Author Archives: msvuenglish

About msvuenglish

Department of English, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

The English Pro-Co: what is it and how can it benefit you?

by Samantha Van Norden, English Department Media Assistant,
in conversation with Dr. Reina Green, English Department Chair

Some of you may have heard about the English Professionalization Co-Curricular Record, part of the Mount’s Co-Curricular Record Program (or the CCRP), and wondered what it is and how it would benefit you as an English student. The “English Pro-Co” (for short) is a relatively new feature that English students can take advantage of to prepare for future careers. I sat down with English Department Chair, Dr. Reina Green, to ask her some questions that I thought might be useful in helping to explain the English Pro-Co.

In what way will the CCR shape a student’s preparation for their futures?

The CCRP recognizes students’ extracurricular activities and gives future employers knowledge of students’ involvement in events that may provide experiential learning and prepare them for future studies or a future career. Upon graduation, students can request their CCRP to show employers and others that they were involved in these extracurricular activities. The English Pro-Co recognizes the participation of students in our programs in designated activities in which they have engaged with the arts or scholarly community beyond the classroom.

How does the English Department decide what events count toward the English Pro-Co?

Each year faculty meet to identify and organize departmental and English Society events that can go toward the English Pro-Co. We include events that focus on scholarship and further learning such as attending the Honours Colloquium, or a presentation by a faculty member or guest speaker, as well as information sessions on our Honours program, graduate school, or possible careers. In addition, we include some English Society events and trips—attending a theatre production, for example.

Does a student need to be part of the English Society–to have a “role” within the group–in order to receive a credit on the English Pro-Co Record?

Students receive recognition through the CCRP for any executive position they hold within the English Society, but that is separate to the English Pro-Co. The only requirement to begin an English Pro-Co record is that students have declared an English Major.

 How does the CCR show on a transcript?

Students can access their Co-Curricular Record via MyMount.

 Who is going to look for the English Pro-Co: future employers, graduate school programs, or both?

Both future employers and graduate school programs are interested in what students do beyond the classroom to prepare for their future. The English Pro-Co documents that aspect of student experience.

 What sort of “edge” will a completed English Pro-Co record give a student applying for grad school?

The English Pro-Co gives students an advantage as it shows how they have engaged in the arts and academic life beyond the classroom. Attending these events is purely voluntary and the English Pro-Co demonstrates that students who have participated are willing to do more—on their own time—to further their learning.

How do students sign up for the English Pro-Co and how can they make sure that events they attend will count?

The Chair keeps a record of the students who have participated in each event and at a student’s request, can check on whether that student has qualified for the English Pro-Co which requires students to participate in at least six different kinds of activities with attendance at a minimum of one every year they are in the program. There are also checklists available so students can keep track of their own activities. You can download the checklist here.

 What do you want students to know about the English Pro-Co?

We want students to know that the English Pro-Co exists and that participating in activities organized by the department and English Society can make a difference. Students who do attend these events should also make sure that they sign in at each event so that their participation can be recognized.

We look forward to giving future graduates their English Professionalization Co-Curricular records. This May, we expect some students to be the first to receive it.

English Pro-Co checklist [pdf]








AAUEC 2018 at the Mount

LAAUEC 2018 Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conferenceast weekend, the English Department at Mount Saint Vincent University welcomed students and faculty from eleven universities across the east coast for the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference (AAUEC), which showcases the academic papers and creative works of the region’s top English students. Founded here in 1981, this was the sixth time that the Mount has hosted the conference. Co-organized by Dr. Reina Green and Dr. Diane Piccitto along with conference assistants Katie O’Brien, Hope Tohme, and Sam VanNorden, the AAUEC 2018 was a resounding success!

Mount students at AAUEC welcome reception

Mount students at the welcome reception: Hope Tohme, Katie O’Brien, Rebecca Foster, and Courtney Francis

The conference began on Friday, March 2, in Seton Academic Centre with a Welcome Reception, where attendees participated in a lively round of icebreaker bingo – facilitated by English Society co-presidents Katie O’Brien and Hope Tohme – and heard a presentation by Formac Publishing to announce “Write to Win!” – a writing competition aimed at Atlantic Canadians 18-30 years old.

The afternoon included the first panel of the conference and was followed by ArtFest, held in the MSVU Art Gallery. Emceed by Alexia Major and Sam VanNordon (co-editors, with other MSVU students, of the Speakman Press), ArtFest featured short stories and poetry of participants and the work of special guests El Jones (MSVU’s Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies and poet and activist) and Chantelle Rideout (writer and MSVU English alumna), as well as a welcome address by Dr. Elizabeth Church (MSVU’s Vice-President Academic and Provost).

