Congratulations Graduate Class of 2020

Congratulations to Laurier Class of 2020. Today (July 7, 2020) your graduate degrees in English and Film Studies have been conferred…

Phd Degrees:
Grace McCarthy, Award for Outstanding Work at the Graduate Level

Anton Bergstrom


MA Degrees in English

Garrett Bernt
Mia Busscher
Tess Campbell
Julia Rose Di-Paolo
Katherine Duffy
Natalia Hunter
Adina Turkonje
Kevin Wallace

Screen Shot 2019-10-06 at 8.39.32 PM

Screen Shot 2019-10-06 at 8.39.17 PM

Photos from last year…because no gatherings due to pandemic!

Posted by Eleanor Ty




English Undergrad Student Presents Paper at “Crossing Borders Bi-National Conference”

By : Sarah  Caley


On Saturday, March 9, 2020, I was given the opportunity to present a research paper at the Crossing Borders Student Conference hosted by the Brock University Centre for Canadian Studies. This annual, interdisciplinary conference invites undergraduate and postgraduate students to present their work relating to Canada, the United States, and border studies. My paper, “Memorializing Indigenous History: A Comparative Study of Laurie D. Graham and Layli Long Soldier,” focused on two different poetic representations of 19th century colonial violence on both sides of the border, and considered how memorialization affects the way we think about history today. My paper was a part of the conference’s Indigenous Currents panel moderated by Lyn Trudeau, an Anishinabe (Eagle Clan) PhD student and instructor at Brock.

IMG_5033 Caley 1

This conference was an incredible learning experience for me because I was able to take my academic work beyond the classroom and see its significance in the wider world. It was very rewarding to share my research with others, and to have them listen, ask questions, and offer feedback. Additionally, it was inspiring learn from the other students at the conference, and to know that there are other students like me who are just as passionate about their research. I also gained new skills in writing a conference paper; oral presentations are not something I have done very often in my undergrad, but I think developing such skills is crucial, especially for those who want to continue their education. The research derived from work in Dr. MacDonald’s EN267 class, as well as an undergraduate RAship funded under Dr. Kerber’s current SSHRC grant.

IMG_5031 Caley3

Overall, I am grateful for this opportunity, and thankful to Dr. Kerber for encouraging me to submit a proposal to this conference. This inspiring experience has taught me skills that will be very valuable in my future, so I would encourage anyone to attend a student conference!

Words in the World: Revelation & Relevance

Words in the World,” an undergraduate symposium featuring the creative and critical works of students from our English courses, took place on Friday, March 6, 2020. It was organized by Tamas Dobozy, Chair of English and Film Studies, and co-hosted by the Laurier English Student Association.


This blog report presents brief notes of the panels which were all well-attended and demonstrated the variety of talent and work being produced by our undergraduate students at the Waterloo and Brantford campuses.

10:00 Introduction

Opening Remarks by the Dean of Arts, Richard Nemesvari, who was happy to support the showcasing of undergraduate work, in “a real symposium…”

Mariam IMG_5402

10:15-10:50 Panel 1: EN271 Creative Process & EN371 Creative Writing Short Story

Moderator: Dr. Mariam Pirbhai. Creative writing nugget:“Life is a draft…”

Alexander Jacobi, “The Joy and Necessity of Hacking Your Precious Lovely Work to Shreds”…. A lively and dramatic reading of a story about Cain with a stolen prize which is stuck to him.

Liam Bruyns, “Through the Echo”… flash fiction set in WWI about a teen who lied about his age to enlist as a soldier in Passchendaele,  his memories of fresh baked buns at home, and the hellish experience of war.

Meghan Mazzafero, “Things I’ve Put Away” … a piece of creative non fiction, about important objects of her childhood, a stuffed cat, a blanket, and the warmth they give.

