BSc, Biology; Wilfrid Laurier
Office: HH 265
I grew up in the countryside near Waterloo and on the shores of northern Michigan. I’ve always been interested in plants, animals, wild places, and books. I thought at first the plants and animals were at the top of the list, so I did an undergraduate degree in biology. It became apparent that I was better at reading and writing than looking through microscopes, so I switched over to the humanities at the graduate level. But nothing goes to waste, and many of the ideas I developed for my first book, Environmental Renaissance, are drawn from my continuing interest in the life sciences. The book tries to do a number of things: provide an introduction to social systems theory and cybernetics; reevaluate several canonical American literary texts from the perspective of environmental philosophy; castigate the current state of ecocriticism; and exhume Thoreau’s brain using concepts from cognitive science and poststructuralism. I also find the time to talk about bottled minnows, huckleberries, Al Pacino, and Saturn (the defunct car company, not the planet). I regularly teach courses on environmental discourse, as well as rhetoric and semiotics, the latter a field I studied at Indiana University under the polymath Thomas Sebeok. Other areas in which I have opinions but limited expertise include superheroes, weather, hockey, pumpkins, swords and sorcery, farming (dairy and ant) graphic design, bricolage, false consciousness, catastrophes (esp. world-ending), argufying, fish-mongery, and soup (theory and practice).
Futile Culture. Texas A & M Press, forthcoming.
“Rhetoric and Environment.” Oxford Handbook of Rhetoric. Michael MacDonald, ed. Oxford University Press. In press.
“Media Moralia: Reflections on Damaged Environments and Digital Life.” Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. Greg Garrard, ed. Oxford University Press. 2014.
“The Moods of Climate Change, with Thoreau.” The Concord Saunterer. Vol 21. 2013.
“Sociological Systems Theory and Literature.” Traditions of Systems. Eds. Darrell Arnold and Robert King. Routledge, 2013.
“Children of Men on the Road to Nowhere: The Inopinatum of Hope.” Literature, Rhetoric and Values: Selected Proceedings of a Conference held at the University of Waterloo, 3-5 June 2011. Cambridge Scholars Press. 2012. pp. 71-84.
“Framing ‘Farming’: Climate Change, Peak Oil, and the Rhetoric of Food Security in the 21st Century.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment (ISLE). 19:3. (2012.)
“The System in the Garden.” Addressing Modernity: Social Systems Theory and U.S. Cultures. Hannes Bergthaller and Carsten Schinko, eds. Rodopi Publishers. 2011.
“Environmental Studies, Humanities, and Sustainability.” Environments. 37:2 2010.
Fellowships & Awards
- uWaterloo Learning Initiatives Fund Grant ($11, 600), 2005
- uWaterloo Social Sciences and Humanities Research Grant (SSHRC) Grant ($5000) 2002
- Canada Foundation for Innovations Co-recipient ($217,000), 2001
Brittain Postdoctoral Fellowship
I like interdisciplinary work because it helps us avoid what Kenneth Burke called “trained incapacity,” which is a kind of blindness associated with being deep but not very wide. Despite the risks, we should step outside of the metaphors and narratives that form our intellectual safe zones as often as we can. My current book has the working title Futile Culture; my interest here is to explore a vital but fundamentally wrong-headed cultural task, that of eternalizing the human project while externalizing its perishability. In other words: how are we able to go about destroying our environment while imagining we are not?
Areas of graduate supervision
- Environmental rhetoric and literature
- Nineteenth century American literature
- Semiotics and discourse analysis
Comics and graphic novels