The 50th Anniversary has wrapped up, but there's plenty going on in the English department at Waterloo. We have a new facebook page and a new blog. There's a conference coming up, and a whole crew of new students starting programs and continuing their education. If you're inspired to support our continuing efforts to combine tradition, innovation, and experimentation, please consider making a donation to the department funds, which we use for scholarships, prizes, and projects.
If you have comments or ideas for future issues, please write the Editor, Katherine Acheson.
We have so enjoyed renewing our connections with you during this past year of 50th anniversary events celebrating the English Language and Literature at Waterloo. Marking the milestone taught us much about the diverse career and personal pathways to which your English degrees have led. Many of you write, or help others write, for a living as editors, journalists, teachers, and public relations experts. You have shown us that the BA often marks the beginning of lifelong adventures in learning that can take you all around the world. Some of your stories can be found on the 50th website.
If you attended any of our 50th events, then you were also part of a broader community engagement that included re-establishing ties with retired faculty and inviting the Kitchener-Waterloo community at large to come see what English Faculty and students are doing now. Around 40 people braved glacial temperatures to hear former and current students Marcy Italiano, Carrie-Anne Snyder, Christine Fischer-Guy, and Emily Fraser-Jeffries read their fiction and poetry at February’s Creative Writers’ Evening. The Cabs of Curiosity event at the Department’s downtown Kitchener Critical Media Lab attracted more than 125 people in early April to view undergraduate and graduate student arcade projects, which are now on permanent display at THEMUSEUM. The debate between Christopher Hitchens (via video-link) and Barry Brummett closed the year of events on an especially high note, filling the Hagey Hall Theatre of the Humanities and generating much discussion during the reception that followed about the debate resolution, “Religion has been a positive force in culture.” We have a video clip that will remind you of the occasion if you were there, and make you wish you were if you weren't!
The 50th is past, but not our commitment to keeping up to date with you and you up-to-date with us. We've started a new department blog, managed by Linda Warley. Please check it out and stay in touch.
On September 22 - 25, the Department's Critical Media Lab (CML) will be hosting the 25th annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSA). This is a major international meeting with over 250 speakers, including plenary talks by media philosopher Bernard Stiegler (Centre Pompidou, Paris) and philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles). The conference theme is "Pharmakon," the Greek word for medicine and poison, and a powerful concept in the history of rhetoric, philosophy, and literary theory. In addition to panels of speakers and plenary addresses, there will be a major exhibition of art at the Critical Media Lab and Artery Gallery, ranging from textiles, painting, and sculpture to sensor-based digital media.
The conference will be spread throughout the city of Kitchener so that participants can interact with the public art on display at the biennial of the Contemporary Art Forum of Kitchener and Area (CAFKA). Venues include the Delta Hotel (conference headquarters), THEMUSEUM, and Kitchener City Hall. The Department of English is offering tickets for a one-day conference experience on Saturday, September 24 that includes a tour of Rethinking Art & Media at THEMUSEUM, a conference panel talk by artists in the “Pharmakon” exhibition, and a reception at the CML.
My dissertation, Trauma and Beyond: Ethical and Cultural Constructions of 9/11 in American Fiction, focuses on a set of American novels that deal with the events of 9/11 and analyzes how they have shaped the tragedy through literary language, narrative and imagination. While political, religious, sociological, psychological and media-related analyses of 9/11 have flourished, literature has showed a resistance to “fictionalize” and “tell” what appeared like a painful and incommensurable “excess of reality” in the cultural history of the United States. It is only recently that complex novelistic responses and literary criticism started to burgeon on this topic.
Identifying thematic and stylistic differences in novels such as Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (2007), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), Lynne Sharon Schwartz The Writing on the Wall (2005) and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children (2007), Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs (2009) and John Updike’s Terrorist (2006), I distinguish between novels that represent directly the jolts of trauma in the wake of the attacks and novels that, while still holding the events as an underlying operative force in the narrative, do not represent them and either anticipate their occurrence or imagine their long-term aftermath.My analysis highlights ethical forms of relationship between authors, characters and readers that pursue integration and empathy inside the narrative. Additionally, it investigates the socio-cultural critique of post-9/11 America by looking at how the genre of the novel has expressed identity and imagined alterity after the attacks, and how it has used them to rearticulate long-submerged fears and/or introduce new concerns and hopes in American culture.
To kick off our 2011-12 Reading Series, we are proud to have Drew Hayden Taylor read for us on Wednesday, September 21. His most recent books are the novel Motorcycles and Sweetgrass ("A story of magic, family, a mysterious stranger . . . and a band of marauding raccoons"), and the play, Dead White Writer on the Floor.
Join us September 21 at 4:30 in Siegfried Hall -- the readings are free, and all are welcome! Please spread the word and encourage others to attend.
For more information, please visit us online at the Reading Series website and our blog.
The Reading Series acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Art, which last year invested $40.3 million in the arts in Ontario.
According to the QS World University Rankings for 2011, Waterloo English stands among the top 150 English departments in the world, and the top twelve in Canada. This is wonderful news for the Department, its students, and its graduates, and a tribute to the work of so many visionary faculty members over the 51 years of the Department's existence.
This is the first year that QS has broken out university rankings by humanities disciplines. As a whole, uWaterloo is ranked by QS as the 160th best university in the world. But along with the overall good ranking of the University of Waterloo, the impressive showing of UW English is great vote of confidence in the Department and a significant reputational accomplishment.
Without placing undue emphasis on one assessment by a single agency, being rated one of the top English departments in the world has special significance for our Department:
1. It provides additional evidence for what our students and graduates have long known: that Waterloo English is a leader in literary and rhetorical education and confers degrees to be proud of.
2. As an assessment by an international agency based in the UK, it sheds light on the tremendous success of our recruitment of international students into the MA and PhD degrees in English. In recent years, students from Russia, France, Italy, the U.S., South Korea, Iran, Iraq, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil, among other countries, have entered and thrived in our graduate programs.
3. It reminds us that the reputation of uWaterloo depends as much on the research and scholastic achievements of the humanities and social sciences as it does on the achievements of traditionally scientific and technological disciplines.
4. And, finally, these rankings challenge us not only to live up to our past successes, but to continue to work hard at our goal of being a leading Department of English in Canada in undergraduate as well as graduate education and research.
Our heartfelt thanks to all the students, faculty, alumni and supporters whose commitment has contributed to this important achievement.