Episode 28: Mahmoud Ababneh Interviews Suzette Mayr
Nov 30, 2021
In this Interview of Suzette Mayr by Mahmoud Ababneh, the conversation situates itself firmly in the academy. As both the setting of Suzette’s career and latest novel, Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall, academia is discussed in depth. Suzette speaks to her experiences as a scholar and (borrowing Sarah Ahmed’s term) the walls she has encountered as a BIPOC academic and writer, as well as shifting her gravity from being centred in the University. As well, Suzette discusses the process of decolonizing literary programs, from removing the traditional comprehensive exam to the impact of diverse writing on students. Finally, Suzette takes stock of her own impressive corpus and her progression as a writer, driven by a desire to always do something new, leading into a discussion of her new project tentatively titled The Sleeping Car Porter.
Mahmoud Ababneh is pursuing a Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Calgary on Treaty 7 territory. His research centers around trans-Indigenous and postcolonial literatures, decolonization, and settler-colonialism. Mahmoud is currently teaching a at Red Deer Polytechnic. His work appeared in the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies.
Suzette Mayr is the author of five novels including Monoceros, which was awarded the ReLit Award, the W. O. Mitchell Award, and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her most recent novel is Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall. She has published articles in Horror Studies, Canadian Literature, Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne (SCL/ÉLC), The Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, and in Antipodes. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.
03:22 – How does Suzette Mayr manage her many roles at the University of Calgary, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic?
08:01 – The stairs or the elevator: Dr. Edith Vane as the worst version of Dr. Suzette Mayr
09:15 – Brutalist architecture in Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall
10:19 – Reference to Karina Vernon’s article “The Outside of the Inside: Blackness and the Remaking of Canadian Institutional Life” and Sarah Ahmed’s On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life
10:39 – Sarah Ahmed’s “invisible wall” and institutional racism
15:55 – False idols: the worship of the European literary canon
20:24 – Literature as a form of activism and resistance: Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes
23:54 – Viewing toxic masculinity “from the inside,” and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club
25:15 – Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene: how do we connect the bubble of English literature as taught in today’s contemporary world?
28:25 – Supporting a graduate student petition to cancel the English General Comprehensive Exam
35:22 – The possibility of reading Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall as testimonial
37:41 – Mayr references an interview of Salman Rushdie by Eleanor Wachtel
43:39 – The importance of whole BIPOC fictional characters with lives outside of racism
45:10 – TIA House Symposium Black Lives Out West
48:05 – Mayr references Vivek Shraya’s “Trauma Clown”
50:54 – The precariousness of being a scholar and the “horror potential” of being in the academy
53:16 – The importance of challenging yourself: moving into historical fiction with Mayr’s next novel The Sleeping Car Porter (working title)
1:01:50 – Mayr reflects on her progression as a writer, and the beginnings with Moon Honey
1:04:30 – Working as Writer-in-Residence at Widener University, Pennsylvania
1:05:07 – Advice from Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall? From Roy Miki to Karina Vernon: “Don’t let the university be your centre of gravity.”
TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library.
TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Shuyin Yu, Ryan Stearne, Marc Lynch, Paul Meunier, and Mahmoud Ababneh.
Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive.