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The Words Change Everything: Haunting, Contagion and The Stranger in Tony Burgess’s Pontypool

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      Abstract

      In 2018, O Canada’s lyrics were made gender neutral. This change comes at a time when certain key public figures refuse to use gender neutral language. The linguistic tension and ideological divide within Canada creates a haunted feeling around certain minority groups, leaving everyone feeling out of place. This article examines how viral ideas and word choices spread through media technologies via the ‘word virus’. We use the figure of the zombie to show how the word virus becomes bad ideology, one that spreads and takes over certain spaces and enacts the presence of the insider/outsider. To reflect on ‘word viruses’ gone awry, we borrow and build on scholarship from the emerging field of hauntology made popular by Jacques Derrida and Avery Gordon. Ultimately, we present Tony Burgess’s horror novel Pontypool Changes Everything turned Canadian horror film Pontypool as a speculative case study, since Burgess’s texts suggest that what is more infectious than the zombie-outsider is the insider’s own language, which identifies and labels the outsider. By positing a possible cure for the word virus within Pontypool, the film adaptation suggests that the ways in which we cease becoming infected with bad ideas is not to stop speaking or isolate ourselves through quarantine, but deliberately seek out the stranger in order to challenge and change the meaning of words.

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        Are Jordan Peterson’s Claims about Bill C-16 Correct?

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          Deadnaming a Trans Person Is Violence—So Why Does the Media Do It Anyway?

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [ 1 ]University of Waterloo, Canada
            Author notes
            Journal
            Ljcs
            London Journal of Canadian Studies
            London Journal of Canadian Studies
            UCL Press
            0267-2200
            2397-0928
            14 November 2018
            14 November 2018
            : 33
            : 5
            : 58-76 (pp. 58-76)
            10.14324/111.444.ljcs.2018v33.005
            Copyright © 2018 The Author(s).

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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