Alexa Dupuis-Bissonette, “I Am More Than _____”… the complexity of abusive relationship, “skin cells regenerate every four years”..,. Valerie feels guilt and responsibility to stay in a relationship inspite of her swollen bruised cheekbones…



10:55-11:30 Panel 2: EN 381 Gaming and Narrative Theory

Moderator: Dr. Andrea Austin: different technologies change the way we tell stories; violence and racism in video games

Greg Misener, “Violence in Videogames and the Causal Connection to Behaviour” Though the general belief is that games like Mortal combat increase violent behaviour, school shootings; Greg notes that games can be used to motivate, increase autonomy and confidence, competition; that players know the difference between play and real life.

Deyanne Sutcliffe, “How the Distancing effect is achieved” … in games such as Battle Royale, visual cues distance players; ex. Players do not sustain injuries; heighten emotional reactions. Players play because of reward systems; adrenaline release from violence

John Wrybluski, “Witchers and Witches: The Portrayal of Femininity in The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt” –the hero in the game is not perfect, but a mutant who hunts monsters; we have to emotionally connect with him, have to work to be a father; every one is portrayed in a negative light; not just women.


11:35-11:45 ESA Announcement

(from right) Sarah Caley (VP of Marketing), Blaze Welling (VP of Finance), Emma Davis (VP of evernts) , Emily Merlihan (Pres); Heather Hattle (former president)

The English Students Association offers activities, films, essay writing sessions, study sessions throughout the year. Students are encouraged to join…


11:50-12:15 Chris Heard Memorial Prize

Douglas Heard has sponsored the Chris Heard Memorial Prize in memory of his son for10 years. He came to present the award to the winner, Alexander Jacobi.

Honourable mentionMeghan Mazzafaro, for her piece on domestic trauma

WinnerAlexander Jacobi– for his story about gangsters in Boston. Alexander read from  a historical story set in early 20th c. Boston about 12 year old boy who delivers meat and comes upon a luxurious house. He is given $5 from man because his father died in army and offered a mysterious job.

12:20-1:05 Lunch & Edna Staebler Writer in Residence, Carrianne Leung.

“Writing in a dangerous time”.. musings on climate justice,  published in Watch your Head anthology—narrates feelings of grief and fear when looking at bees, birds and beauty. Some gems: “call attention to our humanity,” “use language” the way Toni Morrison did; Leung quotes Jesse Wente, “Dystopian novels are warnings…” BIPOC writers are writing futurism. We need to do the work of witnessing, to transform our society.


1:05-1:35 Panel 3: EN369 Creative Non fiction

Moderator: Dr. Tanis MacDonald …writing from our lives; takes the real world as its subject. Form,voice, style and structure; narrative journalism

Grace Maguire, “Little Piece of Heaven”; writing about place needs specificity. Grace wrote a moving piece about her cottage which was published in BluePrint. Amidst thick forest; rocky beach; her 6 year old self on Muskoka chair, her aunt told her stories about my parents’ divorce, demonized her mother. The cottage holds memories of dad’s drinking problem; it became a lonely place, of family fights.

Tyra Forde, “Eye See You” a personal essay featuring the use of quotes, literary, biblical references. Diagnosed with skin infection, a dis-ease; Tyra wrote about her worst skin break out; how “bacteria could use my skin as battlefield” which engendered doubts about her physical appearance.

Dylan Kavalsky, narrative journalism, “Quarter pedagogy with cheese” Inspired by an essay by Alicia Elliott, dark matters is like systemic racism: Begins with history of Restaurants 1765 in Paris; White Castle; then fast foods.. which are compared to speed courses for students, books summarized books; Laurier SOS – entire courses summarized for students – $20.



1:40-2:15 Panel 4: EN265 & EN 397 19th C. American and Victorian

Moderator: Dr. Lynn Shakinovsky– courses focus on the shock of recognition in the face of the other.

Kathryn MacCulloch, “Complicating the Other through Content and Form in Silas Marner” … Silas Marner – made use of realism and fairy tale elements- mysterious appearance of child of unknown parentage, etc.  The use of folkloric elements change the perspective of country folk, and otherness is presented as matter of perception not state of being

William Kummer, “Gobbling Awful Offers from Goblin-Cobbled Coffers: The Woman’s Body in the Dangerous World of Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market.'”…Goblin Market has more than one meaning to disentangle; recurrent images such as rocks, plants, fires change meaning with the two sisters. Woman’s body is both protector and protected.

