Category Archives: Student research

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.


The Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference

Terms of Engagement: Teaching & Learning in the English DepartmentThis year’s conference takes place Cape Breton University March 13th -15th, and two of our intrepid faculty and six of our magnificent students will be there. The Mount’s participants include four academic papers and two works of creative writing:

  • Charlotte Kiddell, “Tradition and the Individual Tyrant: The Historical Sense in Titus Andronicus and Richard III.”
  • Rebecca Power,  “Breaking Down the Civilized/Uncivilized Binary: The Representation of Oucanasta in Wacousta.”
  • Colton Sherman,  “Breaching Boundaries and Taking Back the Pen: An Analysis of Parkour.”
  • Hailey Stapleton, “Stripping the Scripts: An Analysis of Script Decay in Medieval Writing.”

Creative writers:

  • Monica Albert and Alexandrina Hanam, “Let’s make Our Lives Amazing.”
  • Alexandrina Hanam, “Into the Deep.

Honours Colloquium 2015

English Honours Colloquium 2015 posterCome and hear what our honours students are working on — four of our best and brightest in one place at one time. Click the presenter’s name below to read her abstract.

February 12, 2015
Rosaria 401 4:30 – 7:00 pm

Jessica Herritt
Geena Kelly
Shelby MacGregor
Rebecca Power

Refreshments provided, of course. All welcome. Come hear about The Lord of the Rings, The Left Hand of Darkness, Frankenstein, and The Hunger Games.

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


The Honours Podcast, episode 1

Ever wonder what it’s like to write an undergraduate Honours thesis?

Our Honours students have recorded a frank and informal conversation about their thesis research plans, their struggles to overcome distractions, and their efforts to get some writing done in their busy lives. Listen as Shelby MacGregor, Jessica Herritt, Rebecca Power, and Geena Kelly share their experiences in what we hope will be a series of podcasts following their progress throughout the year.


Comments? commiseration? advice?  We welcome your feedback.

Mount English Honours students take a full-year credit course in which they research a topic of their choice under the supervision of a faculty member with the aim of writing a substantial thesis. In February, they present their research to other students and faculty in our Honours Colloquium.

Alternative link to the podcast [YouTube]