Although we use words every day, we often take the English language for granted.  To show how relevant language and literature are and how dynamic they can be, the Vanier College English Department is presenting Language and Writing in the 21st Century: A Symposium, from November 7 to 9, 2012.

Language is a flexible tool
“Language is a tool for day-to-day interactions with family and community, for education, information dissemination, and creative expression,” states English teacher Heather Robb, the principal organizer of the English Symposium.  “While words on a printed page may appear fixed and stable, the forms they take, the problems they unleash, and the visions they inspire, are shifting, and unpredictable.”  To explore these aspects of language, presentations will run every day from 8:30 am to 4 pm and focus on daily themes: Everyday Literacies, Exploring the Genres, and Exploring Stories.

Day One:  Everyday Literacies
On November 7th, Diane Labelle will launch the Symposium with her talk, First Nations and Traditional Languages, a look at how colonization and assimilation have robbed native young people of indigenous languages.  Following her, Dr. Philippa Bell, Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at UQAM, will speak on Consciousness and Second Language Acquisition.

Keynote Address: Education for Diversity and Inclusion
At 12:30 pm, author, George J. Sefa Dei, Professor of Sociology and Equity Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, will deliver the Keynote Address: Education for Diversity and Inclusion: The Challenges for the Contemporary Learner.  In the afternoon, Drawn and Quarterly’s Tom Devlin will share his thoughts on the graphic novel industry and offer advice to budding graphic novelists. At 4 pm, a Vanier Student and Teacher Panel Discussion: Multilingualism and the English College Experience will consider the experiences of students whose first language is not English.

The spoken word, arts reporting, and non-fiction
Exploring the Genres will be the theme on November 8.  The day will start with a session on Spoken Word Poetry, with a performance and a discussion of the tradition.  At 10:30 am, Canadian playwright, novelist and pianist /songwriter, Tomson Highway will deliver the Keynote Address, Language, Landscape and Writing, where he will trace his own writing back to the landscapes and languages that shaped him.

Other Thursday speakers include Montreal-based reporter/editors Malcolm Fraser and Lorraine Carpenter who will speak about Arts Reporting and the Alternative Press in Montreal; the Teesri Duniya Theatre which will present a staged reading of excerpts from James Forsythe’s Safer Ground?; and Montreal-based writers, Taras Grescoe and Mark Abley who will discuss non-fiction writing.

Writing a good story
Under Friday’s theme of Exploring Stories, the Living Histories Ensemble will present Playback Theatre, followed by actor, comedian and writer, Matt Goldberg who will discuss the ingredients of good storytelling.  At noon, the Keynote Address, cosponsored by the Vanier College Teachers Association, will feature renowned Canadian newspaper reporter, Jan Wong, who will share the story of her struggle with depression.

Readings in the Coffee House
In the afternoon, the Symposium will close with the English Department Coffee House where members of the Vanier community will share their own original work (or an excerpt from it) in a friendly, encouraging environment.

Open to the public, all events take place in the Auditorium (A-103), with the exception of the coffee house, which will take place in the Theatre Room (B-326).

2012 English Symposium

2012 English Symposium FR

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