Maglyn Gasteiger, “Buy from us with a golden curl”: The Commodification of the Female Body in “A Castaway” and “Goblin Market”…women’s body’ in the Industrial period is relegated to the private, except in the inescapable marketplace, where their bodies are commodified.

Lisa thumb_803d

2:20-2:50 Panel 5: EN237 The Fairy Tale (Brantford)

Moderator: Dr. Lisa Wood– fairy tales are oral, communal performance that change across time and across cultures.

Anton Talosi, “Puss In Boots, And Re-Imagining For The 21st Century Fairy Tale”… transformation and similarity of the Puss in Boots tale from 1697 to Shrek II.

Lianna Melchiorre, “Challenging and Rewriting the Feminine Narrative in Fairy Tale:,,,- feminine fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood written by Charles Perreault, Angela Carter, and the film Red Hot Riding Hood (1943). Rewritings reclaim female power, and desire.

Monica Van Ittersum, Spellbound Collective: A Rumination on the After School Fairy Tale Pogram a King George Elementary School, Brantford”… Monica recounted an experiential learning part of the course where students visited after school programs in Brantford, told children the Briar Rose fairy tale, and then created group stories in subsequent visits. The students played games; imagined, created, and connected with the children.


2:55-3:30 Panel 6: EN234 Shakespeare’s Tragedies and Histories

Moderator: Dr. Eleanor Ty… the papers are from Professor Maria DiCenzo’s course

Hallie Acton, “No Two Alike”… How diff portrayals of Hal’s soliloquy in Henry IV, Part I affect the role. Hallie noted how the actor’s delivery influences the sympathy of the audience.

Zachery Nieuwesteeg, “The Emphasis of Strong Female Characters in Henry IV, Part 1″… Zachery talked about ways a production could change the roles of women, crafting them into more effective characters, giving examples of  Mistress Quickly, Lady Percy. Modern production can make women appear more dominant, and challenge our notions of intimacy in the period.

Will Kummer, “To Have Two Hals: Hal’s Soliloquy in Two Productions of Henry IV, Part 1“… emphasized how new meanings can be explored even with the enormity of Shakespeare scholarship. He talked about the differences between a stage production on film, and a modern adaptation, how the actors can convey melancholy or exuberance with the same lines .

Dalton Bingleman, “Worlds Colliding: Cutting Shakespeare’s Final Tavern Scene in Henry IV, Part 1” … talked about the difficult decision of cutting a scenefor staging, what choices were made, and the significance of adding, removing lines,


3:35 Thanks & Closing Remarks. Professor Tamas Dobozy thanked the ESA and everyone for attending. It was a successful and wonderful day.

AudienceAudience 2_8036Audience 3_thumb_803a

Photos and report by: Eleanor Ty

Maya Ombasic Reading


On Friday Feb. 28, 2020, the WLU Centre for Memory and Testimony Studies and the Department of English and Film Studies presented a reading from and discussion of Maya Ombasic’s auto-fictional memoir, Mostarghia (Biblioasis, 2019), which was awarded the 2017 Literature in Exile Prize and was later translated into Spanish. “A portmanteau of ‘Mostar’ and ‘nostalgia,’ Mostarghia evokes Ombasic’s—and especially her father’s—yearning for a place that no longer exists: the city before the civil war, when its many ethnicities interacted in a spirit of civility and in harmony. It refers as well to Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic film Nostalghia, the viewing of which illuminated the author’s often explosive relationship with her father, a larger-than-life figure who was both influence and psychological burden.” (book jacket)

Not even some fairly terrible late winter weather could stop the intrepid souls who attended the reading and Q + A with Maya Ombasic, Bosnian-Canadian author of Mostarghia. This auto-fictional memoir first appeared in French in 2016, and was recently translated into English by Donald Winkler for Biblioasis, the Windsor, Ontario press that specializes in bringing this kind of award-winning text to an Anglophone readership.

