Why We Teach and Why Students Study English
Many of the students in our classrooms today will be doing jobs that don’t yet exist. But, whatever they end up doing, they will probably have to plan, to make decisions, to develop creative ideas and to convince others of the soundness of those plans and ideas. In order to be effective and successful, they will require judgement and the ability to express themselves coherently. And if they are to have a lasting and significant impact, they will require the confidence and the ability to question received wisdom and to look at the problems facing humanity from different perspectives.
We CEGEP English teachers help prepare them for all these challenges. In studying a literary text students approach it in the ambit of enquiry framed by the questions, “What meaning is being imparted?” and “How?” To the extent that they do this seriously, with our encouragement and guidance, they develop judgement, the ability to recognize, decode and evaluate ideas and opinions.
And because the body and soul of thought is its articulation, we help our students develop the skills to express their discoveries and ideas as coherently and convincingly as they possibly can. Along with judgement, the ability to express complex ideas coherently is another of the pillars of education and, indeed, of culture. Here again, the study of English is essential.
In addition, all literature worthy of the name addresses some aspect or aspects of the human condition, most often through situations in times, places and circumstances far beyond the immediate experience of our students. By being exposed to literature and challenged to discover what is to be found there, our students discover the broad tapestry of the human adventure, to much of which they might never otherwise have been exposed. Their realm of enquiry and discovery becomes as wide as the world and as profound as our shared humanity.
When the time does come to formulate plans and make decisions, our former students will be better able to place the questions being addressed into a broad context, a context that takes into account the scope of human history and the complexities of the human adventure.
Of equal importance is our introducing students to particular pleasures. Hopefully, along the way, our students will discover the pleasures of reading, the pleasure of completing the art and reveling in its beauties.
For these reasons and more, we do this job because we consider it completely worthwhile and absolutely fulfilling.
Members of the Department
Durnford, RobinEnglish Department member
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Education: BA (McGill, 1993), Dip. Ed. (McGill, 1995), MA (Concordia, 2000)
Selected publications: Pollen (DC Books, 2011) - short fiction
Current and recent courses: The Beach (101), Poem, Prose and Play (102), 18th & 19th Century Literature (103), Brave New World (102), Creative Writing A (cwa) , Creative Writing B (cwb), The Novel (NVL)
514-457-6610 ext. 5260
Naz likes using words like “ineffable” and “tatterdemalion.”
BA in English and Liberal Arts (Concordia University, 1999)
Masters in English Literature (Queen’s University, 2000)
Masters in Education (University of Sherbrooke, 2015)
Beauvais, JenniferReading & Writing Chair
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Professor Mark Beers has been a member of John Abbott College¹s Department of English since 2006. He holds a Bachelor degree in Psychology from Colorado State University, as well as a Masters in English Literature from San Francisco State University. At JAC, Professor Beers served as the English department¹s Writing Chair from 2010-17. He has also coordinated the Writing in the Disciplines project at the College.
514-457-6610 ext. 5971
First, a funny quote: "I know writers who use subtext and they're all cowards" - Garth Marenghi
And the serious stuff (in the 3rd person please!): Valerie started at JAC in 2015. She has an M.A. from Carleton and 2/3 of a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. She enjoys teaching classes about women and young people. She also knows that the meta approach is a bit passé, but it's consistent with the late-90s references she tends to make in class.
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A graduate of Abbott, I continued my studies at Concordia (B.A., M.A.). I then worked as a writing specialist at Dawson and Vanier before coming to do the same at JAC. I am a longtime marker of the English Exit Exam and have also taught at Dawson’s New School and the MacDonald Campus of McGill University. My courses run the gamut of subjects from love to war to drinking to song lyrics to something I haven’t thought of yet but most certainly will. I am also a singer/songwriter/guitarist whose bands have played in seemingly every lousy bar in North America – twice.
514-457-6610 ext. 5905
Andrew Brock has been a member of John Abbott College's Department of English since 2001. He holds a BA in English Literature, a BFA in Art History, and an MA in English Literature, all from Concordia University.
He enjoys all things dark and scary, and likes to teach courses about them.
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Patrick’s favourite quote: "You are a worm, Yyrkoon. But is that your fault?" Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock
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Kirsty Campbell earned her BA in English Literature from McGill University, and her MA and PhD from University of Toronto's Centre for Medieval Studies. She has taught at a number of universities in Canada and the US, and she now teaches courses at John Abbott that feature contemporary poetry, British novels, current and seminal works of science fiction, medieval stories of knights, and Shakespearean tragedy.
Cook, GeoffreyCurriculum Chair
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NAME: Raymond Filipavicius
BACKGROUND: Writer, Musician, Teacher, Translator, Activist, Athlete, Family Man.
EXPERTISE: The English language.
COURSES TAUGHT: English in Many Tongues, Music and Literature, Journalism: The News as Muse, The Literature of Pacifism, Golf Literature.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Since the age of 18, I have made my living as a writer, teacher, and musician under the pen name of Raymond Filip.
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Bruce joined the English department in Fall 2015. He is an alumnus of Dalhousie University, where he took his BSc. Honours in Neuroscience, and McGill University, where he took his PhD in English. He is a specialist in medieval literature, particularly in first millennium manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon England. He is co-author of the grammar text, Drout's Quick and Easy Old English (2012), and assisted editing The Postmodern Beowulf: A Critical Casebook (2006). He is currently working as co-editor on Beowulf as Children's Literature: Studies in Adaptation; in this forthcoming anthology, he traces the illustrations in these works as they reflect the gendered historical reception of the poem. He also figures he has the world's largest collection of versions of Beowulf adapted for children (80 and counting). Bruce has taught previously at Université Laval, Concordia, McGill, Carleton, Bishop's, and Saint Lawrence College in Quebec City. His teaching interests include medieval literature, history of the book, poetry, science and literature, children's literature, and cinéma.
514-457-6610 ext. 5947
I very much enjoy creating and giving courses that offer positive visions of humans' relations with each other and with nature.
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I grew up in the American Midwest but have spent most of my adult life in Canada as a teacher of English at John Abbott College. Enlightened education policies here have allowed me to create most of the curriculum I follow, practice my own writing, and arrange sabbatical excursions. I have also been able to teach for varying periods of time in California, Saudi Arabia, Austria, and South Korea.
The most important literary influence on my thinking has been William Blake. He was a renegade poet and visionary artist who lived in England during the early years of the industrial revolution. Blake all but equated creative imagination with God, and the mythological figure that represents this energy in his work is Los.
In a flash of youthful exuberance long ago, I came to see myself as Los Laymen, using a variant spelling of my last name. However, Blake’s idea was that no individual can possess this creative imagination. The spirit migrates among people and from one generation to the next with unfathomable caprice. Writers can only troll the shoals of language in hopes of periodic visitations from Los who lurks eternally in the depths.
No matter what courses I might be teaching, this is the attitude toward language, literature and life that I try to communicate to my students.
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Anna Lepine has been a member of John Abbott College’s Department of English since 2007. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from McGill University (Drama and Theatre), a Master’s from Concordia University (English literature), and a PhD from the University of Ottawa (Victorian literature). Her doctoral dissertation, “The Old Maid in the Garret: Representations of the Spinster in Victorian Culture,” was awarded the Pierre Laberge Thesis Prize. She has published several articles on the portrayal of the spinster in Victorian culture and has presented papers at a variety of academic conferences. Current teaching interests include nineteenth-century British literature; the portrayal of women in literature; literature and science; and drama and theatre.
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Will McClelland holds a B.A. (McGill) in Cultural Studies, an M.A. (Concordia) in Canadian Literature and has been teaching at John Abbott since 2013. Before that he was a lay church minister, a rock n' roll tour manager and a speculator in antique ornamental jade. His first novel, The Minted, was published by Blue Leaf Press in 2016.
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Professor McDermott has been a member of John Abbott College’s English department since 2011. After earning her B.A. and M.A. at McGill University, and then Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, she has worked to incorporate her sensory research into the teaching of literature. Her main area of expertise is Shakespeare; however, she teaches a range of courses including: “Shakespeare in Action,” “Magic and Witchcraft,” “The Golden Age,” “Mad Science,” “Children’s Literature,” and “Renaissance Greatest Hits.” She also used to teach yoga! Her courses invite students to bring centuries-old texts to life by using theatre rehearsal techniques, performance games, and close-reading. An invited speaker for the McGill Dean of Arts lectures on “Teaching Excellence,” she is a contributor to scholarly communities such as the Shakespeare Society of America (SSA) and the International Shakespeare Association (ISA). She is also involved in coordinating the Writing Centre. What Jennifer enjoys most about teaching at Abbott is sharing her passion for literature with a diverse population of students.
