Sam McKegney: Alumni Profile

sam-mckegney-vest

Sam  McKegney ’99, Associate Professor, Queen’s University

            My name is Sam McKegney (WLU English BA Hons, 1999), and I’m a settler scholar of Indigenous literatures. Currently, I am the Acting Head of Queen’s University’s Department of English, and have just completed a stint as the President of the Indigenous Literary Studies Association (ILSA). Folks ask me from time to time how I—a white guy from Midwestern Ontario—came to study Indigenous literatures. Well, a good part of the answer to that question has to do with my time at Laurier. I’ve always been drawn to the socio-political impact of activist art: the capacity of literature to crack open and lay bare the injustices beneath the surface of daily realities and indeed to envisage alternative horizons of possibility. As such, I opted to study as many courses as I could at Laurier with an identifiably political focus: Maria DiCenzo’s “Literature and Social Change,” Gary Boire’s “Postcolonial Literature,” Paul Tiessen’s course on Marxist Film, and on and on. I relished every moment in these classes—engaging in debate with my classmates, learning from brilliant profs, reaching beyond the safe haven of the classroom to consider our collective embeddedness in ongoing systems of oppression. Yet despite studying in these classes, and taking others like “Canadian Literature” and “American Literature,” I didn’t encounter a single text authored by an Indigenous writer from Turtle Island in any of my English courses during the entirety of four amazing years at Laurier. Remember: this was the mid-90s.

Meanwhile, in my second year, I took an elective course on Indigenous Canadian History, which required me to do an independent study on the residential school system. As primarily a student of literature, I reached beyond the historical texts recommended for the assignment to investigate life-writings by Indigenous survivors, starting with Anishinaabe writer Basil Johnston’s Indian School Days. I was blown out of the water, not only by the power and precision of the prose, but also by the fact that I, as a Canadian student of literature, hadn’t been exposed to this material in other venues. I began seeking out other works by Indigenous authors to supplement the learning I was receiving in my courses: Eden Robinson, Gregory Scofield, Tomson Highway, Daniel David Moses, Jeannette Armstrong. And I seem to recall gently bothering people like Dr. Boire, saying, “Why aren’t these incredible artists on your Can Lit syllabus!?”

When I left Laurier armed with my bundle of critical skills and curiosities, I knew I wanted to dive deeper into Indigenous literary studies. For my doctoral work, I studied the activist potential of residential school survival narratives; this became the foundation of my first book, Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community after Residential School (University of Manitoba Press 2007). I am grateful to have had Basil Johnston, the man whose memoire had spurred me on this path in the first place, offer to write the book’s foreword. I am grateful as well for my four inspiring years in Laurier English—and pleased to see among the Department’s current course offerings “Indigenous Writers in English.”

 

Michael Daly Wins Eric Hoffer Award

Laurier English grad (2006) Michael Daly’s first book, The Havana Papers has won the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award for best non-fiction ebook. The Eric Hoffer Award honors freethinking writers and independent books of exceptional merit. The “Hoffer” honors books from small, academic, and micro presses, including self-published offering and the grand prize is $2,000.

In addition to the Hoffer award, Daly’s book also won the First Horizon Award, a prize given to the best first-time authors. Michael Daly works as the Quality Assurance Coordinator at Wilfrid Laurier University. He provides support for departments undergoing cyclical reviews and developing new programs, as well as administrating Laurier classroom management processes. Outside of work, Michael Daly is a partner in a production company that writes and records original radio plays for a modern audience.

About The Havana Papers:

With a 1958 portable typewriter in his suitcase, the writer wanders Havana’s crumbling back alleys, bullet-sprayed museums, and grand hotels where the relics of the Revolution and the ghost of Hemingway still speak loudly. 


Whether getting grifted while watching a dubiously-billed piano player from the Buena Vista Social Club, dodging grifters and conmen, or wandering amongst over a million marble graves, The Havana Papers offers a rare glimpse into old Havana—a UNESCO World Heritage site—in the 21st Century. 

When his typewriter breaks in transit, the writer is forced to reconsider his writing holiday and put his novel on hold, until a new story emerges from the vibrance and history in the Old City—Habana Vieja. 

Travel beyond the postcard pictures and vibrant colours of the tourist facade, and into a world forgotten by time’s advance, frozen in a fifties’ imagination, and aching under the strain of modernity. The Havana Papers reveals a complex, contemporary portrait of one of the world’s great historic cities.

The Havana Papers is available for your favourite eReader wherever fine eBooks are sold.

