Literature Matters was a full-day symposium held on February 2, 2018. There were five panels featuring faculty and undergraduate speakers from English on a range of topics: ecocritism, activism projects, gun laws, Indigenous literature, 18th century crime blogs, YA literature, poetry from sports events, Shakespeare adaptations, fantasy genres, Gothic literature, and creative work. The symposium was attended by about 120 students and faculty members. It was organized by Eleanor Ty and supported by a grant from the Student Life Levy fund.
To give a sense of the presentations throughout the day, here are short excerpts from reports written by first-year students who attended the event.
Panel I: Literature, Social and Critical Action
Dr. Richard Nemesvari, the Dean of Arts, welcomed everyone and remarked in his opening statements, “I enjoy being invited to such events, especially those that include a mixture of student and faculty research.” Kayla Holden
Dr. Markus Poetzsch began by talking about the importance of everyday activity in the works of Romantic poets. He wanted literary studies to “focus on real world practical application” such as walking. Kayla Holden
“In Dr. Poetzsch’s talk, he related the rhythmic pattern of iambs to that of walking.” Adrianna Pater
Dr. Poetzsch noted, “William Wordsworth walked strategically while he wrote his iambic poetry. ” Priscilla Ruta
Laura From took us through her project called “Dinner in the ‘Dark’: Raising Awareness and Shelter for All.” The point of her project was to raise awareness for ShelterBox and their Shine campaign. Cassie Wolfe, with her presentation on “Blogging About Fair Trade,” wanted to raise awareness about different fair trade issues, for example the cocoa bean production. Last up from Dr. Hron’s class was Lauren Rabak and her presentation of her project on “Homelessness”. She wanted to help change the negative stigmatizations people often have about homeless people. Anna Hveem
Stephanie Higgs and Alida Swart, two first year students compared gun laws in Canada and the U.S. You could tell from their presentation that they were very well read on the subject. Anna Hveem
Panel 2: Discovering Different Worlds
Dr. Kathryn Carter, Associate Vice-President, Teaching and Learning, chaired the panel and welcomed everyone. She was very pleased to be involved in the event as her home department is also English.
Dr. Jenny Kerber started off her speech by saying hello to the audience in a few different Indigenous languages such as Mohawk and Cree. This was quite captivating for the audience and by using this technique she was able to grab our attentions. Jane Lennox
Dr. Jenny Kerber gave a fascinating lecture titled “From ‘Settlers with Opinions’ to Respectful Dialogue without Fear: Teaching Indigenous Literatures”. Dr. Kerber offered four key ideas when approaching Indigenous writing. Firstly, is to listen for stories and to realize that there is no “one” story. Secondly, is to allow disturbance to happen and be aware of any assumptions one may hold. Thirdly, is survival and continuity of the culture. Lastly, is to look at writing as a process. These key ideas help to engage the audience with respectfully approaching Indigenous writing. Carmen Mortley
There were four WLU students, Milas Hewson, Mhairi Chandler, Alyssa Blair, Safina Husein, who were part of Dr. Ty’s Sense and Sensibility class last term, who presented their work on crimes and misdemeanours from the 18th century as well as making connections to our society. The topics discussed in these four presentations ranged from sexual assault cases to gender inequality, and the punishments associated with them. The students discussed real life issues that were relevant not only in the 18th century but also in today’s society making this a very liberating presentation. Jane Lennox
Panel 3: Literature, Media and Popular Culture
Dr. Tamas Dobozy, who chaired the panel, gave a clever remark to start off the hour long panel.
Dr. Katherine Bell explains that in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Speak, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson a teen is showcased as a withdrawn outcast from society. In the past 20 years or so, young adult novels have taken over the story world and brought emotion evoking stories of being an individual in a harsh society. Youth is the most important part of one’s life as it teaches us how to explore our social nature, our individuality and autonomy. Growth is not about the self necessarily, it is about how one grows up in society surrounded by societal pressures and changes. Bell goes on to stress the important themes of freedom and resistance. Sophie Cauduro
Dr. Bell also discussed a new trend in YA literature: polyvocal texts that feature numerous perspectives and co-authored novels, such as Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Dr. Bell concluded her presentation by stating the importance of the transition into adulthood for YA literature and that “Youth itself [is] a problem to be solved.” Jenny Tubb
Alex Purcell talked about a paper he wrote, “Comparing Two Stage Versions of the Willow Scene in Othello.” The two versions he chose were one by BBC in 1981 and another by The Globe in 2015. He explained that the two both had aspects that incorporated the original Shakespeare scene and how The Globe changed certain things to go with their World War Two version. Samantha Prior
Alex believes the BBC production was the better of the two as he stated, “[it] went beyond written and personal interpretation.” Purcell is in his final year at Laurier and is majoring in history and English. Rylee Stephens
Isabeau Glebe, a 3rd year psychology major created a poem called “The Art of Boxing and Poetry: A Found Poem”. Glebe’s compelling poem highlighted the post-game interviews of the world-famous boxing match between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather. Her poem was aligned in such a way where McGregor’s reposes to interview questions were centered to the left and Mayweather’s responses to the right. When the same response was given to a similar question, their responses were centered in the middle of the page such as “composure “and “hat’s off”. This writing style of the poem gave the illusion of a boxing ring on the page. Vanita Lad
Aaron Rupert presented a piece called, The Price You pay. Aaron’s lighthearted tone and calming manner helped deliver a heavy content in a meaningful manner when he delivered the poem which focussed on NBA player, Isiah Thomas, and his difficulties when trying to break worldwide basketball records while simultaneously struggling with the death of his sister. Aaron spoke to this by saying, “Sports at their worst shows you what humans are really like, sports at their best shows you what humans can achieve.” Aaron added that this can be applied to various sport situations that circulation popular culture. Lauren Symbolik
Hayley Colussi, a 4th year English student, concluded the session with her poem: “How far is too far: a found poem” The poem followed Cam Newton, Quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, who made sexist remarks towards a reporter, trying to demean her for reporting on football as a woman. “Sexism is often addressed, but there is often no consequence” Colussi noted, concluding her presentation and the panel. Joshua Meyer
Panel 4: Issues in Contemporary Genres
Photos: Mary Margaret Butler
Dr. Eleanor Ty chaired the session after lunch and welcomed everyone.
