News from J. Coplen Rose (Phd 2016)

J. Coplen RoseI have been working as a 9.5-month Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Theatre at Acadia University. While this past semester has been one of the busiest in my life, it has also been one of the most rewarding. The faculty I work with are excellent and have made my transition to Wolfville seamless and comfortable. They have welcomed me into their community and been an invaluable resource in matters relating to pedagogy and research. This was particularly important over the past semester as I was teaching three new courses. As expected, each course offered its own unique challenges, thrills, and rewards.

My main purpose for coming to Acadia was to teach an upper-year postcolonial studies course on Settler Colony Literature from Australia and New Zealand. While the postcolonial component was something that directly related to my research, I found myself returning to the notes and articles from my Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination at Wilfrid Laurier University to help plan lectures related to New Zealand and Australian literature. This experience was a helpful reminder of the value of keeping detailed and organized research notes. Although the material from my exam formed the framework for my course, the texts I selected largely differed from my Ph.D. reading list. Developing a course syllabus that included a mix of poetry, film, short stories, and novels from Australia and New Zealand meant a broad spectrum of genres and perspectives could be discussed in the course. The texts that seemed to resonate most prominently with the students were Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, Doris Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Taika Waititi’s film Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

The other two courses that I taught were introductory classes on academic reading and writing. Both were comprised of a diverse group of students – ranging from first to fourth year and originating from various departments at the university. The challenge teaching these courses revolved around maintaining student interest and appealing to a wide range of skill levels. Organizing these courses around a student-centred approach to education helped to keep everyone engaged with the material. Many of the course assignments involved collaboration, detailed classroom discussion, and in some cases peer review assessment. In an effort to lead by example, students in one of the courses even had an opportunity to critique an essay that I had written during my undergraduate degree. This helped to turn a session on basic essay writing strategies, which can occasionally come across as tedious, into a lively debate when students were asked to grade the paper. Helpfully, as a new instructor, this exercise allowed me to show a degree of vulnerability and illustrate to my learners that good academic writing is an ongoing learning process.

Aside from my teaching, I also managed to publish a short article titled “Acting Out of Discontent: Satire, Shakespeare, and South African Politics in Pieter-Dirk Uys’s MacBeki: A Farce to be Reckoned With and The Merry Wives of Zuma” in Shakespeare en devenir’s special edition on Shakespeare and Africa. This achievement, combined with my service as Arts Representative on the Ad Hoc Senate Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, has meant that I have had little time to explore the surrounding area over the past four months. I am looking forward to a reduced teaching load this coming semester and, with it, an opportunity to further connect with the wonderful colleagues and community around me. In particular, I am especially looking forward to meeting fellow  Laurier graduate Dr. Justin Shaw, an Assistant Professor at the Université Sainte-Anne, for what he promises will be a demanding winter hike along the coastal region at the bottom of the Annapolis Valley.

Submitted by:

Coplen Rose, ‘16

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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

Post humanism Guest Speaker: Nandita Biswas Mellamphy

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Dr. Nandita Biswas Mellamphy (Political Science, Western) presented a lecture called “Apps: Approaching Postman Politics” to a small but eager crowd at noon on October 19, 2017 at Hawk’s Nest.

Dr. Mellamphy warned that the allure of digital connectivity has morphed our society into one governed by Big Data, where humans have become datafied.  Posthuman governance is replacing human-centered systems.  For examples, weapons now operate efficiently without human intervention.

In our daily lives, we exist under a Panopticon and our activities have become permanently visible to data collectors, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.  Social norms have been re-engineered for data collection and are subject to be digitally compromised.

thumb_IMG_2931_1024Mellamphy: “Humans are undermined by being over-mined….”

Dr. Mellamphy’s talk was sponsored by the Posthuman Research Network.

Photos and report by  Eleanor Ty

Historic Camera Collection Comes to Laurier

A little bit of Laurier history came home on June 27, 2017, when Film Studies accepted the donation of a collection of historic cameras from WLU alumna Melanie Reed.

The collection includes over 100 pieces of photographic equipment, from film and still cameras to lenses, print copiers, camera cases, and rolls of film. Some of the first cameras ever produced for the mass market can be found in this collection, such the famous “Brownie” No. 2 box cameras produced by Kodak starting in 1901 and the “Pocket Kodak” folding cameras of the 1910s and 1920s. The collection features cameras from every decade of the 20th century and from many countries around the world, including Canada, the US, England, France, Germany, the USSR, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Along with the history of film and photography, this collection also evokes a piece of Laurier history, as it was donated in gratitude to Dr. Wilhelm E. Nassau -or, as he was known around campus back in the day, “Willy Nassau.” Nassau was born in Vienna in 1922 and began his career in the European film industry, most notably working on the Oscar-winning 1949 thriller The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles. In 1969, Nassau came to WLU (then Waterloo Lutheran University), where he worked as Director of Audio-Visual Resources and as a teacher of technical courses for many years. Melanie Reed, a former student of his, fondly remembers “Willy Nassau” as a man who was incredibly passionate about film and innovative in teaching. She recalls, for instance, students having to take pictures for his course with cameras they made themselves. Pieces from Nassau’s own vast collection of historic camera equipment can now be found in the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. He inspired Melanie to begin collecting historic cameras herself, and eventually to donate her collection to the Film Studies program.

