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.” 

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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

Balderdash Reading Series, October 2017

 

The Balderdash Reading Series, organized by English and Film Studies PhD candidate, Sanchari Sur, held its second event for the fall at the Robert Langen Art Gallery on October 26, 2017.

Pasha Malla

Pasha Malla, Laurier’s Writer-in-Residence for fall, read an amusing extract from Fugue States in which the narrator describes an attempt at skiing with homemade skis and boots.  We are left hanging, wondering if the boots stayed on the intrepid skier.

Jagtar Kaur

Jagtar Kaur Atwal, from Cambridge, read an autobiographical poem about the difficulty of speaking in an alien tongue: “Writing has been like walking in knee-deep mud for my fear of rejection.”  She finds strength in another kind of voice, a silenced one.

Tanis

Tanis MacDonald read from a recent issue of Arc Magazine and poems yet unpublished.  She shared her poem outlining a professor’s thoughts while invigilating an exam. Apparently, MacDonald has reflected on birds, especially finches, while students are writing their exams.

Canisia

Canisia Lubrin read from Voodoo Hypothesis and reminds us that “black isn’t always a void.” Meditating on the many recent hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean, Lubrin writes, “We return to burn or bury what we have lost…” when nature swallows “things many times the size of our earth.”

 

A great event with talented voices…

Balderdash Reading Series runs with the generous support of the Graduate Student Association.  It holds monthly readings with new and established writers, often featuring works by writers published in the New Quarterly.

Story  by  Eleanor Ty

Photos by  Darin White

 

Tanis MacDonald Wins Teaching Award

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The Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs has presented Professor Tanis MacDonald with the 2017 Robert Kroetsch Teaching Award.

In keeping with Robert Kroetsch’s legacy in Canadian letters and teaching, this award is presented annually to a creative writing teacher who displays an exceptional example of creative writing theory and practice (including implementation and outcomes). The award of $1,000 is for demonstrated innovation(s) in areas including pedagogy, method, design, curriculum, assessment, technologies, learning techniques.

Tanis MacDonald’s submission was “Process Installation: Opening Up Revision in the Classroom.” She notes that the first audience members for this material were the students of EN370: Creative Writing: Poetry in Fall 2016 for whom the material, and the sample poem “The Haunting,” were originally created.

Congratulations, Tanis MacDonald!

 

ESA and Writer in Residence Co-host “Taking Flight”

On Thursday, March 16th, Laurier’s current Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence Ashley Little and the English Students’ Association co-hosted Taking Flight: A Celebration of Creative Writing. Ashley kicked off the evening by reading one of her newest stories titled “Plaza,” followed by readings from the finalists and winners of the ESA’s Second Annual Creative Writing Contest. The contest received many excellent submissions, and all of the runners-up and winners of the contest were on hand to share their work. In the poetry category, the Runners-up were Kyleen McGragh of the Brantford Campus and Jenna Hazard of the Waterloo campus, while Maria Kouznetsova from Waterloo won for her musically-inflected journey through local surroundings titled “Six Impressions of the Walk to Hepcat Swing.”

In the prose category, the Runners-up were Hastings Gresser from the Brantford campus and Jenna Hazard from Waterloo, while second-year English student Sarah Ali (Waterloo) took top honours for her highly inventive transnational piece, “Culling Campaign.”

Following a short intermission, refreshments, and a generous door prize draw sponsored by the ESA, the mic was opened up for other readers, and the audience was treated to a diverse array of creative work by students ranging from first year through to senior levels. Thanks to all who came out to celebrate our campus literary talent!

Jenny Kerber

Winter Words and Works

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Organized by Acting Chair Tanis Macdonald, Winter Words and Works featured readings, personal stories, and talks by faculty and students from English and Film Studies at Laurier on February 3, 2016.

Author Celebration

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Left to right: Robin Waugh, Philippa Gates (Moderator), Mariam Pirbhai, Sandra Annett, Benjamin Lefebvre

Dr. Sandra Annett talked about the global community in anime fandom, showing a clip from a Korean flash cartoon entitled, There She Is.” She read from her book, Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions (Palgrave 2014).

Dr. Mariam Pirbhai presented the 100 year old history of South Asian immigration to Canada and noted the importance of the Komagata Maru for this community. She has recently edited a special issue on South Asian Canadian writing for Studies in Canadian Literature.

Dr. Robin Waugh talked about the changing representation of Mary Magdalene from the Medieval to the Early Modern period. He has co-edited Mary Magdalene in Medieval Culture: Conflicted Roles (Routledge 2014) with Peter Loewen.

Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre highlighted the enduring popularity of L.M. Montgomery by showing us her legacy and influence around the world. He has recently published The L.M. Montgomery Reader, the third of a series, (U Toronto Press, 2013-2015) and Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations (Routledge 2013).

Edna Staebler Laurier Writer in Residence

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Drew Hayden Taylor/ Tanis MacDonald

Aboriginal playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor discussed the challenges of being half-Caucasian and half-Ojibway and growing up in the small community of Curve Lake First Nations. He says that as a child, he escaped from the limitations of his community by reading comics and adventure books, and is now writing more genre fiction, such as his Aboriginal vampire novel, The Night Wanderer and his forthcoming book of native science fiction.

Creative Writing at Laurier

Prize sponsor Doug Heard presented Danielle LeDuc with the Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize. The prize was established by the Heard family for Chris Heard who was a student at Laurier who loved to write.

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Doug Heard / Danielle LeDuc

Danielle LeDuc read her amazing story, “War: A People’s History” which was surprisingly not about the kind of war you’d imagine.

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Danielle LeDuc, winner of Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize

Dr. MacDonald and several other students from Dr. MacDonald’s creative writing class read the following short pieces:

Anthony Haslam, “Shaman’s Brew”
Dan Douglas, “Fact”
Jenna Galluccio, cento song: “Tired Lovemaking” and poem “Snap, Crackle, Pop”
Jenna Hazzard, “King of Pool”
Dr. MacDonald, “Very Wide Awake,” a poem about the space race and Planet of the Apes

Alumni Stories
Dr. Maria DiCenzo introduced three alumni who graduated from English or the Film Studies Program.

Andrew Baechler (BA English 2007) played football when he was at Laurier and has now combined his love of reading and his communication skills with sports at his current job. He is the Media Relations, Communications, and Sports Information Officer at the Athletics Department at Guelph University.

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Andrew Baechler

Ron Butler (BA Film Studies 2012) loved studying films and even made films for the Fringe when he was at Laurier. He is a cinematographer and filmmaker at Final Frame Productions.

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Ron Butler

Hanna Burnett (MA 2013, BA EN/FS 2012) says that her MA year at Laurier was the best educational year of her life. She is the Coordinator, Program Services at the Toronto International Film Festival and had entertaining anecdotes about the challenges of classifying and rating films for TIFF.

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Hanna Burnett

English Student Association

 

The English Student Association, represented by Daniella Cavallini, Beniah Lanoue, and Chris presented a PowerPoint series about the association, including aims, benefits of joining the ESA, and events planned for the Winter term, then held a short meeting with prospective members.

Contributed By: Eleanor Ty