Research Groups and Clusters

The department’s faculty and graduate students are active participants in many interdisciplinary research clusters and centres:

The Affect Project

From affect as a cognitive phenomenon, through emotion as a motive for creativity, to empathy as a spur for community action and policy development, to the feeling that we belong in a given physical, social or cultural environment, affect is a significant but complex feature of our lived experience. Yet its nature and influences have most often been explored within institutional and disciplinary confines that curtail opportunities for rich intellectual exchange, and that limit the impact of results across those borders. Research on affect has progressed more rapidly in recent years, owing to a greater appreciation of its central role in guiding human attitudes, decision‐making, and actions and developments in technology that have permitted more precise, moment‐to‐moment, measures of affective response. Even so, research initiatives on the topic of affect remain fragmented within established disciplinary categories. A core presumption of our group is that affect is much too complex to understand in a narrow, piecemeal fashion, with experts from relevant disciplines pursuing their investigations independently. The Affect Project: Memory, Aesthetics, and Ethics, is envisioned as a multidisciplinary, critical, and timely response to the ubiquity of the affective in contemporary life and culture, as well as the “affective turn” taken by a range of scholarly disciplines. Our project seeks to develop connections among those working in different scholarly fields and those working in the community who share an interest in affect, and who wish to explore the role and power of emotional expression both in private and public life. Our inquiries will highlight what William James calls “the feelings of [emotion’s] bodily symptoms”—that is, affect as the physical, biological, or neurobiological expression of emotion. We also recognize that there is inevitably some overlap between affect and emotion in the general understanding of human feeling and expression, and that both affect and emotion are central to our investigations of memory, aesthetics, and ethics.

The research interests of the group members are as follows:

Brenda Austin–Smith researches melodrama as a mode and genre in film and she analyses emotional responses of audiences to the affective rhetoric of cinema.
Michelle Faubert’s research examines early psychologists’ attempts to produce affect in their readers as a means of proving the value and function of early psychology.
Vanessa Warne engages with psychological theories of touch and perception, particularly as they relate to literacy and the development of tactile alphabets, maps, and illustrations.
Arlene Young’s recent work uses the theories of Damasio and cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley to analyse the ways in which sensation, especially touch and hearing, construct affect in both characters and the reader.

Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture

The first institute of its kind in Canada, the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture (CCWOC) is home to scholars, students, and visiting artists who wish to collaborate, create new works of textual and verbal art, and study the relationships between written and oral culture.

Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies

The Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies (GCS) was established with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Manitoba Innovation Research Fund, and the University of Manitoba. The Strategic Research Plan for the University sets out this statement: "Through a number of its humanities and social sciences departments, the University has a long-standing interest and research strength in globalization and cultural studies. Newly developed educational program and research initiatives in this area, combined with the recent hiring of a number of promising young faculty, have led the University to identify globalization and cultural studies as a priority area for further development." The Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies provides a focus for integrating and expanding this research.

Embodying Empathy

Our project examines the ability of new digital technologies to represent experiences of suffering in contemporary museums. It evaluates the potential of these technologies to assist in forging empathetic and ethically engaged communities from those who witness, interact, and attempt to come to terms with representations of suffering in museum contexts.

Group Members include: Dr. Pourang Irani, Dr. Andrew Woolford, Dr. Struan Sinclair, Dr. Katherine Starzyk, Dr. Adam Muller

The Human-Animal Research Group

Introducing the Human-Animal Research Group of the Department of English, Film and Theatre. This group currently consists of both faculty members and graduate students: Professors Alison Calder, Warren Cariou, Michelle Faubert, Serenity Joo, Mark Libin, Dana Medoro, Pam Perkins, and Vanessa Warne; PhD candidates Sandy Annett, Vivi Dabee, Cheryl Elliot, Nadine Legier, charlie peters; MA students Daria Patrie, Alyson Brickey.

Our academic goals involve exploring the concept of human rights as these rights relate to what is specifically human. That is, the category of the “human” as a species with rights is not an a priori fact; it is produced, ritualized, understood in relation to other species.

Given that each one of us is researching the subject of the human in relation to its animalization or degradation and thus denial of human rights, we hope our group will break the isolation within which academics tend to work and provide a venue for shared resources, ideas, connections, and theories.

We hope to start as a departmental group and then expand to include other departments and faculties, with the goal in mind of running an international conference on the topic of Literature and Rituals of Human Rights.

We are also going to hold a colloquium in the winter term on the topic “Human Rites/Human Rights.” The aim of this colloquium is to both assist in the professionalization of graduate students and to lay the foundation for the larger conference we envision for the future.

If you are interested in joining this group and/or presenting a short paper at the colloquium, please email Dana Medoro at dmedoro@cc.umanitoba.ca

Postcolonial South Asian and African Studies Group PSA&AFSG

Since colonialism and imperialism as a social, cultural and political project has shaped the modern world including the west, our group considers it as its mission to broaden the scope of western scholarship by championing postcolonial writings and scholarship. The PSA & AFSG brings together scholars and researchers from a range of disciplines and fields who share an interest in this scholarly venture and political quest. Though a great deal of writing and scholarship has come out of the African and South Asian colonial and postcolonial struggles we also engage with studies by and on populations from other continents with related experiences of colonization, marginalization and struggle. Students, Faculty and others interested in this subject are welcome to look at the website below for further information.

Representations of War Research Cluster

This research cluster gathers together faculty and graduate students from departments across the Humanities and Social Sciences with a view to stimulating research and teaching on the representation of war. In light of recent world events, which have revealed the divergence of perspectives on the political legitimacy, efficacy, and morality of war, the need to understand how wars are presented and assessed has become more urgent than ever. We aim to facilitate this understanding by identifying and assessing the views on war (and the representation thereof in popular media, government documents, the Internet, and so on) held by the general public, soldiers, and governments at home and abroad. This cluster will not be subject to historical or methodological constraints; its participants remain open to the consideration of representations of war from any period in time. Organizers: Dr. Elena Baraban (Russian Program, Dept. of German & Slavic Studies), Dr. Stephan Jaeger (German Program, Dept. of German & Slavic Studies), Dr. Adam Muller (Dept. of English)