Student Awards

The annual student awards reception was held on April 9th when the following English students were presented with their prizes:

Shawn Hunt
The Beryl Rowland Book Prize

2019 Student Awards Shawn Hunt with Dr. Diane Piccitto
Dr. Diane Piccitto presenting the Beryl Rowland Book Prize to Shawn Hunt

Alexia Major
Sister Marie Agnes Prize in English

2019 Student Awards Alexia Major with Dr. Diane Piccitto
Alexia Major receiving the Sister Marie Agnes Prize in English from Dr. Diane Piccitto

Sam VanNorden
The English Department Literary Prize

2019 Student Awards. Samantha VanNorden with Dr. Karen Macfarlane
Dr. Karen Macfarlane presenting the English Department Literary Prize to Sam VanNorden

You can find these photos and more on the Mount’s photostream on Flickr here:


Adapting the Bard: MSVU English Students Pull Out All the Stops with Shakespeare

by Dr. Diane Piccitto

This term, students in ENGL 2201: Shakespeare were tasked with a group assignment called a Dramatic Adaptation, in which students were challenged to produce their vision for an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s plays. They certainly rose to this challenge! In small groups, students chose a play that we had discussed in the course and presented their concept for staging the text, taking on the role of director.

ENGL 2201 is an intensive full-year course focused on the four main genres of Shakespearean dramaturgy (comedy, tragedy, history, romance), examining a selection of plays in their historical and performative contexts. The course includes a number of performance exercises, which are based on the premise that to understand Shakespeare fully one must understand what it means to stage his drama—a very explicit mode of experiential learning. The Dramatic Adaptation assignment asks students to design a theatrical or cinematic concept for a play based on their interpretation of it, assuming that they have an unlimited budget and a very skilled crew at their disposal for any effects that they wish to incorporate.

Throughout this course, students have performed abridged versions of plays, read scenes aloud, considered certain film and stage versions, and enacted scenes. Building on this experience, the Dramatic Adaptation assignment is a chance for students to bring it all together and take a hands-on approach to Shakespeare and performance. On 11 March 2019, students presented their vision of their selected text in ten minutes or less to the class followed by a question and answer period. The result was one of the most dynamic sessions we have had to date! Here is a brief outline of the various adaptations, produced by hard work, innovative ideas, and interpretive skills

  • As You Like It
    • A mix of reality television and bro culture, this staging involved producing an episode of a TV show, which highlighted the melodramatic lovers, homoerotic desire, and humour of the original play. Keep an eye out for the encounter between Oliver and Celia—not your typical meet cute:
  • Hamlet
    • Taking the tragedy out of Shakespeare’s most famous play, this group presented a Wes Anderson-style film trailer—Dear Ophelia—depicting Hamlet as an oddball artist with the Mount providing the setting. Don’t miss the non-duel between Hamlet and Laertes, which is sure to have you giggling: :
  • King Lear
    • Lear is the jock who needs to be taught a lesson, Goneril and Regan the mean girls who antagonize him, and Cordelia the girl who can bring him redemption in this high school re-imagining that does away with family drama to examine the trials and tribulations of teen life.
King Lear as told in a High School
  • The Taming of the Shrew
    • Set in the world of a 1970s fashion magazine, this adaptation tackles the misogyny of the original play by turning its gender politics on its head. Kate is the powerful CEO and editor choosing Pet(ruccio) as her husband to expand her empire. Check out the cover of Kate’s current magazine issue:
ENGL 2201 magazine cover for The Taming of the Shrew
  • Titus Andronicus
    • Have you ever wondered what a Michael Bay-esque Shakespearean play might look like? Well, this group did and provided the answer with a blockbuster of the Roman revenge tragedy filled with explosions and general mayhem and a protagonist making characters die harder than ever before. Watch their trailer:
ENGL 2201 movie poster for Titus Andronicus
Movie poster for Titus Andronicus

With this assignment, the five groups demonstrated that boldly analyzing canonical texts, taking creative risks, and having a strong sense of team work can yield wonderfully productive results. The students of ENGL 2201 have inspired each other and me as their instructor all year, and we will all leave the course with new insights on Shakespeare and performance as well as with enduring memories.

AAUEC 2019

 by Sam VanNorden

St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB

St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB

St. Thomas University hosted this year’s Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference (AAUEC) March 1-2. Five students represented the Mount––Rebecca Foster, Shawn Hunt, Michelle Russell, April Stevens, Samantha VanNorden––who each presented their respective academic papers or creative pieces. They were accompanied by Dr. Karen Macfarlane, Dr. Nathaniel Street, and English Society Co-President Darcy Eisan. The AAUEC, which was first held at the Mount 38 years ago and, most recently, last year, is a wonderful opportunity for undergraduate students not only to meet fellow English students from other universities, but also to showcase some of their work. The AAUEC runs like any other conference and allows students to see another side of academia outside of the classroom. It also is a great chance for students to learn new discoveries within the field. Above all, attending the AAUEC is a rich learning experience for both presenters and volunteers.

