Holiday reading: Books by SMU faculty members 

The countdown is on for the holiday season. Whether you’re shopping for gifts or catching up on your reading during the break, here’s a small sampling of titles by Saint Mary’s professors that are well worth a closer look. For news about other books recently released or on the horizon, please keep us posted at internal.comms@smu.ca so we can share details with the SMU community!   


Electric Fences and Other Stories     

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“There’s a lot of truth embedded in that fiction,” Dr. Gugu Hlongwane says of her first book, Electric Fences and Other Stories. Its central characters are educated Black girls and women in South Africa, maintaining their strength, humour and dignity during apartheid and its lingering aftermath. The stories reflect continuity in the before and after, highlighting issues that women still face in contemporary times.

Recently hailed as an “essential book” by The Next Chapter program on CBC Radio, Electric Fences has been generating rave reviews for the English professor, who teaches postcolonial literature.

“I guess what inspires me are these very loaded issues of discrimination, inequalities and injustices,” says Hlongwane. In her classes, she also draws upon the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada, comparing global reconciliation themes through the lens of literature.

“I always make sure to draw those parallels,” she says. “(South Africa) may seem like a very remote subject and a remote place but when it comes to colonialism there was a similarity of strategy, so there are those connections.”

Hlongwane was two years into her own undergraduate education when she left South Africa in 1989, five years before the apartheid regime ended. She moved to New York when her mother (also a writer and English teacher) earned a scholarship at Columbia University. Hlongwane continued her studies at Sarah Lawrence College, then Guelph University and York University, where she received her Ph.D.

Writing and teaching are in her genes – her brother is a spoken word artist in his spare time, her father taught history and philosophy, and her grandmother is a published isiZulu poet.

“I’ve grown up with a love of words in my family. There were always books around us, even during that oppressive climate when we couldn’t use the library because of the rules of segregation.”

Hlongwane still returns to South Africa each summer to visit friends and family, and to fuel her imagination by sitting under trees, riding in taxis, hearing conversations flow around her. With a sabbatical starting in January, she is embarking on the next writing challenge: her first novel. But the short story genre was the obvious choice for her first book, as “I had so many stories that were cooking in my head.”

In many ways, she wrote Electric Fences for her daughter, “an African girl who was born here. It was a way of giving her a glimpse into this other not-so-rosy time in the struggle for freedom. Some of it may not be appropriate for an 11 year old but I hope in time she’ll find it a good resource.”

Carbon

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“We are running out of time,” Dr. Kate Ervine told a packed auditorium at Halifax Central Library during the Dec. 4 launch of her new book, Carbon

Titled “Climate in Peril: The Future of Carbon and Climate Change Politics,” her public talk was a frank yet optimistic overview of one of the most ominous challenges facing contemporary society. Despite the urgency and magnitude of the collective human effort required to dramatically lower carbon emissions within the next decade, Ervine remains focused on solutions. These require more push from social movements, continuing legal challenges, electoral reform and voting for climate leaders, to boost the political will and ensure greater investment in renewable energy sources, among other things.

“Don't let them tell you we can't afford it,” she told the crowd. “We are at a time on this planet of unprecedented wealth ... we know we can do things differently and it's time to start pressing for it.”

The book provides “a fantastically crisp and clear account” of the evolving political economies of carbon, says an early review from Matthew Paterson, University of Manchester, calling Carbon “a great introduction to the resource that will ultimately determine the fate of the planet and all of us who live on it."

Ervine is Associate Professor in the International Development Studies Program and a Faculty Associate in SMU's School of the Environment. Watch a video of her lecture online, via the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia on Facebook.

New takes on Shakespeare, English Renaissance

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One of Dr. Goran Stanivukovic’s recent books has inspired a new course at Saint Mary’s: ENGL 4424.2: Queer Shakespeare. With a paperback version due in February, the text is a collection of 13 commissioned essays, titled Queer Shakespeare: Desire and Sexuality. The concept emerged from a research seminar convened during a convention of the Shakespeare Association of America in Vancouver in 2015.

“Shakespeare criticism is a vast, diverse and inexhaustible field,” says Stanivukovic, Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature. “Cultural history has treated Shakespeare as a cultural commodity across time, and Shakespeare has continued to offer tantalizing models for testing, contesting and legitimizing changes in cultures and societies.”

In November, the department celebrated the launch of another book by Stanivukovic and fellow professor John H. Cameron, Tragedies of the English Renaissance: An Introduction. It covers the development of tragedy as a dramatic genre from its earliest examples in the 1560s, examining how its emergence was influenced by the growth of public and private theatre venues in London. The book shows how tragedy became the most popular and diverse of theatrical genres during that time period – and also the most disruptive and subversive.      

Other recent highlights

·        Just launched last week, A History of Law in Canada, Vol. 1: Beginnings to 1866 is the latest in a series from the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. It presents the history of law from the first European contacts with North America in the early 16th century until just before Confederation, examining Indigenous, French and English legal traditions. Dr. R. Blake Brown, Associate Professor in the Saint Mary’s Department of History, wrote the book with Osgoode Hall’s Philip Gerard and Jim Phillips of the University of Toronto.

·        The Routledge Handbook of the Politics of Migration in Europe, released in July, is already considered essential reading and an authoritative reference for scholars, students and practitioners involved in research on immigration politics and policies. Its editors are Dr. Lyubov Zhyznomirska, Assistant Professor of Political Science at SMU, Agnieszka Weinar of Carleton University and Saskia Bonjour of the University of Amsterdam.

·        Also from Routledge comes Stepfamilies in Europe, 1400-1800: 1st Edition. Stepfamilies were as common in the European past as they are today, though many were created by the death of a parent and remarriage of the surviving partner. This collection of essays, edited by Dr. Lyndan Warner, Associate Professor in the Department of History, compares how religious affiliation, laws and cultural attitudes shaped stepfamily realities over this four-century period.