Day 2 – Saturday, March 3, was held in the Margaret Norrie McCain Centre, giving visitors a chance to spend time in the only building at a Canadian university to celebrate the achievements of women, highlighted in the Women’s Wall of Honour. The second day included four panels, covering topics such as ethics, bodies, politics, and trauma, and even involved one presenter from the Mount, Michelle Russell, Skyping in from Florida where she is training with the Canadian paddling team.

The afternoon ended in the Atrium with the Bad Poetry Reading, which was first begun by Dr. Chris Ferns (Professor Emeritus) in his days as an undergraduate and then initiated at the Mount in the 1980s, having since become an institution in the English Department. Dr. Ferns selected among the very worst poems written by published authors and emceed the event, charming the audience with his entertaining commentary over the course of the hour. Readers included past and current MSVU English students,  faculty members such as Professors Emeritus Dr. Susan Drain and Dr. Peter Schwenger, who performed memorable renditions of “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight” and “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” respectively. Afterward, participants and volunteers celebrated the two-day conference with a closing-night banquet and dance party – with DJ extraordinaire Dr. Steven Bruhm (former MSVU English student and professor) in Rosaria’s Multi-Purpose Room.

Mount students at AAUEC 2018

Some of the Mount student volunteers. Front, left to right: Katie O’Brien, Nicole Martina, Alex Rudderham, Sidney Warren.  Back, left to right: Sarah Vallis, Darcy Eisan, Sam VanNorden, Megan Bruce, Hope Tohme

The conference was marked by a wonderful energy from beginning to end, creating a stimulating inter-university intellectual community for English students and faculty. See our earlier post here for a list of Mount presenters.

We would like to thank the more than 50 presenters who shared their work at the AAUEC 2018 and the faculty who accompanied students as well as our emcees, guest speakers, and DJ. Thank you also to the President’s Office and the Dean of Arts and Science for their very necessary financial support and to MSVU staff (Catering, Conference Services, Art Gallery, IT Services, Facilities, Communications, Marketing, and Recruitment, Research Office, Book Store, Print Shop, and Security). Finally, a very special thank you to our conference assistants, all of our volunteers, Tracy McDonald (English Department Administrative Assistant), as well as the entire English Department for their instrumental involvement and support over the last several months.

AAUEC dance

AAUEC dance

AAUEC 2018 starts today

Today the Mount welcomes English students from the Atlantic region for the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference. Students will be reading their academic papers and their creative work today and tomorrow and will be able to enjoy other events, such as the Friday ArtFest (with special guests El Jones and Mount alumna Chantelle Rideout) and Saturday’s always-comical Bad Poetry Reading and closing banquet and dance. The full program is available on the AAUEC website.

The University has published a story about the conference and a couple of the student presenters and volunteers, Samantha VanNorden and Alexia Major, which you can read here.

AAUEC 2018.

Samantha VanNorden and Alexia Major (from

MSVU students presenting at the conference:

Rebecca Foster, “Howling for Love: Romance and Eroticism in Poetry by Allen Ginsberg”

Katie O’Brien, “‘It makes a goblin of the sun’: Fallen Women and the Male Gaze in Dante Gabriel’s ‘Jenny’ and Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’”

Michelle Russell,  “Cross-Cultural Dressing: Clothing and Trauma in Fatty Legs and A Stranger at Home

Kenya Thompson,  “capturing slipping memories”

Hope Tohme, “Sasha Jensen’s Self-Objectification: A Refusal of the Male Gaze in Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight

Sam VanNorden,  “hanging red”

In addition, a team of student volunteers, including some alumnae, will help to make this event a great weekend for all.

Meet our 2017-18 honours students

As a small undergraduate department, we have an opportunity to give our Honours students an intensive research experience in which they spend a year working as apprentice scholars in our ENGL 4499 Honours Thesis course. Under the supervision of a faculty member, each Honours student develops a research topic, presents her findings to students and faculty in an Honours colloquium, and writes up her findings in an undergraduate thesis of approximately 50 pages.

Read about this year’s Honours students and what they’re working on:

Katelyn O’Brien

Katelyn O'BrienMy thesis focuses on the characteristics of an emerging genre of literature called “Sartorial Memoir” (to borrow Emily Spivack’s term). “Sartorial Memoir” is a genre that concerns itself with people, clothing, and most importantly, people’s relationship to and with their clothing. I will be exploring how specific conventions of this genre, such as photography, ‘worn-ness’ and collective narrative all contribute to shape the genre and emphasize sentimentality/memory. The three texts I will examine are Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton, Worn Stories by Emily Spivack, and Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton.

