English & Film Studies: Celebration of Authors, 2019

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On Friday March 22 a sizeable crowd gathered in the Robert Langen Art Gallery in the Waterloo campus library to celebrate the publication of eight books—both academic and creative works—by seven of our faculty members: Sandra Annett’s Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions (Palgrave MacMillan 2014); Jing Jing Chang’s Screening Communities: Negotiating Narratives of Empire, Nation, and the Cold War in Hong Kong Cinema (Hong Kong UP 2019); Maria DiCenzo’s Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1918-1939, co-edited with Catherine Clay, Barbara Green, and Fiona Hackney (Edinburgh UP 2018); Philippa Gates’s Criminalization/Assimilation: Chinese/Americans and Chinatowns in Classical Hollywood Film (Rutgers UP 2019); Russell Kilbourn’s W. G. Sebald’s Postsecular Redemption: Catastrophe With Spectator (Northwestern UP 2018); Tanis MacDonald’s GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos for Our Times, co-edited with Rosanna Deerchild and Ariel Gordon (Frontenac House 2018) and Out of Line: Daring to Be an Artist Outside the Big City (Wolsak and Wynn 2018); Mariam Pirbhai’s Outside People and Other Stories (Innana Publications 2017).

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Wine, beer and assorted snacks fueled the socializing and catching up among EN/FS faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as a number of alumni. The presence of Dean of Arts Richard Nemesvari and University Librarian Gohar Ashoughian contributed to the boisterous mingling. Department chair Tamas Dobozy stepped into his role as MC to introduce each author, each of whom took five minutes to talk about or read from her/his book. The first five authors—Sandy Annett, Jing Jing Chang, Maria DiCenzo, Philippa Gates, and Russell Kilbourn—spoke to their books, all monographs or collections of literary or film criticism, representing the diverse range of scholarship undertaken by our faculty. This section of the event culminated in Tanis MacDonald and Mariam Pirbhai reading from their works of creative non-fiction and fiction, respectively. Both are award-winning authors a well as top-tier academics. In the end the ‘Celebration of Authors’ event amply demonstrated our department’s ongoing commitment to cutting-edge and highly regarded academic scholarship, alongside its emergent investment in creative writing as a significant new dimension of our program offerings.

The Organizers wish to thank the following for their sponsorship of this highly enjoyable event: The Department of English and Film Studies; The Office of the Dean of Arts; The Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association; Laurier Bookstore, with a special thanks to Drs. Russell Kilbourn and Philippa Gates for contributing their time to helping organize, fund and advertise the event.

 

Photos by Joanne Buchan

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Criminalization/Assimilation:Chinese/Americans and Chinatowns in Classical Hollywood Film

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Criminalization/Assimilation (March 2019) by Philippa Gates traces how Classical Hollywood films constructed America’s image of Chinese Americans from their criminalization as unwanted immigrants to their eventual acceptance when assimilated citizens, exploiting both America’s yellow peril fears about Chinese immigration and its fascination with Chinatowns. Philippa Gates examines Hollywood’s responses to social issues in Chinatown communities, primarily immigration, racism, drug trafficking, and prostitution, as well as the impact of industry factors including the Production Code and star system on the treatment of those subjects. Looking at over 200 films, Gates reveals the variety of racial representations within American film in the first half of the twentieth century and brings to light not only lost and forgotten films but also the contributions of Asian American actors whose presence onscreen offered important alternatives to Hollywood’s yellowface fabrications of Chinese identity and a resistance to Hollywood’s Orientalist narratives.

New from Rutgers University Press. Order here!

What the critics are saying….

“Philippa Gates takes us on an engrossing journey through the Chinatown streets of Hollywood’s imagination in her comprehensive study of the ambivalent depiction of Chinese people and places on American screens. Her superlative book provides essential reading for scholars, students, and concerned readers who need to understand this history fully to critique the images and ideas that continue to shape today’s cultural landscape.”
–Gina Marchetti, author of Citing China: Politics, Postmodernism, and World Cinema

“Meticulously researched and laudably comprehensive, Criminalization/Assimilationexplores Chinatown’s place in the lexicon of early Hollywood films. This is a unique and important contribution to film studies and Asian American studies—a highly satisfying read!”
–Karla Rae Fuller, author of Hollywood Goes Oriental: CaucAsian Performance in American Film

 

 

Words in the World: English Symposium 2019

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On February 1, the Department of English and Film Studies held our second annual English Undergraduate Symposium. Following on the heels of last year’s highly-successful event, this year’s symposium, entitled “Words in the World,” organized by Maria DiCenzo and Jenny Kerber, took on the challenge of addressing the many ways in which our discipline intervenes in larger social, political and cultural issues. Our partner in this effort, the English Students’ Society, was instrumental in obtaining matching funding for the event via the Arts Undergraduate Society Grant, making for an ideal partnership between students and faculty, both of which participated in the actual panels of the symposium as well. The attendance and participation from Laurier Brantford English students and faculty further brought together the various strands of English teaching and learning across Laurier’s multiple campuses.

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            The panels were a mix of creative writing and scholarship, exploring (in order) careers in English, life writing and digital media, pop culture and gender and sexuality, literature and sports, creative writing, and current contentious issues.

 

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The symposium was rounded out by this year’s Edna Staebler Writer in Residence, Gary Barwin, who spoke to us over lunch about the strands of influence and technique and collaborations involved in his creative work.

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Last but not least, we had the awarding of the Chris Heard Memorial Prize in creative writing to Yelibert Cruz Roo, for her short story, “This Kingdom has No Heroes,” about barriers to immigration and their effects on families and communities.

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As a whole, the symposium reflected the many intersections between the scholarly and the creative, from found poems taken from interviews with famous sports figures, to works around life writing and personal expression on social media, to the importance of research in crafting historical narratives, to the ways in which skills attained in the classroom can foster careers in areas as wide-ranging as publishing, advertising and the insurance. The symposium demonstrated the many ways in which the study of English enables flexible and adaptive approaches to real-world issues.

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All of the panels were followed by lively question and answer sessions in which students and visitors discussed the many ways in which our discipline engages the “literary” in its widest possible context.

Here’s to hoping for a repeat of this successful event next year.

                          By: Tamas Dobozy, Chair of English and Film Studies

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

 

Spring Writes: A Celebration of Creative Writing

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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.

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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