Category Archives: Uncategorized

Congratulations Dr. Lacey Beer

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It’s been quite the week of defenses! We are pleased to offer congratulations to our newest PhD graduate, Dr. Lacey Beer. Today Dr. Beer defended her dissertation, “Tongues Tide: Translingual Directions for Technologically-Mediated Composing Platforms.


Her supervisor was Dr. Frankie Condon,· with committee members Drs. Jay Dolmage and Vershawn Young. Dr. Jerry Won Lee of the University of California, Irvine served as external examiner. Dr. Beer’s research was supported by a SSHRC award and a President’s Graduate Scholarship, and she has published in The New Quarterly.



Congratulations to our newest PhD, Dr. Phil Miletic

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You may remember English PhD candidate Phil Miletic from previous posts, such as “A Week in the Life of a Graduate Student” and “Rewriting Gertrude Stein.” Well, now he has defended his dissertation, “Only Connect: The Virtual Communities of Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace,” and he is DOCTOR Phil Miletic. Congratulations!

Dr. Miletic has been active with UWaterloo’s First Person Scholar as well as our graduate student association. His publications have appeared in African American Review, Canadian Review of American Studies, and The International Journal of Comic Art and he has a piece forthcoming in Biography. His dissertation research was supported by a SSHRC award as well as the President’s Graduate Scholarship.

Dr. Miletic’s supervisor was Dr. Aimée Morrison, and his committee members Drs. Kevin McGuirk and Marcel O’Gorman. The internal examiner was Dr. Ian Milligan; the external examiner was Dr. Lori Emerson, University of Colorado at Boulder. Phil’s description of his dissertation follows.

“Only Connect: The Virtual Communities of Gertrude Stein and David Foster Wallace”

My dissertation compares Modernist imaginations and applications of early radio with Late Postmodernist imaginations and applications of the early internet. The American authors that I focus on and compare in my dissertation are Gertrude Stein, a Modernist, and David Foster Wallace, a Late Postmodernist. My dissertation asserts that Stein and Wallace each incorporate the techno-cultural imaginations and feelings of community through the democratic poetics and aesthetics of their work. Both Stein and Wallace engage with facilitating literary communities that form around emerging mass media––for Stein, the radio, and for Wallace, the blog––and provoke readers to participate in auto/biographical practices as a mode of discussing American identity, community, and democracy. Where the orality of Stein’s texts invites readers’ auto/biographical engagement, Wallace’s written depictions of mental health, addiction, and loneliness prompt readers to share auto/biographical narratives/disclosures related to those topics in the reading group discussions. Altogether, my dissertation engages with a unique media archeological combination of literary analysis, media studies, and critical media production in order to suss out the dynamic exploration of identity, community, and democratic participation these authors and their readers feel for within the mediascape of their respective eras.

Congratulating Dr. Dhruba Neupane!

Congratulations to UWaterloo English PhD student–and now graduate–Dr. Dhruba Neupane. On September 6th Dr. Neupane successfully defended his dissertation, titled  “Plurality, promises and practice: A case of Nepali immigrants’ transliterating and translanguaging in Canada.” Dr. Neupane was supervised by Dr. Jay Dolmage, with a committee composed of Drs. Frankie Condon and Heather Smyth. The external ·examiner was Dr. Iswari Pandey of English, California State University, Northridge.

The description follows.

“Plurality, promises and practice: A case of Nepali immigrants’ transliterating and translanguaging in Canada”

This dissertation is a community-based study among sixteen Nepali immigrant students in graduate and undergraduate programs that have intensive writing, research and communication components. It combines group discussions, interviews, case studies and participant observations to explore the ways featured migrants adapt, appropriate, repel and repeat dominant practices of meaning making in academic and social spaces. Participants’ phenomenological experiences and narratives consist of difficulties in navigating unfamiliar academic and social expectations, especially at the transitional stage; the lack of appropriate support mechanisms; the presence of direct and indirect forms of racism; the resolve to challenge existing strange-making practices, and the hope for a better future. This research further shows that migrants’ hybrid literacy and epistemological practices go beyond what can be contained within the established academic writing grids. While the research problematizes a romanticized narrative within some multilingual scholarships: that multilinguals ‘carry’ mobile and portable language and communicative resources available for an uncomplicated usage and seamless blending; it stresses the need to actively and qualitatively approach difference in ways that appreciates diverse ways of meaning making, doing, being and valuing that the sheer presence of our students, particularly those marked as linguistic and cultural Others, demand of us. The central ask of this this dissertation is to diversify our practices from what appear to be more of the same in different guises. For example, various language and cultural difference-based approaches including the bi-multi- pluri- turns have been identified as not significantly punctuating Eurocentric privileges. More specifically, participants will help us know that English monolingualism persists in academic and institutional settings despite translingual realities outside, because it is defended and framed in terms of student, community, and market needs— often encapsulated in the discourse of “reality outside” and represented as a passport to success, growth, and upper socio-symbolic mobility. Participants in this research join diversity and plurality debates, including multiculturalism, and suggest ways in which to pluralize and diversify existing additive-accretive and discrete-separate ways and views of plurality and diversity.

