Literary Eclectic 

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author: taylor balfour | news writer


how eclectic! / jeremy davis

 Another successful year for English Department Conference

The University of Regina’s graduate student conference, the Literary Eclectic, has finished it’s 2018 run. Taking place through Oct. 19 and 20, the event spawned six panels, one keynote address, and a workshop, all surrounding the theme of health and literature. 

The creation of the conference, according to English professor and previous Literary Eclectic organizer Dr. Susan Johnston, started small.  

“Jeanne Shami, as graduate chair, initiated a half-day graduate symposium in the spring of 2004,” Johnston said. “Then Jeanne organized the first LE conference as a joint UR – U Sask event for Fall 2005. 

“Over time, because of the startup of our own Creative Writing MA program (2007), we started foregrounding writers who were also academics: Aritha van Herk and Di Brandt as keynote speakers, for example. Then, the naturalist creative non-fiction writer, Trevor Herriot, was keynote,” said Johnston. 

The Literary Eclectic, while an annual event, does not take place at the University of Regina every year.  

“We trade years with the U of S,” Johnston said.  

In 2017, the event, having taken place in Saskatoon, ran on Oct. 20 and 21. 

“The conference has many goals,” Johnston explained. “To give students the opportunity of expressing their ideas in public among their peers, to have keynote speakers who address what it means to participate in literary studies in the twenty-first century and in various genres.” 

Dr. Marcel Decoste, the head of the Department of English, thought the showcase was a great display.  

“I thought it was a success and a wonderful showcase of U of R English Dept talent, both in terms of creative writing and scholarly achievement,”  

“From undergrads to MA thesis students, and the fact that we attracted presenters from five other universities and from as far away as U of T testifies to the kind of collegial experience Literary Eclectic has to offer.” 

This year carried the theme of literature and health. Every panel conducted held onto this theme, and added to the overarching concept for discussion for the weekend. 

“The theme this year was literature and health, and Dr. Andrea Charise gave a splendid address that showed us how literary studies can contribute to age studies and also how some literary theory is shifting from a visual to an aural mode of interpretation,” Johnston said. 

However, panels and discussions weren’t the only highlight of the weekend. A creative writing workshop with Daniel Scott Tysdal garnered a fairly large group. Tysdal, an English professor from the University of Toronto, is also a published and award-winning Canadian author and poet. 

“The creative writing workshop with Daniel Scott Tysdal was very successful. Nine people attended,” Johnston explained. 

In general,  Johnston said the conference went amazingly. 

“I think the conference was a success, yes, we had speakers from as far away as York University and Trent. The room was packed for the duration of the day, and a wonderful range of papers was delivered.” 

The keynote address from Dr. Andrea Charise was titled “Resonant Life: Age Studies and the Generation of Literary Futures” and focused on the process of aging and how it is viewed in society and literature. 

The panels taking place on Saturday afternoon had people from across Canada presenting. While an overwhelming majority were from the University of Regina, individuals from the University of Saskatchewan, University of Manitoba, York University and Trent University were all present. 

Another event somewhat similar to the Literary Eclectic is the Trash Talkin’ event, hosted by the University of Regina English Students’ Association every spring. A call for papers normally opens every November for the coming season. 

In 2018, the keynote speaker for Trash Talkin’ was Drew Hayden Taylor, a “highly regarded Indigenous playwright, author, and journalist,” according to the University of Regina’s website. 

Last year, the conference, dubbed a “pop culture conference,” began on Friday, March 9, and while Taylor’s keynote was free to attend, registration for the conference itself was $35 for students and $70 for faculty. 

Also held in connection with 2018’s Trash Talkin’ conference was “Readings by Contemporary Canadian Writers: Lorri Neilsen Glenn” who came to commence the conference’s first official day. 

Lorri Neilsen Glenn, a professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, is also a “former Halifax poet laureate” and an author with thirteen published novels. 

“Her most recent book, Following the River: Traces of Red River Women (Wolsak and Wynn Publishers, 2017) tells the stories of the Cree and Métis women who were Lorri Neilsen Glenn’s ancestors and who, although largely neglected by historical accounts, were indispensable to the life of the Red River settlement as translators, guides and community builders,” The U of R’s website reads. 

The University of Regina’s Department of English time and time again holds conferences that shape the mind and empower the creator. With another Literary Eclectic success, next up is another successful round of Trash Talkin’ in the spring. 

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