VIU Writers Tackle Assimilation, Cultural Collaborations and Acceptance in Spring Colloquium Series

Three VIU professors and writers talk shop in The Arts and Humanities Colloquium Series’ spring lineup of talks. English and Creative Writing professor and poet Dr. Sonnet L’Abbé starts off the series on Friday, January 26.

January 22, 2018 - 3:45pm

Free public lecture series hosted by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities starts Friday, January 26

 From overwriting the Bard, to Seamus Heaney’s contributions to the world, to a unique playwriting collaboration, community members will get to look at the world from several different writers’ perspectives during The Arts and Humanities Colloquium Series spring lineup.

The Colloquium presentations are a way for Vancouver Island University (VIU) Arts and Humanities faculty to share their research and other work with a wider audience. All three spring talks are delivered by professors in the Creative Writing and English departments.

“The spring lineup offers our audience an opportunity to reflect on how and why writers write – their motivation and techniques,” says Dr. Katharine Rollwagen, a VIU History Professor and Chair of The Arts and Humanities Colloquium Committee. “The presentations also underline how poetry and drama often grapple with issues that are central to our culture while also helping us think more about who we are – collectively and as individuals.”

On January 26, VIU English and Creative Writing professor and poet Dr. Sonnet L’Abbé will share her latest large-scale poetic project – Sonnet’s Shakespeare – in which she literally overwrites the Bard. For each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, L’Abbé writes hers over top, overwhelming the original text and assimilating the Bard’s words into hers.

“I’d been thinking a lot about assimilation, how power structures mean that some voices dominate others, and whether as a woman of colour my voice could ever be heard above the most dominant ones,” she says. “I invented a form of poem that allowed me to figuratively take up the space that Shakespeare occupies.”

L’Abbé will discuss her technique, her artistic influences and the personal experiences that informed the work.

On February 16, Dr. Timothy Brownlow, a Professor Emeritus with the English Department, will discuss working with world-renowned poet Seamus Heaney when Brownlow was co-editor of a literary magazine in Dublin in the early 1960s. At the time, Heaney, who went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, had not yet become well-known. Part of Brownlow’s talk will describe watching Heaney’s rise to fame and what made his work resonate with people.

“Sales of his work vastly outnumbered the sales of any other modern poet,” says Brownlow. “People who don’t normally read poetry find him very accessible. His greatness lies I think in keeping his vision intact – he was very rooted in many old-fashioned values – and being very unassuming and down-to-earth.”

The spring series finishes on March 23 when English Professor Dr. Nelson Gray examines what happens when two playwrights write the same story, but from a different perspective. Growing up in a small mill town in the interior of BC, a traumatic childhood incident inspired Gray to write a fictional play about an Indigenous girl who runs away from residential school.

When he started writing the play in the 1990s, from the perspective of a 15-year-old-boy, he invited Marie Clements, who is now an award-winning Metis playwright, director and film producer, to help flush out her voice. She ended up writing her own version of the play instead – from the perspective of the girl.

“When I read Marie’s play, it was just like stepping through the looking glass – she presented a world view that was astonishing to me because it was so fundamentally different than the experience I had growing up in that place,” says Gray, adding that Talon Books is publishing both manuscripts this spring in one book.

“The book is a positive statement of how people and individuals who come from different world views can be engaged in productive and positive dialogue in a way that respects differences and encourages communication,” he says.

The presentations take place in the Malaspina Theatre (Building 310) from 10 – 11:30 am. Limited complimentary parking is available in lot 5D off Fifth Street. Visit the Colloquium Series homepage to learn more.



Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Arts & Humanities | Teaching and Learning

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