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

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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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Katie McGarry

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Yeli Cruz

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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

Literature Matters

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Literature Matters was a full-day symposium held on February 2, 2018.  There were five panels featuring faculty and undergraduate speakers from English on a range of topics:  ecocritism, activism projects, gun laws, Indigenous literature, 18th century crime blogs, YA literature, poetry from sports events, Shakespeare adaptations, fantasy genres, Gothic literature, and creative work.  The symposium was attended by about 120 students and faculty members. It was organized by Eleanor Ty and supported by a grant from the Student Life Levy fund.

To give a sense of the presentations throughout the day, here are short excerpts from reports written by first-year students who attended the event.

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Panel I: Literature, Social and Critical Action

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Dr. Richard Nemesvari, the Dean of Arts, welcomed everyone and remarked in his opening statements, “I enjoy being invited to such events, especially those that include a mixture of student and faculty research.”                                    Kayla Holden

Dr. Markus Poetzsch began by talking about the importance of everyday activity  in the works of Romantic poets. He  wanted literary studies to “focus on real world practical application” such as walking.                                                           Kayla Holden

“In Dr. Poetzsch’s talk, he related the rhythmic pattern of iambs to that of walking.”  Adrianna Pater

Dr. Poetzsch noted, “William Wordsworth walked strategically while he wrote his iambic poetry. ”                                                                                     Priscilla Ruta

Laura From took us through her project called “Dinner in the ‘Dark’: Raising Awareness and Shelter for All.” The point of her project was to raise awareness for ShelterBox and their Shine campaign. Cassie Wolfe, with her presentation on “Blogging About Fair Trade,” wanted to raise awareness about different fair trade issues, for example the cocoa bean production. Last up from Dr. Hron’s class was Lauren Rabak and her presentation of her project on “Homelessness”. She wanted to help change the negative stigmatizations people often have about homeless people.                                                        Anna Hveem

Stephanie Higgs and Alida Swart, two first year students compared gun laws in Canada and the U.S. You could tell from their presentation that they were very well read on the subject.                                                                               Anna Hveem

Panel 2: Discovering Different Worlds

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Dr. Kathryn Carter, Associate Vice-President, Teaching and Learning, chaired the panel and welcomed everyone. She was very pleased to be involved in the event as her home department is also English.

Dr. Jenny Kerber started off her speech by saying hello to the audience in a few different Indigenous languages such as Mohawk and Cree. This was quite captivating for the audience and by using this technique she was able to grab our attentions.   Jane Lennox

Dr. Jenny Kerber gave a fascinating lecture titled “From ‘Settlers with Opinions’ to Respectful Dialogue without Fear: Teaching Indigenous Literatures”.  Dr. Kerber offered four key ideas when approaching Indigenous writing. Firstly, is to listen for stories and to realize that there is no “one” story. Secondly, is to allow disturbance to happen and be aware of any assumptions one may hold. Thirdly, is survival and continuity of the culture. Lastly, is to look at writing as a process. These key ideas help to engage the audience with respectfully approaching Indigenous writing. Carmen Mortley

There were four WLU students, Milas Hewson, Mhairi Chandler, Alyssa Blair, Safina Husein, who were part of Dr. Ty’s Sense and Sensibility class last term, who presented their work on crimes and misdemeanours from the 18th century as well as making connections to our society. The topics discussed in these four presentations ranged from sexual assault cases to gender inequality, and the punishments associated with them. The students discussed real life issues that were relevant not only in the 18th century but also in today’s society making this a very liberating presentation.                                                              Jane Lennox

 

Panel 3:  Literature, Media and Popular Culture

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Dr. Tamas Dobozy, who chaired the panel, gave a clever remark to start off the hour long panel.

Dr. Katherine Bell explains that in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Speak, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson a teen is showcased as a withdrawn outcast from society. In the past 20 years or so, young adult novels have taken over the story world  and brought emotion evoking stories of being an individual in a harsh  society. Youth is the most important part of one’s life as it teaches us  how to explore our social  nature, our individuality and autonomy. Growth is not about the self necessarily, it is about how one grows up in society surrounded by societal pressures and changes. Bell goes on to stress  the important themes of freedom and resistance.       Sophie Cauduro

Dr. Bell also discussed a new trend in YA literature: polyvocal texts that feature numerous perspectives and co-authored novels, such as Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Dr. Bell concluded her presentation by stating the importance of the transition into adulthood for YA literature and that “Youth itself [is] a problem to be solved.”                                 Jenny Tubb

Alex Purcell talked about a paper he wrote, “Comparing Two Stage Versions of the Willow Scene in Othello.” The two versions he chose were one by BBC in 1981 and another by The Globe in 2015. He explained that the two both had aspects that incorporated the original Shakespeare scene and how The Globe changed certain things to go with their World War Two version.                                 Samantha Prior

