Classical Hollywood Studies Conference at Laurier

P1090565Laurier’s Film Studies program hosted a major SSHRC-funded conference, Classical Hollywood Studies in the 21st Century, on May 10-13, 2018. Over the course of three days described by some delegates as “summer camp for film academics,” forty leading international scholars convened to exchange cutting-edge ideas about the seminal body of films that were produced by Hollywood’s major studios from the 1920s through the 1960s. These films, known collectively as the classical Hollywood cinema and admired for their stable yet flexible conventions of storytelling and style, have been a central preoccupation of Film Studies ever since the discipline’s emergence in the 1960s. More recently, though, they’ve been evaluated through the fresher lenses, including women’s film history and intermediality studies, among other approaches, and bolstered by new resources such as the Media History Digital Library. A key purpose of the conference was to consider how these new approaches and resources might shape the study of classical cinema in the decades ahead.

Take a moment to check out this splendid conference report, posted as a blog entry by the conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. David Bordwell, Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bordwell ranks as a preeminent scholar of film studies and one of the most influential writers on classical Hollywood cinema, having co-authored, with Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson, the canonical text in the field, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. His keynote talk expanded on material from his most recent book, Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling (aptly described as “magisterial” by Geoffrey O’Brien in the New York Times Review of Books) and revealed his reconsideration of the premises of the canonical co-authored text decades after its publication.

In addition to paper presentations, the conference included a tour of the Film Reference Library at the Toronto International Film Festival Bell Lightbox, a welcome reception at the Princess Café, screenings of the films Letter to Three Wives and Carmen Jones, and an alumni reception at the Apollo Cinema that featured the exceptional catering of The Crazy Canuck.

The conference was organized by Dr. Philippa Gates and Dr. Katherine Spring along with international collaborators Dr. Helen Hanson (University of Exeter) and Dr. Stefan Brandt (University of Graz). Sponsors included the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Apollo Cinema, Princess Cinemas, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and the following offices at Laurier: Laurier Alumni, Department of Communication Studies, Department of English and Film Studies, Faculty of Arts, Office of the President and Vice-Chancellor, Office of the Provost and Vice-President: Academic, and Office of Research Services.

Special thanks are owed to five undergraduate students of Film Studies: Paul Tortolo (Conference Secretary), Shaina Weatherhead (videographer), Chance Le Jeune (volunteer), Sam Lawson (volunteer), and Michael Oliveri (volunteer).

By the end of the conference, the most frequent question asked by delegates was, “When can we do this again?” – surely a sign of a smashing success.

By: Katherine Spring

 

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Spring Writes: A Celebration of Creative Writing

Urquhart, Jamal, Scott

Emily Urquhart, Tasneem Jamal, Susan Scott

Spring Writes: A Celebration of Creative Writing was held at Veritas Café on Thursday, March 15th. Hosted by 2018 Edna Staebler Writer in Residence Emily Urquhart, the evening began with an expert panel on the art and ethics of creative non-fiction with Kitchener author Tasneem Jamal, Susan Scott, editor of The New Quarterly, and Emily Urquhart, who also publishes work in this burgeoning literary form. The three panelists engaged in a lively discussion about how to define creative nonfiction – for instance, as ‘true stories told slant’ or as a ‘true novel’ – as well as how to delineate creative nonfiction from straight-up journalistic reporting. Both Jamal and Urquhart trained as journalists, so they had much to say on the latter topic. The panelists also talked about the ethics of writing about family members or other identity groups, and walking the line between telling personal stories and addressing larger social questions. Susan observed that creative nonfiction has the potential to encourage diverse voices who don’t necessarily feel they have a place in Canadian publishing, and offered the hopeful suggestion that these newer stories have the capacity to renew the English language. The panel was timely as the Dept. of English and Film Studies prepares to launch a new course in creative nonfiction next year.

Katie McGarry
Katie McGarry
Yeli Cruz
Yeli Cruz
Stephanie Silva
Stephanie Silva

After a short break and some draws for door prizes, attendees were treated to a showcase of Laurier writers curated by WIR Emily Urquhart and Blueprint Magazine. The talent on display ably illustrated the diversity of genres and voices currently represented by Creative Writing at Laurier. Readers included Jenna Hazzard, Katie McGarry, Amy Neufeld, James Lao, Yeli Cruz, and Stephanie Silva. Thank you to these readers for sharing their considerable talents, to Emily for her work as a literary mentor this term, and to all who attended!

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Photos and Story by: Jenny Kerber

Outside People By Mariam Pirbhai: Book Launch

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On November 2, 2017, Veritas Café was packed with faculty, students, and members of the community for the launch of Professor Mariam Pirbhai’s collection of short stories, Outside People and Other Stories, published by Inanna Publications in Toronto.

Two student writers opened the evening’s festivities. Jenna Hazzard, whose short story was recently a runner-up in Elle magazine’s national writing competition, read a humorous episode from the opening pages of her novella-in-progress, set in a library just after New Year’s Eve. Jenna’s reading  prompted one longtime library employee to say that she hit the mark with all her details. Kyleen McGragh performed two of her poems, “”Exhale” and “Parasite.” Both poems were recently published in FreeLit magazine, and Kyleen gave a riveting and bold recitation.

 

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Professor Pirbhai graciously thanked her colleagues, students, and especially, her Latin American friends for their support. Her stories, she noted, were about the invisible rather than the “visible” minorities in Canada. They are not just about immigrants, but about the domestic worker, temporary migrant labourers, those who are left behind and whose families are fractured because of globalization.

