick read. However I’m not particularly proud of just how much I enjoyed it considering it’s a repeat of Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash. The last notable runner up was Animal Farm by Orwell. I read it for the first time this year and as soon as I finished it I started over and read it again. I wanted to give you a fresh answer and The Bone Clocks was the closest I could come to fresh.

Fraser Easton (Associate Professor)
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. The book is a dream-like retelling of the Gawain legend, an allegory of Alzheimer’s and violence, a virtuoso exercise in prose style that somehow draws the reader into a realm both fantastic and realistic. The style acts like a slowly lifting fog that both softens and obscures, and makes sublime, its subject matter. Ishiguro continues his run as the Kubrick of fiction, never repeating himself.

Ken Graham (Professor)
I’ll go with Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, probably my favourite title in the Hogarth Shakespeare series so far. Not everything in this retelling works, but there are some wonderfully lyrical passages that more than make up for any shortcomings.

Jennifer Harris (Associate Professor)
It has to be the young adult novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, shortlisted for the National Book Award in 2008. I picked it up secondhand, and it perfectly suited my mood–and world events–the day that I read it. A teenager decides she’s going to upend the all-male secret society at her boarding school. If I ever teach the children’s literature course, it will be a strong contender for the reading list.

Monique Kampherm (PhD student)
If you are interested in a witty, smart, and thought provoking novel, for a book that will stay in your mind for days after you read the last line, pick up a copy of Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business. This Canadian classic may have you considering the choices you make and the miracles that happen along the way. It certainly compelled me to reflect on the role of “fifth business” and the role we play in our own “theatre of life.”

A new book from Dr. Vershawn Young

Congratulations to Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, cross-appointed with English, whose book Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow (co-edited with Mollie Godfrey) has just been published by University of Illinois Press. From the press:

“African Americans once passed as whites to escape the pains of racism. Today’s neo-passing has pushed the old idea of passing in extraordinary new directions. A white author uses an Asian pen name; heterosexuals live “out” as gay; and, irony of ironies, whites try to pass as black. Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young present essays that explore practices, performances, and texts of neo-passing in our supposedly postracial moment. The authors move from the postracial imagery of Angry Black White Boy and the issues of sexual orientation and race in ZZ Packer’s short fiction to the politics of Dave Chappelle’s skits as a black President George W. Bush. Together, the works reveal that the questions raised by neo-passing—questions about performing and contesting identity in relation to social norms—remain as relevant today as in the past.”