Alex believes the BBC production was the better of the two as he stated, “[it] went beyond written and personal interpretation.” Purcell is in his final year at Laurier and is majoring in history and English.                                    Rylee Stephens

Isabeau Glebe, a 3rd year psychology major created a poem called “The Art of Boxing and Poetry: A Found Poem”. Glebe’s compelling poem highlighted the post-game interviews of the world-famous boxing match between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather. Her poem was aligned in such a way where McGregor’s reposes to interview questions were centered to the left and Mayweather’s responses to the right. When the same response was given to a similar question, their responses were centered in the middle of the page such as “composure “and “hat’s off”. This writing style of the poem gave the illusion of a boxing ring on the page.          Vanita Lad

Aaron Rupert presented a piece called, The Price You pay. Aaron’s lighthearted tone and calming manner helped deliver a heavy content in a meaningful manner when  he delivered the poem which focussed on NBA player, Isiah Thomas, and his difficulties when trying to break worldwide basketball records while simultaneously struggling with the death of his sister. Aaron spoke to this by saying,   “Sports at their worst shows you what humans are really like, sports at their best shows you what humans can  achieve.” Aaron added that this can be applied to various sport situations that circulation popular culture.                                 Lauren Symbolik

Hayley Colussi, a 4th year English student, concluded the session with her poem: “How far is too far: a found poem” The poem followed Cam Newton, Quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, who made sexist remarks towards a reporter, trying to demean her for reporting on football as a woman. “Sexism is often addressed, but there is often no consequence” Colussi noted, concluding her presentation and the panel.                                                                       Joshua Meyer

 

Panel 4: Issues in Contemporary Genres

Photos: Mary Margaret Butler

Dr. Eleanor Ty chaired the session after lunch and welcomed everyone.

Dr. Ken Paradis led the discussion with the question, “How can the understanding of contemporary genre shed insight on the current reality gap?” Dr. Paradis addressed the question with his own perspective.  He explained that the idea of the fantastic works to rationalize the distorted understanding of reality.  It encourages an epistemological way of thinking, and how every age creates new fantasies and a new take on reality.                                                                     Taya Smith

Jonathan Simms, a student at the Laurier Brantford Campus talked about contemporary genre as “fantasy without shared social context”.  He elaborated on the evolution of life, logic, romanticism, and realism.  With this comes the rise of individualism, and the parallel increase of reality gaps.  Jonathan concluded by explaining that until the next “socio-economic upheaval”, changes the way we think about the world, there will be a continued divergence.              Taya Smith

Victoria Hudson-Muir is a 4th year English student from the Brantford campus who focuses on how genre is a representation of the way authors reveal the gaps in literature. She specifically looks at how the realist genre triumphs over the romantic genre through the overpowering abilities of realistic capitalism. She concludes that as new genres emerge, society and literature need to go through some growing pains in order to progress.                                               Alexsia Louizos

Denise Springett spoke about how problematic the production of stereotypical masculinity is in popular young adult fiction,  and how it needs to be analyzed, resisted and hopefully changed by future generations.    Elizabeth Clark

Erin McHarge used Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” as an example of a novel that was written about 30 years ago but is still relevant because of its themes of gothicism and the sexual abuse of women.                Elizabeth Clark

 

Panel 5: Creative Projects Showcase

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The panel was kicked off with Dr. Tanis MacDonald presenting the Chris Heard Memorial Prize to Jenna Hazzard for her short story “Hydrangeas” which Jenna then Read for everyone.                                                     Matthew McKenzie

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Doug Heard presents Jenna Hazzard with the Chris Heard Memorial Prize

Jenna Hazzard’s piece “Hydrangeas” seemed very relatable to me because it sounded like how I feel when my family is having a conversation, being silent for most of it and just thinking about what I would say and what had been said. Her story was about how her grandfather had killed their kittens and buried them where the hydrangeas (flowers) were now. Her Uncle would say something and then say it was her grandfather who did it, and the grandfather would just change the conversation or not understand what was being asked, or at least it seemed from the narrators’ perspective. In the end he decides he has to answer the one question being asked of him over and over again, “did he kill and bury the kittens?”.             Manpreet Sangha

Yeli Cruz followed with excerpts from a personal piece on childhood and a rendering of Macbeth.                                                      Jenna Hall

A first year English and Film major, Meghan Mazzaferro’s piece, titled “Head of Super Human Relations”, was a story about a future society in which 30% of the populations exhibit a almost superhuman ability, taking influence from the superhero craze of the 21st century and from My Hero Academia, an anime with a similar premise. The excerpt of the story told of Akari Tagami, a young woman who was tasked as part of the Make-A-Wish foundation to contact a powerful supervillain that can create extreme heat through his palms. The story was riveting with intense words and compelling imagery that could be easily imagined when getting immersed into the story.                                       Jonathan Scodeller

