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
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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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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.”

 

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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