Category Archives: Undergraduate Students

Creative Writing from Engl 332

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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

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What do our Harry Potter students do?

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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.

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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.

Awards for Students!!!

 

awardI love this part of the year, where we celebrate our students. And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg–there are so many wonderful students not named here. Thank you to everyone who participated, with especial thanks to Dr. John Savarese and Dr. Andrea Jonahs for coordinating, with the support of the staff in English to whom we are all, always, indebted. Read on to see who won what!

Undergraduate Academic Awards

English Society Creative Writing Award for Poetry: Joanna Laurie Dixon Cleary

Rhetoric and Digital Design Award: Neha Ravella

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Rhetoric and Professional Writing Award: Sara Akbarzadeh-Zahraia Kohan, Aarjan Giri, and Dylan Yip-Chuck

Andrew James Dugan Prize in Rhetoric and Professional Writing: Eden McFarlane

Award in American Literature and Culture: Emily Pass

Canadian Literature Prize: Dinah Shi

Walter R. Martin English 251 Award: Abigail Hamann

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Diaspora and Transnational Studies Prize: Trenton McNulty

Andrew James Dugan Prize in Literature: Judith Blasutti

The Hibbard Prize for Shakespeare Studies: Selin Elyay

Masternak Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship in English: Joanna Laurie Dixon Cleary and Hanna Colbert

English Society Creative Writing Award for Prose: Xin Niu Zhang

Albert Shaw Poetry Prize: Xin Niu Zhang

Graduate Academic Awards

Beltz Essay Prize, MA: Renée Belliveau

Beltz Essay Prize, PhD: Christopher Cameron (Honourable Mention: Lindsay Meaning)

Rhetoric Essay Prize, MA: Robyn Peers

Rhetoric Essay Prize, PhD: Devon Moriarty

Graduate Creative Writing Award: Hannah Watts and Evelyn Deshane

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Graduate Professional Communication Award: Devon Moriarty, Lillian Black, and Danielle Griffin

David Nimmo English Graduate Scholarship: Ashley Irwin

Jack Gray Fellowship: Christin Taylor

W.K. Thomas Graduate Scholarship: Ashley Irwin

Co-op Awards

Undergraduate Co-op Work Report Award: Veronika Mikolajewski

Graduate Co-op Work Report Award: Andrew Myles

Teaching and Professionalization Awards

TA Award for Excellence in Teaching: Hannah Watts

Independent Graduate Instructor Award for Excellence in Teaching: Meghan Riley

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Lea Vogel-Nimmo Graduate Professionalization Scholarship: Ian Gibson and Jin Sol Kim

More on our awards–including additional photos!–have been posted by Dr. Bruce Dadey on the UWaterloo English Department site.

Alumna Sara Kannan: Making a Difference

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There are some students whose names you hear over and over, even if you’ve never taught them: Sara Kannan is one of those students. Read on to find out why we all know of her, how she made her co-op degree work for her, and how she is giving back to the department. Thank you to Sara for participating in Words in Place! –JLH


JLH: What made you decide to attend UWaterloo?
SK: It’s actually a pretty great story – I was born in Canada but moved to the U.S. as a child and grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. During Grade 12, I focused on applying to U.S. universities in the northeast so that I could be between my parents and my maternal grandparents in Waterloo, who I’m very close with. I never considered applying to university in Canada because I did all my schooling in the U.S., from Grades 1 to 12, and because all of my friends were also going to university in the same area. During spring break, I visited my first choice school in New York (on the way to Waterloo) and found that it wasn’t what I expected. We finished the week by visiting my grandparents in Waterloo, who immigrated to Canada in the 1960s because my grandfather was offered a professorship in the Pure Mathematics Department at UWaterloo. With my grandfather as a professor emeritus and all five of his children (including my mom) as UWaterloo alumni, I was persuaded to at least visit UWaterloo before ruling it out. I went on a campus tour and immediately fell in love – I was so sure that I wanted to attend UWaterloo that I actually declined all my acceptance offers to U.S. universities before applying to UWaterloo!

JLH: How important was the co-op stream to you in thinking about your potential future career?
SK: Co-op was essential to my career path. I initially applied to the co-op stream with the comfort of knowing that I could always change my mind later, but ended up completing four co-op terms. The skills and experience I gained in going through the job application process and working in a professional setting were invaluable and highly transferable. Additionally, I was able to try out several different jobs to find what I liked and what wasn’t a good fit for me, which helped me focus my efforts when applying for a full-time job post-graduation. Having about 1.5 years of full-time, professional experience in various jobs related to my degree (before I even graduated!) was absolutely necessary to finding a job in the “real world.”