A group of graduate students, faculty, and staff listened attentively as Maya read three selections from her book. The first, from an opening chapter, described her incredible experience of being disguised as a ‘gypsy’ child, as her family fled war-torn Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1992, in the face of an expanding conflict with no clear perpetrators—at least not to the then 12-year-old Maya, who, with her younger brother, was spirited away to the safer southern part of the former Yugoslavia in a Roma van that passed unmolested by soldiers on either side. Reunited with her parents only months later, the full extent and ferocity of the war came home to this family, whose secular and somewhat Communist identity heretofore was never determined by their Muslim names or by the way they pronounced certain words in the language no longer known as ‘Serbo-Croatian.’

Maya then read from a middle chapter, in which she recounts, during their sojourn in Paris before embarking for good to Canada, her accidental discovery in a repertoire cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1982 film Nostalghia, from which her book’s title derives as a “portmanteau” of this Italian form of nostalgia plus her family’s beloved home city, Mostar. In the third extract, Maya recounted a subsequent conversation with her father, during a period when they earned extra money picking fruit in the Ottawa Valley. Her father scoffs at her for reading a book like Åsne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul, a French translation of a fictionalized account of the Norwegian author’s English language conversations about the war in Afghanistan with an Afghan family. What Maya’s father could not imagine is that she would eventually come to Waterloo to read from her book, in which she transcribes into French her Serbo-Croatian conversations with her father—an account which we can now read in exemplary English translation. As Maya wryly observed—and as her reading bore out—the truth of the experience of exile is not necessarily best served by a factual documentary account; nor is a book’s original language necessarily the one in which it must be encountered.

The organizers wish to thank the WLU Dean of Arts office for additional support for this event.

By: Russ Kilbourn

Balderdash with Paola Ferrante, Souvankham Thammavongsa, SJ Sindu, Arletta Murray

Balderdash FB cover Feb 2020

Four terrific writers enchanted the audience on a cold and stormy winter evening at the Robert Langen Art Gallery at Laurier. On February 27, 2020, Balderdash Reading Series, organized and hosted by Sanchari Sur (Department of English and Film Studies, with Pamela Mulloy (New Quarterly)  presented readings by Arletta Murray, Paola Ferrante, SJ Sindu, and Souvankham Thammavongsa.

Feb 2020 Balderdash 016

Former Laurier English and History grad, Areletta Murray, a poet and playwright currently residing in Kitchener, began the evening with poetry that ranged from the serious to the humorous. Her provocative writing is influenced by Slam poetry, and expresses a variety of emotions, including anger, pain, and mockery. She read a poem that expressed her sorrow about her nephew, who died from opioids, and gave concrete suggestions on how to reduce harm. She followed it with lighter poems about Graffiti Writing found around the Waterloo region. Her reading ended with an entertaining poem about her encounters in Canada and abroad with men who were exhibitionist and who masturbated in public. Instead of being intimidated by them, Murray is defiant and calls them out.

Feb 2020 Balderdash 026

Paola Ferrante dazzled us with her strong performance pieces about domestic abuse as she read from her poetry collection, What to Wear When Surviving a Lion Attack. “First Girl, Final Girl” alluded to various slasher and horror films while “Beauty and the Beast” uses the familiar fairy tale to discuss women’s disempowerment in relationships. Ferrante’s poems reveal her insightful observations about our culture’s idealization of heterosexual romance and marriage. Employing animal imagery and allusions, she notes that women’s behaviour and fear of men are “trained” and it is only years later, that women “learn to fly.”


Feb 2020 Balderdash 035

Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Massachusetts, the award-winning author of two novels, Marriage of a Thousand Lies and Blue-Skinned Gods, SJ Sindu read a moving, unpublished prose piece that is based on her life.  “War Child” depicted Sindu’s birth story as a war story, as she was born during the Sri Lankan Civil War. She gave details of the precarious existence of her parents, such as getting married during an air raid. She talked about the war’s continuing impact on her as a survivor, one who narrowly escapes death and who still has family experiencing violence. For her, writing is an act of creating dangerously, a revolt against suppression and silence. She writes knowing that her story is not the kind of exotic story that Western readers want to read.  Drawing parallels between herself and the American Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, Sindu says, “I write because it is the only way I can make peace with my demons.”