Mount students presented the following papers and creative pieces this year:

April Stevens presenting at AAUEC 2019

April Stevens

“____: Narrative, Perspective, and History” [erasure] by Michelle Russell

“Drowning in a Sorrowful Hall: ‘The Wife’s Lament’ Translated” by Rebecca Foster

“Funeral Play” by April Stevens

“A Poetics of Cartography: A New Narrative Form Found in the Collection of Maps and The Narrative Atlas” by Samantha VanNorden

“A Solitary Journey: An Experience in Translation” by Shawn Hunt

“We’re All Wile E. Coyote: A Psychogeographic Report of IKEA” by Michelle Russell

AAUEC 2019 Shawn Hunt and Rebecca Foster

Shawn Hunt (far left) and Rebecca Foster (far right)


Sam VanNorden is an English Honours student and Co-President of the English Society.

English Department Seminar Series: Dr. Nathaniel Street

Everyone is welcome to the last of this year’s English Department Seminars on Wednesday, March 27, 4:30, in Seton 404Dr. Nathaniel Street will be speaking on “Re-animating the Writing-Mind-Body Complex.”

English Department Seminar Dr. Nathaniel Street

Dramatic reading: Richard II

The English Department is hosting another event in its regular series of dramatic readings. This semester’s selection, Shakespeare’s Richard II, gives students, faculty, and staff a chance to get together for an informal reading of the play. Come read or just listen. Everyone is welcome!

Wednesday 27 February
4:30 p.m.
Seton 404

Dramatic reading of Richard II


2019 Honours Colloquium: Sam VanNorden

Our English Honours students take a full-year Honours Thesis course, supervised by a faculty member, to research a topic of their choice and to write a substantial thesis. As part of this independent work, they give a presentation to Department faculty and students. This week, Sam VanNorden will be speaking about her research on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which was supervised by Dr. Karen Macfarlane. Students and faculty are welcome to attend.

Sam VanNorden

“Verbal Semaphore. Amputated Speech”:
Wounded Language in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

Friday, February 15
10:30 a.m.
Seton 404

2019 Honours Colloquium Sam VanNorden



Studying hidden treasures in the MacDonald Collection

by Darcy Eisan

One way to judge the importance of items is the barrier designed to protect them. The books in the MacDonald Collection are safely guarded by locked glass bookcases, alarms ready to scream, and keenly observant library staff nearby. This level of security reveals the MacDonald Collection to be exactly what it is: a prized possession of the university nestled within a humble, quiet space for students to study.

What makes the collection so special is that it contains many unique books. These include first editions of prominent texts and authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and the infamously once-thieved The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Also present are other notably distinct texts including miniature versions of Shakespeare’s plays and a gorgeously illustrated Arabian Nights. Most artistically intricate are the books in the collection that are adorned with fore-edge paintings. These paintings are hidden treasures, only to appear on the edges of the pages (the “leaves”) when they are held in a deliberately revealing manner. Of course, none of this collection would exist without its benefactor and namesake, William MacDonald. He, a book collector by hobby, obtained and donated between 1951 and 1959 the books that would make up the present-day collection.

An example of fore-edge painting.

An example of fore-edge painting

Helpful librarians were keen to display parts of the collection (including the fore-edge paintings and much more!) when students from Dr. Anna Smol’s newly offered course, History of Writing, Reading, and the Book (ENGL/WRIT 2223) visited last fall to hear a talk by Librarian Emeritus Peter Glenister, a retired Mount librarian whose scholarly ambition has been dedicated to completing a survey of the collection in its entirety.

Peter Glenister, Librarian Emeritus, displaying MacDonald Collection books

In this course, students learned about how books came to exist and become culturally important; they discussed theories about authorship and about orality and textuality; they examined how digital culture is changing what has been known as the “communications circuit.” They also learned about the meticulous nature of the material process required to create and preserve physical books, by binders, gilders, publishing entities, printing presses, book conservators, the rise of various kinds of libraries, principles of scholarly editing, and more.

Students researching in the MacDonald Collection

The MacDonald Collection came to be a focal point of the course, as analyzing a specific text from the Collection was a major assignment. Each student became an amateur book historian, deciphering details about their selected nineteenth- or early twentieth-century text and comparing it to a modern edition while researching the history of the text’s publishers, illustrators, bookbinders, editors, intended readers, or authors and the role that these elements played in establishing that particular book’s cultural status.

The Mount is fortunate to have a special collection like this thanks to the dedication of someone like William MacDonald. We were also fortunate to have extremely helpful librarians, Peter Glenister, Katie Puxley, and Lindsey MacCallum, who provided extra research help to students. The collection, much like the fore-edge paintings it contains, is a hidden treasure, tucked away in the Library behind an inauspicious door, its windows providing only glimpses of the wonders inside. The question of the Collection’s monetary value was raised at Mr. Glenister’s lecture, and it became clear that its worth goes beyond financial measure when considering its cultural and academic value, which is priceless.

