2016-17 Graduate Courses

Note on graduate course numbers and levels:

Please note that each course carries, along with the ENGL which identifies it as an English Department course, a three digit number, the first digit of which describes the general level of the course, as follows:

5 - MA students and U3 undergraduates (usually Honours BAs);

6 - MA and PhD students only;

7 - MA and PhD students only. 


Note on maximum and minimum enrolments for graduate seminars:

All graduate courses are generally limited to a maximum enrolment of 15 students. 500-level courses with an enrolment of fewer than 7 students, and 600- or 700-level courses with an enrolment of fewer than 4 students, will not be offered except in special circumstances.

Note on registration in 500-level courses:

500-level courses are restricted to an enrollment of 15 students and are open to Master's and advanced undergraduate students. B.A. students must receive permission from the instructor before registering for a 500-level course.   As a general rule, M.A. students are permitted to take two courses at the 500-level and Ph.D. students may only register for 500-level courses after receiving permission from the Graduate Program Director. But PhD students should certainly not overlook 500-level courses when making their course selections. If the subject matter of a particular course makes a good fit for a PhD student’s research interests, then that student should simply contact the Graduate Program Director to be given permission to register for that course. Similarly, an M.A. student who has a good justification for taking a third 500-level seminar should contact the Graduate Program Director to be given permission to register for it.

Please click on the “full course description” link below any of the following course titles to find a detailed description of the course goals, the reading list, and the method of evaluation.


ENGL 500 Technologies of Reading

The Medieval and the Digital

Instructor Michael Raby
Fall Term 2016
Fridays 2:30-5:30

Full course description

Description: St. Augustine was amazed when he saw his teacher Ambrose read a book without speaking the words out loud. In Augustine’s day, reading silently was rarely done. Today, in the digital era, we are witnessing our own shifts in the way we read. This course explores the intersection of premodern and digital technologies of reading. It has two inter-related aims: to discover how people read—or were supposed to read—in the Middle Ages; and to examine how digital technologies are changing the way we read medieval texts. In the first half of the course, we will read a selection of literary and theological works (written primarily in Middle English) that aim to train their readers to read in a certain way, as well as more discursive accounts of the reading process. The second half of the course provides an overview of theoretical models (e.g. hyper reading, distant reading), tools, and projects that have emerged as part of the growing field of the digital humanities, a field whose early development was significantly influenced by the work of medievalists. Our focus will be on how these theories and methods can illuminate our reading of medieval texts. Throughout the course, we will pay close attention to material form: how, for instance, does the experience of interacting with a digital surrogate differ from handling a physical manuscript copy? Other thematic issues that we will pursue across both halves of the course include the relation between text and image; reading as attention formation; communal versus private reading; reading slow and fast; and what it means to be “literate.” Responses to these questions will be informed by students’ hands-on experience with certain digital tools; collaborative lab sessions will prepare students to build their own online collection of material related to the theme of the course.

No specialized technological expertise is expected. Nor are students expected to have previous experience with Middle English. Although some familiarity with Middle English is beneficial, I will be providing basic instruction and language resources. Wherever possible, assignments and readings will be tailored to fit the research interests of seminar participants.    

Evaluation:

Participation 15%
Reading responses 20%
Close reading assignment 15%
Digital project 20%
Final paper 30%

Texts (tentative):

  • Augustine, Confessions (trans. Chadwick)
  • The Writings of Julian of Norwich (ed. Watson and Jenkins)
  • Chaucer, Dream Visions and Other Poems (ed. Lynch)
  • Hoccleve, "My Compleinte" and Other Poems (ed. Ellis)
  • A coursepack featuring essays by Franco Moretti, N. Katherine Hayles, Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, Bethany Nowviskie, and others. 

Format: Seminar


PLAI 500 Uncovering Secrets

A Detective's Toolkit to Discovering Montreal

Professor Nathalie Cooke and Deena Yanofsky
Winter Term 2017
Wednesday 2:35-5:25

Full course description

Download Syllabus [pdf]

Description: Secrets, myths and mysteries form the cultural backdrop against which a community’s identity is mapped. They recede ever more into the distance as that identity takes visible shape and gains acceptance. But where to look? What tools can we use to find the hidden history of a city, reveal its secrets, raise questions about accepted truths? How have advances in the art and technology of historical research changed the very manner in which we study and understand the city and its past events?

This interdisciplinary, team-taught course takes students on a journey to discover Montreal, and to uncover its untold stories. But Montreal is only a case study. Through a close focus on specific narratives, artifacts and archives relating to Montreal, this course introduces students to the research detective’s toolbox, to technological skills enabling the sharing of information, and to insights about the ways in which a city’s identity develops over time.

Focussed on primary and secondary materials such as novels, photographs, maps, manuscripts, rare collections and city directories, students will be introduced to advanced research techniques and tools as a means to rethink the ways in which the past is ‘produced’ and ‘maintained,’ as well as how the public encounters the city’s perceived history. To become urban detectives, students will conduct fieldwork in the city's libraries and archives, as well as its buildings, city streets and public places. Even students who have grown up in Montreal will discover new places, hidden treasures, and secrets about the city's past.