- “‘There’s Magic in the Web of It’: Skin, Mind, and Webs of Touch in Othello.” Embodied Cognition and Shakespeare’s Theatre. Eds. Laurie Johnson, John Sutton, and Evelyn Tribble. New York: Routledge P, 2014. Pages 154-172.
- “The Melodie of Heaven: Sermonizing the Open Ear in Early Modern England.” Religion and the Senses in Early Modern Europe. Eds. Wietse de Boer and Christine Goettler. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Pages 177-197.
- “Review of Holly Dugan’s The Ephemeral History of Perfume: Scent and Sense in Early Modern England.” Journal of British Studies (Apr 2013): 52.2 502-503.
- “Perceiving Shakespeare: A Study of Sight, Sound, and Stage.” Early Modern Literary Studies. Special Issue 19 (Dec 2009): 5.1-38.
- “Transgendering Clytemnestra.”Hirundo: The McGill Journal of Classical Studies1 (2002): 1-9.
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Oltmann, ChristinaScheduling Chair
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PhD (Université de Montréal), The School of Criticism and Theory (Cornell University).
I hold fond memories of my time at John Abbott and my teaching feels like a home-coming of sorts. My favorite courses to teach include Victorian literature, the fin-de-siècle, and the Edwardians (the latter area is my absolute favorite period in history and literature). I also teach courses in comparative literature and cinema, and a survey of famous authors for first year students, a course that looks at many different writers from various historical periods, countries and backgrounds.
My specialty as per my graduate school training is in queer theory and sexuality studies, with an emphasis on psychoanalysis and the French school of philosophy and criticism. I write, research, and publish on many topics from comparative literature to popular culture. I have been active in scholarly research and publishing since graduate school, and along with my own publications I sit on various editorial boards for peer-review academic journals, both on a rotating and permanent basis.
To compliment my past research on queer youth and subculture, I worked extensively with GLQ youth. I have just completed my first novel project, and I have started to do some stand-up comedy. I am a non-competitive runner, having retired from racing, and an avid yogi/yoga teacher. The bulk of my leisure time is spent with my horse. I have returned to equestrian competitions, and I have competed at regional, provincial, and nation levels. I am an ex-actor and hack-musician.
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Originally from Vancouver, Claire received a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Victoria (2003), completed her Masters in English Literature and Language at Queen’s University (2005) where she also was accepted into the PhD program. While working on her PhD dissertation, Claire joined the English Department at John Abbott in 2008. The experience was transformative for her, making her realize that her passion was for teaching and not academic research. In 2013, Claire became a certified yoga instructor and has since tried to incorporate movement and meditation into her teaching practice. Claire is deeply committed to fostering the intellectual development of her students, their creativity and sense of agency. She chooses course content that challenges destructive social practices, proposes solutions to the current environmental crisis and encourages the political engagement of her students.
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Fiona Stewart has been a member of John Abbott College’s English Department since 2006. A graduate of John Abbott College (Health Sciences 1988) she holds a Bachelor degree in English Literature from the McGill University, an M.Phil in Modern English Literature from Oxford University as well as a Diploma from Cambridge University. Her main areas of interest focus on contemporary British, Canadian and American literature, memoirs and autobiographies and utopias/dystopias. She is married to a documentary film-maker and together with their three children love to travel – recent trips include a year in Chamonix, France and a month-long trip to India. Her family is currently fostering a Mira dog – a guide dog in training. Outside interests include cooking, reading, running, triathlons & x-country skiing.
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Having lived in three different continents and six different countries, it was inevitable that I would be drawn to ideas of migration, exile and fragmented identities. My PhD dissertation (1999: Texas Christian University with the Ida Green Doctoral Fellowship) was on Diaspora literature, specifically on first generation American immigrant writers. In conjunction, my interest also delves into post-colonial theory and literature as well as in cultural studies.
My Masters was on American literature (1995: University of Texas at Dallas on a Fulbright Fellowship).
Before finally settling down at John Abbott, I have taught at Concordia University and at Champlain College.
When I have time left over, I sew and embroider. I garden too.
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Gillian Sze is a teacher, collaborator, and writer. Her publications include Peeling Rambutan and Redrafting Winter, both of which were finalists for the Québec Writers Federation A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She studied creative writing and English literature and received a PhD in Études anglaises from Université de Montréal.
