Tag Archives: travel

Guest post: A meditation on parks

Welcome back from Reading Week!

Today I have for you the third instalment from Professor Shelley Hulan about her recant travels in India and England.

“Being a walker by habit and inclination, I naturally gravitate towards routes and destinations that favour the carless. This winter I’ve been lucky enough to be able to compare parks in two of the world’s great cities, Delhi and London. In metropolitan centres as ancient as these two, a couple of things are immediately apparent: First, the city’s inhabitants take their shared spaces—and the universal right to them—very seriously. Second, whatever their history (and they are likely to have plenty of it), these spaces are always working spaces. Their flora and fauna, beautiful to look at, are “ornamental” in precisely the sense identified in the OED: they are the accessories, often functional in their own right, of a larger, more important entity.

What makes these parks more important than their component parks are the ideas and attitudes implicit in visitors’ use of them. Beautiful oases in the heart of crowded urban centres, these parks are democratic. On any day of the week you will see a cross-section of society that includes people of every class and occupation, all with an equal right to the space and all using it to fulfil immediate needs: to exercise, to socialize, to picnic with friends and family, or just (a most precious possibility) to spend time in relative seclusion beneath the trees. In the parks you see in these photographs, places may be found to do all of the above, even on busy Sunday afternoons, when I took most of these pictures.

Without further ado, I give you Lodi Gardens and Jantar Mantar, both historic and archaeological sites in central Delhi, and Greenwich, St. James’s Park, and the Mall (closed to cars on Sundays) in London.”

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Guest post: A Canadianist in India

Happy February everyone. Isn’t this such a see saw of a winter! One day we’re clomping through snow and the next day rain washes it all away. Thinking of sunnier climes,  I was delighted when I got an email from Professor Shelley Hulan who is currently in India. Dr. Hulan participated in a conference “Changing Worlds: Reviewing and Reinventing Canadian Literature and Culture,” which took place at Catholicate College in Pathanamthitta, Kerala Province, January 23rd and 24th. She gave a talk on Rohinton Mistry and Sara Jeannette Duncan.

Here’s an account of some of her activities and observations. Dr. Hulan’s voice:

In case you were wondering: Truth is in fact stranger than fiction. Or perhaps fiction helps the truth be strange. Southern India is renowned for its circuses. On the way from Kochi, where I landed, we passed at least three, one of which was visiting Pathanamthitta itself. One of the conference participants, Dr. Murali Sivaramakrishnan (Head of the Department of English, Pondicherry University), told me of a village in northern Kerala, Tellicherry—or as it is now known, Tivalaserry—famous for its circus school. Every family in the village, it’s said, sends one child into the profession.

I hadn’t quite heard of this before, but I had a recent reading experience of a parallel. In Michael Ondaatje’s latest novel Cat’s Table, one of the characters, a young girl who has wandered the country in search of her paternal aunt and finds her with a circus troupe, trains as an acrobat and travels through India performing with the group.

The day after the conference, I ambled down to the small main floor lobby to take advantage of the comfy chairs and, hopefully, the free wifi. The wifi was a no-go, but I sat anyway in air-conditioned comfort chatting with the desk staff and reading a revised article submission to a collection I and a couple of colleagues are editing. I was making a herculean effort to imagine Don Delillo’s urban purgatory as I watched banana leaves waving lazily in a sultry breeze. Suddenly (though somehow unobtrusively) the little lobby became very full of people, many holding cameras. I saw the hotel’s assistant manager making his way towards me through the crowds. Leaning down, he explained in a gentle voice that the hotel was playing host to two soon-to-arrive special guests, who had married a couple of days earlier and whom the hotel was treating to a free honeymoon stay. There was to be a celebratory event in one of the hotel’s banquet rooms. Would I join them? Just then the guests of honour arrived—two of the performers from the local circus, who, as I understand it, had trained at the very school Murali had described to me the day before. After a brief photo op, the two proceeded with their well-wishers to the banquet room. I ran to my room to get my camera and followed. Once in the room I was asked to say a few words of congratulations to the couple (this turned out to be a common practice in Kerala). Milky tea and cashew butter cookies followed, which accompany every occasion formal and otherwise in Kerala.

