Category Archives: Graham Fraser

Dr Fraser to speak at Research Remixed

Dr. Graham Fraser will be one of the speakers at the Mount’s annual Research Remixed event on Tuesday, October 3rd. His talk is scheduled for 11:15 in the Multi-Purpose Room in Rosaria.  Here’s a preview of what he’ll be talking about:


Virginia Woolf, Spectro-Modernism, and the Afterlife of Things

Dr. Graham Fraser
Tuesday, October 3, 11:15 a.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, Rosaria

“Think of a kitchen table, when you’re not there” challenges Andrew Ramsay in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, distilling his father’s empiricist philosophy. Woolf’s writings are fascinated by the world of objects removed from human perception or context – objects that are abandoned, disused, broken. Yet Woolf’s own attention to inanimate (yet lively) objects is so exquisite that Michel Serres can write that in her work, “inanimate objects have a soul.” This presentation will discuss how my work traces the progress of these inanimate souls from their domestic lives in human service, through their abandonment and decay, and finally into their afterlives as ghostly, illegible debris.


Dr. Graham Fraser

Dr. Graham Fraser

You can read more about Dr. Fraser’s research here.

Research Remixed brings together researchers from across the university who present their work in short talks or posters. The event starts at 9 a.m. and goes until 1 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room in Rosaria.  All are welcome to drop in during the day.  You can download the full Research Remixed schedule here.




Spray Paint Signatures: an ENGL 4446 project

Terms of Engagement: Teaching & Learning in the English Department

This term begins with a new display on our Student Research bulletin board (Seton 5th floor, English Corner). Katrina Haight’s “Spray Paint Signatures” was created for Dr. Graham Fraser’s Contemporary Culture course in 2014.  If you haven’t seen the bulletin board, you can view excerpts from her project in today’s post.

Dr. Fraser’s explanation of this innovative assignment is followed by Katrina Haight’s text and images.

(And in case you missed last term’s display, an assignment by Shelby MacGregor, you can view it here).


English 4446 Contemporary Culture:
Psychogeographies: Wandering, Lostness, the City as Text

by Graham Fraser

[T]hey are walkers…whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban ‘text’ they write without being able to read it.…The networks of these moving intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alternations of spaces…. The act of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language.   
                                                                      — Michel DeCerteau, “Walking in the City”

Walking is a way of seeing – a way of knowing.  Since ancient times, peripatetic literature equated walking with the practices of thinking and writing that underscore literature itself.  The rise of the modern city brought about a corresponding body of literature and theory to express the particular experience of the pedestrian exploration of the urban environment, from the Parisian flâneur of Baudelaire and Benjamin to the psychogeographical experiments of the situationists’ dérive.  English 4446: Psychogeographies explores these ideas, investigating urban walking as an embodied metaphor of the acts of reading, writing, thinking, knowing and not-knowing in contemporary culture.

Having studied the cultural theory of urban pedestrianism, the poetics of cartography, the aesthetics of collage, and the semiotics and politics of urban design, and after reading novels, zines, journalism, records of performance art, and creative non-fiction documenting the streetscapes of New York, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Venice, and Boylan Heights North Carolina, students then took the opportunity to put their reading and theory into practice by undertaking their own psychogeographical exploration of Halifax.

The work presented here is Katrina Haight’s record of a graffiti-reading tour of the North End of Halifax in the form of an intertextual palimpsest/collage that reflects the nature of graffiti itself.

(Please note: all photos and text: copyright Katrina Haight 2014)


Spray Paint Signatures:
A Psychogeographic study of North End Halifax’s Public Art

by Katrina Haight

Spray Paint Signatures: A Psychogeographic study of North End Halifax`s Public Art by Katrina HaightSpray Paint Signatures: I explored a section of the North End of Halifax one early morning before class. I wanted to see what the voices that spoke from murals and signs on the walls of cafés, pubs, alleyways, parking lots and restaurants had to say about their city. I found that these numerous artistic expressions each fit into a certain theme. This walk revealed to me such a layered, colourful portrait of just a small part of Halifax.

Spray Paint Signatures copyright Katrina Haight

Spray Paint Signatures © Katrina Haight

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Love and Solidarity: As I began to leave the slightly more suburban section of Agricola Street, I came across some graffiti with a particularly positive, constructive message. Spray-painted on a fence in red and blue were the words, “HELP EACH OTHER.” It was an appeal for compassion, and it really caught my attention. Farther down Agricola, I notice someone has written in black permanent marker next to someone’s front door, “I love you,” which is a terribly intimate thing to leave on someone’s front door.

When I get to Gottingen Street, I wander down near the corner of Cornwallis and Gottingen. Across from Menz Bar near Alteregos Café, I see the memorial “healing garden” made for Raymond Taavel, a gay rights activist who was beaten to death after trying to break up a fight outside Menz Bar between a patron and a man who was severely mentally ill. Not far off is a sign spray-painted on a wall that says “EACH SMALL ACT IS A REBELLION – WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER – WE CAN WIN.” Both Raymond’s memorial garden and this spray-painted message offer a sense of solidarity for those who might feel alone.

Vibrant City

Vibrant Expressions Katrina Haight

Vibrant Expressions © Katrina Haight

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 Walking around Halifax early in the morning when the sun has only just risen really brings out the vibrant colours painted on the walls. Before stopping for a coffee at Alteregos Café on Gottingen Street, I notice a bright and surreal mural of an old woman in a mask covering the entire side wall of the café. Serving as the backdrop for the Raymond Taavel memorial garden, the mural is so striking, because it is simultaneously so bizarre and so beautiful. It is one of the many example of gorgeous public art around Halifax. ….

