Master’s graduand in English and creative writing Jade Wallace is this year’s recipient of the Governor General’s Gold Medal. The annual award recognizes academic excellence at the graduate level.
“It was a pleasant surprise to be nominated for the medal and an even bigger surprise, certainly, to win it,” says Wallace, who uses they-them pronouns.
Wallace is receiving this honour for their creative thesis, the novel Anomia, and their accompanying critical essay, “The Limits of Gendered Language in Mimetic Fiction.”
“I have no doubt that Anomia will find a publisher,” says Wallace’s thesis advisor, professor Louis Cabri. “So everyone who wants to will be able to read it soon.”
Wallace’s poetry, fiction, and essays have been published or are forthcoming in literary journals across Canada, the U.S.A., the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, New Zealand, and India, including This Magazine, Canadian Literature, and Hermine. They are a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets, and the co-founder of MA|DE, a collaborative writing entity.
“It was a bit of a circuitous route to get to this master’s degree,” says Wallace. “I did my BA and immediately did an MA in a different subject, directly after high school.”
Then they completed a college degree because, as Wallace says, “I really like school.”
They became a paralegal and worked for several years in a community legal clinic, which they describe as very interesting work.
“I wanted to get back to writing and make a bit more time for that. One of the great ways to do that was to go to grad school, to study writing,” they explain. “Then my partner and I moved here because he’s from here originally, though we met in Toronto, and now we’re settled in Windsor. Windsor has defied many of my expectations, in a good way.”
Wallace is originally from the Niagara region and credits their new home as hosting a vibrant literary community.
“It’s been a nice place to land,” says Wallace. “When I was young, I had this totally mistaken impression that literature, that writing, were things you did by yourself. You read alone and you wrote alone. You sent it off somewhere, but there was no real social element. In reality, it’s very social, for better or worse.”
Creative writing theses are a bit different from a traditional thesis. Rather than writing a long academic text, students write a relatively short academic text and a longer creative portion.
“When it came to writing the creative portion of my thesis, the novel, I wanted it to find its own way to challenge sex and gender representation,” says Wallace. “Not to give too much away, but it’s also a novel with a regular plot. There are two people who go missing and people are looking for them and adventures ensue.
“It was an interesting attempt to balance an actual narrative with all these conceptual concerns, and I think a creative writing grad program is a really great context in which to explore that particular aspect of writing.”
Wallace praises Dr. Cabri for challenging their approach to the project.
“He would encourage me to think outside the box and not require me to follow any rules of writing, which I found common across the program,” says Wallace. “Professors were there to expand our notions of literature rather than limit them to a prescribed set of doctrines about writing, which was great. It felt like a true learning experience where you were growing your understanding of something rather than narrowing it.”