The Fourth Annual Colloquium: Presenters and Abstracts

The English Students’ Association is excited to present the fourth annual Colloquium! This conference features presentations from English undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members. The Colloquium offers the opportunity to share your work and discuss ideas with other students and faculty members in the English Department. Everyone is welcome to attend!

When: 12 – 4 PM on Saturday, January 20, 2018
Where:  Dodson Room (3rd Floor), Irving K. Barber Learning Centre

The Colloquium is free and will include a catered lunch with vegetarian options available. RSVP on our Facebook page and reserve a spot through Eventbrite!

Faculty Presenters

Ray Hsu is Faculty Supervisor at the Emerging Media Lab. Author of two award-winning books, Dr. Hsu has also had digital media artwork exhibited in Paris and Singapore. Their areas of interest include virtual reality, augmented reality, and neurotechnology, especially with application to education.

Ray will talk about why you don’t need skills to work on stuff that is awesome.

Laura Moss, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She teaches Canadian and African, particularly South African, literatures. Having served as associate editor of the journal Canadian Literature since 2004, Moss became the editor of the journal in 2015. In addition to her five edited books on postcolonialism and Canadian writing, Moss has published articles on the work of M.G. Vassanji, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, Chinua Achebe, Rohinton Mistry, and Antje Krog, among others, and has recently written on literary pedagogy, narrative competence, public arts policy in Canada, and public memorials.

Modified Seeds and Morphemes: Going From Farm to Page

In “On Being an Alberta Writer,” Robert Kroetsch explained that the goal of his long poem Seed Catalogue was to create a kind of palimpsest by setting the historical object of the catalogue alongside living voices. Thirty years later, Rita Wong added new layers to the palimpsest of prairie farming in poems such as “Canola Queasy” and “Nervous Organism”— poems that challenge the impact of genetic modification on plants and animals through poetically modified language. At the same time, in her verbatim docudrama, Seeds, Annabel Soutar added to the palimpsest by turning to the case of patent infringement against Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser by chemical giant Monsanto. In this presentation, I will explore the ways in which artists have cultivated what Wong calls the necessary “dialogue we need to face scary, interrelated phenomena like social and environmental injustice, pollution and global warming.” I will address such “scary interrelated phenomenon” by focusing on creative responses to seed practices and agribusiness in work by Kroestch, Wong, and Soutar that has, at different times, explored both the politics and the poetics of seed production.

Judy Segal is a rhetorical theorist and critic whose research is, primarily, on the persuasive element in texts involved in the conduct of medicine and in the experience of health and illness (such texts as medical-journal articles, health web sites, health-policy documents, patient narratives, and pharmaceutical advertisements).  In some cases, speakers’ attempts to be persuasive are well recognized: for example, pharmaceutical marketers are often happy to take credit for consumer persuasion. In other cases, speakers themselves—authors of clinical-trial reports, for example—may be unaware of the rhetorical devices they deploy as a matter of course in their writing. Professor Segal finds health/medical discourse endlessly interesting, and finds understanding its rhetoric endlessly useful.

A Rhetorician Visits the FDA

In October, 2014, I attended, at the Headquarters of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a “Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting.”  The meeting was held to explore what the FDA called an “unmet need” for a drug to treat “Female Sexual Dysfunction.”  I took copious notes on the day, and, in particular, recorded persuasive strategies used on the FDA itself by a pharmaceutical company that had an FSD drug ready to market. A few months after the meeting, the FDA posed at its web site its official report of proceedings; it was called, “The Voice of the Patient.” In my talk, I will compare the FDA’s record of the meeting with my own.  I will argue that, while we were, technically, at the same meeting, FDA staffers and I were, rhetorically, at very different ones.  What the FDA presented for web-site publication was an account cleansed of evidence of pharmaceutical-company influence. Their document looks like, simply, a report—an objective, observational, account of the meeting.  In fact, the document has a strong persuasive element.  My analysis sheds some light on the FDA’s drug-approval process.




