Category Archives: David Wilson

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.



Two English faculty honoured at Convocation

David Wilson receiving teaching award, Convocation 2017

David Wilson received the MSVU Alumnae Part-time Teaching Award

Congratulations to David Wilson, who received the MSVU Alumnae Part-time Teaching Award at Convocation in May. An instructor in both our English and Writing programs, he was commended for his engaging style and for his innovative online courses. You can see one of the videos he developed for his online ENGL 1171 course here.


Susan Drain Convocation 2017

Dr. Susan Drain was awarded the rank of Professor Emerita at Convocation

At the same Convocation, Dr. Susan Drain, who retired last December, was awarded the rank of Professor Emerita. Dr. Drain has served in many positions in her career, such as the English Department Writing Co-ordinator, Department Chair, Secretary of Senate, Faculty Association executive — to name only a few. She is also a multiple teaching award winner, including the prestigious 3M Teaching Fellowship (the only Mount faculty to hold that distinction). Her current research project is Percy’s War, a daily blog about the experiences of a Canadian gunner in WWI.

Congratulations to both David and Susan!

Photos from the Mount Flickr album

Congratulations English grads 2017

It was a lovely spring day for the 2017 B.A. convocation on Friday, May 19th. Congratulations to our newest English alumni.

English grads and faculty 2017

We managed to gather almost all of the English grads for this photo, along with attending faculty. From left to right, Dr. Reina Green, Dr. Karen Macfarlane. Back row: David Wilson, Luke Hammond, Kevin Smith, Andrew Potter, Ryan Terry, Dr. Anna Smol. Front, left to right: Cassadie Day, Sarah Vallis, Allyson Roussy, Gavin Rollins, Dr. Diane Piccitto, Dr. Susan Drain.

Bachelor of Arts (Honours)

Allyson K. Roussy (with first-class honours)

Sarah K. Vallis (with first-class honours)

Bachelor of Arts (Major)

Duaa Chamsi Basha

Cassadie F. Day

Luke P. Hammond

Michael Luciano

Andrew Potter

Gavin L. Rollins

Ryan K. Terry

Bachelor of Arts (Combined Major)

Kevin Smith (English and History)

Congratulations also to Professor David Wilson, who received the MSVU Part-Time Teaching Award and to Dr. Susan Drain, who was awarded the rank of Professor Emerita.

Graduates, please keep in touch! If you haven’t already, please join the English Society Facebook group or follow us on Twitter or Instagram to keep up with our activities. Or subscribe for email notifications from this blog (scroll down on this page to find the subscription form). However you do it, let us know where your future adventures take you!

Watch this blog for more convocation pictures in the days ahead.

Humphry Clinker Cup 2014

David Wilson sends in this report from his 18th-Century Novel class:

Here is the winning team for this year’s Humphry Clinker Cup competition in English 3365: The 18th-Century Novel:  Sarah Vallis, Courtney MacFarlane, Ashley Muise, and Christina Kempster.

from left to right: Sarah Vallis, Courtney MacFarlane, Ashley Muise, Christina Kempster

from left to right: Sarah Vallis, Courtney MacFarlane, Ashley Muise, Christina Kempster

Four teams vied for the coveted cup filled with chocolate, not to mention bragging rights for the term.

The winning group showed their knowledge of the novel by correctly answering the most skill-testing questions. For example:

  • Name the pleasure gardens in London that the characters visit and write about.
  • When Lt. Lishmahago meets the travellers, what literary character does Jery use to describe the officer?
  • What is the humourous name of the laxative that Aunt Tabitha uses on her dog Chowder?

Congratulations to these four students!

3rd Annual Rhetorical Race

Terms of Engagement: Teaching & Learning in the English DepartmentDavid Wilson sends us this announcement about his Writing to Influence class:

The 3rd annual Rhetorical Race was held in WRIT/ENGL 2220 on Monday, March 24. Teams of MSVU students competed for the coveted Plato Cup. The competition involved answering a series of questions about the art of persuasion.

The winners enjoyed bragging rights for the remainder of the term and a trophy filled with chocolate Easter eggs.

