MA Colloquium

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PANEL 1 (1:00-2:30 p.m.)

Chris Johnson
“I said/ I lied”: Ambiguity in Phyllis Webb’s “Some Final Questions”

A significant section of Phyllis Webb’s influential Naked Poems is the final section, “Some Final Questions”. In the entirety of Webb’s Naked Poems, Ottawa poet and scholar Rob Winger argues that the minimalism of the collection stems from Webb’s haiku and ghazal sensibilities that stem from an influence by Japanese poetry (“How to Know Now” 206). These sensibilities may explain the lyrical responsiveness to the image-laden haiku and the “break from logic” (“A brief history of the Canadian ghazal” 28) that defines the ghazal, but the interview quality of the question-answer structure of “Some Final Questions” brings to the fore the issues of public and private knowledge, what Winger determines as “the importance of the private… in the context of the public” (“How to Know Now” 209). If Winger argues that a quality of the ghazal is to undermine the function of traditional binaries (“A brief history of the Canadian ghazal” 31), then the poem’s answer-question structure—what I call the poetic interview—is key in the poem’s effort to highlight the distinctions of the public and the private. In a chapter of the Handbook of Interview Research, Laurel Richardson argues that “the most private kind of feelings” (Richardson 880) is significant in interview research as they contain essential private knowledge that can draw sociological connections between individuals and larger groups of people. Yet, the ambiguities of the answers in “Some Final Questions” undermines both the blurring distinction of public and private knowledge as well as what Laura Cameron calls “the authority of the “answer”” (Cameron 81). Therefore, Webb’s consciousness of inward thoughts turned outward in the final section of Naked Poems is a significant example of the deconstructed binary of public and private as it is prevalent in contemporary Canadian poetry.

Chris Johnson, born in Toronto, received a Bachelor of the Arts degree and is currently completing a Master of the Arts degree in English Literature at Carleton University. A poet and publisher himself, his research interests lie in Canadian poetry and publishing. This presentation is a segment of his Masters Research Project on “The Construction of the Public and Private through Representations of Interviews in Contemporary Canadian Poetry.”

Kale Robinson
Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address: A Medium for Criticism

In Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Farewell Address”, delivered on January 17th, 1961, he coined the term “military-industrial complex”. This term has been inducted into the American national lexicon; and for this reason there has been ample scholarship devoted to studying precisely what Eisenhower meant by this term. Yet, there has been substantially less scholarship devoted to the analysis of the rest of his speech. I attempt to address this issue. My analysis of Eisenhower’s “Farewell Address” is concerned specifically with one reoccurring theme, maintaining peace. Eisenhower’s quest for peace played a central role during his two terms in the Oval Office; so much so that he has become known as the “man of peace” (Wicker 3). After he successfully brought the Korean War to an end, Eisenhower worked extremely hard to ensure that the American military did not become involved in other wars. However, many of the policies that the Democratic president-elect John F. Kennedy planned to implement greatly threatened this. Kennedy planned to increase federal spending on national defense and the production of weapons of mass destruction. He also made calls for rapid and immediate action against enemy threats, rather than employ Eisenhower’s model of restrained nonviolent methods. Based on my examination of biographies, historical and cultural texts, letters, and peer-reviewed journals it is quite clear that Eisenhower utilizes his speech to criticize Kennedy’s proposed policies. In doing so, Eisenhower makes one last call for the American people to maintain his “middle of the road” Republican values.

Raised in the rural village of Doaktown New Brunswick, Kale Robinson spent his childhood developing a strong appreciation for tight knit communities. He was always very active in the community, volunteer fire fighting with the Doaktown Fire Department since 2007. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2013 from St. Thomas University in Fredericton New Brunswick, and graduated with an Honours in English Literature, Major in Criminology and Criminal Justice, and Minor in Philosophy. Currently, he is enrolled as a Masters student at Carleton University in Ottawa, studying English Literature. His academic interests are Postmodern American literature and American Cultural Studies.​​

Chris Davies
Time Dilation, Suffering, and Vietnam in The Forever War

This paper examines the influence of Joe Haldeman’s personal experiences as a Vietnam War veteran on the nature of his SF novel The Forever War. Through a close reading of The Forever War with a focus on the use of time dilation and a combination of new additions to the SF canon and implementation of previously established SF tropes, this paper establishes parallels between the specific events of The Forever War, and the experiences of a veteran taking part in a foreign tour of duty during the Cold War, specifically alienation, dehumanization, and indoctrination. The Forever War is a unique intersection of space opera and of cold war military memoir that leverages advantages of both genres towards the exploration of the other.

