Dr. Andrea Beverley talks Fayne and discussing literature

The head of the Canadian Studies program on moderating an author talk and engaging with literary works

On November 12, Mt. A’s Dr. Andrea Beverley moderated an author talk with the celebrated playwright and author Ann-Marie MacDonald as part of Moncton’s literary Frye Festival. MacDonald has penned multiple books, including Fall on Your Knees and more recently Fayne (Knopf Canada). Dr. Beverley hosted an off-season discussion at the Moncton Public Library that echoes the values she explores in her own classes as a university professor: the collaborative nature of literary analysis and engaging together with literature.

“Reading can sometimes be a really solitary act. Not totally solitary, because you feel like you’re in a relationship with the characters and maybe the author, but sometimes it’s something you mostly do on your own. So when we get together to talk about literature it’s adding another dimension to the experience,” Dr. Beverley shares.

As head of the Canadian Studies academic program and professor of Canadian literature and English here at Mt. A, Dr. Beverley is certainly qualified to moderate the event. She currently teaches classes covering a range of subjects in the umbrella genre of Canadian literature, including Canadian feminist literature, Indigenous literatures in Canada, and even ‘Recalling Canada: Cultural Memory and Redress’ (CANA 3401). But rarely are her classes just a dry, hour-long lecture.

“I think it’s collaborative! I really think discussion about literature is key. It’s not very interesting if I just tell everyone in my class what I think. That might be a little dry,” she laughs. 

Dr. Beverley works to introduce discussion-based methods in her classes by bringing students together through facilitated group discussions, introducing relevant content such as articles and interviews circling in literature communities today, even bringing authors in to meet with students as she has in the past. 

Hearing what others have to say about stories and literature is critical because, as she says it, “In classrooms, because we’re all older, younger, literary scholars, we’re engaging in literary analysis, which is always a collaborative activity, because we read and interpret [literature], or reading and interpreting it in conversation with what other people have thought of it or what other writers have written about it.”

“Even outside of classes, anybody who’s part of a book club, […] they’re doing a social reading practice.”

And that was the nature of this Frye event – an author and audience coming together to explore a story. Dr. Beverley spoke on enjoying the opportunity to get to know the author better and engage with their works in a unique way. “I usually will turn it into a reading project. Technically I only really needed to read Fayne, but because I knew I was going to talk to her I went back and read basically everything she ever wrote. […] It’s really handy to be able to make a connection between what’s happening in their new book and what they’ve done before.”

“Ann-Marie MacDonald talked about writing as being really hard work,” she summarizes, “but then she also talked about the power of stories, and I think that really resonated with people.” 

Fayne is definitely worth the read, Dr. Beverley urges. Heavily inspired by Jane Eyre, she assures that “there’s unforgettable characters, I think it’s quite gorgeous.” MacDonald covers a huge range of themes and subjects in her works, ones that aren’t always presented up front either: “If [Macdonald] had said, ‘here’s a story about a character discovering their lesbian identity’ or ‘here’s a story about a character with intersex traits,’, they might not have come to that table, and she wants to set the table wide enough that everybody is invited. Everyone’s there. You might realize you’re in a community with someone who you wouldn’t necessarily walk up to.” Fayne is available at our very own Tidewater Books! You can find it at 13 Bridge Street, Sackville, NB.

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