Winning team, 3rd annual rhetorical race
The winning team, from left to right:
Michelle Pegg, Samantha Wentzell, Emily Munro, Molly Ross

Holiday Reading

As the university closes for the holiday break today, we hope you’ll find time to enjoy some reading over the next couple of weeks. Our department’s David Wilson has compiled his list of top reading recommendations for this year (five in general fiction and five in detective fiction). Feel free to add your own recommendations and reviews in the comments. Do you have a top five? Top three? At least one book you’re hoping to get to over the break?

David Wilson’s Recommendations

1. Accusation (2013) Catherine Bush

What happens when someone is accused of a crime? Who do we trust–the victim or the accuser? On the surface, Bush’s novel reads like a thriller with its suspects and clues, but just below the waterline we can glimpse the ambiguities of searching for truth and justice amid murky motives and conflicting versions. The story follows a journalist who meets a man running a circus. When allegations of abuse surface, she has to rethink what she knows about him. This story made me consider the dilemmas we face when we read and tell stories.

2. The Son of a Certain Woman (2013) Wayne Johnston

Flat-out funny. Set in 1950s St. John’s this narrative launches itself with verve. I was hooked in the opening pages when I heard Percy speak. It was Dickens who said that a “boy’s story is the best that is ever told.” With this novel Johnston makes a strong case that he is Canada’s Dickens.  The story takes on the Catholic Church, the Odyssey, and James Joyce. It’s the kind of book you’ll read, and then want to tell others about.

3. Dogs at the Perimeter (2012) Madeleine Thien

This novel explores the trauma of war. Set in Montreal and Cambodia it follows the wrecked lives of those dealing with the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge and genocide. When terror and chaos reign, what does one want to remember? How can someone overcome that kind of horror? It’s a beautifully told story about how we can’t escape the past or ourselves.

4. An Inconvenient Indian (2012) Thomas King

For anyone who likes their history infused with humour and thoughtful insight, this is the book for you. King tells a good a story about the interactions between natives and whites in North America. Along the way he busts several myths and stereotypes. It’s an entertaining, informative account with a conversational tone.

5. The Progress of Love (1985) Alice Munro

When she won the Nobel Prize this year I dug out my old paperback of this collection of 11 stories I read for a Canadian literature course over 20 years ago. With my notes in the margins I rediscovered the quiet brilliance of her prose. These stories are a remembrance of a summer past; a time that’s become sepia-coloured like an old photo. They remind me that we have to come to terms with others and ourselves in order to move forward.

And now for the detective fiction recommendations:

1. Havana Nocturne (2009) T. J. English

True crime reporting at its best. A fast-paced account of how the mafia moved into Cuba and made Havana their Mob City during the 1950s.  Legendary mobsters like Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, politicians like JFK and Batista, celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Rita Moreno, and of course Castro and his band of revolutionaries, make appearances in an entertaining narrative that follows all the players, parties, and pay-offs.

2. Midnight in Peking (2012) Paul French

A gripping reconstruction of a shocking unsolved murder case in 1937 Peking on the brink of the Japanese invasion. A young English woman is brutally killed, and 75 years later Parry tries to put this haunting puzzle back together. It reads like a whodunit–full of clues, red herrings, conspiracies, and cover ups. A fine history of Old China.

3. The People who Eat Darkness  (2012) Richard Lloyd Parry

This book is a well-researched account about a young woman who disappeared in Tokyo in 2000. It’s part memoir in its depiction of the trauma experienced by the family, part police procedural in its portrayal of Japanese law. It has a noirish feel as it follows the kind of evil that can descend on a person.

4. Happy Birthday, Turk! (1987) Jakob Ajourni

Set is Frankfurt Germany, this gritty novel is a descendant of the hard-boiled tradition. The private eye is from the Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe mold, and makes a fine anti-hero with his own murky motives. Like all good detective fiction, this story moves beyond the facts of the case to explore psychological and social issues. A fun book to read on a plane or at the beach.

5. Chourmo (1996) Jean-Claude Izzo

The second installment of the Marseilles trilogy finds ex-cop Fabio Montale trying to figure out the links between family, mafia, immigrants, and the police. There are plenty of twists and turns but the real pleasure here is the vivid setting. I could taste the greasy fish and smell the harbour as I read this bleak tale about a weary man who just wants to be left alone.

1st Annual Clinker Cup Challenge

English 3365: The 18th-Century British Novel course held its first annual Clinker Cup Challenge on March 28.