One piece I’d like to talk about was very interesting because I felt at home with it due to my background and race as a South Asian Canadian. Kaya Marcus was the speaker on her piece, “Sometimes the Journey is Better Than the Destination”. It was the story that Kaya’s great grandfather’s wife always told at their home in Owen Sound by a fireplace when she was growing up. Around the time when chaos was going on around the world at the time of WWII, Kaya’s great grandfather had to leave the family from North India in order to go about his journey. It was a beautiful yet touching story in the sense that Vijay’s father mentions how his thoughts will always be with his family back home despite wherever his life would lead him.                                                      Harnoor Gill

Emma Davis’s non-fiction story was entitled “Pantophobia”. The excerpt she presented told the story of her young friend who was diagnosed with cancer, and how she shaved her head in an act of support for him. I approached her after the panel to ask about the boy, and whether or not he recovered. She told me he passed away, but that several of her other friends also shaved their heads in support.       Meghan Mazzafero

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Student assistants: Madeleine Prentice, Kristen Schiedel.
Tess Campbell and Lauren Cameron (not pictured)

Winners of book draw from Wilfrid Laurier University Press: Milas Hewson, Laura From, and Lisa Christie.

Photos: Elizabeth Clark, Sophie Cauduro, Taya Smith, Eleanor Ty

A one-minute video report of the event is available on YouTube, “Literature Matters WLU.” 

Emily Urquhart, Staebler Writer-In Residence Inaugural Talk

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On January 23rd,  2018 non-fiction writer, journalist, and the Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence for Winter 2018, Emily Urquhart, kicked off her residency with her inaugural public talk in the Hawk’s Nest. In her talk, entitled “True Stories: Narrative Non-Fiction from Cave Painting to Podcasting,” Urquhart discussed the ways in which storytelling has, and has not evolved throughout human history. She gave a fascinating account of how her daughter’s albinism led her to write her memoir, Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family and the Mystery of our Hidden Genes. 

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There were times in her life when being isolated in a foreign country or in a small city, or having to be at home as a mother with a young child actually forced her to find new ways to find books, write, and interact intellectually with the world.

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Photos by Katherine Bell

Also a folklorist, Urquhart engaged the audience with folkloric traditions at Laurier, such as the “don’t walk on the hawk” mentality and “Silent Seven” in the library. However, she also mentioned some less obvious ones, like the story behind an archived photo hanging in Wilf’s. She also gave personal anecdotes about her travels and journalistic endeavours. At the end, there was a question and answer period, in which the audience primarily discussed podcasts and even shared some of their favourite ones amongst each other.

Overall, the event was a great success, and we look forward to more in the coming months of Urquhart’s residency!

By: Manreet Lachhar

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.

Call for Entries: English Students Association Writing Contest

Good news, poets and prose writers! The deadline for the English Students Association’s second annual writing contest has been extended until Wednesday March 8th. To enter, see details in the poster below.

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Winning Love by Daylight: Students share their love and knowledge of film at full-day WLU Film Symposium

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The Film Studies faculty members extend their hearty congratulations to all of the undergraduate students who presented academic papers and creative works at the annual WLU Film Symposium, held last Friday and organized by the WLU Film Society. Over the course of the day, the audience was treated to a series of intellectually stimulating papers, stunning music videos and movie trailer recreations, astute questions from the audience, and, in the symposium’s final moments, a spontaneous dance party set to the theme song of Sailor Moon. A list of paper presenters is posted below. Many additional students screened work produced for their courses in video editing (FS370 and FS371), with a special presentation of two short films featuring sound editing by FS major Zixuan Lou. Congratulations to all of you!

Chris Luciantonio, Not Good Enough and The Tactile Accessibility of Stop-Motion Animation

Amanda McKelvey, Stereotypes in Masculine Melodrama

Mynt Marsellus, The Walking Dead, Zombies, and Genre Hybridity

Christina Shirley, Utopianism in Les Miserables and La La Land

Samantha Hutchinson, Shakespeare’s Bawdy on the Big Screen

Madeline McInnis, Modern Day Cinema of Attractions

Daniel Gibel, Soldier of Orange to Starship Trooper: The Evolution of Paul Verhoeven as an Auteur

Jonathan Lim, Canadian Identity: Anything but Clearcut

Jacqueline Ouellette, Penny’s Value: Feminist Auteur Puts the Woman in a Refrigerator

Yeng Hang, Mo Lei Tau: Reconsidering Hong Kong’s Despised Genre

Michael Oliveri, Popular Portrayals of Peasants in Battleship Potemkin and Chapaev

Connor Hotzwik, Discussions of Art in Early Film

Amy Holman, Bazin’s Puppets

Breanna Kettles, The Knight Who Doesn’t Slay the Dragon: The Reconciliation of Sci-fi and Fantasy Components in Scrapped Princess

Aruba Khurshid: How to Sell to the West: A Look at Sailor Moon’s Success