Feb 2020 Balderdash 041

The author of four books of poetry, Laotian Canadian Souvankham Thammavongsa, read a piece “There Can’t Ever Only Be One” from a recent issue of The New Quarterly (Winter 2020). She reflects on a photograph of herself as a child in her school library wearing three barrettes and talks about the importance of being in touch with this child. Thammavongsa’s parents were refugees who came with nothing, who often got things wrong, who could not help her with her homework once she got past grade two.  She recalls being surrounded by books, being thrilled when she was allowed, after much practice, to move from writing with a pencil to writing with a blue pen. Observing that with a pen, your mistakes cannot be erased, she recalls how many things you have to get wrong before you get things right. Yet, the girl wants there to be more, and we agree, “there can’t ever only be one.”

A lovely evening enjoyed by all….



By: Eleanor Ty, with photos by Sanchari Sur

Medicalized Bodies in the Humanities: Tri-University Graduate Symposium 2020


Medicalized Bodies in the Humanities, organized by PhD students Grace McCarthy and Melissa Brennan, was a successful one-day symposium featuring graduate student speakers from Laurier and University of Waterloo.


In her fascinating keynote lecture, “Sex, Sins, and Lunatics,” professor Amy Milne-Smith, from the History Department, talked about the ways male and female bodies were pathologized in Victorian England. Moralists used the language of shame to dissuade men from masturbation and other “sexual vices”, warning that these acts could lead to insanity, if not checked. Victorians also believed that things like grief, alcohol addiction, and sexual excess could be passed down to subsequent generations.


In the session on Medicalized Bodies and Film chaired by Grace McCarthy, Roxanne Hearn showed connections between advertisements for cosmetics, fashion photography, and dance films, arguing that the male scopophilic gaze results in the cutting up of the female body, into lips, eyes, waist, hands. Hearn argued that these close-up shots tended to limit female agency, as women become represented as decorative parts and objects.  The second speaker, Madeline McInnis presented an unorthodox and original reading of Jordan Peele’s film Us, arguing that the film encourages the audience to see the horror of how disabled people are treated. Using theories from Rosemary Thomson Garland on disability and Julia Kristeva on abjection, McInnis directed our attention to the ways the mute characters in the underground have no health care, and no way to control their lives.  The final speaker, Melissa Brennan, discussed the futuristic representation of organ harvesting and donation in the film Repo! The Genetic Opera.  She noted the use of opera, graphic art, and excess in the film to criticized medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery, and the tendency to take advantage of disenfranchised people in our globalized community.


In the panel, “Medicalized Bodies and Social Storytelling,” chaired by Melissa Brennan, Teghan Barton and Priya Kaur Gill of the University of Waterloo presented their research on the self-representation of medicalized bodies on social media platforms like Instagram. Entitled Historically Fat: From Spectacle to Selfie, Teghan Barton’s presentation contextualized the historical representations of fat women’s bodies from spectacularized circus performers to the self-portraits of everyday life currently being published on social media.   Her activist-oriented research considers the intersections of gender and race in relation to fatness, and explores the detrimental consequences of the medicalization of size. While “representation matters,” she asserts that “lack of representation kills” because, when people whose size is considered the primary health concern by medical professionals, they do not receive adequate care for their health needs. Following Teghan, Priya Kaur Gill presented her research, #semicolonproject: Selfies of Tattoos on Disfigured Bodies. Exploring the ways in which the hashtag “#semicolonproject” enables Instagram users to post photos of self-harm scars and articulate their experience with self-har. These platforms do not usually allow posts that represent ‘disturbing content,’ including images of self-harm scars. Both panelists offered intriguing analyses of the ways in which the self-publishing affordances of social media enables new and resistant opportunities for representing medicalized bodies in our world today.


After a lunch break, the Medicalized Bodies and Literature panel convened under chair Sarah Currie. Wilfrid Laurier PhD student Denise Springett articulated the anxieties surrounding dis/ability and the female body under capitalism as depicted in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton. Her presentation explored the tensions between standards of dis/ability and ‘productivity’ and capitalism’s devaluation of emotional labour as ‘disablement’. This destigmatization dialectic was complemented by WLU PhD candidate Rebekah Ludolph’s paper exploring middle brow affective responses to dialogues surrounding suicides, depression and psychiatric care. Using Miriam Toew’s All My Puny Sorrows and David Chariandy’s Soucouyant, reader response is evaluated by its ability to create socioaffective communities and a sense of belonging and/or commonality, mediated through the aforementioned challenging dialogues. On a different note, WLU PhD candidate Heather Olaveson introduced poetry to the conference, analyzing Crate’s Pale as Real Ladies as a subversive historical fiction that positions the female body as a subversive act of reclamation through the true to life historical figure of Pauline Johnson (“the mohawk princess”), a performance artist whose body straddled the line between colonized and colonizer and introduced grey areas to many accepted dichotomous relationships in the self/body dialectic.


The finale panel of TUGS2020 was Theorizing Medicalized Bodieschaired by Julia Empey of Wilfrid Laurier University. University of Waterloo MA student Danielle Griffin presented preliminary research on the rhetorical notes of media coverage of He Jiankui, the first doctor to use CRISPR (cutting of DNA) on humans. Griffin questioned the slanted views of different media sources and their responsibility of coverage techniques, including the naming of the incident as an issue about the doctor or the bay girls, as well as how the controversy should be framed throughout articles in an ethical way.  TUGS co-organizer Dr. Grace McCarthy presented a forthcoming chapter discussing the filmic stare as applied to the Iron Man trilogy, positioning Stark’s suit as a central ‘prosthesis’ used to overcome disability dialectics in search of a ‘classical happy ending’ – she argues that though these films give the appearance of overcoming dis/ability, the films are ultimately ableist in their film framing, storytelling and depiction of Tony Stark’s internal and external traumas. Finally, UW PhD student Sarah Currie presented some preliminary research as part of an ongoing project in Mad Studies literary analysis, arguing that the psychiatric breakdown depicted in Mira T. Lee’s Everything Here is Beautiful fails to consider globalized forms of psychiatric care and downplays a dire lack of treatment options available to system users in the Global South.


Overall, it was a productive and enjoyable day, with much dialogue, good food, intellectual and social exchange.

By:  Sarah Currie, Denise Springett, Eleanor Ty
Photos: Eleanor Ty, Roxanne Hearn



Carrianne Leung, Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence

Carrianne Leung

On January 23, 2020,  Laurier hosted a lecture from this year’s Edna Stabler Writer-in- Residence, Carrianne Leung, on the topic of the liminal space between fiction and nonfiction. Carrianne Leung began the presentation by telling the story of her journey as a writer, which began when she was nine. Her writing style was made up of reading, journaling about the types of experiences in her own life that mirrored the experiences of the heroines in the novels she was then reading, such as Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, and translating those experiences into fiction narratives. Those habits never really changed, and as a result her writing has always straddled the fictional and nonfictional.


One of the major concerns Carrianne Leung focused on while discussing the decision a writer makes when choosing between fiction and nonfiction is the relationship between themselves and the reader. Minority writers have expectations attached to their work, as people tend to assume that their work is autobiographical.  As a result they are the ones who often challenge narrative conventions and styles in order to find ways of telling their stories that suit the needs of their imagination. Leung claims that there are truths that people will accept easier when presented in certain forms, like fiction, but she argues that the content and context of one’s writing will determine its form, and that when a person sits down to write, it is important to “let the story be told as it needs to, without concern for convention.”

There is one provoking thought she left the audience with, which perfectly sums up her talk. The walls between fiction and nonfiction are fluid, and as writers we are free to explore ways to transform those forms to suit our needs and tell our stories. In Leung’s words, “isn’t it exciting that there may be some things we gain by questioning the borders?”

Note: Carrianne Leung’s Office Hours: DAWB 2-138
Tuesdays: 1:30-4:00 pm
Wednesdays 10-1 


By: Meghan Mazzaferro

Photos by: Eleanor Ty

Grace McCarthy, Phd!



