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.

Victoria Gabaldon

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

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Graduate Course Offerings: 2017-2018

FALL 2017

EN 600: Research Methods, Theory, and Professionalization
Dr. Katherine Bell

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EN600 is a  course that introduces students to bibliographic and research methods, theoretical models, and professional skills and issues related to English and Film Studies. The course is required for all MA students, and attendance is compulsory.

Note: The student’s performance in the course will be graded as either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” Failure to complete EN600 or to obtain a grade of “satisfactory” may result in suspension from the MA Program. A student’s final grade for the course will not be assigned as “satisfactory” until a grade of “satisfactory” has been obtained in all of the sessions.

EN 617: Identity Politics in Film
Dr. Jing Jing Chang

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This course focuses on the various impacts of the advent and developments of film as technology, art and politics in the cinematic traditions of such countries as China, Mexico, and Iran, among others. Our main goal will be to examine film going as a modernizing yet colonizing social practice as well as films as cultural documents that mobilized imagination in the processes of nation-building. The modern technology of film brought about a new form of leisure and entertainment, but it also introduced people to new ways of conceiving time and space that were at once violent and disruptive. Informed by issues and problems tackled by such cultural studies and film scholars as Edward Said, Homi K. Bhabha and Ella Shohat among others, we will engage in in-depth analytic discussions of primarily non-Western national films in light of tradition and modernity, the urban and rural, women and family, body and sexuality, and colonialism and post-colonialism.

EN 627: Human Rights Genres
D
r. Madelaine Hron

partnoyThis course examines human rights discourse in light of the genres and rhetoric associated with it. We focus on the testimonial, documentary and Bildungsroman genres, on legal, trauma-inflected and sentimental rhetorics, but also consider such forms as propaganda, sci-fi or humor. Special attention is paid to such issues as visual/literary conventions/innovations, memory, “truth,” translation, cultural representation and ethical responses to suffering. Thematically, the course explores a variety of human rights (esp. torture, genocide, refugees, children’s rights, gender rights), as well as issues such as violence, bystanderism, trauma, healing, rehabilitation and reconciliation in such texts such as Wiesel’s Night, Partnoy’s The Little School, Hatzfeld’s Machete Season or documentaries such as Mr. Death, Half the Sky or The Art of Killing.

EN692d: Genesis, Genealogy, Genre: Foundational Fictions in Inter-American Literature
D
r. Ian MacRae

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This course is concerned with the literary-historical beginnings of settler-colonial cultures in the Americas – that is, with how the foundations of settler cultures have been figured in the twentieth century novel. We will begin with the quintessential founding instance in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis (1996). This text in many ways serves as a model for our three novels: William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude, trans. Gregory Rabassa), and the West Coast Canadian writer Jack Hodgins ‘ The Invention of the World. This is a grouping of texts that coheres at a higher level of structural units, with strong internal elements of allusion, and complex echoing effects among scenes and speech types. We will read these texts in relation to one another, and through them chart a brief but meaningful history of the twentieth century inter-American novel. In so doing, issues in translation theory, literary Modernism, magical realism, postcolonialism, and biblical criticism will be raised.

EN692_: Graphic Novels
Dr
. Eleanor Ty

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This course looks at a selection of contemporary graphic novels produced by artists and writers primarily from Canada and the U.S. Emerging from comics books and comics strips, which were perceived as cheap ephemeral entertainment for children and a mass audience, the graphic novel has now gained recognition as a respectable literary genre for adult and young adults. We will study six to seven graphic novels, including Jeff Lemire’s Essex County (2009), Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s (2010), Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006), Michael Cho’s Shoplifter (2014) as well as read critical essays about the development of the genre. Issues to be discussed include the relationship between image and text; aesthetics and narrative; the use of nostalgia, memory, fantasy, virtual reality, and the gothic; representations of the self, illness and aging, gender, sexuality, and race. NB. Students do not have to have competence in the genre to take the course.

WINTER 2018

EN 609: Canadian Women’s Literature
Dr. Tanis MacDonald

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Canadian women writers have noted that the legacy of literary feminism requires a sharp political sensibility, an ear for the possibilities of reclaiming the language of literary foremothers in the Canadian cultural milieu, and a willingness to assert an alternative narrative of nation to those offered by the cultural nationalism on the 1970s. This course is designed to introduce graduate students to canonical and emerging works by women writers in Canada, with the aim of discussing the major movements and debates that surround the formation of a “shadow canon” of Canadian feminist writing. We will discuss patterns in Canadian women’s literature and genre experimentation as ways to track shifts in political subjectivities. Critical material will engage the literary and cultural dynamics of identity politics and gender theory and invite analysis of genre as a textual strategy in the creation of a feminist counter-public.

EN 612: First Wave Feminism and Print Culture in Britain
Dr. Maria DiCenzo

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The course will examine a range of writings by late Victorian and Edwardian feminists, including essays and polemical works, periodicals/little magazines, literary genres (fiction, drama, poetry) and memoirs/ autobiography. The selection of primary readings reflects key figures and tendencies in the evolving women’s movement in these decades, with a particular focus on the suffrage campaign and an emphasis on diversity – the complex and often conflicting terms in which women reformers and activists engaged with one another and with the wider public. Approaching these texts from a feminist media history perspective offers an opportunity to move beyond conventional literary genres/discourses to examine the links between the proliferation of print media in the 19th and early 20th centuries, social movements and emerging modernities in these decades. The considerations underlying the course extend beyond the project of recovery and expanding the canon, to an investigation/interrogation of the social, political, and economic factors influencing what was produced, marketed, read, and ultimately legitimized/privileged through institutions of criticism then and scholarship now. These issues have been central to the growing field of ‘periodical studies’ and major digitization projects. Authors include Mona Caird, Eliza Lynn Linton, Sarah Grand, Cicely Hamilton, Gertrude Colmore, Rebecca West, Dora Marsden.