Clinker Cup Challenge

Professor David Wilson reports:

It was a fun and friendly competition among the students to see who knew the most about the book we were studying this week. They had to answer 25 questions on Tobias Smollett’s 1771 novel Humphry Clinker.

For example:  What do the people of Edinburgh yell when they dump out the day’s excrement onto the streets below?
–Gardy loo

What are the names of the two pleasure gardens in London that the characters visit?
–Ranelagh and Vauxhall

What prison does Clinker end up in?

The winning team got a trophy filled with chocolates (they graciously shared the sweets with the runners-up and MC) and bragging rights for the rest of the term.

The winning team consisted of
Stephanie Carr
Christophe Dupuy
Shelby MacGregor
Luke Reynolds

1st Annual Clinker Cup Challenge

Guest post: David Wilson on Teaching with Twitter

David Wilson teaches literature and writing courses in the Mount’s English Department and is interested in the uses of social media in teaching. Last year, in collaboration with St. Mary’s University staff, he designed an app for the study of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. This fall, his open Twitter class during Celebrating Writing Week at the Mount was the subject of an article in the MSVU student publication Symmetry. In this guest post, Professor Wilson explains further why he likes teaching with Twitter.

David Wilson twitter mug

Teaching with Twitter

Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, and Chuck Palahniuk. What do they have in common? Besides being good writers, they are all active on Twitter.

In May 2012 American author Jennifer Egan (whose novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer and National Book Awards) performed a fascinating experiment on Twitter. Over the course of 10 nights she serialized a short story called “Black Box” in sentences of 140 characters or fewer. Each night, between 8 pm and 9 pm, she tweeted instalments of the story to her followers; this incremental design of 1-2 sentences at a time made the prose assume an almost poetic feel.

Recently, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was asked by Star Trek actor William Shatner if he was tweeting from outer space. From the international space station Commander Hadfield replied: “Yes, standard orbit, Captain. And we`re detecting signs of life of the surface.” Life imitating art.

Besides being a way to stay in contact with friends and family, Twitter is a source of news, self-promotion, art, and just plain fun. But how does it work as a teaching tool in the classroom? For two years I’ve been using Twitter in a variety of ways in several classes. I’ve tried it by offering a bonus point question to students as a Twitter treasure hunt and plan to use it soon as an option instead of an essay, where a student can create a Twitter feed based on the characters in a novel.  Thus far, I can report that this social media site has value as a resource for instructors and students.

Some might think that Twitter is little more than an extra layer of communication for a course, a chaotic distraction, or nothing but inane chatter. This real-time microblog’s advantages, however, outweigh its disadvantages. Here are my reasons why I think this:

  1. Twitter is cost effect–it’s free to use.
  2. It’s user-friendly and easy to set up an account.
  3. It’s casual and conversational in its tone, encouraging personal expression.
  4. It adds an extra venue for students to contribute to class discussion.
  5. It’s interactive, fostering replies and demonstrating the social aspects of knowledge.
  6. It serves as a study guide that students can refer to over a term.
  7. It can be a place to collaborate on projects and cross-fertilize ideas.
  8. It’s an exercise in being clever and concise (i.e, editing).
  9. It’s easily accessible on a laptop or smartphone app.

From an instructor’s point of view, Twitter offers me many avenues to reach students and make a topic more meaningful. Here are some of the things I’ve tweeted in my classes so far:

  • Sent reminders about due dates, quizzes.
  • Given updates about office hours and made announcements about readings.
  • Asked a daily question before a class starts.
  • Provided tips on essay writing.
  • Give a quotation or word of the day.
  • Provided feedback on work.
  • Uploaded images, attached weblinks to material related to the course.
  • Added intriguing trivia about the material we’ve studying.
  • Hosted a discussion.
  • Started a debate on a pressing issue.
  • Taken a poll.
  • Promoted events on campus.
  • Retweeted other worthwhile tweets.
  • And even included the occasional  personal message so students don’t think I’m a bot.

