The Department of English, Film, and Theatre integrates four major academic streams–Literature, Creative Writing, Film, and Theatre. The Department offers students an opportunity to extend their understanding of culture by engaging in the study of works of literature, drama, and film. The Department’s courses seek to acquaint students with a wide variety of texts and critical approaches, while at the same time enabling students to work intensively on their analytic and writing skills. Students will find courses in the various historical periods and genres of British, American, Canadian and other national literatures, courses in theatrical performance and production, courses in international and regional film, courses in critical theory and analytic methods, and a range of courses (at the 3000 and 4000 levels) which may invite special approaches to literary, dramatic, and filmic texts. The Department also offers several courses in creative writing which enable students to engage directly in the act of literary composition, thereby deepening their appreciation of literature as a cultural and personal activity.
Dr. Diana Brydon is involved in research that considers human rights issues from several complementary perspectives. As a literary and cultural critic, Dr. Brydon is interested in the relationship between human rights discourses and narrated lives, the stories people write about the denial of their rights and their struggles to affirm their rights, especially rights to autonomy, personhood, self-government and democratic practices. As a postcolonial scholar, Dr. Brydon is interested in the history of the ways in which colonized people were categorized as outside the human entirely or as lesser forms of the human, and how they challenged these views. Dr. Brydon studies the continuities between past colonialisms and present denials of full human rights to certain groups of people, on the basis of gender, culture, geography, class, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Dr. Brydon’s work with the SSHRC MCRI on Globalization and Autonomy has led her to consider the relations between academic research and equity. Dr. Brydon has been influenced by Arjun Appadurai’s claim that the right to research must be added to other human rights and by the claims of Boaventura de Souza Santos’s group that “there can be no global justice without global cognitive justice.” Dr. Brydon’s current work with the project, Building Global Democracy (www.buildingglobaldemocracy.org) approaches questions of human rights on a global scale in relation to the gaps in global democratic governance and strategies for addressing them. This project bring together academics, activists and policymakers from around the world to advance knowledge and practice for greater public participation and control in the governance of global affairs. Her current SSHRC-funded partnership development project, Brazil/Canada Knowledge Exchange: developing transnational literacies, brings these concerns into dialogue with national and global citizenship education, using the teaching of English to encourage self-reflection and create reciprocal forms of knowledge production through which deeper cross-cultural understandings might be created.
Dr. Cariou’s SSHRC Research/Creation Project, “Re-Storying the Human Zoo” is about the ways in which indigenous people in the Nineteenth Century were constructed in terms of natural history discourses, to such an extreme that they were sometimes displayed in zoos alongside animals. This project is about the “animalization” of indigenous people, and the ways in which this ideology of animalization contrib uted to an erasure of their human rights. Dr. Cariou’s 2002 book, Lake of the Prairies, is an examination of the psychology and politics of racial identification and discrimination in the Northern Saskatchewan community of Meadow Lake. Lake of the Prairies also includes an examination of human rights abuses in the Canadian military’s Somalia scandal, looking closely at the story of Clayton Matchee, one of the soldiers implicated in the torture and murder of Somali youth Shidane Arone. Dr. Cariou’s films “Overburden” and “Land of Oil and Water” are both about the human rights of indigenous people who are facing environmental, economic and cultural devastation as a result of oil sands developments in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. In these films as well as in his fiction writing, Dr. Cariou is particularly interested in seeking out indigenous voices in order to see how indigenous people are responding to corporate incursions into their land and their lives. In fact, virtually all of Dr. Cariou’s work is focused on exploring new ways of understanding and combating human rights abuses that have been directed toward indigenous people. Dr. Cariou is also the general editor of the First Voices, First Texts series at the University of Manitoba Press, which helps bring lost or neglected Indigenous literature back into circulation.
To highlight early feminism and how writing can help achieve gender equality, English associate professor Dr. Faubert created a compilation of Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1700s novellas Mary, A Fiction and The Wrongs of Woman. Wollstonecraft, today considered a founding feminist philosopher, used fiction to convey her political and philosophical messages, such as those contained in her manifesto A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Faubert used excerpts from such human rights texts in the appendices of this edition. In the introduction, Faubert outlined how Wollstonecraft used fiction to appeal to a wider audience than her political works could. Through the passionate nature of her prose, she inspired her readers to act and create real change in the battle to obtain equal rights for women.
Faubert also recently published an article about her discovery of a lost letter in the British Library written in 1783 by British abolitionist Granville Sharp, demanding murder charges be brought against the crew of the slave ship Zong for killing 132 slaves. Faubert argues that Sharp meant to publish the letter.
Faubert earned her doctorate from the University of Toronto, and her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Regina.
Dr. Groome’s research into the work of women as directors of Shakespeare’s plays in Britain from the late nineteenth century to the present day has uncovered two distinctive kinds of discrimination. Dr. Groome has evidence of women not being given the same opportunities as male directors by the major, “established” theatre companies and by some of the regional theatre companies. Dr. Groome has also found discrimination in the sense that the directing work of women has not been given nearly the credit or “profile” as is given to the work of men. In this respect Dr. Groome’s research is an important piece of “herstory,” of recovering women’s work in the theatre
In Dr. Groome’s work as director of Caryl Churchill’s play Cloud 9, she is concerned to make staging decisions that foreground the themes of racism, class struggle, homophobia and misogyny as manifested in British colonial Africa in 1879 and the continuity between these oppressions and those of Thatcher’s Britain in the late 1970s. It is commonly accepted by theatre semioticians that the director’s work in making a multiplicity of original staging decisions mark the director out as author of the production, of the performance text and that the performance text enjoys the status of being an original, creative work every bit as much as the dramatic text. Dr. Groome is, in these terms, the creator of an original work concerning a set of complex, inter-related circumstances of discrimination.