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Faye has been teaching at John Abbott since 1993 and her areas of interest lie in gothic and speculative fiction, as well as, literature and social protest.
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Sarah Venart has been a member of John Abbott College’s Department of English since 2001. She holds a Bachelor degree in Canadian Studies from Mount Allison University, a Bachelor degree in English Literature (Honours) from York University as well as a Masters in English Literature from Concordia University. Sarah writes poetry and fiction and has published a chapbook (Neither Apple Nor Pear) and a collection of poems (Woodshedding). At John Abbott, Sarah serves as a member of the Awards and November Prize committees.
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Students are required to successfully complete four (4) English courses to obtain their DEC. Courses 603-102, 603-103 and 603-200 may be taken in either order only after successfully completing 603-101.
For a complete listing of English courses offered, please visit the General Education section of the Course Calendar.
The Writing Centre
The Writing Centre is a peer tutoring service offered to the students of John Abbott College and coordinated by the English department. Each semester over 50 students who are strong in English help other students develop their reading and writing skills in one-on-one tutoring sessions. Located in P-109, with its focus on ‘students helping students’ and its friendly and welcoming space, this free service offers support to students across the programs and disciplines at John Abbott College.
English Honours Portfolio
English Honours Portfolio
Student Information and Procedures
What is it?
The English department at John Abbott College offers our very best students the opportunity to assemble an English Honours Portfolio. If the portfolio is approved, you will receive a certificate and letter of attestation upon graduation. The advantage of participating in the Honours Portfolio is that you can refer to the certificate on your curriculum vitae and even include the letter in your university application. They can also serve as tools when you are applying for jobs where a strong command of written English is essential.
Who is eligible?
If you are a motivated student who has an accumulated average of 85% in three of your English courses at John Abbott College, you can participate.
How does it work?
- Early in your graduating semester (by week three), you must approach an English teacher to be your Portfolio Supervisor. Then, you must assemble a portfolio which highlights your best written work at JAC. These three pieces should include the following:
- At least two works from English courses at JAC. One must be a literary analysis. The other can also be a literary analysis, or it can be an assignment written in a CALL English course, such as Journalism or Creative Writing.
- A third written work can be drawn from a course in any other department at JAC. It can also come from the College Creative Writing Competition (where students were either winner or finalist), or from a campus publication, such as Bandersnatch or Locus.You must also write a 500-word covering letter wherein you reflect upon the texts you have chosen. How are they representative of your best work? What did you learn through the experience of writing them? How is strong writing important to you?
You are responsible for initiating and participating in the Portfolio. The Portfolio Supervisor is there to assess your work and suggest any revisions or substitutions he or she feels necessary. The Supervisor is the one who will recommend you for the certificate and letter. You must respect the time frame set out for you by the Supervisor.
Ask your English teacher. He or she will be able to help you or direct you to the person in the Department who can.
Locus Literary Magazine, published each semester, is a collection of works by John Abbott students varying from short stories to poetry to art to photography to any medium in between. We endeavor to bring you the very best that John Abbott offers in terms of creative expression.
Nous acceptons des soumissions en français aussi.
Locus Winter 2021
English Exit Exam
The Ministerial Examination of College English (the English Exit Exam) is a four-hour examination that can be taken in either May, August, or December. All students in English CEGEPs must take the examination before graduating and must pass it in order to obtain a diploma. The examination is designed to determine whether students have achieved a satisfactory level of competence in English. It is based on the Ministerial Objectives and Standards for all English courses given in the province.
For more information, contact your English teachers or visit Abbott’s Academic Success Centre
Writing in the Disciplines
What is WID?
The following former teachers contributed greatly to creating the department we work in today so we honor them and their many years of service here:
Sharon Asher, Stan Asher, Ann Beer, Helen Binik, Deborah Campbell, Lesley Checkland, Helen Ellis, Adrienne Elliott, Shan Evans, Susan Gillis, Peter Henbury, Lora Hutchison, Deirdre King, Renee Lallier, Steve Luxton, Maureen MacCuish, Hal Napier, Murray Napier, Ed Palumbo, Beryl Parker, Ken Radu, Barry Reynolds, Penny Ross, Ron Rower, Yves Saint-Pierre, Linda Sheshko, Rod Smith, Patrick Tee, Bill Tierney, Lori Weber, Larry Weller