Category Archives: Student research

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.

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.

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.


Our students shine at the Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference

2017 AAUEC presenters

Mount students at the AAUEC 2017

Each year, an English Department faculty committee selects among the best of our students’ work in literature and creative writing for presentation at the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference (AAUEC). This year’s conference was held at the University of PEI last weekend, March 3-5, when faculty and students from around the Atlantic region gathered to listen to and discuss various topics.

The following students were selected for the 2017 conference:

  • Katie O’Brien, “The Maternal Abject and ‘Passive Suffering’ as the Real Horror in Rosemary’s Baby
  • Kevin Smith, “A Picture Like a Poem: William Hogarth’s The Harlot’s Progress
  • Hope Tohme, “The Utter Unpredictability of Words: An Analysis of Translation and Transposition as it Pertains to Mary Stuart’s Casket Sonnets”
  • Sarah Vallis, “Polite Deference: Queen Elizabeth I’s tempering with gendered bodies and power”
  • Karlee Bustelli, “Flight”
  • Tuqqaasi Nuqingaq, “The Way the Earth Feels”

Congratulations to all of the English students who did such a great job of representing our department!


Hands-on Research by English Honours Students

Our English Honours students have a rare opportunity to spend a year researching and writing in the manner of professional literary critics and theorists. Under the supervision of a professor, they select a topic, develop it through research, and write a substantial scholarly work. Last week, our current Honours students presented their research to the department in our annual Honours Colloquium.

Meet our 2016-17 Honours students:

Kyle Cross

Kyle Cross Honours 2016-17

My thesis explores John Gardner’s novel Grendel, which is an adaptation of Beowulf told from the monster’s perspective.  In my project, I employ postcolonial theory — mainly the theories of Edward Said and Homi K. Bhabha — to explore the ways in which Gardner portrays the relationship between the monster and the Danes.

Allyson Roussy

Allyson Roussy Honours 2016-17

With a focus on children’s literature, I am examining how structures of surveillance, specifically the panoptical structure, are used for the social conditioning and social control of children. I will be working with Mary Martha Sherwood’s The Fairchild Family, Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

Alexandra Rudderham

Alexandra Rudderham Honours 2016-17

My thesis focuses exclusively on novels and short stories by Thomas King. A self-described “contemporary Native writer,” King blends written narratives with oral traditions. I am interested in his specific brand of interfusional storytelling: King creates an intentionally liminal space and deconstructs assumptions about the way stories are told and perceived. The novel Green Grass, Running Water, short stories “One Good Story, That One” and “Coyote Goes West” are a few of the texts I use to explore King’s methods of replicating the spoken voice through written narrative. In my research, I am considering authority and a possible capital-T “Truth” in storytelling.


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.

English Department research on display at Research Remixed

Research Remixed 2016The Mount’s annual research day will be held on Tuesday, November 15th in the Rosaria Multipurpose Room from 9:15 to 2:30. The day features short talks, posters, and booths displaying the research of Mount faculty and students across numerous disciplines. Everyone is invited to drop in, have some refreshments, and survey some of the work that goes on in our university.

A couple of English faculty and a former student will be participating. At 12:45, you can listen to Dr. Diane Piccitto‘s talk on “Reconsidering Heroism in William Blake’s Epic Poem, Milton.”  Dr. Anna Smol and Rebecca Power (B.A.Hons 2015) will be presenting a poster on “Adaptation as Analysis: Creative Work in a Literature Course,” which is based on their forthcoming essays in the book, Fandom in the Classroom (U of Iowa Press). The poster features some of the creative work done by students in ENGL 4475, Studies in Medievalism: Tolkien and Myth-making. (Poster presentations run from 9:45 – 10:55 and 1:15 to 2:30).

The event begins at 9:15 with an opening and drumming by the Mount’s Nancy’s Chair, Catherine Martin. You can find the complete schedule here: research-remixed-schedule-2016 [pdf]

Jenny Davison. Sculpture of Doors of Durin. ENGL 4475 projectTake a look at the research that led to Jenny Davison’s sculpture of the Doors of Durin, from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. One of several projects featured in the poster by A. Smol and R. Power. Image copyright Jenny Davison 2013.

Our prize-winning English students

We are proud of our students’ many accomplishments this year.

Writing Prizes 2016

Two of our English students have won University writing prizes:

Charlotte Kiddell (centre) winner of the 2016 library essay prize

Charlotte Kiddell (centre)

Charlotte Kiddell was awarded the Sister Francis de Sales Endowed Award, an essay contest sponsored by Mount Alumnae and the Library, “for her paper entitled:  ‘For the sake of one Japanese-Canadian Family: Mothertalk as Family auto/biography’ which considers the project of one man and his journey to record the life stories of his mother, a Japanese-Canadian immigrant raising a family in Canada during the period of Japanese internment during World War II.  Charlotte submitted her research paper for the directed study course ‘Contemporary Life-Writing by Women in Canada’ – ENGL 4411 – taught by Dr. Tina Northrup” (from the Library News page).


