The Three Wyrdos
Jessica Riddell is a full professor of English at Bishop's University and the inaugural Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence. She is a 3M National Teaching Fellow, Executive Director of the Maple League of Universities, and long-standing columnist for University Affairs magazine. A Shakespearean by both training and disposition, Dr. Riddell is a proud member of the "wyrd sisters" research and teaching collaboration, and mother of two wyrd apprentices (Henry and Sophie) and fur mascots (Marlowe the dog and Hatley the cat).
Shannon Murray is a Professor and 3M National Teaching Fellow. She teaches Early Modern and Children’s literature at the University of Prince Edward Island, on the beautiful east coast of Canada. The founding editor of The Recorder, she has published on Bunyan’s Book for Boys and Girls, on adaptations for children, as well as on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her book Bounce and Beans and Burn won the L. M. Montgomery Literature for Children Award. A very amateur painter, flautist, and kayaker, she loves long-distance running.
More About The Wyrdos
Having among us over 60 years of experience in teaching Early Modern literature and Shakespeare in Canadian universities, we are all from small, primarily undergraduate Canadian institutions. Lisa Dickson (UNBC), Shannon Murray (UPEI), and Jessica Riddell (Bishop’s U) are the only 3M National Teaching Fellows in the award’s history who are Shakespeareans. Membership in this prestigious, peer-nominated Fellowship is awarded to only ten university and college educators per year and builds a nationwide community of practice that supports and advocates for active and transformational teaching and learning in higher education.
Lisa Dickson is a full professor of English at the University of Northern British Columbia where she specializes in Early Modern literature and literary theory. She is a 3M National Teaching Fellow, Vice-Chair of the Council of National Fellows for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and founding Project Lead for the 3M National Teaching Fellows Mentoring Network. She is the host of the Wyrd Words Podcast, a text-creeper, maker, dancer, writer and occasional stumbler around the landscape (which she insists makes her a “runner”). Marlowe the dog is her favourite nephew.
We met on a bus on the way to an event for 3M National Teaching Fellows. Shannon and Lisa were chatting about Shakespeare, and Jessica, a newly-minted Fellow with an equally newly-minted baby strapped to her chest, turned around with wide, scarily alert blue eyes and said, “Are you Renaissance specialists? Can I be your friend?” This conversation turned into collaborative conference presentations, and then to articles, workshops, team-teaching and a wild idea for a book on Shakespeare and Critical Hope.
Early on in our collaboration, we started to refer to one another affectionately as the wyrd sisters, a reference to the three witches in Macbeth. What started off as playful—we address emails to one another as “dear wyrdos”—quickly became an act of naming that illuminates our position within the academy and in the classroom. We occupy the margins of both our discipline and in the scholarship of teaching and learning. We roam the edges of accepted, bounded disciplines and yet we hope that—just as in Shakespeare’s lively, multiplicitous plays—the margins inform the centre in reciprocal and fruitful ways that generate renewal and change.
A Wyrd Origin Story
The Wyrd House as an idea was born because a bus broke down.
Stranded for an extra day in Stratford Ontario after a week-long, intensive, immersive Shakesperience course at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, we looked across the banks of the Avon River at a FOR SALE sign posted on a large Bed and Breakfast property, and imagined what we could do with such a space: lodgings for Shakesperience students and visiting scholars, workshop space for actors and playwrights, an artist in residence program, a bursary program to ensure that no student is excluded from participation on economic grounds, programing for learners for life and the broader community and, and, and! A space for experiential learning. A place to plant seeds for audacious ideas. A centre for patronage of the arts and support for the humanities.
All we needed was, say, several million dollars.
We don’t have several million dollars. However, what we did have in 2020 was a pandemic that sent us all home and into virtual communities, and that gave us the impetus to plant a seed, here, online.
The Wyrd House website will be, we hope, a gathering place for ideas, for projects, for a community of people interested in teaching and learning in Higher Education who believe that the humanities in general and literature in particular play a critical role in the world that we are shaping together as citizens, artists, learners, policymakers, storytellers and makers. It will be a place where we can gather examples of CRITICAL HOPE in action.
Here, you will find our podcast, our blog, resources for educators and students, links to workshops and talks, and information about upcoming projects and events. We hope that you will join us in conversation.
About Our Wyrd Apprentice
Cécilia Alain is the manager of the Wyrd House website and the technical producer of the Wyrd Words Podcast, while also acting as Dr. Riddell's research assistant. She is a third-year student at Bishop's University, where she currently pursues an English B.A. with an Honours in Film and Minors in Creative Writing and Fine Arts. She completed a D.E.C. (Diplôme d'études collégiales) in Literature at the Cégep de Sherbrooke in 2018 and has been fascinated by all the existing forms of storytelling ever since.
Our mascot Marlowe (Dr. Riddell's dog) wearing his ruff like a true Shakespearean scholar
Dr. Dickson recording the Wyrd Words Podcast in her acoustic studio: a blanket fort
Our assistant/apprentice Cécilia, channelling her inner Renaissance squire pose