Street Calligraphy

Street Calligraphy Katrina Haight

Street Calligraphy © Katrina Haight

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Gottingen Street is full of elaborate, colourful examples of graffiti signatures. While I found the writing difficult to decipher, I could appreciate it for its aesthetic value. Often done in bright blues, greens, yellows and pinks, these signs brought the street to life through how colourful and unique they were. Each served as a testament to the artistic skill of the tagger with crisp lines and vibrant colour schemes that made the sign practically jump out at pedestrians as they walked past.

Curves of the Road

Curves of the Road Katrina Haight

Curves of the Road © Katrina Haight

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On Gottingen Street, there are a number of murals of beautiful women. In some of these paintings, the women stand at about twenty feet, accented by a tag beside her or in the background. As I noticed these women when I looked around, I was reminded of how Gail Scott paid particular attention to the women of Paris, as though her fascination and love for the city and her intrigue and lust for Parisian women were interchangeable. Here, on Gottingen, the beauty of women and femininity can literally be seen in the streets.

Layers of a City

Each piece of street art, from the small signatures to the large scale murals, illustrates an element of Halifax’s culture. A small written message on a wall in an alley might give insight into the struggles of a complete stranger. Vibrant murals make us appreciate the way the city comes alive in the sunlight. A simple spray-painted message may attempt to appeal to someone’s sense of compassion and remind them that they are not alone. Each serves its purpose and contributes to the city’s sense of identity.

—Katrina Haight


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.

Lady Gaga, Victorian seance rooms, Canadian theatre, and more….recent research by faculty and students

Ever wonder what professors are doing when they’re not teaching? In addition to the work involved in preparing and delivering courses, professors are also expected to contribute to the administration of the university and to do research. In fact, a professor’s teaching is informed by her or his research. Our Recent Research Activities page will give you details on what faculty — and some students — have been up to since classes ended last April.

Ashgate CompanionFor example, you will find two recently published articles on our Recent Research page that share a Gothic theme. “Mirth as Medium: Spectacles of Laughter in the Victorian Seance Room” by Mackenzie Bartlett has been published in The Ashgate Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism and the Occult. And Karen Macfarlane‘s article, “The Monstrous House of Gaga,” is one of the essays in The Gothic in Contemporary Literature and Popular Culture: Pop Goth.

In addition, Reina Green has published  “’No good. Go home’: Past Lives and Disrupted Homes in Catherine Banks’s Three Storey, Ocean View” in Theatre Research in Canada.

Full bibliographical details about these articles are posted on our Recent Research Activities page. You can also read these articles if you check out the English Corner bulletin board (between Seton 510 and 511).  Dr. Macfarlane’s article has been posted there for several weeks and will be there for another week, and then Dr. Bartlett’s essay will be available from late October into November; Dr. Green’s article will be posted in January.

At the Borders of Sleep: On Liminal Literature

Professor Emeritus Peter Schwenger has a new book coming out from the University of Minnesota Press: At the Borders of Sleep: On Liminal Literature. Follow the link to learn more about Dr. Schwenger’s book and his previous publications.

While professors are doing research and preparing for publication, they often present conference papers on those topics as a way of sharing their preliminary research and seeking feedback. You will find on our Recent Research Activities page that since the end of classes in April English faculty — and a couple of students —  have been busy at various regional, national, and international conferences.

Back in April, for example, Rhoda Zuk spoke about her children’s literature research at the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association in Boston, specifically about white girl owners of black male dolls.

May is always a busy conference month for English faculty. Early in May, David Wilson, who has created an app for the study of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, spoke about using apps in class to the Creative Learning and Teaching conference at Dalhousie. Chris Ferns, who has extensive experience in collective bargaining in Nova Scotia universities, gave a paper at the Canadian Industrial Relations conference in Calgary. Susan Drain, along with Writing Minor student Kim Dunn, gave a presentation at the Canadian Association for Language and Learning, which met in Toronto near the end of May.

May is also the month in which many professors attend the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which brings together over sixty Canadian scholarly associations for their annual meetings in a selected university. The 2012 Congress was held in Waterloo, Ontario at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.  As part of the Congress, Reina Green gave a paper on the Canadian playwright Catherine Banks to the Canadian Association for Theatre Research; Karen Macfarlane spoke about her Lady Gaga research to the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English and gave a talk to the Canadian Association of Chairs of English. English student Kim Sheppard delivered her first Congress paper, also to the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, on the topic of  “The Epistemology of the Plus-Sized Closet: Fatness as Being, Fatness as Meaning.” Finally, the Canadian Society of Medievalists heard Anna Smol speak about children’s versions of Beowulf.

In June, Graham Fraser gave a paper at the Interdisciplinary/ Multidisciplinary Virginia Woolf Conference in Saskatoon.

The conference season continues into the current academic term. In September, Anna Smol gave a paper on J.R.R. Tolkien’s influence on criticism of the Old English poem Battle of Maldon at the Atlantic Medieval Association conference at Acadia University. Both Clare Goulet and Reina Green spoke in October at the Atlantic Universities Teaching Showcase conference in Fredericton. Clare Goulet’s presentation was titled “The Thirty-Minute Talking Cure” and Reina Green spoke about  “Workin’ Groups: Strategies for Successful Cooperative Learning.”

These have been busy months for English Department researchers who, even when not presenting at conferences or publishing articles, are engaged in their individual research programs. You can find out more about faculty research in the Faculty Profiles on our website and on our Recent Research page. You can also visit this blog regularly for updates on recent research in the English Department.