Articles & Book Chapters

Possibilities for English Studies

English Studies in Canada 47.4 (December 2021): 85-90.

By Brandon McFarlane and Sarah Banting

Abstract

This cluster, Possibilities for English Studies Scholarly, Research, and Creative Activities (SRCA), facilitates two interconnected interventions: it inspires literary scholars to identify as creative and to help build a culture of transformative creativity grounded in hope and joy. This special research cluster advances these goals by disseminating possibilities for SRCA unrestrained by pratical concerns and inviting readers to continue the creative act as sympathetic colleagues who can appreciate, and perhaps, act upon, the hopeful visions that are collected in this special cluster.

Coming Soon

Bringing to Life “Unrealistic” Ideas: Co-Creating Courses with Undergraduate Students for Radical Change in the Humanities

English Studies in Canada 47.4 (December 2021): 91-98.

By Sheena Jary

Abstract

Covid-19 has damaged our learning community. In the wake of pandemic teaching and learning, students and instructors are still building and rebuilding meaningful professional relationships that make the classroom feel more like a community. Outside of the university, Covid has highlighted the social inequities and injustices that characterize Canadian—and more generally, western—societies. While the university cannot in a single motion “solve” the social justice issues that deepen inequality, it can play an integral role in initiating an overhaul of society by modelling compassion, collaboration, and inclusivity in educational settings. Change begins in the classroom, but only when the classroom is a space that invites and celebrates radical transformation.

Coming Soon

Critique, Climate, and Crisis

English Studies in Canada 47.4 (December 2021): 99-108.

By Ishaan Alexander Selby

Abstract

Critique, Climate and Crisis stages an intervention in three different theoretical areas of focus: animal studies, critical theories of climate change, and minority discourse with a particular emphasis on racialization, gender oppression, and the construction of the sexual minority. The type of intervention my project stages is a kind of three-way dialogue between these different theoretical areas in order to rethink the Anthropocene. Ultimately, my project works as an analytic or optic of reading that can zero in on the central role of the non-human as well as be attentive to race, gender, and sexuality.

Coming Soon

An Ethical (S)pace/Water Is Life Project: Restoring the Athabasca River Ecosystem Through Indigenous Self-Determination

English Studies in Canada 47.4 (December 2021): 109-118.

By Zahra Tootonsab

Abstract

In Fort McMurray, Alberta, bitumen-laced water from the oil industries’ tailings ponds continues to flow into the Athabasca River. This disproportionately impacts Indigenous populations in Fort McMurray and downriver in Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan. In order to encourage water co-management and Indigenous self-determination, this possibility investigates the tensions between western science and Indigenous knowledges and puts up a third alternative for an ethical (s)pace between the two intellectual traditions. This possibility suggests a community project named “Water Is Life” which would be based in the Alberta oil sands region (AOSR). This Indigenous-led programme will consist of collaborative workshops that will use Indigenous knowledges, literary studies, and policy frameworks to promote water safety and security for Indigenous communities in the AOSR. The goal of the “Water Is Life” project is to encourage ethical modes of learning and teaching about the issues of water pollution in Canada and how it affects Indigenous communities. This possibility for an ethical space and pace for healing and learning with Indigenous knowledges can help diversify the environmental humanities to include practical modes of tending to the land, animals, waters, and other beings. One of the hoped-for-impact of the workshops is to address how government and corporate systems can enhance their environmental assessment (EA) procedures through Indigenous-centered policies.

Coming Soon

Remaking Critical Theory

University of Toronto Quarterly 92.2 (May 2023): 147-181.

By Brandon McFarlane, Alexander Hollenberg, Hyein Lee, and Marco Cibola

Abstract

Popular conceptions of creativity advance a neoliberal world view that reduces creativity to spontaneous ideation or so-called “right-brain thinking.” Such formulations, now commonly upheld in popular and educational discourse, blinker the essential role of criticality and sensitivity to socio-cultural context in the creative process. To challenge the neoliberalization of creativity, we designed the Remaking Critical Theory (RCT) process, which synthesizes recent cognitive science and creative humanities research to reconstitute creativity as criticality and vice versa – what we label critical creativity. The process reframes humanistic interpretation as a critical-creative activity and adapts methods from art, design, and innovation management to facilitate the production of humanities insights. Drawing upon dual-process models of creative cognition, we theorize how the RCT process activates the right type of thinking at the right time in the creative process. We also evidence efficacy by delineating and reflecting upon a pilot application at Sheridan College, which culminated in the student researchers making critical theory zines. More than simply reaffirming the value of critical theory in neoliberal societies, we delineate a radically new approach to humanities research and pedagogy.

