Une nouvelle vue of NB literature — in French and en anglais
SACKVILLE and MONCTON, NB — A new classroom collaboration between two universities and three academic disciplines is aiming to bring attention to different areas of New Brunswick literature.
This past year, students in Mount Allison University professors Dr. Andrea Beverley’s English literature class, Dr. Kirsty Bell’s literature class in French, and l'Université de Moncton’s Dr. Andrea Cabajsky’s comparative literature class came together and worked to diversify studies around New Brunswick literature.
“We wanted to shake up what people think of when they think of New Brunswick literature — and that meant prioritizing avant-garde, emerging, Indigenous, queer, and outside-the-box literary texts — beyond the usual, canonical French and English writers,” says Beverley. “It also meant forcing ourselves outside of our disciplinary comfort zones and modelling the kind of collaboration and intersectionality that we were looking for / found in the literature.”
Using a hybrid of online and in-person teaching, Beverley, Bell, and Cabajsky taught their classes independently but also embarked on group activities and initiatives including a tri-class zine anthology and a literary walking tour of Moncton.
“The zine anthology was published with the guidance of curators at the Owens Art Gallery on the Mount Allison campus and the walking tour was guided by UdeM professor Benoit Doyon-Gosselin,” says Bell. “We had worked together previously on research projects, but this was the first time we were able to move this collaboration into teaching.”
Working together, the three professors were also able to bring in several notable guest speakers and authors to the classes. Guests included the two Poets Laureate of Moncton Kayla Geitzler and Jean-Philippe Raîche, Mi’kmaw poet Rebecca Thomas, Acadian and Wolastoq writer Shayne Michael, and Acadian linguistics scholar Dr. Isabelle Leblanc. Students also looked at the work of trans Acadian artist and Mount Allison graduate Xavier Gould.
“Being able to have so many authors connect with the three classes really made the literature come alive for the students,” says Cabajsky. “While the pandemic has brought many challenges, it has also allowed us good opportunities to collaborate in both teaching and research and enabled students to leave their own archival trace and contribution to New Brunswick literature through the class anthology.”
One student who has continued to see the province’s literature come to life is Islay Fraser. Fraser was in Beverley’s English class last term at Mount Allison and is working as an intern with Bouton d’Or Publishing in Moncton this summer.
“Reading other local authors has helped me appreciate Moncton's literary culture, which is especially relevant since Bouton d'or Acadie is located in the middle of the literary walking tour of Moncton we took as a class,” says Fraser. “I learned a lot about local literature, authors, and region in that class, and I believe that knowledge is making my experience at Bouton d'or more enriching and fulfilling, even indirectly.”
Emily Ahmadvand studied in Bell’s French class. She says despite having lived in Sackville for four years now, there is so much that she learned about the region in regard to its history, literature and diversity.
“The tri-class format allowed us to hear perspectives from other professors, students and presenters that we wouldn’t have otherwise engaged with in a typical classroom setting,” says Ahmadvand. “Since everyone had a unique experience and point of view of New Brunswick, having more voices was enticing and sometimes eye-opening.”
Rose Després studies at l'Université de Moncton. A published writer, she says she wholeheartedly welcomed this varied and conscientiously prepared literature course that the tri-class group had so aptly offered.
“As an adult student who is already writing and translating, I am nonetheless unversed in the more recent inclusion of gender, culture, language and historical and political correctness of recognizing and sharing university studies of this specific platform that is more representative of current New-Brunswick and Canada linguistic realities, ” she says. “What an unexpected and engaging opportunity to discover the numerous talented writers that were either available in virtual mode or through other mediatic venues plus their written works!”
Earlier this spring Beverley, Bell, and Cabajsky gave a presentation on this collaboration at the annual conference of the Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures.