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.
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.
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!
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, 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 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Tanis MacDonald read from a recent issue of Arc Magazine and poems yet unpublished.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 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.
Ashley Little – 2017 Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence
Audience Photo – Taking Flight
Maria Kouznetsova – WLU Waterloo
ESA Executive Members – from left to right: Daniella Cavallini, Heather Hattle, Manreet Lachhar
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!
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!
On Oct. 5, The Department ran an event in the Paul Martin Centre: Employment Opportunities for English, Film Studies, and other Arts Students. Our graduate students were clearly interested in the subject matter of this event, and indeed provided the impetus for its development.
The Dean of Arts, Richard Nemesvari, opened the proceedings with Remarks concerning myths about the underemployment of Arts graduates. Laura Bolton, from the Career Centre, and Robin Waugh then offered a dialogue called “How to Apply for Non-Academic versus Academic Positions,” which provoked many questions from students. David Cuff, from the Office of Research Services, then delivered a talk on “How to Secure High Quality Training for Research Assistants in Grants,” and this topic was continued by two faculty members from our Department, Jenny Kerber and Katherine Spring, and one Professor Emeritus, Paul Tiessen, who outlined the specific tasks that Research Assistants had performed as part of their employment under federal granting programs. Kyra Jones wrapped up the event with her talk, entitled “Taking your Teaching Experience beyond Academia.” Finally Robin Waugh read aloud Closing Remarks by Tamas Dobozy, the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
I heard very positive responses from several students, who also thanked the Department for putting together an event on this topic. Special thanks to the Dean of Arts Office for providing funding for the event, and to all speakers, who gave so generously of their time—I know the advice concerning employment was greatly appreciated. Thanks to Joanne Buchan for arranging the room and the snacks: strudel, fruit, and other sweet items. In sum a very successful event.
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.
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.
Danielle LeDuc read her amazing story, “War: A People’s History” which was surprisingly not about the kind of war you’d imagine.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.