Read More

Introduction to the Creative Humanities

University of Toronto Quarterly 91.1 (Winter 2022): 1-32.

By Brandon McFarlane

Abstract

The creative humanities respond to the creative turn in art, culture, and higher education. In the decades bracketing the millennium, art and culture were instrumentalized to underwrite growth in the creative economy by attracting world-class talent and generating spin-off benefits for hospitality and tourism. Similarly, higher education was retooled to train labour for the creative economy and bring tangible innovations to Canadian communities. These broadscale shifts present pertinent challenges to humanists: we need new theories to critically examine the production, politics, aesthetics, and second-order consequences of culture vis-à-vis the creative economy, and we also need theories and practices that can strategically situate the humanities within neoliberal models for higher education that increasingly prioritize career preparedness, creativity, innovation, and commercialization. Three emergent theories of humanities creativity and innovation – critical creativity, critical making, and meta-creativity – are delineated to showcase how they can be broadly applied to leverage neoliberal discourse to gain access to resources and opportunities while nevertheless championing alternative models grounded in social justice and the social good.

Read More

The Manual of Disaster

University of Toronto Quarterly 91.1 (Winter 2022): 33-50.

By Andrea Charise and Stefan Krecsy

Abstract

This article offers a critical examination of creativity discourse at the intersection of two disciplinary fields: health and humanities. In contrast to creativity’s long-standing associations with making, imitation, or invention, we examine the relatively recent emergence of what we call creativity’s preparatory capacity, particularly within critical discussions of health-care and illness narratives. Working with fictional representations of the emergency room in physician-writer Jay Baruch’s short-story collection Fourteen Stories: Doctors, Patients, and Other Strangers (2007), we identify how particular narrative techniques are revealed in a range of emergency scenarios – both within and beyond the fictional setting – and what such deployments of creativity might signal for the future of literary studies more broadly.

Read More

Critical-Creative Literacy and Creative Writing Pedagogy

University of Toronto Quarterly 91.1 (Winter 2022): 51-66.

By Glenn Clifton

Abstract

This article builds on psychological research that claims critical thinking is a key component of the creative process to argue that critical-creative literacy is a cognitive goal of creative writing education. The article also explores the types of assignments and prompts that might contribute to this goal and simultaneously build bridges between creative writing education and other humanities disciplines.

Read More

Transcending Lockdown: Fostering Student Imagination through Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning and Creativity in Engineering Design Courses

University of Toronto Quarterly 91.1 (Winter 2022): 67-87.

By Edmund Martin Nolan

Abstract

Engineering design and communication courses are typically dynamic, active learning spaces that bring together a complex array of knowledge and skills. Their ambiguous nature has allowed, often contentiously, subjects such as language and communication, the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences to enter the discourse of engineering in a newly meaningful way. This article considers this development in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, how the creativity and imagination required to succeed in engineering design might be cultivated in emergency distance learning. I consider a plethora of sources for guidance, with a special interest in how language and communication facilitates collaborative learning, creativity, and intersubjectivity and how that mediation is further mediated by educational technology in distance learning. I focus on the challenges faced and the resulting importance of training for both instructors and students. Finally, I argue that, despite our difficult circumstances, we should aim to encourage our students to exercise their imaginations, both independently and collaboratively, through our selection, framing, and facilitation of team design projects during the pandemic.

Read More

Tailor Made, Skylarking, and Making in the Humanities

University of Toronto Quarterly 91.1 (Winter 2022): 88-101.

By Dale Tracy

Abstract

Reacting to the symbolic features and historical artefacts that invite institutional self-reflection at the Royal Military College (RMC), I created a performance project leading to two storytelling events. Everyday campus life at RMC already offers opportunities for cultivating a meta-perspective – a higher-order awareness – of the institution, and the storytelling events called attention to such opportunities. I argue that, likewise, art-based projects in the humanities call attention to the creativity – the making – involved in the humanities more broadly. The first storytelling event, Tailor Made (2017), comprised stories focused on the uniform as a model and the body wearing it as an actual bearing out that model. Social and cultural life is made of the difference between models and actuals, and each story engaged the ways in which rules, systems, and practices meet with individuals in hurtful, inconvenient, funny, or messy ways. The second event, Skylarking (2018), included stories of the institutionally condoned pranks called “skylarks” and coincidentally occurred against the backdrop of a campus-wide punishment that elicited a skylark response. This event and its context showed that marking disruption with more disruption (marking failure with punishment and marking punishment with prank) is a recursion that invites higher-order thinking about existing orders.

Read More

Learning in an Uncertain World: Transforming Higher Education for the Anthropocene

Uncertainty: A Catalyst for Creativity, Learning and Development. Eds. Ronald A. Beghetto & Garrett J. Jaeger. Springer: Cham, 2022. 337-357

By Nathaniel Barr, Kylie Harley, Joel A. Lopata, Brandon McFarlane, and Michael J. Mcnamara.

Abstract

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution rapidly changes how people live, work, and connect, and as the realities of the Anthropocene and a planet irrevocably marked by human activity come to impact all aspects of existence on Earth, our species faces great uncertainty. Social, economic, and environmental challenges, primarily of our own doing, pose grave risks with no certainties as to their resolution. In a world awash with rapid transformation, higher education has not kept pace with emergent needs. In order that higher education may help us survive, it must undergo evolution and transformation to suit the uncertainty of the Anthropocene. This chapter offers several preliminary recommendations for this endeavour. The higher education of tomorrow should be more flexible, creative, focused on critical skills, leverage constructivist pedagogical tactics, and be supported by earlier education that can help prepare students for a transformed higher education and the challenges of this epoch.

Read More

Applying Critical Creativity: Navigating the Tensions between Art and Business in the Creative City

Creative Industries in Canada Eds. Cheryl Thompson and Miranda Campbell. Toronto: Canadian Scholars, 2022. 231-249

By Brandon McFarlane

Abstract

Artists, arts administrators, creative professionals, and policymakers (henceforth referred to as creatives) require the ability to critically evaluate how the emergence of the creative economy has impacted artistic and cultural production in Canada so that they make sound, strategic decisions. In the decades bracketing the millennium, there was a shift in government policy in which art and cultural funding was mobilized to produce economic outcomes. Explaining how an idea stimulates economic growth within a region and building partnerships with civic stakeholders can provide creatives with strategic advantages in highly competitive sectors with relatively scarce funding and resources. However, leveraging such opportunities can sometimes result in creatives unwittingly becoming complicit in the negative consequences of culture-based economic development and can present risks to artistic integrity and autonomy.

Read More

Challenging Creativity: A Critical Pedagogy of Narrative Interpretation

English Studies in Canada 43.1 (2017): 45-66.

By Alexander Hollenberg

Abstract

The interdisciplinarity of creativity research in academia has lent itself to a proliferation of inchoate ideas, definitions, and arguments, and yet, curiously, within the public sphere "creativity" is often promoted as a socio-economic panacea, a word with power enough to heal us of the fractious vicissitudes of modern life. In the face of widespread precarious employment with which our graduating students must now contend--employment that is insecure, temporary, seasonal, contracted, lacking benefits--workers' creativity is typically celebrated as a means of negotiating the new neoliberal norm. (1) In Ontario, the recent mandate of the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (2) emphasizes its role in support of "a dynamic business climate that thrives on innovation, creativity and partnership" (2014 Mandate Letter). Likewise, the Ministry of Education's report, Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario, repeatedly calls for "increase[d] training in innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship" for secondary students (3, 6, 7). Unsurprisingly, this vision echoes economist Thomas Friedman's pedagogical imperative in a New York Times op-ed column almost word for word: the education system must teach "entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity," so as to engender a class of creative "untouchables" who have the requisite imagination to do old jobs in smarter ways ("The New Untouchables"). For many in the humanities, these more-or-less explicit ties between creativity and capital are suspect. In literary studies, we often see our role as filling out a vanguard of social critique, and we view our subject matter--the creative texts themselves--as the vehicles of such critique. Suddenly, our own pedagogical obligations come into question. How can literary educators teach modes of creativity that prepare students for their contemporary context without also tacitly endorsing the precarious world they are inheriting?

Read More