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She began by reading an excerpt from “Air Raids,” featuring a modern Muslim woman’s would-be sexual encounter with an airline steward during his stopover in Montreal. Set against the backdrop of a protest against a Quebec bill banning religious symbols, the story is rich with the voices of English, French, Pakistani, Jewish, and Arabic people.

Her second excerpt, “Chicken Catchers,” was based on the horrific car accident which killed ten migrant workers and the truck driver near Stratford in the winter of 2012. The victims were from Peru, five who had only recently arrived. Pirbhai’s story focuses on the inter-ethnic friendship between a Peruvian and a Jamaican worker, and may lead us to question Canadian habits of consuming chicken, particularly our preference for chicken breasts.

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She ended with a funny story, “Crossing Over,” about a woman from Mumbai’s consternation about having to perform inelegant and unfeminine manoeuvers in the family car in order to attend a dinner party in Halifax in winter.

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Outside People has been praised as a “stunning debut.”

Photos and Story by Eleanor Ty

Balderdash Reading Series, October 2017

 

The Balderdash Reading Series, organized by English and Film Studies PhD candidate, Sanchari Sur, held its second event for the fall at the Robert Langen Art Gallery on October 26, 2017.

Pasha Malla

Pasha Malla, Laurier’s Writer-in-Residence for fall, read an amusing extract from Fugue States in which the narrator describes an attempt at skiing with homemade skis and boots.  We are left hanging, wondering if the boots stayed on the intrepid skier.

Jagtar Kaur

Jagtar Kaur Atwal, from Cambridge, read an autobiographical poem about the difficulty of speaking in an alien tongue: “Writing has been like walking in knee-deep mud for my fear of rejection.”  She finds strength in another kind of voice, a silenced one.

Tanis

Tanis MacDonald read from a recent issue of Arc Magazine and poems yet unpublished.  She shared her poem outlining a professor’s thoughts while invigilating an exam. Apparently, MacDonald has reflected on birds, especially finches, while students are writing their exams.

Canisia

Canisia Lubrin read from Voodoo Hypothesis and reminds us that “black isn’t always a void.” Meditating on the many recent hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean, Lubrin writes, “We return to burn or bury what we have lost…” when nature swallows “things many times the size of our earth.”

 

A great event with talented voices…

Balderdash Reading Series runs with the generous support of the Graduate Student Association.  It holds monthly readings with new and established writers, often featuring works by writers published in the New Quarterly.

Story  by  Eleanor Ty

Photos by  Darin White

 

LUJA Launch 2017

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Over 40 students and faculty members attended the launch of the new issue of Laurier Undergraduate Journal of the Arts on October 25, 2017 at the Robert Langen Gallery in the library.  A number of English and Film Studies students served on the management board responsible for the first issue of 2017.  They included: Mitchell Kooh, Mynt Marsellus, Esther Brockett, Brittney Tessier, Carina Rampelt, Madeline McInnis, and Vidish Parikh.  This issue includes articles on a wide range of topics, including, Disney films Wall-E and Tangled,  Tomson Highway,  the repatriation program used by International organizations,  changing demographics in Japan,  the constructedness of female orgasms, and non-binary identities. Mynt Marsellus noted that LUJA received over 200 submissions, and it was difficult for the editors to choose ten essays.

Richard Nemesvari, the Dean of Arts, expressed his delight and approbation of extra-curricular activities such as LUJA because they were a good form of experiential learning and a testament to the intellectual work happening at Laurier.

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Organizer and this year’s Editor, Angela James welcomed the new crew who would take over the Management of LUJA.

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It was an enjoyable evening, with good food, exquisite music, and even prizes for the audience.

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LUJA is funded by the Arts Undergraduate Society at Laurier.

Photos and  story by Eleanor Ty

 

English Students “Meet the Profs” Night

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Laurier’s English Students Association organized a “Meet the Profs” night at the Hawk’s Nest on Monday, October 2, 2017.

A literary guessing game was organized by Manreet Lachhar and co-VP of Events, Tess Campbell. The names of well-known literary texts and characters were supposed to be very familiar, but managed to stump a few professors and our Dean of Arts.

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Student Association President Chance LeJeune welcomed everyone and there were treats and special way to make s’mores.  A few brave souls dressed up for the photo booth.

It was a fun gathering and a nice way to meet students and colleagues.

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Photos courtesy of Mhairi Chandler.

Welcome MA and PhD Students 2017

 

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Photo by Eleanor Ty

The Department of English and Film Studies is delighted to welcome our new MA and PhD cohort this fall who have come to us from near and far:

PhD students

Melissa Brennan (University of New Brunswick)

Julia Empey (McMaster University)

Brendan Pinkofsky (WLU, Dalhousie – King’s College)

 

MA

Jamie Brewer (Brock [BEd], WLU)

Amanda Burrows-Peterson (Toronto [BA English], Concordia [BA History])

Tess Clark (WLU)

Alex Coleman (WLU)

Joseph Coot (Minnesota State)

Roxanne Hearn (York)

Azaan Khamis (WLU)

Mary Saleh (Tishreen Univ. [Syria])

Rachel Schryver (WLU)

Lubna Umar (Univ. Delhi)

Kevin Wallace (WLU)

The Department held a reception for new students organized by Grad Director Jing Jing Chang held at Veritas in mid-September where there was good conversation and good fun.  Best of luck for 2017-2018!

Photos courtesy of Jing Jing Chang