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.”

 

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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.

Congratulations, Susan Hroncek

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Susan Hroncek successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, entitled Strange Compositions: Chemistry and its Occult History in Victorian Speculative Fiction, on August 9, 2016.
In this dissertation, Susan Hroncek examines how depictions of chemistry in Victorian literature are influenced by concerns regarding the history of chemistry and its relationship to the occult.  She argues that representations of chemistry from the period, particularly those found in popular texts, responded to societal concerns about the origins of chemistry with speculative narratives that depict a collision between chemical innovations and elements of chemistry’s occult or Eastern past. The frequency of negative depictions of chemistry during the Victorian period indicates how, despite discoveries that revolutionized industry and medicine, the British public regarded the science and its practitioners with suspicion. During a period as fascinated with origins as with progress, these texts expand upon the uncertainties of a society struggling with the tumultuous relationship between chemistry’s past, present, and future.
The supervisory committee consisted of supervisor Dr. Lynn Shakinovsky, Dr. Maria DiCenzo, and Dr. Markus Poetzsch, and the external examiner was Dr. Martin Danahay of the Department of English Language and Literature at Brock University.
Susan Hroncek is currently pursuing the publication of her research, including a forthcoming article in Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, and remains involved in Dr. DiCenzo’s project on Women’s Print Media in Interwar Britain (1918-1939), which includes both an Edinburgh Companion and an Omeka online archive. She is planning a new project on Victorian representations of the chemical industry and the chemistry of photography with Laurier colleague Maggie Clark.

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.

A Different Path to Teaching

By : Carolyn Hough, BA Hons  EN 2016

        For as long as I’ve known myself (a pretty long time), I’ve known two things to be true: I love to read and I want to be a teacher. Both of these facts led me to Laurier, led me to the English department, and led me to Residence Life.

When I first arrived at Laurier I moved into a single room in Willison Hall, and had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into. My first university class ever was an upper year French class of 20 people, and is an experience I still consider to be one of the scariest of my life. In contrast, my first English class was “Reading Fiction,” and amid the 150 people in N1001, I felt right at home. We studied an extraordinarily wide range of literature, from Pride and Prejudice, a longtime favourite, to graphic novels in the form of Maus. I loved every second of it.

Through the encouragement of my own Residence Life Don, I applied to be a part of the First Year Leadership Program in Willison, House Council, and spent the eight months of my first year being happily pulled out of my comfort zone. I fell in love with Residence and the friendships it had given me, and with my naive first year eyes, applied to be a Don. Again, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.

Hough Willison         My three years of being a Don were nothing short of an adventure. Over the years, I had the privilege of being a Don to over 80 students, an advisor to about 40, a coach to around 60, and a presence to approximately 400. And while I originally thought that guiding and leading students was simple and clear, black and white, I quickly discovered that growth is a relative term, that everything is a teachable moment, and that learning does not stop when you step outside of a classroom.

I discovered that there was more than one way to be a teacher. I could take the traditional route, the expected route, and graduate with a degree of teachable subjects, ready to take on teacher’s college, then battle an ever growing list of qualified teachers for a classroom of my own. Or, I could take a look outside the four walls of a lecture hall, the pages of a textbook, and see the way that a fresh start, a friendship, a guiding hand, and an opportunity to be unashamedly yourself, screw ups and all, could teach someone so much more than a math equation, or iambic pentameter, or the strategies that make a business successful, ever could. I was able to witness, over eight months, hundreds of fresh faced high school graduates stumble their way through first year and come out the other side with purpose, enthusiasm, and a stronger sense of self. Sometimes those eight months were full of teachable moments, and sometimes the experience itself was enough of a teacher.

I am by no means exempt from the learning influence that Residence enacts on people. I entered donning a fresh faced first year student and over the next three years I learned more than I ever cared to know about team dynamics and work ethic. I learned how to survive on very little sleep and that when I had the opportunity to sleep, earplugs were a necessity. My time as a Don honed my multitasking and time management skills as I dealt with first years who were away from home for the first time (and all the things that brings) while reading at least a Shakespeare play a week. I learned that I work best when things are on the verge of chaos, and that every time I thought I couldn’t possibly do more, I surprised myself. I learned that the best friendships are formed at 3:00am when you’re collectively facing down the chaos that is Halloween or Homecoming or even just a Friday night. I learned that chocolate, a comfy couch, and an open door brings people together more than you could possibly imagine. I learned the advantage of giving a single warning, of remembering people’s names, of regarding even the most infuriating students with unconditional positive regard. I learned how to learn from those around me, first years, or colleagues, or supervisors. And I learned how to turn life in Residence into a teaching moment.

When it came time for me to graduate, I wasn’t quite ready to give up this more holistic and life-centered way of teaching. Before I even got my degree in June, I was offered a job with Campus Living Centres at Seneca Newnham in Toronto as a Residence Life Coordinator. Having read, absorbed, and analyzed texts as difficult as Beowulf and Ulysses, I am well-prepared for learning the complexities of a new institution. And while a lot of things about my life have changed, the same two things about me are true: I love to read, and I am a teacher.

 

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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.

Rebekah Ludolph wins Emerging Scholar Award at Congress 2016

Laurier English and Film Studies doctoral student Rebekah Ludolph was awarded the Barbara Godard Prize for the Best Paper by an Emerging Scholar at a ceremony during the 2016 Congress for the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Calgary on Saturday, May 28. Le Prix Barbara-Godard de la meilleure communication par un jeune chercheur is awarded annually by the bilingual Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures/Association pour Littératures du Canada et Quebec (ACQL/ALCQ) as an acknowledgement of the ongoing legacy of York University’s Canadian literature scholar Barbara Godard, who was a mentor to many students and a leader in the scholarly community. Godard’s own interests in feminist theory, autobiography, and Indigenous women’s writing make the awarding of this prize to Rebekah’s paper of Mohawk author and environmental activist Anahareo especially appropriate and poignant. The award was presented to Rebekah by Dr. Sara Jamieson, President of ACQL/ALCQ and Associate Professor at Carleton University.

Rebekah delivered her paper, titled “Humour, Intersubjectivity, and Indigenous female identity in Anahareo’s Devil in Deerskins” in a special session on Indigeneity, Redemption, Agency on Sunday, May 29 at the University of Calgary. The award-winning paper began as a final essay in EN609: Canadian Women’s Literature offered in Fall 2015 in the Department of English and Film Studies, and Laurier faculty and students saw a preview of the paper when Rebekah delivered it as part of Showcase, the English and Film Studies Graduate Student colloquium, held at Laurier on March 30th.

After receiving the Godard Prize, which includes the opportunity for the paper to be published in the leading scholarly journal Canadian Literature, Rebekah commented: “I am very grateful for this encouragement at the beginning of my PhD journey. My paper would not have taken its current shape without the support of our English department, especially Dr. MacDonald, Dr. Kerber, fellow PhD student Heather Olaveson, my classmates in EN609, and the 2016 EN/FS Department Colloquium.” Supported by a SSHRC doctoral fellowship, Rebekah is studying alternative subjectivities and multicultural texts in Canadian literature. Rebekah Ludolph and Sara Jamieson, Godard Prize 2016

Dr. Sara Jamieson presents Rebekah Ludolph with the Barbara Godard Prize for Best Paper by an Emerging Scholar in Calgary on May 28, 2016.