Much of Dr. Chris Johnson’s scholarly and artistic work concerns the plays of George F. Walker, one of Canada’s leading playwrights. Walker, often noted for championing human rights, gives a “voice to the voiceless” by writing plays about people who often aren’t feautured in plays. For example, his recent television series, This Is Wonderland, and play Heaven, show how race and the myth of multiculturalism can act to keep people at society’s margins.
In addition to publishing a book about Walker in 1999, Johnson has written numerous articles and papers about Walker’s work. Johnson has also directed a number of Walker’s plays for the University of Manitoba’s Black Hole Theatre and for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.
Dr. Hee-Jung Serenity Joo is an assistant professor in the department of English, film, and theatre. Her research and teaching interests include comparative ethnic American literatures, speculative fiction (science fiction, utopian fiction, dystopian fiction, etc.), critical race studies, and globalization studies. She is researching the historical relationship between speculative fiction and scientific racism, starting from the American Eugenics Movement of the early 1900s and comparing it to the DNA revolution of the 21st century. Joo is interested in how literature, as a cultural narrative, helps to influence popular understandings of racial categories at different historical moments.
She is also investigating the rise of the literary genre of disaster fiction at the turn of the 21st century. She argues that such apocalyptic expressions are structured upon a logic of cultural anxiety, whether in terms of race, gender and/or sexuality. Joo is particularly interested in how different writers imagine and represent new workings of race and racism in this supposedly “post-racial” era of neoliberal, late capitalism.
Her future projects include an interest in the numerous cultural representations (memoirs, graphic novels, photography, etc.) of Hurricane Katrina, and exploring their impact not only in the U.S. South but also within a global framework of race, ecology, and inequality. She has published or has forthcoming numerous articles on race, gender and speculative fiction written by authors such as Larissa Lai, Octavia Butler, George Schuyler and Karen Tei Yamashita.
Dr. Libin is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Manitoba. His publications include work on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, the representation of First Nations in 19th century Canadian poetry, and the definition of the human in contemporary South African literature.
In the classroom, Libin has taught courses on trauma theory and literature, the question of ethics in theory and literature, and the literary representations of political states of emergency in international literature.
He received his PhD from the University of Manitoba, his MA from the University of Toronto, and his BA from the University of Calgary.
Dr. Medoro’s research centers on the definition of the human as a category of living beings separate from other animals and how that category ritualizes rights of membership to include or exclude such entities as fetal life, women, and non-human animals.
Whether in movies, books, or the news, the ways in which war and mass atrocities are represented shape the way people understand — or misunderstand — these events. Associate professor of English Dr. Adam Muller studies these strategic portrayals and their effects.
Muller brings this expertise to the Emodying Empathy project. He and other scholars are working with survivors to explore whether a virtual Indian residential school they are creating will lead people to empathize with former students.
Muller is a research associate at the Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice Studies and a senior research fellow at the U of Manitoba’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies. He has twice held Hess Fellowships at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
Muller co-edited The Idea of a Human Rights Museum (forthcoming), the first book-length critical analysis of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He also co-edited Fighting Words and Images: Representing War Across the Disciplines (2012) and edited Concepts of Culture: Art, Politics, and Society (2005).
Despite a climate that said women had no place in the literary world, many women writers in 19th century Scotland resisted this pressure and created their own professional roles. Dr. Pam Perkins (English, U of M) studies the ways these women overcame such pressure by examining how their social power was created and contested, and how they made themselves heard.
In another line of research, Perkins is working on an electronic edition of works by Scottish writer Christian Isobel Johnstone. In the 1820s, Johnstone founded and edited two short-lived radical magazines directed towards a working-class readership. A decade later, she took over the editorship of Tait’s Magazine, making her the first British woman to edit a major periodical. Much of her work was about education and social reform, criticizing pre- and post-Union British policy in Ireland and its impact on the poor.
Perkins earner her PhD and MA from Dalhousie University, and her BA from the University of Utah.
Dr. Sinclair is the director of the University of Manitoba’s English media lab. He specializes in critical theory and how our minds process writing and reading. His first novel, Automatic World, was published in 2009.
Along with University of Manitoba sociologist Dr. Andrew Woolford and English professor Adam Muller, Sinclair is working on a research project that brings together human rights and cutting-edge technology.
What if both the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had access to technologies capable of bringing audiences closer to the suffering caused by mass violence and forced assimilation? How might computer-generated “augmented” realities and virtualities facilitate the representation of historical injustices and the production of historical memory?
To find out, the trio will look closely at emergent digital technologies en route to developing a prototype of an augmented reality program to be demonstrated within a museum environment. This program will be designed to equip museum visitors with an enhanced experience of an Indian residential school in Manitoba.
A pilot study will introduce a small sample of users to the AR program and, using before-and-after interviews and questionnaires, invite them to estimate the degree to which it increased their understanding of atrocity events and promoted empathy for those who suffered them.
Dr. Young’s research on middle-class women and work in Victorian Britain traces efforts by women and proponents of women’s rights to redefine the idea of what was acceptable work for “respectable” (i.e. middle-class) women to do. This redefinition involved recasting certain kinds of conventionally feminine work, such as nursing, as professional rather than as menial, as well as fighting for the right for women to enter traditionally masculine enclaves, such as the civil service, medicine, and law. Gaining the sanction of their culture to enter the public sphere and become part of the workforce meant independence for women, both from financial dependence on the men and from the cultural expectation that they must marry.