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!

 

Officially Dr. Anders Bergstrom!

Anders graduation IMG_4045Anders Bergstrom received his PhD at the June 12, 2017 convocation and his  dissertation, entitled In Search of Lost Selves: Memory and Subjectivity in Transnational Art Cinema received the Award for Outstanding Work at the Graduate Level.

Anders’ dissertation addresses the thorny topic of the subject, that philosophical category central to conceptions of self and identity that emerged in the modern, post-classical era, but which has been placed under interrogation, if not wholly discarded, in contemporary discourses. This project offers an answer for why this term and related concepts persist and manifest in contemporary cultural forms such as the narrative film, in the representation and materialization of memory within. Through analysis and discussion of examples drawn from contemporary transnational cinema—including, among others, The Tree of Life (2011), Melancholia (2011), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), and Goodbye, Dragon Inn(2003)—the study addresses the role that art cinema practices play and have played in shaping our conceptions of selfhood.

Anders’ PhD was supervised by Dr. Russell J. A. Kilbourn, with Dr. Jing Jing Chang and Dr. Tamas Dobozy serving as committee members.  Dr. John Caruana, from the Department of Philosophy at Ryerson University, attended as the external examiner at his defence.

Anders is in the process of revising his dissertation for publication and continuing to research and teach film studies. He recently taught a course on Hong Kong Cinema this spring at University of Toronto Mississauga, and will be returning to teach a course on East Asian Film at Laurier this fall.

Our best wishes and hearty congratulations to Anders!

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Anders with wife, Rochelle in Paris.


 

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

Edwin Adjei, visiting Queen Elizabeth II scholar in English

Edwin Adjei is a second year PhD candidate in African Studies from the University of Ghana. He won a Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship to spend the Fall 2016 semester at Laurier, where he worked under the joint supervision of Dr. Tanis MacDonald and Dr. Mariam Pirbhai. During this time, Edwin attended graduate and undergraduate courses, while developing his dissertation proposal in the areas of West African Young Adult literature and gender studies.  Edwin’s time at Laurier was a mutually enriching experience for his faculty supervisors, graduate peers and fellow students. We were delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this wonderful student exchange run by the office of Laurier International and the Tshepo Institute of African Studies. Please find below Edwin’s account of his experience as a QEII scholar at Laurier. (Introductory note by Mariam Pirbhai)

My name is Edwin Adjei (BA Hons, English and Sociology; M.Phil, African Studies) and a Queen Elizabeth II Scholar at WLU for a semester. I am currently a second year PhD candidate at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana. My time at the English department of WLU gave meaning to the proverb, “knowledge is like the baobab tree; no one person’s arm can encircle it.” As a student with a background in African Studies, and no knowledge of Canadian literature, my expectations were high as well as my anxiety. My time at Laurier not only broadened my knowledge in my thesis area but also offered me the opportunity to meet and network with students and scholars from around the world, as well as providing a lot of knowledge about the Canadian academy and culture.

I took courses in Creative writing (poetry) with Dr. Tanis MacDonald, and Narratives of Empire and South-Asian Canadian Literature with Dr. Mariam Pirbhai. I could not help but look forward to each lecture as the approach to teaching was not only captivating but also highly enlightening. Sharing ideas with my coursemates and learning from professors who displayed high competence in their field made me relish each moment in class. Coming from a different background, what made me enjoy my time at the English department most was how the professors in my class made time to lay the foundation for their expectations concerning my assignments. They not only laid the foundation but aided me step by step as I gradually adapted to my classes and the requirements for the Canadian academy. This was because they recognized the effect people’s educational and cultural backgrounds have on their approach to their studies and life and therefore aided in the transition from the Ghanaian to the Canadian curricula with lots of encouragement and direction on the transition process and academic progress.

Most important was the help of my professors in shaping my thoughts in relation to my thesis which was at its beginning stages when I came to Wilfrid Laurier University. They were so instrumental in laying the background for my thesis that I was able to complete a first draft of my proposal within the first two months of my stay in Canada. In addition to this, they were very helpful with suggestions on how I can be a better student and academic. Finally, they noticed my challenges with aspects of my academic writing and took time to offer me tutorials to help me write better in order to help me publish papers easily in North America which was very important as publications are the lifeblood of a successful academic career.

Overall, my time in the English department of Wilfrid Laurier University equipped me with valuable insights and intellectual experience that has further enhanced my interest in teaching and research as I envisage becoming an astute researcher engaging with other scholars in emerging areas of multi-disciplinary research with an emphasis on literature and performance. I also believe that my multicultural experience in the English department will make me a better teacher as in an increasingly multicultural global community, multicultural experience enhances one’s ability to embrace other cultures and be able to better interact with people of other cultures and experiences and enhance interactions with people of all cultures in order to be able to better serve society and the world.

Sam McKegney: Alumni Profile

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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.”

 

Congratulations, Katherine Quanz

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Photo: Katie Quanz at TIFF archives

Katherine Quanz successfully defended her doctoral dissertation “The Struggle To Be Heard: Toronto’s Postproduction Sound Industry, 1968 to 2005” on July 21, 2016.

Her thesis examines how economic and technological changes shaped the sounds of Canadian cinema, from the modern industry’s founding in the late 1960s to the widespread adoption of digital editing software in the early 2000s. By focusing on the labour and craft practices that coalesced in Toronto’s postproduction companies, Quanz argues that such practices engendered a critical shift in the sonic style of Canadian film sound. Whereas fiction films initially featured a sonic style developed by the National Film Board of Canada for documentary production, filmmakers eventually adopted a style strongly identified with Hollywood cinema. Although it is tempting to explain this shift by appealing to generalized statements about the globalization of Hollywood cinema, Quanz reveals a more complex picture in which a host of historical forces, including government policies, industrial competition, and discursive practices among craftspeople, are seen to shape how new sound technologies were used and how the adoption of these technologies did, or did not, affect the aesthetic of Canadian film sound. In order to narrow the focus of this dissertation, her case studies draw on films from the genres of horror and science fiction. This dissertation ultimately demonstrates that it is not technology alone that leads to style change; rather, such changes can be accounted for by a complex intersection of historical forces at any given period of Canadian film history. Put conversely, the history of Canadian cinema can be detected in its soundtracks.

The supervisory committee consisted of Katherine Spring, Rick Altman, Philippa Gates, Peter Urquhart, and the external examiner was Charles O’Brien.

Welcome, Ada Sharpe

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We welcome Dr. Ada Sharpe this year as Assistant Professor in Writing Studies and 19th Century Literature. Professor Sharpe has just completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University working on representations of artistic labour in the fiction of women writers of the Romantic period. Her ongoing research addresses issues surrounding gender, art, and work in British women’s writing of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She also has expertise in academic and professional writing.

This year, she will be teaching three sections of EN190: Introduction to Academic Writing, EN309r: Illness, Medicine, and Literature, as well as a graduate seminar on Women, Writing, and Work in the 19th-Century Novel. Currently, she is working on a book-length project on the professionalization of accomplishment in the moral-domestic novel, c. 1790-1820.