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New Professor Reg Wiebe

Posted on: Sep 8, 2016


We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Reginald Wiebe will be joining us as an Assistant Professor in the English Department!

Dr. Wiebe comes to us from the University of Alberta, where he completed his PhD dissertation in 2015. His primary teaching area is Canadian literature, but his research interests also expand into the field of comics.

In order to introduce Dr. Wiebe to our community, we thought we would ask him a few questions about himself.

To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I'm originally from Saskatchewan. I went to school in Winnipeg, where I began my collection of English degrees (at Canadian Mennonite University, the University of Winnipeg, and the University of Manitoba). I moved to Edmonton when I got into the PhD program at the University of Alberta. My wife and I have two children, and one of us dresses up like Batman on a regular basis (I won't say who). 

Your research focuses on both contemporary Canadian literature and graphic narratives (do you prefer graphic novels? comics?). Can you talk why you are drawn to these two areas and describe your particular field(s) of research? 

To answer the second part first, my areas of research are specifically focused on Canadian historical fiction, particularly how ghosts work to complicate stories about the past. My ongoing comics research is part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary examination of cancer in Marvel superhero stories. I'm drawn to these two areas of study because I'm fascinated by how stories are constructed as carriers of moral and cultural learning. With historical fiction, we use the past to write about our present concerns: the past is a story we tell to explain something about ourselves. I'm drawn to Canadian literature because the concept of home is an ongoing preoccupation of mine, and I enjoy studying the ways writers have imagined this space that we share. I like comics because they are awesome. And, I guess, because it is such a vibrant medium, full of big ideas and varieties of expression, and sometimes characters named Doctor Doom.

Given that you're an English professor, I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that you like books. Is there a book that is particularly significant for you and what book are you reading right now? 

I do! I do like books very much! So much so, in fact, that I have to use several books to answer this question. My favourite book, my comfort food book, is Guy Gavriel Kay's historical fantasy A Song for Arbonne. The books that really made me want to study literature were Silence by Shusaku Endo and Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie – each one managed to be playful, thematically rich, and emotionally devastating. I wanted to know how writers could do that and why literature was such an effective way to explore immense ideas. As for what I'm reading at the moment, I just finished Brian Jay Jones' Jim Henson biography, and I just started Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety, historical fiction about the French Revolution. I'm also catching up on Marvel Comics' Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. Finally getting around to David Mitchell's Bone Clocks is next.

Can you tell us what excites you about teaching literature and can you give our students a sense of what to expect in your classroom? 

I love books (see question #3) and I love talking about books. Teaching literature is fun, so much fun, because I get to talk about how I understand texts to work and I get to listen to other people talking about how they understand texts to work. We all gain greater insight into anything when we discuss it, and helping to facilitate that is the most fun exciting part of teaching for me. I really enjoy a collaborative learning environment and so students can expect me to invite their opinions and ideas. Students can also expect to share their insights, raise questions, refine their ability to articulate an argument, and read things that will make them think. They can also expect jokes that are hilarious. Hilarious I tell you! Alright, now for the real question: who is your favourite superhero?  Spider-Man. No, wait Storm. Maybe the Flash? But the third Flash, not the first two. No, probably Squirrel Girl. You know, I'll have to get back to you on this one…

Welcome, Reginald!