Alumna Marsilda Kapurani: Rhetoric, Art, and the Real Housewives


I never thought I would be discussing an alumna’s contribution to the Real Housewives of Toronto. But that’s only a small portion of this interview with MA grad Marsilda Kapurani, who talks about the direct link between her time studying rhetoric and digital media at UWaterloo, and her subsequent career. Thanks to Marsilda for participating!

JLH: Can you tell us why a Masters in English was a good fit for you?
MK: Aside from the great reputation the university has, choosing UWaterloo was obvious for me because, the previous year, my husband had started his PhD program in Engineering at the same university.

In choosing the program, I considered my work experience and the career path I wanted to follow after my MA. In the four years after my BA, I had worked as a teacher, translator, and marketing manager. In the future, I wasn’t sure whether I would pursue art, marketing, or teaching. For these reasons, the Rhetoric and Communication Design program suited my interests better, since its applicability in art, academia, and business would provide me with more flexibility in my future professional choices. In retrospect, I couldn’t have chosen a more interesting program to study.

JLH: What did you enjoy the most about your time at UWaterloo?
MK: The whole experience was interesting and enjoyable. I loved the courses, especially the ones concerned with the Theory of Rhetoric and Digital Media. The digital media courses gave me a deeper insight in a rising medium that continues to shape our private and professional reality in a way that was incomprehensible 20 years ago.  If I had to mention my favorite courses, they would be the ones taught by Dr. Neil Randall, Dr. Aimée Morrison, and Dr. Michael MacDonald. Also, I really enjoyed working as a TA for a Business Communication course.

Additionally, some of the people I met during that time became close friends and we have managed to stay in touch since.

JLH: How have you used your degree since graduating? Has it been as you expected?
MK: English is my fourth language. As such, the MA programme provided me with useful tools for using the language beyond direct communication by exploring a deeper dimension of it – rhetoric. As an artist, interior designer, and marketing coordinator, I am always working with different people that have different interests, and communication is always a two-way street. When I am creating a painting or designing a room, the only means I have to understand my client’s visions are words which I have to translate into a visible and tangible product. I can confidently say that rhetoric has been extremely useful and necessary for me in performing well in all of these areas as it can influence people’s perspective of reality and convey a clearer message. Whether the medium is paint on canvas, a 3D design of a room, or a written digital ad, I feel rhetoric provides such practical knowledge that can only improve a professional’s performance.

JLH: Someone mentioned you in connection with the Real Housewives franchise–can you explain a bit about that? 
MK: Well, my involvement with Real Housewives of Toronto was very accidental. Before the show started, one of the “housewives” happened to visit the design office where I work and she saw my artwork there and really liked it. She commissioned a few pieces before the show and then another one for her wedding anniversary as a surprise present for her husband, which occurred while the show was being recorded. The painting was featured on the show when she surprised her husband with it, and she was very nice to name me as a local artist.

JLH: Finally, because I like to ask: what are you reading for fun?
MK: Currently, I am reading Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore. It’s a non-fiction book based on research drawn from over 25 countries. Through this book Livermore tries to provide insight on the diverse and global workforce we are living in, and especially how leadership has become a multicultural challenge. He provides a four-step CQ to help decision makers navigate international relations and the multicultural workforce effectively, respectfully and confidently.

In addition, I love architecture and interior design books. I just finished Candice Olson’s Favorite Design Challenges and can’t wait to read the Printed Textile Designs by Amanda Briggs-Goode.

You can follow Marsilda on Instagram and Facebook.


Open House at the Critical Media Lab

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UWaterloo English’s Critical Media Lab is hosting an Open House on Friday, December 1, from 4pm – 7pm.
There will be demonstrations of new CFI-funded equipment such as a laser cutter, 3D printer, brain wave interface controller, and MYO armband developed by local startup Thalmic Labs. Come and join us in imagining how to critically deploy these instruments in a manner suitable to the arts and humanities. CML Lab Technician Matt Frazer will facilitate the demonstrations.

Three students from the English Department’s XDM MA programJulie Funk, Miraya Groot, and Caitlin Woodcock — will have their final projects on display in the lab, and they will be present to take questions and give demonstrations.

Students from ENGL 760: Things in Philosophy and Literature, co-taught by Dr. Kevin McGuirk and Dr. Marcel O’Gorman, will also be showcasing their “things.”

Finally, Professor Matt Borland, a CML collaborator from Systems Design Engineering, will invite us to play some of his experimental digital music instruments.

Refreshments will be served.

Hope to see you at the lab. 44 Gaukel Street, Kitchener, ON, adjacent to the Charles Street Bus Terminal.

Image: BasketCase by Caitlin Woodcock

Emily Dickinson’s Simple Gingerbread

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It appears I’m not the only one who feels that books and baking go hand-in-hand as the weather turns. As pumpkin spice is supplanted by gingerbread flavouring about now, it seems like the perfect moment to introduce Emily Dickinson’s very simple gingerbread recipe. In related literary news, have you seen this recently unearthed daguerreotype? It is believed to be of an adult Dickinson, as opposed to the teenager with whom we are more familiar.

1 quart flour (about 4.65 cups)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
Make up with molasses (a little more than a cup is about right)

Cream the butter and mix with lightly whipped cream. Sift dry ingredients together and combine with the other ingredients. The dough is stiff and needs to be pressed into whatever pan you choose. A round or small square pan is suitable. Bake at 350 degrees for 20–25 minutes.

For more on the image, see A New Daguerreotype.

Dr. Neil C. Hultin passes

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Unfortunately, we are announcing the passing of Dr. Neil C. Hultin, who spent many productive years in the English Department at UWaterloo.

HULTIN, Neil C. 1934 – 2017 Neil Hultin, a longtime professor in the Department of English at the University of Waterloo, passed away on November 21, 2017 after a brief illness. For the last two years he resided at the Columbia Forest Long Term Care Home in Waterloo. He is survived by his wife Beryl, their children Philip, Geoffrey and Karen, and grandchildren Aidan, Cameron, Ethan, Michael, David, Sarah and Benjamin. Neil was born in Kenmare, North Dakota, the youngest child of Clarence Philip Hultin and Edith Eleanor Johnson Hultin. Neil’s brother Carmen Philip (“Buddy”) and sister Eileen were already teenagers when he was born. Neil’s father died quite young in 1937, as a consequence of being gassed during WW1, leaving Edith to raise the family single-handedly through the last years of the Depression. Neil’s brother left home to serve in the US Army Air Force during WW2, and his sister married. Edith and Neil lived in a tiny apartment above a shoe store in Minot, N.D. through the 1940s, although Neil spent summers in Donnybrook, N.D. on a relative’s farm. He never forgot his North Dakota roots even though his life took him far from where he started. Neil discovered strong intellectual interests in school, which led him to pursue post-secondary education, the first of his family to do so. He obtained a B.A. from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1955, and the following year he married Beryl Helen Juhala. Together, they moved to Chicago where Neil earned an M.A., and then to Baltimore where he studied at Johns Hopkins University to obtain the PhD. His decision to pursue an academic career led to a brief teaching appointment at the University of Arizona, but the offer of a tenure-stream assistant professorship at the University of Western Ontario induced him to move the family to Canada in 1963. In 1969 he relocated to the University of Waterloo, where he remained in the English Department until his retirement. His scholarly focus expanded and changed over the years from his initial interest in Medieval English literature, to include linguistics, folktales and fairytales, folk medicine, and the activities of various 18th and 19th Century British intellectuals. Neil also maintained a deep interest in theology and religions. Books on these topics featured prominently in his library. He published several scholarly books, as well as articles in international academic journals. He was a popular teacher and mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students. At home, he welcomed and encouraged family discussions of history, current affairs, or philosophy around the breakfast table or late at night in front of the fireplace. Neil was a devoted husband and father. He valued home and family above all, and was happiest sitting in his house or garden with his family around him. He gave generously whenever friends, neighbours or family asked for his help, but rarely asked for anything himself. He was proud of everything his children and grandchildren did but humble about his own accomplishments. The family extends deepest gratitude to the staff at Columbia Forest for the love and support they gave to our father. We also are most grateful for the friendship and assistance given by Joe Brito of Aurora Home Care over the past two years. A Celebration of Life will be held in the Fireside Room of the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home , 171 King St. S., Waterloo on Saturday, November 25, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to Parkinson Society Canada may be arranged by contacting the funeral home at or 519-745-8445.

Faculty win research grants!

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. Winfried Siemerling, who has received a SSHRC grant of over $100, 000 for his research project “Call and Responsibility: The Transformative Reception Aesthetics of Black Canadian Literature, Film, and Music.” As I wrote to him, I can’t wait to see him spend it all, and am even more excited about the research it will produce! Earlier-announced 2017 award holders in English include Dr. Alysia Kolentsis, for “Shakespeare’s Changing Language: Early Modern English and Linguistic Innovation” and Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, for “Networked Expertise as a Novel Approach to Complex Problem Solving.”

Dr. Vinh Nguyen wins Polanyi Prize!

Do you know someone formally designated an “exceptional researcher”? UWaterloo English’s Dr. Vinh Nguyen (Renison) has been, with the receipt of a 2017 Polanyi Prize. One of just five to be honoured, he is the only English professor on this list, as well as the sole UWaterloo faculty member. I asked Dr. Nguyen if he might share a few sentences about this research–here’s what he wrote:

“My project investigates how and why former refugees advocate for, stand in solidarity with, and come to the aid of, those who seek asylum in Canada and the United States. The project is driven by the following set of research questions: How do moments of solidarity and support between refugees enable us to reconsider our understanding of humanitarianism? What narratives arise when we recount North American immigration history through relational and coalitional experiences across different refugee groups? What does the work of social activism by former refugees tell us about the concept of refuge?”


Weird Fiction from Dr. Sarah Tolmie

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Looking for new–and perhaps unconventional–reading? Volume 4 of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction (Undertow Publications) will soon be available in bookstores, and includes a story from Dr. Sarah Tolmie of UWaterloo English.