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.”

Reading Week: What and Where?

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Some of us are visiting family during reading week (including me); many have stayed put and are trying to stay dry. While some faculty are trying to catch up on grading, emails, and other obligations, others are using this time to catch up on reading and writing. I’ve been working my way through a slave narrative, a book on Emancipation and the act of writing (Word by Word, above), a dissertation chapter by a PhD student, an article I promised to peer review for a journal, and more. Why not visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/WaterlooEnglish/) and tell us what you are reading and where?

Dr. Marcel O’Gorman on locking up your smartphone

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In case you missed it, Dr. Marcel O’Gorman of UWaterloo English has an article in The Atlantic discussing his research on digital abstinence, titled “The Case for Locking Up Your Smartphone.” An excerpt:

“Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely coined the “IKEA effect” to name the increase in value people assign to self-made products. With the Resistor Case, I’m counting on a similar effect, that students who fist construct and then choose to make use of their DIY phone lockers might be more compelled to use them. Of course, the kit will only work if the teacher provides a context for it that includes a discussion of responsible smartphone use. (The kit provides a series of cards to prompt this conversation.)

When I teach these workshops, I introduce students to the French translation of paying attention: faire attention, or “making” attention. It suggests that attention is not something to be bought or sold, but something to craft. This is a concept that could benefit anyone who considers adjusting school, work, or entertainment plans to accommodate the supposedly shorter attention spans of digital life.”

Image source here.


Leave the house!

Screenshot 2018-01-29 21.55.17It may be winter, but that’s no reason to never leave the house: consider attending one of the many winter semester events at UW English’s own Critical Media Lab, at 44 Gaukel St., Kitchener.  Check out the schedule below for details on Digital Wednesdays, salons, and other workshops. Also, keep your eyes out for calls for projects :

Tentative Term Programming:
Feb 7 – Arduino Workshop: LED Rave
(Sat) Feb 17 – Zineathon / Drinks
Feb 28 – Power of Plain Text: HTML, CSV, XML, JSON Workshop
Mar 7 – Arduino Workshop: Myoduino (Myo Armbands + Arduino!)
Mar 14 – Glitch Art Workshop
Mar 21 – Meme Stream
Mar 28 – Electronic Printmaking Workshop

*Events may be subject to change. For more information, see the Critical Media Lab page.

Bakelite & the end of the world: A Reading

Friday, February 2nd: why not venture over to St. Jerome’s (SJ1 3027) for a reading by fiction writer, poet, and dramatist Kate Cayley at 4:30pm? Her first collection of short fiction, How You Were Born, won the Trillium Book Award and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her first collection of poetry, When This World Comes to an End, was shortlisted for the ReLit Award. Her second collection of poetry, Other Houses, was recently published by Brick Books. She was a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre from 2009-2017, and wrote two plays for Tarragon, After Akhmatova and The Bakelite Masterpiece, which had its American premiere in 2016 and will be produced again at the New Repertory Theater in Boston this spring. She is currently working on This Is Nowhere, commissioned by Zuppa Theatre, and her first novel.

The opening act will be Tina Blair Fang. The readings are free and all are welcome. Please spread the word!

Good news for graduate students!

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Incoming *domestic PhD funding increased to $100,000 over four years

The Faculty of Arts offers increased funding in 2018 to help prospective doctoral students overcome financial barriers with $100,000 paid over four years. This is the minimum guaranteed amount for all incoming domestic PhD students; some students may receive additional funding. Read more about PhD funding.

Incoming *domestic research-based MA funding topped-up by $5,000

The Faculty of Arts offers additional funding to exceptional domestic students entering a research masters program in 2018. Eligible students must have achieved a GPA of 85% or higher in their previous two years of study. Read more about MA funding.

*Domestic students: You are a domestic student if you are a Canadian citizen, living in or outside of Canada; or, if you are a Permanent Resident of Canada.

Image credit: Eric Jardin