EN 616: Women and Crime in Fiction and Film
Dr. Philippa Gates

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This course explores women’s subjectivity as author and protagonist and also the representation of women’s relationships to law and order as detective and criminal in detective fiction and film from the 1880s to today. This course explores what happens to a traditionally male genre – the detective story – when women occupy the key position of hero, criminal, or author. While male and female authors and detectives worked within the same conventions in the early decades of the genre, the 1940s saw a polarization of gender, genre, and nation as the predominantly male American hardboiled tradition attempted to differentiate itself as more authentic than the predominantly female British classical tradition. A similar shift occurred in films from the strong Depression-era woman detective to her demonization or omission in the decades that followed. Only in the 1980s did both fiction and film see a resurgence of the female-authored and -centered detective stories and in new directions, including “dyke noir” and the criminalist/serial killer narrative. We will explore literary as well as cinematic examples of the genre in conjunction with critical texts addressing issues of gender, nation, race, sexuality, and class and also consider how the individual texts can be regarded as a challenge to the mainstream through an emphasis on anti-heroes, gender-bending, and formal stylization. Short stories and novels may include Old Sleuth’s dime novel Lady Kate (1886), Agatha Christie’s classical The Body in the Library (1942), and Sara Paretsky’s revolutionary Indemnity Only (1982). Films may include Daughter of Shanghai (1937) with the only cinematic female Asian detective, Phantom Lady (1944) with the rare female noir detective, and Bound (1996) with lesbian criminal-heroes.

EN 644: Aesthetics, Cosmetics, and the Beautiful
Dr. Andrea Austin

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This course will consider the cosmetic as cultural product, spiritual ideal, and iconographic practice. We will progress from a fundamental framework in aesthetics theory, particularly constructions of “the beautiful” in the visual arts, to a social history of the cosmetic, ranging from the cosmetic use of “natural poisons” (such as lead and arsenic) in the eighteenth century to the advent of a corporate cosmetics industry in the nineteenth century and the trend towards “organics” in the late twentieth century. A focus on DIY aesthetics, domestic/corporate and organic/synthetic dialectics, and the ontological significance of being “made up” will inform our readings of the primary course fictions. Selections from print and film texts, and secondary readings in aesthetics and cultural theory, will form our primary readings; course may also include a field trip.

EN 692p: Green Romanticism – From Semiotics to Praxis
Dr. Markus Poetzsch

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Foregrounding the tension between post-structuralism’s over-arching concern with rhetoricity and ecocriticism’s insistence on the materiality of “nature,” this course examines the interplay of nature-as-word and nature-as-world in the literature of the Romantic Era. From a wide array of lyric and loco-descriptive poetry, travelogues, natural histories, guidebooks and journals by writers such as William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Coleridge, Thelwall, Blake, Smith, Burns, Baillie, Shelley, Byron, Hemans, Clare and Ruskin, we will consider the artistic processes that alternately celebrate nature as parent or guide, that attempt to make nature as aesthetic spectacle subservient to human ends, that give nature a distinctive voice and moral agency, and, finally, that signal its unrepresentable otherness, what Timothy Morton calls its “strange strangeness.”

English & Film Studies Webpage: for up-to-date info

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.

Conference Contagion

Brock University
Pond Inlet

The academic has the strange experience of working alone and in a large group simultaneously. Despite being part of a rhetorical discourse community and a physical departmental community, it is nevertheless easy to feel alone as one reads through endless stacks of books while writing everything from essay comments to book-length treatises. Enter the conference.

The conference is useful in a number of ways: as an opportunity to network, to receive feedback on your research, to meet others in your field with whom you might collaborate, and to get involved in administrative aspects of various academic organizations. But for me, what the recent ACCUTE conference made so clear is that the social aspect of the conference is as important as the professional aspects. Interacting with others is vital to our ability to produce good work, and unfortunately, this is something I think many of us often forget in the whirlwind of deadlines and to-do lists.

I confess that I did not have high expectations for the conference before attending. As I flipped through the initial program in the weeks before the big event, I thought that there were relatively few panels of relevance to my research. Canadianists and Victorianists seemed to be the two largest camps, and, as I am neither, I expected to feel somewhat out of place. But this was not at all the case. The biggest lesson I learned at Congress was to avoid retreating too far into the specificity of my own research.

I heard papers on Medieval, Early Modern, Victorian, and Canadian literature—none of which are really my area—and still found my mind racing excitedly with ideas. From the NAVSA series on “The Uses and Abuses of History” to the debate on “The Modern Academic and Copyright Law” to Faye Hammill’s keynote address on “Sophistication, Modernism, and Entertainment,” to the extremely popular poetry event “Soirée des Refusés,” I felt recharged and reinvigorated with each event I attended. Moreover, I began bumping into other students and professors I knew from various levels of my university education, and even our informal conversations were infected by our excitement about things we had seen and heard.

See, when academics attend a conference, their enthusiasm and excitement becomes contagious. It’s difficult to avoid becoming infected by the energy of thousands of minds and voices coming together in collaboration. Although I arrived expecting to find few connections to my own research, I left with a supply of creative energy that followed me home and made the month of June extremely productive.