Assignment 1:1 – Welcome!

Welcome! My name is Jess Borthwick (you may also encounter me as Jess Marlow, which is the name I use for social networking and creative work). I’m a fourth-year student at UBC, double-majoring in Theatre and English Literature. I’m a settler on this land, and I consider it a great privilege to live and study on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam Nation.

I’m a feminist, an actor, a clown, a storyteller, a student of yoga, an activist, and a lover of fine tea.

ENGL 470A is a course that considers the intersections between European and Indigenous traditions of literature and orature, and the importance of storytelling as a tool for cultural exchange, growth, and resurgence. Not only will we encounter stories in literature, but we will also consider the stories we tell about literature: the course provides a platform from which to analyze which narratives gain a place in the literary canon, and which are excluded. It is entirely conducted online, and one of the exciting features of its format is that it requires a high level of engagement with social media, blogging, and other online tools in order to create a community of learners working together to further discussion about the future of Canadian literature. Speaking as one who grew up reading books and climbing trees, I must admit that I’m feeling a little trepidatious about the technical side of things, but I’m keen to embrace it as part of the learning process.

The story of Turtle Island is an Anishinaabe/Ojibway creation story

A great deal of my studies both in and outside of school have been concerned with Indigenous peoples and cultures on Turtle Island, and, in particular, the practices and traditions of storytelling. It all began when I encountered Tomson Highway‘s intense play Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing in a Theatre class in my first year, which sparked a passion for learning about Indigenous stories and creating space for Indigenous voices on stages across Canada and the world. I have taken several different Canadian Literature classes since, including a fantastic course on Indigenous feminism and literature (ENGL 476, taught by the wonderful Dory Nason), and I keep finding myself coming back for more. As an actor and performer, stories are the most important part of my craft; as an ally and supporter of Indigenous resurgence, I recognise storytelling to be an essential part of cultural reclamation and celebration.

I hope that this course (while nudging me towards 21st Century technological skills) teaches me more about the canonization of literature, and that it will help to further my understanding of how Indigenous and European narratives intersect, informing my artwork and strengthening my own voice as it calls out for positive change.

I believe that, through listening to one another’s stories, we may help to foster a culture of mutual respect and community accountability, working together to heal the trauma of colonialism and creating a society that celebrates our various histories, cultures, traditions, and wisdoms.

Works Cited:

“Dory Nason” First Nations Studies Program. U of B.C., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.

Musqueam: A Living Culture. Musqueam Indian Band, 2011. 15 May 2014. Web.

Paterson, Erika. ENGL 470A: Canadian Studies: Canadian Literary Genres. University of British Columbia, 2014. Web. 15 May 2014.

Tomson Highway. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.

“What is Turtle Island?” Turtle Island Indigenous Education Corporation. 2013. Web. 15 May 2014.

10 Thoughts.

  1. Hi Jess,
    I love that you have a social media alias, I would like one for myself!
    I really enjoyed the aesthetic quality of your page, its beautiful to look at, calming and inviting. I also enjoyed the detailed content of the course, I think it’s definitely done Professor Paterson’s description justice. It’s great you’ve taken Dory’s class! We will know alot of the same people and content. Isn’t she amazing!?
    I’m also excited about moving into this century (cautiously of course) in terms of technology. What a fabulous way for Dr. Paterson to take this course to the next level, it could have easily been something which was much less personal, and every day. I like the idea of having the blog at the end of this course. It will also be a good resource to have to point people to who are looking to explore First Nations topics.


  2. Hi Jess, nice to meet you and welcome to our course of studies. Thank you so much for a really quite wonderful introduction to yourself and our course, nicely accomplished writing and you clearly grasp the aims of this course, I suspect you will have a wonderful time with the material and the opportunities for expression and exploring ideas that we will enjoy this summer. Welcome, enjoy and talk to you later. Oh, I left a message on your sample page for you – .

  3. Hi again, I just came back from following your links, I too am a great admirer and lover of Highway’s plays, especially, ‘Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing’ – and also The Rez Sisters. I followed your link to Dory Nason’s essay, ‘We Hold Our Hands Up: On Indigenous Women’s Love and Resistance’ ( – thanks so much for the links, excellent 😉

  4. Hi Jess,

    Thanks for the intro! I appreciate your intention to incorporate what you learn from this class into your own artistic practice. It is so important to practice art with as much respect and understanding as possible, whether you touch on these topics or not.


  5. Hi Jess,
    It is really cool to meet another person in theatre. I am in the acting program, but who knows, we could’ve had a few of the same professors. I really like your summary of the course; learned a few things myself by reading yours. I also have some trepidation about the blogging aspect and, quite frankly, all the technical aspects of this course. But worse case Ontario (sorry, I watch a lot of Trailer Park Boys), we will both learn a lot!

    • Hi Lara, thanks for the comment! You’re doing the BFA in Acting? I’m sure we’ve rubbed shoulders somewhere along the line and run in similar circles. I find that my work as an actor does a lot to inform my perceptions of literature and the world in general – something about the practice of putting yourself in another’s shoes changes the way you understand stories and motivations for action. I look forward to talking with you more about the intersections of theatre and literature, and the place of storytelling as a vehicle for social change. Cheers,

  6. I enjoyed that play by Thomson Highway as well, and am also a bit apprehensive about all the ~blogging we have to do. 🙂

    p.s., I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it’s hard for me to read your post with the background you’ve chosen (nice picture though!).

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