Hope Tohme

Hope TohmeHope Tohme’s research consists of human statues, hunger artists, and museum exhibits. Her readings of Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist”, Edward Carey’s Observatory Mansions, and Beckett’s Catastrophe emphasize the “thingness” of the human body, particularly during the absurd performances presented in these texts. Bill Brown’s Thing Theory serves as a basis for her argument that the human body can be reduced to, not only an object, but a thing – an object with an indeterminate use; an object that no longer fulfills the purpose it was meant to.

If you’re a Mount English student and think you might be interested in an Honours degree, speak to your faculty advisor or the Department Chair. You can find some information about our Honours program on our Course Guide webpage.

Dramatic reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The English Department is hosting a reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Wednesday, November 15th at 4:30 in Seton 404. All students, staff, and faculty are welcome. If you’re interested in reading a role, small or large, contact Dr. Diane Piccitto, or just come to listen. Refreshments will be served.

Oberon, Titania and Puk with Fairies Dancing by William Blake

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing c.1786 William Blake

Fall 2017 Convocation

Congratulations to all who graduated on Sunday, November 5th. Fall convocation is always smaller than the spring event but no less important. This year, convocation also included the official installation of Dr. Mary Bluechardt as the new president of the Mount.

Kyle Cross, B.A. Honours in English

Kyle Cross, B.A. Honours

Kyle Cross graduated with a B.A. Honours in English. Kyle is now in the B.Ed. program at the Mount.

Barbara Cochrane, one of the morning Valedictorians, graduated with a B.A. in French and a Writing Minor. She gave a lively address, drawing on her life experiences to give some good advice to the graduates. You can read her profile here. A couple of the English Department’s Writing courses and participation in the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference are some of the highlights of her Writing Minor experiences:

She remembers her courses in creative writing and editing most fondly. In 2012, she received an award from the Department of English for one of her written works, titled “Passed Down.” The piece focuses on obsessive compulsive disorder, combining parts of her grandfather’s diary from World War I, a poem written by her daughter, and her own obsession with counting as she works. She later presented it at an undergraduate English conference at St. Thomas University.  (From the Mount’s online profile)

Barbara Cochrane Valedictorian 2017

Above: Barbara Cochrane delivering the valedictory address.  Image from the Mount’s Facebook page.

Our Indigenous Canadian Children’s Lit class welcomes Alan Syliboy

by Samantha VanNorden *

Alan Syliboy

 Dr. Alan Syliboy with his book, The Thundermaker

On October 10th, Dr. Alan Syliboy presented a talk to students and faculty at MSVU’s Aboriginal Student Centre. Dr. Syliboy began the discussion by giving the audience some context for his book The Thundermaker. For Syliboy, the reality of growing up as an indigenous person was that school was something for him to endure. He told us that while he and his family and friends were fluent in Mi’kmaq, he lost his fluency during his enrollment in a Catholic school, where indigenous students were not allowed to speak it. This sort of outlawing of speech led to dispersion of the language, and Syliboy explained that he is now having to relearn it. 

Syliboy art

Left: two of Syliboy’s cards with original artwork. Right: The Thundermaker cover and the back matter on the cards

These ideas of relearning and of finding voice are evident in the text of The Thundermaker. Little Thunder’s mother Giju is a storyteller, and it is through her that Little Thunder learns about his identity: to be the Thundermaker. Being the Thundermaker means Little Thunder must take his father’s place in the role, which suggests renewal, but it also has a larger meaning in the circle of life. The Thundermaker’s job is to strike the old dead trees and burn them to make room for new life. This, too, has markings of renewal, balance, and cyclicality. Little Thunder learns of this through the story cycles his mother tells him within the warmth of the wigwam.

Syliboy informed us that the story cycles were shared during the winter and explained that this telling and retelling of stories functions like a “hard drive,” in this case, grounding and reinforcing culture. To pass on these stories is seen as a responsibility, and Dr. Syliboy is certainly adding to the layers of storytelling with his visual artistry, his writing, and his book The Thundermaker.

The Thundermaker by Alan Syliboy

Syliboy signed a copy of The Thundermaker for MSVU professor Dr. Rhoda Zuk. He included some fabulous artwork as well

If you want to find out if Little Thunder succeeds in becoming the Thundermaker or about his journey on this path with friends such as Wolverine, you can (and should!) pick up a copy of The Thundermaker.

 You can purchase it from Nimbus Publishing here:

Syliboy merchandise

Some of the merchandise available after Dr. Syliboy’s talk

Dr. Syliboy’s visit was arranged by Dr. Rhoda Zuk for her Indigenous Canadian Children’s Literature class (ENGL 3305).

* Samantha VanNorden is a fourth-year English student at the Mount. She is the English Department’s media assistant for 2017-2018.