Alumni Update: Priscilla Galvez

Priscilla Galvez

Honours Communications and Film Studies ’13
“I was intimidated by the uncertainty of pursuing a career in a competitive industry such as film and television so I initially enrolled in the Film Studies program as a solid second choice to film school—a safe bet. But my program ended up being the perfect foundation for my career in film. The program broadened my knowledge of film history and genre, exposed me to the formal language of cinema, its use as a social and political medium, and its hands-on editing course cemented my passion in filmmaking and motivated me to pursue film production after graduation. In the end, my experience was integral in supplying me with the foundational tools that has helped me become a well-rounded filmmaker and producer working in the industry today.” Priscilla is an Associate Producer at Blue Ice Pictures in Toronto and, currently, is producing and directing a dark comedy web-series, “How to Buy A Baby,” about an infertile couple going through fertility treatments. Check out the series teaser .

Read about Priscilla’s web series about infertility in The Cord.

Winter Words and Works

6863_1029256453813047_7474670355912293007_n.jpg

Organized by Acting Chair Tanis Macdonald, Winter Words and Works featured readings, personal stories, and talks by faculty and students from English and Film Studies at Laurier on February 3, 2016.

Author Celebration

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Left to right: Robin Waugh, Philippa Gates (Moderator), Mariam Pirbhai, Sandra Annett, Benjamin Lefebvre

Dr. Sandra Annett talked about the global community in anime fandom, showing a clip from a Korean flash cartoon entitled, There She Is.” She read from her book, Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions (Palgrave 2014).

Dr. Mariam Pirbhai presented the 100 year old history of South Asian immigration to Canada and noted the importance of the Komagata Maru for this community. She has recently edited a special issue on South Asian Canadian writing for Studies in Canadian Literature.

Dr. Robin Waugh talked about the changing representation of Mary Magdalene from the Medieval to the Early Modern period. He has co-edited Mary Magdalene in Medieval Culture: Conflicted Roles (Routledge 2014) with Peter Loewen.

Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre highlighted the enduring popularity of L.M. Montgomery by showing us her legacy and influence around the world. He has recently published The L.M. Montgomery Reader, the third of a series, (U Toronto Press, 2013-2015) and Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations (Routledge 2013).

Edna Staebler Laurier Writer in Residence

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Drew Hayden Taylor/ Tanis MacDonald

Aboriginal playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor discussed the challenges of being half-Caucasian and half-Ojibway and growing up in the small community of Curve Lake First Nations. He says that as a child, he escaped from the limitations of his community by reading comics and adventure books, and is now writing more genre fiction, such as his Aboriginal vampire novel, The Night Wanderer and his forthcoming book of native science fiction.

Creative Writing at Laurier

Prize sponsor Doug Heard presented Danielle LeDuc with the Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize. The prize was established by the Heard family for Chris Heard who was a student at Laurier who loved to write.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Doug Heard / Danielle LeDuc

Danielle LeDuc read her amazing story, “War: A People’s History” which was surprisingly not about the kind of war you’d imagine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Danielle LeDuc, winner of Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize

Dr. MacDonald and several other students from Dr. MacDonald’s creative writing class read the following short pieces:

Anthony Haslam, “Shaman’s Brew”
Dan Douglas, “Fact”
Jenna Galluccio, cento song: “Tired Lovemaking” and poem “Snap, Crackle, Pop”
Jenna Hazzard, “King of Pool”
Dr. MacDonald, “Very Wide Awake,” a poem about the space race and Planet of the Apes

Alumni Stories
Dr. Maria DiCenzo introduced three alumni who graduated from English or the Film Studies Program.

Andrew Baechler (BA English 2007) played football when he was at Laurier and has now combined his love of reading and his communication skills with sports at his current job. He is the Media Relations, Communications, and Sports Information Officer at the Athletics Department at Guelph University.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Andrew Baechler

Ron Butler (BA Film Studies 2012) loved studying films and even made films for the Fringe when he was at Laurier. He is a cinematographer and filmmaker at Final Frame Productions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ron Butler

Hanna Burnett (MA 2013, BA EN/FS 2012) says that her MA year at Laurier was the best educational year of her life. She is the Coordinator, Program Services at the Toronto International Film Festival and had entertaining anecdotes about the challenges of classifying and rating films for TIFF.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Hanna Burnett

English Student Association

 

The English Student Association, represented by Daniella Cavallini, Beniah Lanoue, and Chris presented a PowerPoint series about the association, including aims, benefits of joining the ESA, and events planned for the Winter term, then held a short meeting with prospective members.

Contributed By: Eleanor Ty