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Colloquium 2016: Presenters and Abstracts

We are pleased to announce that our second annual conference, The Colloquium, will be hosted on Saturday, January 30th, featuring presentations by undergraduate students and faculty members! The Colloquium will take place in the Dodson Room in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre from noon until 6pm, and food and refreshments will be provided during two breaks. The Colloquium is open to everyone—students and members of the public; be sure to reserve a free ticket here.

Colloquium Presenters:

Undergraduate Students

Click on the presenter’s name to view their biography and abstract.

Taylor Tomko – ‘Why Dost Thou Laugh?’: Theatricality and Humour in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus

Alexandra Valahu – Bebop and the Beats: How did Modern Jazz influence the writers of the Beat Generation? A study of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

Laina Deer-Ferris – The Deadly Art of Imperialism: Asian Representation in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Jane Shi – Colonialism, A Ghost Story: Tracing Disavowals of Spirituality in Alice Perrin’s “Caulfield’s Crime,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Story of the Brown Hand,” and W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Taipan”

Sebastien Wen – Tweety Birds and Slacktivism in the Modern Culture Industry

Faculty Members

Dr. Robert Rouse – Here be dragones: medieval literature, ecology, and environmental hope

Dr. Tiffany Potter –Just for now? Thinking with Jane Austen about the Present and Future of Popular Culture’s Past

Dr. Adam Frank – Radio Free Stein: Sonic Stagings of the Plays of Gertrude Stein

Taylor Tomko

Taylor Tomko is a fourth year English Literature student at UBC, with an interest in vulgarity in Renaissance texts. After a brief stint at the University of Edinburgh, Taylor has returned to her hometown of Vancouver and never intends to leave UBC. Ever.

Why Dost Thou Laugh?’: Theatricality and Humour in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus


Of William Shakespeare’s tragedies, Titus Andronicus is the most physically excessive; ten deaths take place onstage, multiple characters lose appendages, and a mother eats the flesh of her own sons baked into a pie. Yet, somehow, audience members and characters alike are able to laugh at the events of this play. While this may seem preposterous, this paper will argue that Titus Andronicus can be read in these backward terms: as a piece of Saturnalia. This paper argues that the text has comedic aspects that are largely demonstrated through the spectacle derived from the Elizabethan fascination with public executions, freak shows and Roman carnivals. Historical context and a comparison to Thomas Kyd’s earlier work The Spanish Tragedy is used to situate the Renaissance revenge tragedy genre within the context of public executions as popular entertainment. Julie Taymor’s 1999 feature film Titus is used as a visual aid to this comparison, as will literary critic Peter Stallybrass’ definition of the grotesque from his work “Patriarchal Territories: Enclosing the Body”. An overview of the ‘carnivalesque’ setting of Titus Andronicus is followed by close readings of the jokes and instances of laughter in the play, and moments of grotesque and bodily violence in order to compare them to Stallybrass’ view of the grotesque. This paper strives to answer the question “why dost thou laugh” at Titus Andronicus, by presenting it as a tragic farce, rooted in the traditions of grotesque comedy and the preposterous Roman carnival (Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, 3.1.364).

Alexandra Valahu

Alexandra Valahu is a 3rd year student at UBC and is currently pursuing a double major in English Literature and Political Science. She is working as a translator for Terre des Hommes (based in Switzerland) and hopes to work in political journalism and fiction writing after completing her degree.

Bebop and the Beats: How did Modern Jazz influence the writers of the Beat Generation? A study of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch


Using my research paper as a basis, I propose to further investigate in what ways and to what extent modern jazz influenced the Beats, stylistically and structurally. The scope of the presentation will be limited to the two novels On the Road and Naked Lunch, but it also will deal with other famous Bebop sheet music in order to draw comparisons and analyze similar styles between the prose and the music.

The presentation will focus on the specific aspects of Beat Generation prose inspired by modern jazz. Extensive analysis of the syntax and form of both novels shows rhythm, beat and improvisation similar to modern jazz. By listening to Bebop and analyzing the sheet music of various pieces, I am better able to understand the source of the unpremeditated and rarely punctuated style of Kerouac and Burroughs. I will expand on the paper research and focus specifically on the technical aspects of Bebop music in parallel to the Beat writings. I will also incorporate snippets of several Bebop pieces and verbal examples of the texts in order to put forth a comprehensive theory.

Through studies of Beat prose and Bebop songs, I am able to explain how modern jazz made an impact on and greatly influenced the Beat writers: Bebop gave way to a distinctive, innovative style of writing, an exploratory lifestyle and avant-gardist ways of thinking.

Laina Deer-Ferris

Laina is a fourth year English student at UBC, with a Diploma in Fine Arts from Langara College.  Current obsessions include the Gothic, Costume history, and dolls.

