Part two of the English Faculty’s Pandemic Publication Celebration on November 17th featured readings from four new books written by MUNL English professors.
Like the first part of this event, the night was a great success. Dr. Joel Deshaye hosted Drs. Pedri, Geck, and Ormsby as they read from their recently published works.
A Concise Dictionary of Comics and Experiencing Visual Storyworlds
Dr. Nancy Pedri took the floor with readings from her two new books, first reading from A Concise Dictionary of Comics and then from Experiencing Visual Storyworlds.
Dr. Pedri is the English Department Head at Memorial University. Her primary research fields include comics studies, word and image studies, and photography in literature. She frequently teaches courses in these areas and has published numerous articles and edited several books on these diverse topics. Some of her previous edited (and co-edited) collections include:
- Picturing the Language of Images (2013)
- The Narrative Functions of Photography in Comics (2015)
- Enlightening Encounters: Photography in Italian Literature (2015)
She received the James Phelan Award in 2012 for the article “Focalization in Graphic Narrative,” which she co-authored for the journal Narrative.
(Photo credit: https://ohiostatepress.org/books/titles/9780814215029.html)
Dr. Pedri’s Concise Dictionary of Comics facilitates the study of comics for students and scholars alike. When Dr. Deshaye asked Dr. Pedri why she felt a dictionary of comics was necessary to assemble, she responded that there was an absence of consistent terminology in the field of comics and that such a dictionary could provide scholars with an anchor for their work.
The dictionary includes over 1000 terms related to the study of comics with clear and—as the title indicates—concise definitions. Some of these definitions accompany lively illustrations from the graphic artist Chuck Howitt that provide a visual example of a given term. Additionally, the dictionary contains a bibliography of current scholarship on comics. Dr. Pedri read some of these definitions and displayed Howitt’s images during the book launch.
She then turned to her second publication, Experiencing Visual Storyworlds, a collection of essays she co-edited with Silke Horstkotte, which “illuminates how comics express what characters and narrators see, think, and feel.” The book explores previous definitions of focalization, or “the filtering of a story through the minds of characters and narrators.” She read from the book’s opening, including her expanded definition of focalization. This topic is of such interest to her, she explained to Dr. Deshaye, because it allows readers to explore their favourite characters in greater depth and thus makes reading comics a more dynamic and personal process.
Beer and Brewing in Medieval Culture and Contemporary Medievalism
Next, Dr. John Geck read from Beer and Brewing in Medieval Culture and Contemporary Medievalism which he edited alongside Rosemary O’Neill and Noelle Phillips.
Dr. Geck is an Associate Professor at MUNL whose scholarly interests focus on medieval literature, particularly the historical contexts of late medieval English drama and medieval literary place and space. Dr. Geck’s previous publications include
- ‘On the yestern day, in Feverere, yere passeth fully’: On the dating and prosopography of Mankind (2009),
- For Goddes love, sir, mercy!:’ Recontextualising the Modern Critical Text of Floris and Blancheflor’ (2011)
- Interrogating Chivalry and the Hunt in the Auchinleck Guy of Warwick (2012).
Dr. Geck’s book, Beer and Brewing in Medieval Culture and Contemporary Medievalism, provides “a cross-cultural analysis of the role that alcohol consumption played in literature, social and cultural history, and gender roles in the Middle Ages.” The book examines medieval beer production and consumption elements, which are frequently exploited for modern-day marketing purposes. In doing so, it also raises questions about some of the problems associated with such medievalist tendencies.
Before diving into his reading, Dr. Geck spoke with Dr. Deshaye about the evolution of women’s roles in beer culture from ancient Egyptian goddesses to medieval beer “wenches” to Hooters waitresses. Beer and Brewing dedicate three chapters to exploring the gender roles historically associated with beer in great detail.
Dr. Geck then read from the chapter on Beer and Brewing he wrote, entitled “Codex Cervisarius: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Medievalism of Craft Beer in Quebec and Ontario.” His reading drew attention to the role of nostalgia in the beer market using different examples of current beer labels that contain medievalism’s. His reading highlighted some of the dangers associated with nostalgia by pointing to specific brands that use crusades and colonial imagery in a nostalgic way. However, he also highlighted several modern designs that play with medieval images and nostalgia far more positively.
