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English Honours Alumni Lecture


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March 9, 2012

By Caitlyn Spencer

While a symposium to showcase the work of a given year’s English Honours students is standard, 2012 will be the inaugural year of the English Honours Alumni Lecture.

“The alumni lecture was initiated by the honours class of 2010-2011, who made an initial donation in the hopes we would look for endowment funding to make this an annual tradition,” explains Susan Bennett, Professor of English, who has headed the Honours Thesis course for years. “Two of last year’s honours students are working on an invitation list to previous students, so we hope this will be a landmark alumni event.”

Rita Wong attended the University of Calgary from 1986 to 1990, writing a critical thesis on Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior under the supervision of Professor Jeanne Perreault.

During her time as an undergraduate, she went to a conference on international development at Trent University, helped with an English students’ newsletter and a literary journal, and studied creative writing under Fred Wah, alongside Weyman Chan, Sharron Proulx-Turner, Ashok Mathur, and current creative writing professor Suzette Mayr.

Now, Wong is a poet and associate professor in Critical and Cultural Studies at Emily Carr University. Much of her poetry and some of her recent courses have been focused on the environment, specifically water. Her March 16 lecture is entitled Water as Poetics and Praxis.

“Water has kept me alive for over four decades now,” Wong says. “It’s time for me to give back, to recognize the ways in which my life is a perpetual collaboration with and reliance on water. The way in which we think — or not — about water is the result of contesting narratives, aesthetic renderings of the future, as well as cultural inheritances. We’re living in a moment when it’s important to think deeply about what a meaningful life is, what real wealth is, what kinds of futures we want to be possible for coming generations. Water can teach us a lot regarding all those questions.”

When asked what advice she had for the potential honours students of today, Wong suggested, “Do what you love. Make time to take care of yourself — yoga is what got me through grad school.” She also suggested students learn to respect the indigenous peoples wherever they go. “It’s a basic grace that I think is important for those of us who care about cultures, stories, literatures.”

(Re)Scriptae, the English Honours Symposium, will take place on March 16 and 17. Rita Wong will deliver her lecture at 7 pm on March 16, in the Evans Room at the Rosza Centre.

Photo by Jane Slemon.