The Deadly Art of Imperialism: Asian Representation in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


In February 2016, the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set for international release. Somewhat in anticipation of this cinematic event, my paper examines the representation of Asian martial arts in the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Since the debut of PPZ in 2009, critics have examined themes of gender and class in Grahame-Smith’s adaptation, but few have given his treatment of race the full scrutiny it deserves. After beginning with a brief contextualization of Austin’s Regency England and its relations with China and Japan, I will begin to look at the ways in which Grahame-Smith, from the perspective of 21st century America, both problematizes and replicates the constructs of Western imperialism. To do this, my paper focuses on the character of Master Liu, who teaches the Bennet sisters martial arts in China and Lady Catherine, who employs Japanese ninjas and appropriates a kimono.

Master Liu, on the one hand, is portrayed as an amalgamation of various Hollywood tropes of helpful Asian martial arts masters. In this capacity, he is “beloved,’ and yet is conspicuously lacking in individual personal or physical traits. By stripping Master Liu of individual characterization in favour of Hollywood tropes, Grahame-Smith undermines Master Liu’s potential (albeit temporary) authority over the white and British Bennet sisters, erases any image of power residing in an Asian body (due to its invisibility), and reduces Master Liu into a de-individualised, bamboo object that carries with it connotations of racialized commodification and easy consumption for Westernized readers. On the other hand, Master Liu’s authority over Elizabeth is also portrayed as patriarchal and arguably damaging, implying that Asian masculinity is not only oppressive to all women, but aids Western imperialism.

Later in the text, Philip Smiley’s illustrations that come with standard editions of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies depict Lady Catherine in a kimono-like garment twice, each time surrounded by ninjas and inside a recognizably (but generic) Asian interior. These representations of Lady Catherine visually link her to at least two well known American martial arts films that feature the Dragon Lady trope: the yakuza boss Lady Tanaka in The Punisher (1989), who makes her last stand in a black and white kimono, and her cinematic descendant O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill (2003). Yet if Western audiences are meant to feel visual pleasure from the decisive defeat of these Asian dragon ladies because they are Asian and defiant, then it seems particularly significant that Lady Catherine, a Western dragon lady, survives.

Jane Shi

Jane Shi is a fourth-year English Honours and Asian Canadian and Asian Migration student living on the unceded, ancestral, and traditional territories of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm peoples. She edits for The Talon UBC and The Garden Statuary. She has never written a ghost story, but some of her poems float about on the Internet, anonymous and ghostly.

Colonialism, A Ghost Story: Tracing Disavowals of Spirituality in Alice Perrin’s “Caulfield’s Crime,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Story of the Brown Hand,” and W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Taipan”


Spectres of colonized bodies and space haunt precisely because they reveal an epistemological failure, an unease, within the secular religion of empire. How colonial authors depict indigenous ghosts in their stories reveals how such unease and failure are mediated. In light of postcolonial criticisms of Victorian, Gothic, and ghost literature, I take up Homi K. Bhabha’s interlocking concepts of hybridity and disavowal to trace ambivalent articulations of colonial power in Alice Perrin’s “Caulfield’s Crime,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Story of the Brown Hand,” and W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Taipan.” Taking place in colonial India and Hong Kong of the Victorian and post-Victorian eras, these ghost stories express and conceptualize the disavowal of both colonized and colonizing spiritualities through the medicalization and collection of indigenous bodies, sports-hunting, capitalist accumulation, and commodification of land and death. This common disavowal of spirituality formulates the ‘colonial ghost story’ as a distinctive genre, and I thus argue that further readings of colonial ghost stories can generate useful analyses of how colonialism operates across different contexts.

Sebastien Wen

Sebastien Wen is the 2014 National Youth Slam Champion and the 2014 Vancouver Youth Slam Champion. His poetry has featured in literary journals across the country, including Arc, Vallum and Prairie Fire. He studies Honours English Literature and Creative Writing.

Title: Tweety Birds and Slacktivism in the Modern Culture Industry


In 1963, Theodor Adorno wrote an essay called “Culture Industry Reconsidered”, which
has since become a quintessential text when addressing questions regarding media and society. The world today, however, is quite different than the one Adorno was writing in. “Tweety Birds and Slacktivism in the Modern Culture Industry” seeks to bridge this temporal gap, examining the potential applications of Adorno’s thinking in modern contexts, focusing specifically on Twitter and the effects of viral campaigns such as “#BringBackOurGirls” and “Kony 2012”. Teju Cole and his insight into the dynamics of race and class in relation to these campaigns serves as a guiding influence while examining these phenomena. Cole’s work on “The White-Savior
Industrial Complex” and “Object Lesson” are cross referenced with Adorno’s work in order to “update” what is now a text over fifty years old.

“Tweety Birds…” seeks to demonstrate that while Adorno was wrong in predicting film as the major culprit for the maintenance of today’s Culture Industry, he was nonetheless right that such a term ought to exist. Today, the Culture Industry manifests itself not through the rapidly shifting markets of cinema, but through our mass interactions with the digital media of “pseudotruths”, which simplify the complex troubles of our day while garnering profit and influence for producers in the process. “Tweety Birds…” also seeks to put pressure on Adorno’s potentially simplistic attitude towards “the masses”. Ultimately, “Tweety Birds…” is an experiment on the intersections of editorial and academic. It is a personal essay on the merits of cinema, a meditation on the dynamics of The Zolom’s Children, and a rant on the perils of avian aggression.