Congratulations to Grace McCarthy for successfully defending her dissertation.

“‘Not Shap’d for Sportive Tricks’: Representations of Disability in Film and Digital Broadcast Cinema Adaptations of Early Modern Drama.”

Thesis Supervisor: Russell Kilbourn
Committee: Anne Russell, Sandra Annett
External: Professor Sarah Hatchuel

January 2020

 Dissertation Abstract: 

In films that feature disability, we still see the recursive and discussion-limiting impulse to say “this representation is negative. Therefore, the representation should not be seen,” based on critical theories and methodologies outside the purview of film studies. Unfortunately, the overlay of an English, narratological, sociological, or medical methodology and terminology onto a film representation of disability is ultimately recursive and self-limiting; critical and advocate calls for accuracy to the lived experience of people with disabilities in on-screen representations decline to engage with the visual construction of cinematic representations of disability and the often fascinating cinematographic and thematic patterns that emerge from representations that might otherwise be dismissed as negative or inaccurate. The lack of a film-studies based framework for understanding representations of disability is problematic because non-film studies-based methods fail to take into account the unique, medium-based ways in which film mediates visual representations of disability.

The filmic stare is a critical-theoretical framework with which scholars can precisely identify and describe the cinematographic construction of representations of disability using film studies-based methods and terms. Developed through a merging of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s stare and Laura Mulvey’s male gaze, the filmic stare explores the construction of a visual synecdoche, a refusal to diagnose fictional characters, and the complex network of shots and mise-en-scène that work together to compose a representation of a disability. To further highlight the shift away from diagnosing fictional characters as well as the expansion and furthering of discourse around disability in film, the case studies herein focus on film adaptations of early modern drama, including The Duchess of Malfi, Titus Andronicus, and Macbeth. By using a medium-specific methodology and terms to explore cinematic representations of disability, the questions of medical accuracy and narratological crutches become moot and discourses of disability in film can expand and move forward rather than being self-stifled by methods appropriated from other fields.

Grace’s thoughts about the process of doing the PhD: 

I think the dissertation process is much longer and more personal than students believe it is. Shakespeare has been tapping me on the shoulder since I was in the fifth grade, and my interest was crystalized by a combination of my life experiences, and the influences of teachers and colleagues who I respect and enjoy working with. Truly, the PhD and dissertation is not a culmination of four years of academic study (although that definitely is a significant part of it!), it is a culmination of understanding yourself as a scholar, and where your contributions can add to, complicate, and strengthen debates that will ripple through and beyond academia.



Balderdash Nov 2019 with Mahak Jain, Dorothy Palmer, and Eufemia Fantetti

Screen Shot 2019-11-19 at 11.50.22 AM

By: Mira Busscher and Natalia Hunter

The second Balderdash reading series event of the year took place on Thursday November 14th, 2019 and was held in the Robert Langen Art Gallery, hosted by Sanchari Sur. The event was supported by the Laurier Library, the Dean of Arts, the English department and The New Quarterly publication.

This event featured three talented writers who each shared a reading of their new work: Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Mahak Jain and Eufemia Fantetti.


Dorothy Ellen Palmer, a retired high school teacher and a disability advocate, opened the event with a reading of the introduction to her memoir, Falling for Myself.  Dorothy’s memoir details her experiences of learning from the frequent falls in her life to eventually falling in love with herself. Dorothy was also open with her acknowledgement of her own internalized ableism, and the importance of breaking down the notions of ableism, discrimination and privilege.


The next speaker was Mahak Jain, a graduate from the University of Guelph’s creative writing program, who read the beginning of her short story, The Marriage Broker. Her short story was published in The New Quarterly, which features emerging writers who have not yet been published. Jain’s short story explores the relationship between Indian culture and marriage, focusing on a company named the India Marriage Bureau. Mahak blends the Indian experience into her writing in a way that allows her to explore a variety of opinions regarding cultural norms and values.