8 Spooky Stories for Halloween

by Olivia Ingraham*

Looking for a creepy story to curl up with on a cold autumn night? In search of a tale that puts the BOO in books? Then look no further! Here’s a comprehensive list of classic long and short fiction that is seasonally appropriate for the spookiest time of year.

from 1910 Frankenstein movie

from the 1910 Frankenstein movie

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

Originally published in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, Dracula is in many ways the Mother-Of-All vampire fiction. The original tale of Count Dracula documents the prolific vampire’s journey from Transylvania to England; and while there may be a distinct lack of sparkles, it is very nearly as scary as Twilight.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Widely regarded as the first work of science fiction, Frankenstein (originally subtitled The Modern Prometheus) is a classic work of monster literature, depicting Victor Frankenstein’s disastrous foray into playing god. It’s important to remember the following: knowledge is knowing Frankenstein was not the monster, wisdom is knowing that he truly was, and condescension is feeling the need to correct every person who doesn’t know the difference.

3. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

Published in 1886, Stevenson’s classic novella presents the mysterious tale of the reputable Dr. Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde in what is one of the most widely spoiled but most shocking plot twists in classic literature.

4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The only novel published by Wilde, the uncanny story imparts the important message that while beauty may be fleeting, creepy oil paintings are forever.

5. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)

This short story documents the gradual descent into madness of a woman living in a creepy country house for the summer with her physician husband. As the tale unfolds, she grows convinced she sees eyes in the wallpaper of her bedroom.

6. “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1835)

Have you ever been walking in the woods at night and then literally met Satan? Me neither, but Young Goodman Brown did! Highlighting and undermining the idea of inherent human goodness, Hawthorne makes you question whether or not everyone you know worships the devil! Spoooooky.

7. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

It would be impossible to compile a list of creepy, Halloween-appropriate literature and not include at least one work by Poe. This eerie short story depicts an unidentified narrator who is driven to murder and is then plagued by the phantom sound of his victim’s beating heart under the floorboards.

8. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (1820)

The classic story that made famous the “headless horseman,” Irving’s tale, like so many before, chronicles two men (nervous schoolteacher Ichabod Crane and hypermasculine Brom Bones) fighting over a girl – but, again, not quite as scary as Twilight.

Do you have a favourite work of spooky literature to read at Halloween? Let us know on twitter – @MSVU_English or in our MSVU English Society Facebook group.

(Note: many of the stories referenced above are available through the MSVU Library if you’re looking to check them out!)

*Olivia Ingraham is currently enrolled in the Communication Studies program at MSVU, with a triple minor in English, Psychology, and French. She lives in Halifax and is always very well caffeinated.

Dr. Nathaniel Street’s profile on Mount homepage

Dr. Nathaniel Street

Dr. Nathaniel Street

The English Department is pleased to welcome Dr. Nathaniel Street to our faculty. Dr. Street is the new Co-ordinator of our Writing Minor program and teaches several of our Writing courses.

The Mount has published a profile of Dr. Street on the University homepage.  Take a look!

Read more about our Writing Minor.


Faculty to present at 2017 Atlantic Teaching Showcase

Teaching award winner David Wilson will be sharing some of his best ideas at the 2017 Teaching Showcase, to be held at the Mount on Saturday, October 14. Professor Wilson will be presenting in what is known as the “Furious Fives” session — a quick series of five-minute talks packed with ideas to take away from the conference. David Wilson offers this summary of his talk:


David Wilson, recipient of the 2017 MSVU Part-time Teaching Award

Does your class often end with a fade to black?

Rather than merely telling students during the last 5 minutes of a class what will happen in the next one, a more effective teaching practice is showing them. This “Furious Five” session will quickly demonstrate tips on how to briefly preview (and promote) a topic during the closing moments of a class that bridges what students have just learned, so that they will be curious and look forward to learning more in the next class. The final five minutes of a class can serve as a memorable pivot point that keeps students motivated. The key to accomplishing this goal is to capture students’ attention. Moreover, the best way to make these connections between classes is by using a lively activity that encourages participation. Thus, attendees at this session can expect to be involved in the fun.



The experiential learning opportunities offered by our department will be on display during the conference as well.  Dr. Anna Smol will be organizing a display that features the English Department’s many hands-on learning activities, from participation at the Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference, to part-time jobs as writing tutors and research assistants, to the many course-related activities that our students engage in.

David Wilson‘s talk will be given on Saturday, October 14 in a session scheduled from  4:25 to 4:50 in McCain 105.

Anna Smol‘s experiential learning display will be in the Rosaria Terrace from 11:30 to 1:30.

The Saturday Teaching Showcase conference is part of a three-day series of events. On Thursday night at 7 p.m. a public lecture by special guest and keynote speaker James Lang, author of Small Teaching and Cheating Lessons, will take place in the Rosaria Multipurpose Room. A workshop with Dr. Lang will be held on Friday morning before the Showcase takes place on Saturday.  For details, including the schedule, see more information here.