Dr. Robert Rouse

Robert Rouse teaches Medieval Literature at the University of British Columbia.  His research has been primarily concerned with medieval romance (both Arthurian and non-Arthurian), writing on issues of historiography (in particular post-conquest perceptions of the Anglo-Saxon Past), English national identity, saracens and other medieval others, the law, the medieval erotic, and – most recently – the medieval geographical imagination.  He has published two books and numerous articles on medieval romance and culture.

He spent the 2011-12 academic year as a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge (July 2011 – April 2012), as a Visiting Fellow in the Culture and Politics of the Transregional at The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Science and Humanities at Cambridge (January – March 2012), and as Slater Visiting Fellow at University College, University of Durham (April – June 2012).

Here be dragones: medieval literature, ecology, and environmental hope



When we think of attitudes towards the environment in medieval Europe, our imagination draws towards the pre-ecological. Typically understood as a world prior to the modern obsessions with overstressed natural resources, environmental degradation, and conservational anxiety, the medieval is read by many ecocritics as either a pastoral state of harmonious balance between man and nature, or as an example of the pre-dominant struggle in a world of overwhelming natural threats: i.e., the wolves are either content in the endless forest, or ravening at the door.

Through a reading of parts of the Middle English poem Kyng Alisaunder, I hope to reveal the complexity of medieval thought on matters of nature and oikos, culture and the non-human other. Alexander, as the preeminent world-conqueror of medieval (and ancient) legend, productively combines discourses of Empire, Colonization, and Identity Politics with an interest in the natural ‘wonders of the East’. In his negotiations with otherness – human, animal, and vegetal – Alexander offers us a surprisingly nuanced – and, I argue, hopeful – account of the complexities of the culture/nature fallacy.

Dr. Tiffany Potter

Tiffany Potter teaches eighteenth-century studies in the department of English at the University of British Columbia. Her research continues to evolve, from earlier work on libertinism and gender in eighteenth-century fiction, to representations of indigenous women in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century North American contact and captivity narratives, and most recently into popular culture studies, in the form of co-edited volumes on HBO’s The Wire and on Battlestar Galactica, and in projects on relationships among eighteenth-century women and notions of the popular. Her seventh book came out in 2015, and she is currently working on her eighth.  She was awarded the Killam teaching prize in 2015.

Just for now? Thinking with Jane Austen about the Present and Future of Popular Culture’s Past


“Popular culture” may be a twentieth-century coinage, but certain kinds of writing have been “base” and “low” forever. This talk will examine the relationships among the social notions and critical theorizations of elite, popular, and literature (sometimes with a capital-L) over the last two centuries, using Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a case study.  Austen’s work will be situated first in terms of eighteenth-century notions of the popular.  Then we will use Pride and Prejudice: The Wild and Wanton Edition and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to consider the ways in which Austen’s canonical piece of Literature functions as agent and object of twenty-first century popular writing, and of the ideological and political work that popular writing performs.

Dr. Adam Frank

Adam Frank’s essays on affect, media, and American literature have appeared in ELHCriticismCritical Inquiry, and elsewhere. He has written Transferential Poetics, from Poe to Warhol (Fordham University Press, 2015), co-edited, with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Shame and Its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader (Duke University Press, 1995), and produced two full-length recorded audiodramas, Overpass! A Melodrama (alien8recording, 2007) and Some Mad Scientists (2010). He teaches courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, media, and poetics, histories and theories of affect and feeling, and science and technology studies. He is Director of the Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies at UBC.

Adam Frank’s current research includes Radio Free Stein, a SSHRC-funded project that adapts a number of Gertrude Stein’s plays into the medium of recorded sound, and (with Elizabeth Wilson) A Silvan Tomkins Handbook.

Radio Free Stein: Sonic Stagings of the Plays of Gertrude Stein


Radio Free Stein is a large-scale critical sound project that adapts several of Gertrude Stein’s lesser-known plays into the medium of recorded sound. It is a widely collaborative project that involves poets and critics, composers and musicians, actors and directors, and sound artists and technicians in Vancouver, Atlanta, New York City, Montreal, and elsewhere. The project is committed to finding techniques for letting Stein’s writing make as much (and as many different kinds of) sense as it may, especially musical sense. Its motivations are, in large part, critical. The process of producing sonic stagings of these plays lets me arrive at new ways to think about and interpret them. My presentation will describe the collaborative nature of Radio Free Stein as well as its theoretical background in ideas about group psychology. I will also play some examples.

We would like to acknowledge that this event will take place upon the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.

We’d also like to thank our sponsor CiTR Radio for their support.


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