If Twitter is properly integrated into a classroom with a clear policy, guidelines, and goals it can enrich the teaching experience for the instructor and enhance the learning experience for students. It’s a tool to increase participation and develop a sense of community. All you need to do is set up a class hashtag (#ENGL2112) and use your imagination. I’ve been thinking about getting students in my Literature class to follow an author we’re reading and report on their Twitter feed. Or, I might get them to monitor current trends on Twitter or key literary terms. I could have students personify a character from The Canterbury Tales or assume the identity of an author like Jane Austen and tweet. They might give a haiku review of a book or summarize a lecture in 140 characters. I’m presently working on how they can design a brief Twitter horoscope for characters in a Shakespeare play.

Last fall, I set up a Twitter discussion on visual argumentation and made the session an open class for anyone to follow. I projected the Twitter steam on a screen in class so we could all see the comments from the class and others outside the room. A series of images were distributed in the class and uploaded to Twitter, and a hashtag was created to organize the event. For over an hour students tweeted their comments, questions, links, and replies about the rhetoric of images. It started off slowly, but the discussion soon gained momentum.  The online environment seemed to allow all students to play a larger role in the discussion. The feedback from the my students was overwhelmingly positive. Judging by the number of students who chose to respond to a question on the exam regarding visual argumentation, I’d say that the event helped them better understand the concept.

I could probably say more about my experiences with Twitter in the classroom, but I am way over the 140 character limit.

—David Wilson

You can follow David on Twitter: @DavidRWilson1

Scholarly activities November – December

A number of people from the English Department were involved in giving talks and interviews as the fall term wound to a close.

On November 14, Karen Macfarlane organized a panel called  “Visual Culture: Icons, Memes and Visual Literacy” for the Cross Campus Conversations series sponsored by the Research Office. The panel brought together researchers from the Political Studies Department and from Education, as well as Dr. Macfarlane, whose paper was titled “Icons, Bodies and Propaganda.”

Cross Campus Conversations 2012 poster

On November 15, Anna Smol gave a talk to faculty at St. Thomas University (via Distance Learning) on “Wikipedia and Participatory Culture.”

David Wilson, after experimenting with an open class using Twitter in November, was interviewed  in the online magazine published by Mount PR students, Symmetry, in an article titled “#WRIT22: Social Media in the Classroom.”  Look for more from Professor Wilson on this topic on our blog soon.

Susan Drain published a poem in an anthology titled Desperately Seeking Susans, and she was one of the authors interviewed on CBC radio.

Several of our Honours students gave their “blurbs” about their thesis research at an event during Celebrating Writing Week in November. Speakers included Courtney Church, Jessica Gaudon, Krista Hill, Kae Lin Larder, and Nolan Pike. We’ll be hearing more about their research in the weeks and months ahead. Mackenzie Bartlett, who organized the event, also spoke about some of her research plans, as did Graham Fraser.

For more information about recent faculty and student research, take a look at our summary of  research activities from last spring to this September.  A list of recent publications and talks can also be found on the English Department’s Recent Research Activities webpage.

Celebrating Writing Week: Wednesday highlights

Mount English students and faculty are responsible for the Celebrating Writing Week events on Wednesday, November 14. In addition to the daily Write Here. Right Now session facilitated by Susan Drain at 8:30 a.m. in Seton 404, we have a class live on Twitter from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. David Wilson’s WRIT 2220 class will be tweeting about visual representation, and you can follow along using #WRIT22. David Wilson’s twitter handle is @DavidRWilson1.

At 3:30, you are invited to our mead-hall, where you can hear the sounds of English poetry from over a thousand years ago.  Anglo-Saxon Literature: Aloud and Alive will offer brief recitations by students in Anna Smol’s Old English class (translations provided!). You might even have a chance to learn a few words of Old English. Seton 404. 3:30 – 4:15 p.m.  Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome. (Please note the corrected start time of 3:30 p.m.).

At 4:30, English students and faculty will gather for Blurbs: Conversations about Writing and Research, organized by Mackenzie Bartlett. Ever want to know what your fellow English majors and professors are spending their time researching? This event will feature students and faculty giving short, blurb-style talks about their research, from big-picture brainstorming to the more developed stages of composition. “Blurbs” offers an opportunity not only to try out your ideas with a friendly audience, but also to exchange thoughts, research tips, and other helpful pointers with your peers. Refreshments will be served.  All members of the Mount community (staff, students, and faculty) are welcome to attend. Seton 404.  4:30-6:00 p.m.