JLH: Some people will know your name from our posts on awards ceremonies: you received numerous awards from the English department, including the Albert Shaw Poetry Prize, Rhetoric and Professional Writing Award, English Society Creative Writing Award for Prose, Quarry Integrated Communication Co-op Award, and others. Can you talk a bit about how those were important to you?
SK: Honestly, winning those awards meant the world to me. To receive tangible evidence in recognition of my writing abilities, from my professors and in front of my peers, really validated my confidence in my skills and the worth of my degree. I’ve known that I would be a writer since I was 6 years old, but not everyone has been supportive or encouraging. Winning these awards almost every year felt like proof that my lifelong dreams could become reality – some of them, at least (I don’t think that I’ll end up a princess, but hey, it happened to Meghan Markle!).

JLH: Fewer people might know that you decided to fund an award, and quite soon after graduating. What made this a logical choice to you?
SK: I became very passionate about postcolonialism during my time at UWaterloo, taking postcolonial literature classes and bringing postcolonialism into traditional literature/rhetoric classes. I started writing about things like magical realism as a method of resistance in understanding the Haitian Revolution or the Dreaming as a way for Aboriginal Australians to displace colonizers, but quickly noticed that my essays didn’t fit into any of the existing awards categories and couldn’t be submitted. Since winning awards was very important to me personally and professionally as an undergraduate student, I wanted to give back to the English Department and future students by filling the void.

Once I was no longer eligible to receive awards and in a position to pay it forward, I collaborated with the English Department and Sherri Sutherland from Arts Advancement to establish and sponsor the annual Diaspora and Transnational Studies Prize. To me, the significance of this award lies in recognizing the importance, relevance, and pervasiveness of diaspora, transnational, and postcolonial topics – topics that are increasingly acknowledged, studied, and explored through a variety of methods and mediums, in an effort to understand our world and the people in it. My goal was to make the award as inclusive as possible to reflect the nature of postcolonial studies, opening submissions to essays and projects submitted by any student or professor, as long as it is related to postcolonial studies (which can be very broadly interpreted).

JLH: If you were to imagine your dream course in postcolonial literature, what texts would be on it?
SK: That’s a really difficult question, because so many texts (not just literature!) can be interpreted as postcolonial. I think the three most important books to establish the framework of postcolonialism as a literary theory are Orientalism by Edward Said (who is considered the founder of postcolonial studies); The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin; and Decolonizing the Mind by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. From the classes that I took at UWaterloo, my favourite texts to analyze were Frida Kahlo’s paintings, Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Spanish flamenco music.

At its heart, postcolonialism is about intersectionality (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.) through the lens of historical imperial-colonial power struggles. Almost any text post-contact can be analyzed for these influences – I challenge everyone to find the postcolonial in their favourite text!

 

Top Ten Words in Place Posts of 2018

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Welcome to 2019! Curious about what we celebrated in 2018? Publications, awards, students, and alumni. But which ones were the most read? Read on and find out what were our top posts of 2018.

10) Amazing News x2 from Tommy Mayberry

9) Welcoming Dr. Megan Selinger

8) Jack Halberstam: TRANS* Visual archives of the transgendered body

7) Our Newest PhD: Dr. Sarah Whyte!

6) I asked about the best book and…

5) Five odd questions: PhD candidate Jin Sol Kim

4) Our newest PhD, Clare Bermingham, on “Feeling Queer Together”

3) Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher for President!

2) Welcoming Dr. Carter Neal

1) Award for undergrad Danielle Bisnar Griffin

Flash From the Past: from Chris Masterman

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I have seen the book Flash From the Past: 140 Photographs from the Waterloo Region Record at Words Worth Books in uptown Waterloo, but had no idea that the co-author, Chris Masterman, is currently enrolled in UWaterloo as an English student, until one of her professors, Dr. Chad Wriglesworth, wrote me. Masterman, a former librarian, is interviewed here about the experience of sharing the photographs with the public.

Award for undergrad Danielle Bisnar Griffin

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English undergraduate Danielle Bisnar Griffin, winner of the DiMarco Undergraduate Scholarship in Computational Rhetoric. This is not her first award from UWaterloo; she previously received the Quarry Integrated Communication Co-op English Award for her report ”Comparative Data Visualizations of Textual Features in the OED and the Life of Words Genre 3.0 Tagging System,” which addressed the work completed during a co-op semester. Danielle was kind enough to share with us a bit about what made her application stand out:

I received the award for my enthusiasm for computational rhetoric, evidenced by my participation in Dr. David Williams’ project The Life of Words and the research interests I developed due to working there. During my time at The Life of Words, I have completed co-op reports that examine the rhetoric of genre using computational methods and I have pursued these interests towards a senior honors essay, scheduled for completion March 2019. I have also consistently committed to improving my computational skills by attending conference skills workshops throughout my undergrad. Finally, I have also been working with Dr. Randy Harris and Dr. DiMarco’s Rhetorical Figures team, in which we work to develop an ontology of rhetorical figures. This is inherently very computational.

Thank you to Danielle for participating in Words in Place, and to alumnus Sam Pasupalak (BCS ’12) for funding the award.–JLH