Tips for an Academic Book Review


It was my first week in an academic position and a colleague decided we should head to the bar for a celebratory drink. As we entered, he made an offhand remark about the scholarship of another new hire. I surprised myself by answering: “I’m tired of people slagging other people’s scholarship just because it doesn’t conform to their theoretical preoccupations.” We ordered drinks, and as my new acquaintance’s attention was claimed by undergraduates, I pondered my need to better self-edit—but also my complete lack of regret for what I had said.

Until that moment I’d never put that simmering frustration into words. But, as a principle, “don’t dismiss the work of others because it doesn’t reflect your interests” is something I’ve come to realize is fundamental to academics. It’s not just that we work in departments with those whose scholarship might be radically different from ours. Rather, as academics, we are rooted in the practices of constructively reading and reviewing the work of others, whether as supervisors, members of writing groups, peer reviewers for a journal or academic press, or book reviewers for academic journals.

After years as book review editor of an academic journal, I can attest that finding reviewers who will read books generously, thoughtfully, and with an understanding of the field can be challenging. Several editors I know have commented on the problem of the (disproportionately junior) reviewer who eviscerates a book as a means of showcasing their own critical acumen. Most often such a reviewer takes issue less with the work on its terms, than with how it doesn’t reproduce their own scholarly orientation. In the end, such a review tells you more about the reviewer than the book. In part, this is the failing of academics: we don’t always do a great job talking about producing academic book reviews. In that vein, if I had one piece of advice for new reviewers it would be: don’t dismiss the work of others because it doesn’t reflect your interests.

For those who are embarking on reviewing, think about what makes book reviews useful. At a basic level, we all want to know: what will I get from reading this book? What is it about? Following that, what is the argument, how is it constructed, what are its implications? Before picking apart a book for its weaknesses, first consider: what are the book’s strengths? I have bought books I suspected weren’t as solid, because they addressed matters or events I wanted to know more about. When you do contemplate a discussion of potential weaknesses, reflect: are they substantive or minor, and will devoting a significant portion of the review to them make you look petty?

Perversely, some people presume you have to say something explicitly negative in order for the positive things you say to be judged objective. I have a former colleague who believes this about letters of reference for undergraduate students as well as PhDs on the job market. Let me be clear: this is bad advice for writers of letters of reference and it is bad advice for writers of academic book reviews. If you think there is a glaring weakness that deserves to be addressed, do not go for the jugular or release your inner snark: depending on the concern, either state it clearly, or find a way to signal it to your reader. For instance, the statement “the author is less concerned with the scholarly revelations of the last twenty years, instead focusing on the close reading of variations between the first and second editions” can convey volumes in the right context.

For those embarking on their first academic book review—or even those squeezing in a review and needing to organize their ideas—here are a list of questions to consider. A good book review need not address all of these or even the majority; but the attentive reading required to produce a decent review does mean that the reviewer should have a handle on them. Remember: in the end, a good academic review in a scholarly journal doesn’t summarize, it considers; it doesn’t eviscerate, it responds. If you have doubts about your approach—even if you don’t—consult a few issues of the journal you are writing for, and ensure you are matching their goals.

  • What is the book about? Does it cover an area that has been neglected?
  • What is the author’s theoretical and/or methodological framework?
  • Does the author introduce a new framework or perspective?
  • How does the author engage previous scholarship? Is the book indebted to particular authors, works, or trends?
  • Is the research and approach suitable given the subject?
  • Does the author mine neglected or underutilized sources?
  • Is scholarship or insight produced by other disciplines utilized? If so, how, and is it successful?
  • Is the research current?
  • What does the book add to the existing scholarly conversation?
  • Is it successful? Does it do what it sets out to do?
  • Are there potentially controversial moves? Is it provocative?
  • Is this work timely in relation to the field and/or current events?
  • Does it lay the groundwork for future scholarship? How?
  • Is there something in the book that brought you joy? Or that you wanted to emulate in your own scholarship? Or made you see something differently?
  • Is the structure logical? Stylistically, does it flow? Is the language appropriate?
  • Are there useful appendices, images, or visual aids?
  • Who would be interested in the scholarship or find it useful? Disciplinary specialists? Armchair scholars? Local history societies? Literary groups? Fan communities?
  • Is it teachable? Are there portions that would be useful readings in courses? Would graduate students benefit from reading it?
  • Does it feel as if it will stand up?
  • Can you think of one thing that might have substantially strengthened the work?

Image credit: Ten Academic Books that Changed the World

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.