So there you have it: the circus performers of Kerala Province, in fiction and for real.

Lady English Professor here again: watch this space for part 2 of Dr. Hulan’s adventures in India.

Junkets that were both work and fun

The graduate programs in English at uWaterloo have been expanding in recent years, but we are always interested in enrolling more students. Recently some members of faculty and staff went on trips to recruit more graduate applicants. For those who went on the recruitment trips it was an opportunity to see different parts of the country and to talk to colleagues and students from other universities.

Professor Ken Hirschkop and Graduate Co-ordinator Fiona McAlister went East. They visited the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, St. Mary’s University, Acadia University, and Mount St. Vincent University. There was positive reception from students and faculty alike. And they had fun! Fiona writes: “Special thanks must go to two very enthusiastic faculty members who were a lot of help: Theresa Heffernan at St. Mary’s and Karen MacFarlane at Mount St. Vincent. We had great weather. We spent a lot of time in used bookstores, wandering around and eating seafood. Lobster rolls are overrated but clams and chips are a national treasure. Halifax is a great city for wandering around, as it is very compact. There is a chain of fair trade coffee shops, which serves great hot chocolate and, according to Ken, great coffee. I learned that Mount St. Vincent, a small Catholic university in a working class area of Halifax, houses a large collection of lesbian pulp fiction. St. Mary’s is football mad (Go Huskies!).”

Some photos: 

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Professor Kathy Acheson and Professor Shelley Hulan went West.

Arriving at Calgary airport

Writes Shelley:

Love and Salt Water

I snapped this photo on a rainy but warm morning in early November on English Bay. If you’ve read Ethel Wilson’s novella Love and Salt Water, you’ll recognize these cargo ships twinkling in the Vancouver harbour, a favourite literary opening of mine. One of the greatest things about researching Canadian literature is that you begin to see the national geography, already stunning, through the imaginations of Canadian writers. And that means that you never see just one vista in front of you. You see your experience layered with those of the narrators through whose eyes you are privileged to look.

Vancouver harbour

Vancouver Harbour

My colleague Kathy Acheson and I were on the West Coast to spread the good word about the English Department’s Master’s programs at universities in Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary. Some of you pursued your MAs at uWaterloo and know that we’ve long had two MA streams, one in Rhetoric and Communication Design (formerly Rhetoric and Professional Writing) and one in Literary Studies. Since students in the two streams take a combination of Lit. and RCD courses, there’s a fair degree of cross-pollination between them, which grads consistently tell us was one of the illuminating aspects of their degree experience here.

Last year we added a third MA in experimental digital media (XDM) that gives students the opportunity to “use…digital media as a critical tool combining theory and practice in the production of objects-to-think-with” (go to http://english.uwaterloo.ca/MA-XDM.html for more information). Like all our MA programs, XDM is available as a co-op degree; uWaterloo is, after all, a leading North American co-op university. English students earn money and gain valuable work experience at such companies as RIM, Microsoft, Design2Learn, and Google to name a few.

So Kathy and I talked, and then we listened to some great questions from the floor. We so enjoyed meeting all of you who came out to hear us. Special thanks to our terrific hosts Lee Easton (Mount Royal University), Adam Tindale (Alberta College of Art and Design), Bart Beaty (University of Calgary), and Amy Machin and Joy Poliquin (University of Victoria).

Most memorable? I’ve been to Calgary and Vancouver before, so I knew enough to look forward to being in beautiful places. But I didn’t expect the cappuccino in Calgary to be so great—that was a welcome surprise!

Your admin’s comments: Common themes? Fabulous hosts, keen students, harbour scenes, and coffee.