Born and raised here in Ottawa, Chris Davies received his Honours in English Literature at Trent University in 2013. It was in his studies here that he developed an interest in British and American literature of the 20th century, along with issues of popular and genre fiction that have continued to influence his studies here in Ottawa. ​

Patrick Williams
Narrative Construction in Edward Zwick’s Glory

Director Edward Zwick’s 1989 film, Glory, has been widely celebrated for bringing attention to the fact that thousands of black Americans fought in the country’s Civil War. Presented as the true story of the black regiment of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the film focuses on the regiment’s white commanding officer, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and four fictional black soldiers under his command. Using historical documents and actual letters written by member of the 54th, including Colonel Shaw, I compare first-hand accounts of the 54th Massachusetts to the story presented in the film. I find that Zwick has changed key facts such as camp conditions and historical circumstances to shape the story of the 54th to better fit his goals for the film.  Based on this research, I argue that though he presents the film as true, Zwick manipulates the historical record in order to recreate Shaw as a contemporary masculine hero. In doing so, Zwick diminishes the significance of the actual black soldiers of the 54th and creates a paternalist narrative. Glory is truly the story of Robert Gould Shaw, not the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Twenty-five years have passed since Glory was released in theatres, and it is time to honour the real stories of the black soldiers of the American Civil War.

Patrick Williams completed his English honours BA at Carleton in 2013. Patrick has a wide variety of literary interests and is particularly interested in American literature, 20th century literature, and Utopian studies.

2:30-3:00 Coffee Break

PANEL 2 (3:00-4:30)

David Pearson
Malory’s Grail Cycle

The Grail Cycle of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte DArthur stands as what is quite possibly the most thorough breakdown of the medieval concept of chivalry. It is at once both martial and spiritual in its analysis of knightly conduct. Rather than emphasize the conflict between “earthly” and “heavenly” knights, as the French Grail Cycle does, Malory instead edits this story to explore chivalry in terms of one’s commitment to their own code of conduct. Malory’s story demonstrates that spiritual commitment is not a separate or “competing” aspect of the chivalric code. Instead Malory proves that it is as integral to chivalric commitment as the material aspects of the code. An analysis of the medieval definition of chivalry will further explain how the two concepts of the martial and the material function within this code of action. Following this, an exploration of the various characters that figure in Malory’s text will demonstrate how he judges a knight’s success or failure in regards to this code. Galahad’s success demonstrates the type of conduct each knight should aspire to when following the code. The failure of Gawain demonstrates the failures of the Round Table in its attempt to exist as an exemplar of knightly conduct. The saga of Percival displays the emphasis Malory places on perseverance in regards to knightly action. And finally the story of Lancelot functions as the story of both the greatest and most flawed knight. His partial success demonstrates both his valor as well as his flawed human nature in pursuit of this code. From this analysis it will be made clear that what the Grail Cycle of Malory truly emphasises is that success or failure comes not from blind commitment to either spiritual or martial purity. Instead it comes from one’s ability to remain consistent to one’s personal code of conduct.

David Pearson was born and grew up in Kingston Ontario where he developed an interest in literature at an early age. After High School he earned my BA Honours in English literature at The University of Ottawa with a minor in Philosophy. His paper is based on research he did while in Professor Calkin’s Arthurian Literature course. He is particularly interested in the relationship between the text and its depiction of knightly chivalric practice; noting both the successes and the failures of knights to live up to Mallory’s interpretation of the code.

Ali Ahmed
Poetic Truth: Lewis, Barfield, and the Karamazovs

Before he was the renowned author of Christian apologetics, whose works on theology and allegory we instantly recognize today, and before he wrote the saga of the Pevensie children that forms the cornerstone of children’s imagination the world over, C.S. Lewis was a thorough rationalist and atheist. Not only did he deny the existence of divinity, Lewis also maintained that the imagination, however potent, could not lead to Truth; that was the domain of reason alone. One of the things, and perhaps the one thing more than anything else, that led to his “conversion” was a series of correspondences he had with Owen Barfield, a close friend and fellow Inkling. In this “Great War” of ideas, Lewis defends his position on reason while Barfield privileges the capacity of the imagination to create truth. There is, in literary history, at least one other such “war”; this one takes place in the otherwise quiet Russian town of Skotoprigonevsk in the latter half of the 19th Century. Ivan, the thorough rationalist, is committed to his project of denouncing God while Alyosha holds that imagination and faith take precedence over ratiocination. This paper, then, is concerned with exploring the extent to which these wars evoke one another, or the patterns prevalent in both of them. Furthermore, while alluding to this conversation of the two younger Karamazov brothers, in particular, and Alyosha’s role throughout the novel, in general, allows us to conceptualize the Lewis-Barfield discussion, Barfield’s thought, as developed in his works, offers insight into the worlds of The Brothers Karamazov. And, with this insight in mind, can we read Dostoevsky in such a way as to glean a commentary on our state of consciousness today?