Post-Doc / Graduate Presenters

Miriam Helmers is a graduate of the University of Toronto with a BA in English. She also completed a BA in Theology in Rome, Italy but is now currently pursuing her goal of becoming a professor of English, her first love. She has worked as a high school teacher, been involved in many youth mentorship programs and activities, and currently tutors part-time. She considers herself both a dedicated educator and a perpetual student. In 2017, she began a Masters in English Language at UBC and will apply for PhD programs in December.

Embodied Experiences in Dickens

This paper briefly examines Dickens’s use of narrative description as a “multimodal” experience. Multimodality implies using more than the written word, whereas Dickens uses the written word to draw on all our senses, figuratively speaking (literally), to create an embodied experience in our reading of his novels. A few examples from his early comic novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) shows how he achieves this through different types of rich imagery that allow the reader to imaginatively access an array of bodily experience. The paper engages with psychologist Herbert Clark’s linguistic category of “performative depiction” and the traditional depiction-description split that he bases his experiments on. His radical separation of “depiction” from “description” is undermined by Dickens’s particularly depictive description, which renders the distinction unnecessary or even unproductive in narrative critique.

Katrina Sellinger is in her second year of the English MA program at UBC. Her work focuses broadly on texts at the intersection of Blackness and queerness, and often returns to Janelle Monáe’s “Metropolis Saga.”

I Will Love Who I Am: Afrofuturist Imaginings in Janelle Monáe’s “Q.U.E.E.N.”

In the introduction to a special issue of Social Text journal on Afrofuturism, sociologist Alondra Nelson says that in “popular mythology” around technology and the future, “blackness gets constructed as always oppositional to technologically driven chronicles of progress.” Performing artist Janelle Monáe pushes back against this idea in her music by creating a vision of the future where black people are not in opposition to technology but are in fact technological themselves. Monáe’s work defies the trappings of genre; her songs seamlessly blend funk, rap, rock, R&B, and even opera at times, creating a sound that denies the listener the ability to limit her work to a single stylistic category. This refusal of categorization is in part because her music attempts to envision a future far beyond our current moment. In order to fully explore this future world she imagines, Monáe’s project spans across her albums, creating  what she has called the “Metropolis Saga.” Through the “Metropolis Saga,” Monáe engages with the works of Afrofuturist artists before her, citing Afrofuturist author Octavia Butler as one of her inspirations on her website. She also recognizes the inspiration black musical artists have given her sound, with the album title referencing Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, as well as through her collaborations with artists like Prince and Erykah Badu. In the “emotion picture” for her song Q.U.E.E.N., Janelle Monáe works with the audio-visual medium to create a possible future that pays homage to an Afrofuturist tradition and centers black queer women in that world.

Christine “Xine” Yao is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and will be taking up the position of lecturer in English at University College London. She holds a PhD in English from Cornell University. Her articles and other writings have appeared or are forthcoming in J19, Occasion, Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life, American Gothic Culture: An Edinburgh Companion, Canadian Literature, and College Literature. She is working on a book manuscript about the racial, sexual, and cultural politics of unfeeling in long nineteenth-century America.

Brown People, Yellow Girls: Survival and Solidarity as Woman of Color Critique

How does our situated position as women and femmes of color influence our scholarship? Xine reflects on her experience of survival through solidarity with women and femmes of color community during the first year of her postdoc at UBC in relation to her forthcoming essay on black-Asian counterintimacies in Sui Sin Far’s Jamaican writings. This presentation combines personal and academic writing as a deliberate form of scholarly praxis.

Undergraduate Presenters

Mabon Foo is a second-year English Honours student who is also planning to minor in Creative Writing. He intends to focus on 19th and 20th century British and American literature, and is particularly interested in the history and politics of science and how they have influenced these works.

A Class-Conditioned Utopia: Brave New World and the British Eugenics Movement

This paper aims to illustrate the influence of British eugenic ideas and policies in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World by presenting a historical overview of the British Eugenics movement and using it as a basis for analyzing the symbolic and metaphoric significance of the society that governs the novel. The first section of the paper initially traces the origins of eugenics among the class divisions of 19th century British society, then discusses the popularization of eugenics at the turn of the century, focusing particularly on the creation of the Eugenics Education Society, the Moral Deficiency Act, and the failed sterilization movement of the early 1930s. It does not attempt to cover the eugenics movement in any country other than Britain, but overall conclusions will be drawn that emphasize the conservative nature of British Eugenics in comparison to other countries in Europe and North America. The second section begins by positioning the novel as part of a scientific utopian/dystopian literary tradition stemming from the beginning of the 19th century and identifying Aldous Huxley’s place among this circle of writers and scientists. It then proceeds to identify the eugenic significance of the novel’s society, centering around its elaborate caste system, which involves test tube in vitro fertilization, hypnopaedic and environmental conditioning, segregation, sterilization and population control. Through a discussion of all these procedures, an overall conclusion will be drawn that the novel reflects a characteristically British moderate stance on eugenics, with its class divisions attributed to both hereditary and environmental factors. Together, the two sections are intended to approach the novel from both a literary and history of science perspective.

Olivia Lim is a third-year English Literature student in the English Honours Program. Currently working in STEM education, she is interested in exploring literature’s relationship with science, technology, and the environment by studying literature from these interdisplinary perspectives.

Examining Global Ecological Interconnection: Ecopoetics in Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs

As taking drastic steps to protect earth’s ecosystems becomes a necessity, questions of connection and responsibility surrounding environmental pollution and other forms of ecological destruction have become increasingly critical within the 21st century. In This Connection of Everyone with Lungs, Juliana Spahr examines dimensions of political and ecological interconnection and collective responsibility in an increasingly global ecosystem following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq War. While Spahr’s later works such as What Then There Now have been noted for their ecopoetics, This Connection of Everyone with Lungs has not been subject to as much ecocritical analysis despite being laden with ecological imagery. What concerns does an ecocritical reading of the text point to? Specifically, how does the emphasis on interconnection between the personal and private convey pollution’s global and transnational nature? What are the environmental implications of global connection regarding pollution? Spahr’s ecopoetics offers an inclusive understanding of ecological interconnection that refutes anthropocentric politics of disconnection and isolation. Her poetry interrogates our understanding of shared ecologies as we become more aware of the environmentally damaging effects of human actions. Prompted by the tragic events of 9/11, Spahr offers a reconsideration of the extent and meaning of global connection in the context of ecological and political violence. Both the imagery and genre of the poems suggests a need to reframe our understanding of ecological connection through a globalized perspective that emphasizes interconnection between the personal and the public. Ultimately, Spahr’s poetry advocates for an ecopocentric rather than anthropocentric understanding of global connection by reflecting on the compressed globality of the current historical moment and refuting the politics of isolation held within anthropocentric ecological discourse.

Chimedum Ohaegbu is a second-year English literature major and is also hoping to double major in creative writing. She is interested in the macabre and the fantastic, especially in new media and new perspectives on the old.

Proto-Gothicism in the Scottish Play

The history of the Gothic genre is as fulsome as the opulence and horror it revels in, from the works of Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe to those of Mary Shelley and Angela Carter. Horace Walpole’s novella The Castle of Otranto, widely considered to be the first of the genre, both draws from and inspires the perpetuation of such tropes. A genre with multiple inspirations and potential origin stories, the Gothic nevertheless draws obvious and subtle influence from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The paper will argue in favour of this theory by drawing comparisons and contrasts between Macbeth’s witches, storms, corrupt aristocrats, and gloomy portents in relation to The Castle of Otranto’s similar supernatural and exaggeratedly natural elements (literally speaking, in that nature and weather play a significant role in both works). The paper first examines the role of predestination versus free will for both works, then the emergence of pathetic fallacy and the influence in each work of supernatural elements. Following this, a close reading of femininity as expressed by the Gothic and proto-Gothic will be undertaken, culminating in the conclusion that the two works are more related than might initially appear. By doing this, the paper aims to take the spotlight off of Hamlet as Walpole’s primary inspiration to show that Macbeth has held similar sway over Otranto and hence the Gothic tradition as a whole, a way of diversifying points of origin such that the richness of the genre is represented in the diversity of its inspirations.


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