Darcy Eisan is a senior English Major who works part-time in the MSVU Library.

Horror movies / horror lit – Happy Halloween!

by Olivia Ingraham

There’s something magical about autumn – maybe it’s the changing colours of the leaves, the winds growing brisker as the winter draws near, or the distant scent of Pumpkin Spice Lattes wafting through the air. What I don’t understand, however, is how this enchanting time of year all somehow culminates in the inexplicable human desire to scare ourselves senseless. Haunted houses, corn mazes, scary movies, candy corn – all frights we voluntarily inflict upon ourselves as the celebration of Halloween approaches. But, in order to satisfy your inner cinephile, find your next haunting page turner, or fulfil your desire to scream for upwards of an hour, I have compiled a brief (yet very spooky) list of six horror movies adapted from literature.

House on Haunted Hill (horror movie poster)

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959/2018)

Loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, which was originally published in 1959, The Haunting of Hill House follows the story of the five Crain siblings as they revisit their horrific memories of Hill House, their childhood home. Although not technically a movie, this 10-episode series only recently released on Netflix has garnered a fair amount of attention for its effect on viewers, some viewers reporting to have vomited or even passed out while watching the show. So maybe ditch the candy corn if you opt to binge watch and bring something more practical – jack-o-lantern barf bucket, anyone?

2. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971/1973)

The original scare-you-half-to-death film, and largely cited as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, The Exorcist was actually based on a novel written by William Peter Blatty in 1971 (two years before the film’s release in 1973), a fact of which many people are unaware. Reportedly inspired by the real-life exorcism of “Roland Doe” (a pseudonym), The Exorcist follows the story of Regan, a 12-year-old girl possessed by a demon, and the attempts made to save her soul by her mother along with the help of two priests. The film earned 10 Academy Award nominations (the first horror film ever to be nominated to the Best Picture category!) and has grossed over $441 million worldwide in the wake of various re-releases.

3. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (1977/1979 + 2005)

The Amityville Horror, like many of the other films on this list, has existed in several iterations and been the basis of many sequels throughout history. The original novel, written by Jay Anson in 1977, purports to be a true story – following the tale of George and Kathy Lutz who moved into a home in Amityville, a suburb of Long Island, New York, but moved out only 28 days later. The Lutz family claimed to have suffered from paranormal attacks during their stay in the house, which only a year prior had been the site of a gruesome murder. The original film adaptation was produced in 1979, with a significantly worse (but somehow charmingly laughable) remake in 2005, and has spawned over a dozen sequels and spin-offs, with another (The Amityville Murders) slated to debut this year. So the good news is that even if the story isn’t true, they’ve definitely managed to commit a real murder of this franchise.

 4. The Shining by Stephen King (1977/1980)

I would be remiss if I didn’t at some point in this list mention the (very aptly named) King of Horror himself. One of the most iconic horror movies of all time, this film (directed by Stanley Kubrick) is based on King’s book of the same name that was originally published in 1977, three years before the film’s release in 1980. Set in the Colorado Rockies, the story follows Jack Torrance, a struggling writer, along with his wife Wendy and son Danny as they take over the operation of a hotel with a horrific past and supernatural forces that threaten the lives of the Torrance family. If you’re looking for a story to make you deeply afraid of all little girls who are also twins, this is definitely at the top of that list!

5.  Ring by Koji Suzuki (1991/2002)

Listen, one of the absolute worst memories I have from my childhood is that scene in The Ring where the creepy girl crawls out of a television set. As such, it’s only appropriate that I include it on this list so that you also have to be haunted by this image every time your television turns to static. Originally a book simply titled Ring by Japanese author Koji Suzuki in 1991, the American film adaptation picked up a determiner in its title – because apparently The Ring is just that much creepier. The American film adaptation was released in 2002, but there are several Japanese adaptations that predate their western counterpart. A supernatural horror film, the story follows an American journalist who is investigating her younger sister’s mysterious death, uncovering a cursed video tape and a family’s horrific past in the process. Like I said, this is a great movie to watch if you want the sound of television static to give you chills for the rest of your life.

6. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004/2008 + 2010)

Rounding out our list with the most recently published book and film adaptation, we have Let the Right One In by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Originally titled Låt den rätte komma in in Swedish, this 2004 vampire fiction novel spurred two film adaptations – one in Swedish released in 2008 and another in English in 2010. Following the story of a 12-year-old boy named Oskar and his newfound vampire friend Eli, Let the Right One In may be less outright scary than the rest of the films on this list, but it deals with frightening themes such as murder, existential anxiety, and most terrifyingly of all: being twelve years old.

If you have a favourite horror movie based on literature, be sure to let us know on the MSVU English Society Facebook page or on Twitter @MSVU_English . Happy Halloween!


Olivia Ingraham is a Mount student and a regular contributor to the English Department blog.