About the presenter: “There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman,” writes C.S. Lewis, “any more than there now is in saying that [Ali] is a fool and an M.A.” While his name in Lewis’s writing is (of course) an addition, the sentiment, however, rings true. Throughout his studies, Eliot’s words, “we are the hollow men/ we are the stuffed men” have rung true. A professor once told him, “Don’t let anybody find out about that,” and that has indeed been his academic project. It is not unlikely now that the colloquium, and the completion of the program, mark that project’s culmination.

Francine Harris
“In wodes as we wende aboute:” Forgetting and Reordering Human Identity through Animal Disguise in The Romance of William of Palerne

This paper examines animal disguise and its interactions with memory in the fourteenth-century alliterative romance, William of Palerne. In this romance the protagonists, William and Melior, disguise themselves in bearskins in order to remain lovers. When that disguise fails them, they don the skins of a hart and a hind. Throughout the romance, a werewolf guides them from Rome to Palermo. This romance’s use of animals, though it resists an eco-critical reading because the animals are all actually human, calls for the reader to seek meaning in the disguised characters as living animals because when disguised, the protagonists are named in animal terms. Drawing on medieval thought on animals from bestiaries, hunting treatises, and natural philosophy, I will argue that the text plays with blurred distinctions between animals and humans in order to create a troubled space with a potential for forgetting human structures, but also a space that has a potential for reordering memory of those structures. This concern with memory and the distinctions between animals and humans is not unique to this romance and is also evident in several treatises on medieval memoria. I make use of these connections to negotiate the disguised space in the romance.

While the lovers are disguised as bears, they fall into a passive and forgetful space where they remember only their animal needs. This transformation creates an anxious space that questions the ability of humans to remember their social structures when such structures are removed. While doing this, however, the romance also uses animals to indicate a return and a reformation of memory by using a reversal technique. Firstly, the werewolf, the only one whose transformation to an animal is fully physical, maintains a fully human mentality and serves as a constant guide and as a reminder of human social structures. Secondly, the hart and hind disguises also take on more human meanings: the hart was a favoured aristocratic hunting target, and in the bestiary tradition it is a figure of Christ. Aristocracy and religion are two very human structures, and it is therefore not surprising that it is when the protagonists wear these disguises that they begin to live more actively and ultimately return to human civilization. Overall, this romance exemplifies the complicated nature of disguise and its transformative potential that can both disrupt and build upon memory.

Francine Harris completed her undergrad at Carleton last year after jumping all over the arts and social sciences and finally settling in the English department. Because the department is so full of friendly and remarkably intelligent people, she decided to stay for the MA. Growing up, Francine refused to read anything other than fantasy novels and historical fiction. Although the English degree has broadened her horizons, she found her academic passion in the weird, magical, and imaginative world of medieval romance. She is currently working on a thesis on transformative disguise and its influence on memory in medieval romance under the supervision of Professor Siobhain Calkin.

Jenna Jarvis
“’Cut Off from Human Sympathy’: (Un)Sociability in Hays, Austen, Brontë, and Rhys”

Most scholarly studies of Mary Hays relate the author and her oeuvre to the Wollstonecraft-Godwin circle in which Hays wrote. This paper supplements such studies by creating a conversation between her novel The Victim of Prejudice (1799) and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815), which centres on these texts’ depictions of female community and sociability—or, in Hays’s case, her constructions of Mary Raymond’s deliberate unsociability. In considering the biopolitical interrogation of women’s social rights in Hays’s novel alongside Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which posits that a subject’s sentimental restraint engenders sympathy for that subject, I wish to argue that Hays’ heroine practises a strategic form of deliberate unsociability, in which Mary attempts to evade the policing and controlling effects of patriarchy and class hierarchy by removing herself entirely from such society. The Victim of Prejudice betrays a tacit narrative distrust for wealthy and/or male characters, and this distrust reemerges, to a lesser degree, in the free indirect discourse and broadened familial structures of Austen’s later novels. The latter half of my paper reveals the persistence of Hays-like ideals of sympathy and female community in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.

Jenna Jarvis completed her BA at Carleton University in 2013. Her research interests include social and spatial locations in British Romantic novels, Bakhtin and chronotopicity, and the digital humanities & print culture.

MA Colloquium Organizers

Matthieu Foreman completed his B.A. Honours at Carleton University in 2010. After three years of working retail, teaching English in Korea, HVAC controls and working with touring punk bands throughout Europe, UK and Canada he returned home to Carleton in 2013 to complete his M.A. in English Literature. His study interests include post-colonial studies and Canadian Literature.

Jill Patmore completed her BA and BS.Ed at Mayville State University. She has taught middle and high school English for the past four years in Hayward, California and Melita and Deloraine, Manitoba. She will be returning to Deloraine this fall. Her research interests include vocal expression and Victorian and Early Modern literature.

 

 

 

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