This compact yet comprehensive collection gives us a picture of the past here at Laurier, and wherever these cameras have traveled!

 

Congratulations, Victoria Kennedy

Victoria Kennedy

On March 10, 2017, Victoria Kennedy successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, Narrative Pleasures and Feminist Politics: Popular Women’s Historical Fiction, 1990-2015. Diana Wallace, the eminent scholar of women’s historical fiction from the University of South Wales, Uk was the external examiner and participated via SKYPE.

Her study contributes to a developing body of work on women’s historical fiction and its significance to feminist discourse. Since historical fiction is one of the most popular genres of the contemporary period, Victoria’s dissertation brings together the discourses of feminist pop culture criticism and theories of feminist historiography to address the tensions between narrative pleasures and feminist politics in some of the most recognizable women’s historical novels of the past twenty-five years, including The Other Boleyn Girl, Outlander, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and Scarlett.

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Victoria Kennedy with Diana Gabaldon

Victoria comments:

Looking back now, I can see that I was drawn to feminism from an early age, though it was not a label that was particularly encouraged or promoted in my youth. It wasn’t until I became a university student that I acquired the vocabulary and confidence to describe my interests and political sensibilities as “feminist.” In my second year as an undergraduate, I discovered women’s writing and feminist literary criticism. This discovery so energized me that I pursued my passion all the way to a Master’s degree at York University, and then back to Laurier as a doctoral student.

Victoria’s PhD was supervised by Dr. Andrea Austin, with the assistance of Dr. Eleanor Ty and Dr. Katherine Bell as committee members. Dr. Alexandra Boutros of the Cultural Studies department served as the internal-external examiner.

Victoria is currently working on expanding and revising her dissertation for publication as a monograph. At the same time, she is turning her focus to historical narratives in visual media. In May she will present a paper entitled “‘We Want the King’: The Crown and Masculinity” at the Popular Culture Association of Canada’s 7th annual conference in Niagara Falls.

Photo and contributions by Victoria Kennedy

English Student Association’s “Meet the Profs” Night

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Manreet Lachhar (Event organizer) and Daniella Cavallini (ESA President)

The English Student Association hosted their annual Meet the Profs night this winter term with an added twist.

They had a trivia game that determined if the students would be smarter than the professors in literary questions from all areas of study. The students were spilt into two teams of eight and the Professors team was made up of Dr. Poetzsch, Dr. Pirbhai, Dr. Sharpe, Dr. Shakinovsky, Dr. Kerber, Dr. Wyse, and  Heather Olaveson. It was a close game but the professors won by two points. They said they would have had a higher score if Dr. Waugh stayed to help answer all the medieval questions, but they still came out as winners.
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The “Profs”: R. Waugh, L. Shakinovsky, M. Poetzsch, M. Pirbhai, A. Sharpe, J. Kerber and B. Wyse,  H. Olaveson (not in photo)
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Beniah Lanoue, Sarah Shearer, Manreet Lachhar, and Heather Hattle: Judges
Story and photos by Daniella Cavallini

Early Modern Play Reading at the Pub

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Dr. Andrew Bretz, who teaches our Early Modern courses, has been leading students in an informal and fun performative reading group. In the fall and winter semester, Dr. Bretz shares his enthusiasm for some of the bawdiest and most brilliant works of the Jacobean Golden Age with about a dozen or so keeners who show up at Wilf’s to read aloud plays and learn more about the context in which they were written.

Photos: Francis Alexander Rock

Andrew Bretz says, ” This past fall we looked at Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (a rollicking comedy about the (literally) devilish shenanigans undergraduates got up to in the renaissance), The Revenger’s Tragedy (which is to Hamlet what Young Frankenstein is to the original Frankenstein), and The Jew of Malta (wherein Christopher Marlowe created probably the most interesting anti-hero the English stage has EVER seen).”

These pictures are from our Revenger’s Tragedy play reading, where, like Hamlet, everyone got to hold the skull!  I invite you to come and join our Early Modern Play Reading Group at WLU and broaden your knowledge of Shakespeare and company!

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