Hailey Stapleton at Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference

Hailey Stapleton

Hailey Stapleton was awarded the poetry prize in the university’s Student Creative Writing Contest.  This competition is sponsored by the Mount’s Writing Initiatives Committee and the Library.  As Hailey explains, “my poem ‘The Coast Land’ is intended to be read in conversation with (or as a socioculturally situated re-imagining of) T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land,” a poem that Hailey studied in the English Department’s Modern Poetry course (ENGL 3319).


Scholarly Awards and Prizes for English Students


Katelyn O’Brien has been awarded the Beryl Rowland Book Prize, given to the student with the highest average in English. She has also been awarded the Paul McIsaac Endowed Scholarship, given to an outstanding English student who has completed 10 units of study.


Hailey Stapleton (pictured above) has been awarded the Sister Marie Agnes Prize, which is given by the Alumnae Association to the graduating English Major with the highest academic average.


Congratulations to all!

Meet our honours students 2015-2016

Our honours students have been immersed in their thesis research for months now. We’ll get to hear more about their work at the departmental honours colloquium in February, but for now, here is a glimpse of our students and what they’re working on.

Charlotte Kiddell

Charlotte Kiddell

My thesis is on representations of diasporic and familial trauma in Hiromi Goto‘s The Kappa Child and Chorus of Mushrooms. Both novels tell multigenerational stories of Japanese-Canadian families. The Kappa Child and Chorus of Mushrooms depict personal family trauma experienced by the protagonist of each novel – childhood physical and emotional abuse, maternal illness, a grandmother’s disappearance – as well as the ancestral trauma of diasporic displacement. I’m interested in how Goto tells the experience of intergenerational diasporic trauma through modes of liminality to communicate her characters’ experiences of destabilization and displacement. Goto plays with childhood perspective, adaptations of folklore and magic realism to communicate the liminality of traumatic and diasporic experience.
P.S. The protagonist of The Kappa Child exclusively wears pyjamas.  I thought I’d follow her lead for this photo!

Joseph Legere

Joseph Legere

I will be looking at the works of Nawal El Saadawi, who is an Egyptian psychiatrist. Using postcolonial and feminist theories, I will be examining the way Saadawi depicts violence and trauma in these works.

Jenny MacKinnon

Jenny MacKinnon

“So if she weighs the same as a duck…she’s made of wood…. And therefore…. She’s a witch!” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

There is something of an ongoing witch-hunt in Arthurian scholarship, largely arguing over the nuances in the labels “enchantress”, “sorceress”, and “witch” and why some characters can be considered magic users and others who never actually use magic are still described in this way. My research examines various Arthurian women, focusing on Morgan le Fay and Guinevere, in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur and in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Using a feminist approach to study women’s agency and power in Arthurian literature, I am also researching historical perspectives on late medieval women and witchcraft.

Jason McKenna

Jason McKenna

I am looking at stream of consciousness literature spanning from the modernist period all the way up to the 2000s (how it’s been done, consistencies, differences). The specific novels I’m focusing on are To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker, and Umbrella by Will Self.

Colton Sherman

Colton Sherman

With a central focus on urban spaces, my thesis explores the intricacies of content and form featured in psychogeographic texts—narratives in which the protagonist explores and engages with the city, such as Iain Sinclair’s Lights Out for the Territory and Paul Auster’s City of Glass. Cities are inherently textual spaces capable of being read (as well as written in) and it is this metaphor of the city as text which centers my analysis. Furthermore, I postulate that this metaphor is reversible, with the texts themselves exhibiting structures—forms—that mirror the urban landscape.

Hailey Stapleton

Hailey Stapleton

I am writing about feminist poetic adaptations of Helen of Troy from the modern to contemporary period. I will be working with H.D.’s “Helen,” Anne Carson’s “Helen,” and Margaret Atwood’s “Helen of Troy Does Counter Top Dancing.”

Sarah Vallis

Sarah Vallis

My thesis explores the racial politics of the Harry Potter novels. I will be looking at four major categories: Rowling’s questioning/problematizing of authority and institutions (Hogwarts, the Daily Prophet, and the Ministry of Magic); the sentient creatures of the novels, such as the house-elves, the goblins, and the centaurs, and their identity; the politics of the “real-world” races and ethnicities present in the novel; and the pure-blood politics and Voldemort’s rise to power through the already-existing systems of authority.

English honours students at the Mount take a full-year credit course in which they do independent research under the supervision of a faculty member and write a substantial thesis on a topic of their choice. You can find more information about our honours program here.