Shakespeare and Tourism
To wrap the night up, Dr. Robert Ormsby read from the book that he edited with Valerie Clayman Pye called Shakespeare and Tourism.
Dr. Ormsby is an Associate Professor of English at Memorial University who teaches early modern English drama. His research is centered on Shakespeare’s literature, Shakespeare in performance, and theatre history. Previously, Dr. Ormsby has authored performance-oriented editions of Julius Caesar (2006) and Coriolanus (2014), he also edited The Shakespearean World alongside Jill Levenson (2017) and his essays have appeared in journals such as Cahiers Élisabéthains, Modern Drama, and Shakespeare Bulletin.
Shakespeare and Tourism “provides a dialogical mapping of Shakespeare studies and touristic theory through a collection of essays by scholars on a wide range of material.” The collection traces the evolution of Shakespeare tourism using examples from around the world to illustrate the importance of this thriving industry.
To preface Dr. Ormsby’s reading, Dr. Deshaye asked the author to discuss the purpose of writing about tourism that revolves around Shakespeare. Dr. Ormsby explained how studying Shakespeare and tourism in conjunction with one another can offer valuable insight into both fields that could not be gained otherwise. Such studies bring to light vital aspects and concerns of cultural heritage in the places where Shakespeare tourism can be found.
Dr. Ormsby’s reading drew from his chapter of the book: “Festival Shakespeare and Newfoundland as Tourist Place.” This reading provided a local example of vibrant Shakespeare-centered tourism by discussing Perchance Theatre in Cupids. It also explored how Shakespeare tourism can evolve even within a given tourist sight by indicating that this theatre’s focus has shifted in its decade of operation.
A Word from the Authors
I spoke with the three authors personally at the end of the evening and first asked each to elaborate on what initially inspired their respective projects.
Dr. Pedri shared that her inspiration for writing A Concise Dictionary of Comics came from a somewhat heated debate about the imprecision prevalent in the field of comics with a fellow comic scholar, Diana Schutz. Fortunately, this heated discussion led the two scholars to realize that there was a need for a volume like Dr. Pedri’s dictionary to fill in some of the gaps in the field. In the end, Diana Schutz ended up providing Dr. Pedri with continued encouragement throughout her project, and Dr. Pedri even decided to dedicate her dictionary to her.
Similarly, Drs. Geck and Ormsby, the idea for their projects, came to light during literary conferences. Dr. Geck approached the idea for the book Beer and Brewing during a medieval international congress. Dr. Ormsby, who had already been studying the correlation between Shakespeare and tourism, first considered expanding the topic into a book during a conference with his co-editor Valerie Clayman Pye.
The authors had differing responses, however, concerning the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their publications. For Dr. Pedri, the pandemic presented her with some unforeseen free time that allowed her to focus on her two books, whereas for Drs. Geck and Ormsby, the pandemic’s effects were primarily adverse as it impeded their research projects and even forced some of their collaborators to back out of the project.
The authors also shared some of the most rewarding aspects of their projects with me.
Dr. Pedri has received positive feedback about her dictionary, as people express the utility of the resource.- feedback which is incredibly gratifying. She is happy to know that her project has a practical use that can allow her field of interest to become more accessible to everyone. In terms of Experiencing Visual Storyworlds, Dr. Pedri explained that she was very excited to bring her various interests together and collaborate with other scholars on the topic.
Seeing so many people with different perspectives come together to work on such an interesting topic was especially rewarding for Dr. Geck. He was also pleased to be able to explore his interest in beer and brewing at length.
Dr. Ormsby likewise talked about the benefits of collaboration and how much he enjoyed reading other scholars’ work on the subject. He also explained that he loves writing about Newfoundland tourism in particular and is a fan of the work done at Cupids, so he was happy to be able to dedicate a chapter of his book to this topic.