Dr. Ken Paradis led the discussion with the question, “How can the understanding of contemporary genre shed insight on the current reality gap?” Dr. Paradis addressed the question with his own perspective. He explained that the idea of the fantastic works to rationalize the distorted understanding of reality. It encourages an epistemological way of thinking, and how every age creates new fantasies and a new take on reality. Taya Smith
Jonathan Simms, a student at the Laurier Brantford Campus talked about contemporary genre as “fantasy without shared social context”. He elaborated on the evolution of life, logic, romanticism, and realism. With this comes the rise of individualism, and the parallel increase of reality gaps. Jonathan concluded by explaining that until the next “socio-economic upheaval”, changes the way we think about the world, there will be a continued divergence. Taya Smith
Victoria Hudson-Muir is a 4th year English student from the Brantford campus who focuses on how genre is a representation of the way authors reveal the gaps in literature. She specifically looks at how the realist genre triumphs over the romantic genre through the overpowering abilities of realistic capitalism. She concludes that as new genres emerge, society and literature need to go through some growing pains in order to progress. Alexsia Louizos
Denise Springett spoke about how problematic the production of stereotypical masculinity is in popular young adult fiction, and how it needs to be analyzed, resisted and hopefully changed by future generations. Elizabeth Clark
Erin McHarge used Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” as an example of a novel that was written about 30 years ago but is still relevant because of its themes of gothicism and the sexual abuse of women. Elizabeth Clark
Panel 5: Creative Projects Showcase
The panel was kicked off with Dr. Tanis MacDonald presenting the Chris Heard Memorial Prize to Jenna Hazzard for her short story “Hydrangeas” which Jenna then Read for everyone. Matthew McKenzie
Doug Heard presents Jenna Hazzard with the Chris Heard Memorial Prize
Jenna Hazzard’s piece “Hydrangeas” seemed very relatable to me because it sounded like how I feel when my family is having a conversation, being silent for most of it and just thinking about what I would say and what had been said. Her story was about how her grandfather had killed their kittens and buried them where the hydrangeas (flowers) were now. Her Uncle would say something and then say it was her grandfather who did it, and the grandfather would just change the conversation or not understand what was being asked, or at least it seemed from the narrators’ perspective. In the end he decides he has to answer the one question being asked of him over and over again, “did he kill and bury the kittens?”. Manpreet Sangha
Yeli Cruz followed with excerpts from a personal piece on childhood and a rendering of Macbeth. Jenna Hall
A first year English and Film major, Meghan Mazzaferro’s piece, titled “Head of Super Human Relations”, was a story about a future society in which 30% of the populations exhibit a almost superhuman ability, taking influence from the superhero craze of the 21st century and from My Hero Academia, an anime with a similar premise. The excerpt of the story told of Akari Tagami, a young woman who was tasked as part of the Make-A-Wish foundation to contact a powerful supervillain that can create extreme heat through his palms. The story was riveting with intense words and compelling imagery that could be easily imagined when getting immersed into the story. Jonathan Scodeller
One piece I’d like to talk about was very interesting because I felt at home with it due to my background and race as a South Asian Canadian. Kaya Marcus was the speaker on her piece, “Sometimes the Journey is Better Than the Destination”. It was the story that Kaya’s great grandfather’s wife always told at their home in Owen Sound by a fireplace when she was growing up. Around the time when chaos was going on around the world at the time of WWII, Kaya’s great grandfather had to leave the family from North India in order to go about his journey. It was a beautiful yet touching story in the sense that Vijay’s father mentions how his thoughts will always be with his family back home despite wherever his life would lead him. Harnoor Gill
Emma Davis’s non-fiction story was entitled “Pantophobia”. The excerpt she presented told the story of her young friend who was diagnosed with cancer, and how she shaved her head in an act of support for him. I approached her after the panel to ask about the boy, and whether or not he recovered. She told me he passed away, but that several of her other friends also shaved their heads in support. Meghan Mazzafero
Student assistants: Madeleine Prentice, Kristen Schiedel.
Tess Campbell and Lauren Cameron (not pictured)
Winners of book draw from Wilfrid Laurier University Press: Milas Hewson, Laura From, and Lisa Christie.
Photos: Elizabeth Clark, Sophie Cauduro, Taya Smith, Eleanor Ty
A one-minute video report of the event is available on YouTube, “Literature Matters WLU.”