The final speaker was Eufemia Fantetti, another graduate from Guelph’s creative writing program and the Writer’s Studio at SFU. Eufemia read part of two chapters from her memoir, My Father, Fortune-Tellers and Me: A Memoir, that explored her relationship with her parents, specifically after her father went through a surgery and her mother’s struggle with mental illness. Eufemia discussed her spiritual journey of attempting to make sense of her family issues and relationships by exploring the notions of fate, destiny, astrology and tarot cards. Eufemia creatively blended these large spiritual questions regarding the world with humour as she imitated the Italian accents of her parents when she read.


Following the individual speakers, there was a very insightful question and answer portion that allowed the audience to speak with the writers directly and ask questions about their work and writing process. Dorothy, Mahak and Eufemia all engaged with the question regarding the difficulty of writing personal material, each offering a profound note on the catharsis of opening up and telling the bad with the good and letting go of shame and secrecy, while also sharing about the meaning of having their work out in the world to be shared publicly. Each writer reflected on their own work with an interesting perspective, with Mahak explaining the writing process of creating a character that has different values and views than her own, and Dorothy expressing that, despite her work being a memoir, she views the version of herself in the book as a character, which shaped her creative process.

Overall, the second Balderdash Reading Series of the year was a success and celebrated the deeply personal and diverse stories these authors have to offer with their explorations of culture, disability and family struggles.

Balderdash Oct 2019 with Mel Carroll, Lisa Baird, Doyali Islam

Baird, Carroll, Islam

On Tuesday, October 29, 2019 from 7-9pm Sanchari Sur, from English and Film Studies department hosted the first Balderdash event of the year. Students and faculty gathered in the Robert Langen Art Gallery in Laurier’s library to listen to the three featured speakers as well as admire the art and gain insight on writing practices.

Mel Carroll

The event began with the first speaker, Mel Carroll, as Mel read the short story “Algorithms of Suicide” which was published in The New Quarterly. Mel immediately engaged the audience with an innocent story of getting a tattoo; however, an unexpected, accusatory text from Mel’s sister shifts the story into an alternative route in discussing mental health within a family. “Algorithms of Suicide” discusses emotionally difficult topics such as poor mental health in both Mel’s mother and sister, Mel’s extensive role as a supporter, and how to navigate feelings of guilt and anger.

Lisa Baird.jpg

The next speaker was Lisa Baird who presented seven poems from her collection called Winter’s Cold Girls. These poem topics ranged from forgiveness, family, sexuality, and the exhaustion of parenting. Lisa had the audience experience a wide array of emotions in a small period of time as her poems were filled with unexpected turns, vivid imagery, and metaphors. Her poems had the audience shocked with surprise endings such as one poem that uses an imaginary sister to overcome abuse. The audience also laughed as she praised the patron saint of melatonin when discussing the exhaustion of having children.

Doyali Islam 2

The final speaker was Doyali Islam who read several poems from her book Heft. Her poems all related to her personal experiences, with topics ranging from her partner, her family habits, sexuality, and even strong emotions she has felt from watching a documentary. Doyali decided to change the order in which she read her poems because she was inspired by the previous two speakers.

After the speakers presented, a question and answer period followed. The discussion focused on how each speaker was able to engage with such personal forms of writing while also receiving feedback from editors. Mel told the audience that writing is a form of healing. Mel typically writes the entire piece without editing, and then returns to it after a few weeks and edits and repeats that process until Mel is happy with it. In regard to people critiquing it, Mel only lets a small group of trusted friends read it because Mel values their opinions. As for Lisa, she writes in bursts of moments and whenever she can find the time. In terms of editing, she has her best friend who is also a writer look over her work. Doyali explains that she takes her time with writing. She does not set aside specific time but chooses to write when she feels inspired. She revises her work by reading it out loud and adjusting words and phrases until it connects with her heart. She has no official editor because she believes in the power of your own intuition. The audience was able to discuss with published writers the highs and lows of the process of publishing.

Balderdash Team and Speakers.jpg

The next Balderdash event takes place on November 14! So, come on out to hear some great pieces of writing, look at gorgeous art, and eat some delicious snacks!

Photos and Story By Tess Campbell and Madeleine Prentice