Along with watching films and reading literary works set in Montreal, we will look at historical and contemporary maps, explore unpublished materials in McGill’s Archives and Rare Books and Special Collections, and read essays by authors from a wide-range of disciplines including, geography, cultural studies, and archival sciences. Readings are varied, all classes will include one hands-on workshop to familiarize students over time with technological tools. Many classes will involve either a guest speaker or site visit.  

Evaluation:

  • Participation 10%
  • Short Exercises (relating to hands-on learning of technological tools and applications) 10%
  • Online Mapping Assignment (visualization of the film Jesus of Montreal) 15%
  • Investigative Project (relating to a particular building in Montreal) 20%
  • Presentation (visualization of a creative work on class reading list) 15%
  • Final Project (on a Montreal myth or mystery) 30%

Texts:

  • Jesus of Montreal (film and mapping stations of the cross in Montreal)
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop (film and visual representation of the film developed by Sebastian Caquard) and 19-2 (which aired in French on Radio-Canada in 2011; and in English on Bravo in 2014)
  • Claire Rothman, The Heart Specialist (visits by the author and to the Osler Library, McGill)
  • Gabrielle Roy, The Tin Flute (novel and walking tour of St. Henri)
  • Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (readings and visit to Richler Room, Concordia University)
  • Jonas Company Scrapbook circa 1890 (introduction to research methodologies for identifying history of buildings in Montreal, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill) 

Secondary material to include:

Secondary material to include:

  • Michel De Certeau, "Practices of Space," From the Agony of Semiotics, Ed Marshall Blonsky. Oxford University Press, 1985. 122-145. 
  • Marc Brosseau, Geography as Literature Progress in Human Geography (18): 333-353. 
  • Franco Moretti, Introduction to Atlas of the European Novel: 1800-1900
  • D.C.D. Pocock. "Place and the novelist.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 6 (3), 1981. pp. 337–347. 
  • Anne-Kathrin Reuschel and Lorenz Hurni, “Mapping Literature: Visualisation of Spatial Uncertainty in Fiction.” Cartographies of Fictional Worlds -- Special Issue November 2011. 48.4: 293-308. 

ENGL 501 Sixteenth Century

Theatre and Religion in Early Modern England

Professor Paul Yachnin
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: This course will study the theatre of Shakespeare and his fellows in relation to religious thinking, feeling, and writing in early modern England. This is an area of considerable controversy in Shakespeare studies, with many scholars arguing for or against the essential religiosity of Shakespeare’s drama, the question being, was Shakespeare religious or secular? But our goal is more modest: not to decide once and for all whether Shakespeare and his fellows were religious dramatists but rather to situate the drama in relation to the complex field of early modern religious culture. That task will require a bit of background work on the dominant strain of criticism during the past three decades (i.e., New Historicism), against which recent work on Shakespeare and religion has positioned itself. After that preliminary work, we will turn to a series of case studies of plays mostly by Shakespeare but including also Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton, and Christopher Marlowe. We’ll read them alongside some central texts of religious culture and in light of the most recent significant work in this branch of Shakespeare studies.

Evaluation: TBA

Texts:  Course pack of critical essays on religion and theatre as well as of primary religious writings from the period.

  • Measure for Measure
  • All’s Well that Ends Well
  • Richard II
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear
  • The Winter’s Tale
  • Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
  • Thomas Dekker, The Whore of Babylon​
  • Thomas Middleton, A Game at Chess

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 7 to 10 students


ENGL 503 Nineteenth-Century

Austen

Professor Peter Sabor
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level course work offering some training in relevant areas: 18th- and 19th-century British Literature.

Description: This advanced seminar will undertake a close study of the novels of Jane Austen (1775-1817), concentrating on those that she wrote in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Austen wrote drafts of her first three novels – Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey – in the late 1790s, and they respond, often satirically, to Richardsonian, sentimental, and Gothic fiction. Numerous critics have focused on Austen in her eighteenth-century context; this course will focus, instead, on Austen in her later years. We will begin with two anomalies: Austen’s only novella, “Lady Susan,” probably written in the 1790s but copied in c. 1804 and the first of her two aborted novels, “The Watsons” (c. 1805). We will next study her last three published novels, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, as well as “Sanditon,” which she was writing but could not complete at the end of her life. We will also study Austen’s little-known manuscript “Plan of a Novel.”  Particular attention will be paid to Austen’s own commentary on the art of fiction, both within her novels and in her letters. The course will also include a study of Northanger Abbey, in which Austen’s most celebrated remarks on novel-writing are to be found.

Evaluation: Participation (20%); seminar presentation (30%); term paper (50%)

Texts: 

  • Jane Austen, Emma, ed. George Justice, Norton
  • Mansfield Park, ed. Claudia Johnson, Norton
  • Manuscript Works, ed. Linda Bree, Peter Sabor and Janet Todd, Broadview
  • Northanger Abbey, ed. Claire Grogan, Broadview
  • Persuasion, ed. Linda Bree, Broadview
  • Selected Letters, ed. Vivien Jones, Oxford World’s Classics

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum


ENGL 505 Twentieth Century

1950s British Fiction

Professor Allan Hepburn
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: Austerity, rationing, youth culture, race riots, sex scandals—British fiction in the 1950s was a literature in motion. Like a sensitive recording machine, British fiction registers social changes, such as the upward scramble for prestige in Angus Wilson’s novels or the taboo of adultery in Elizabeth Taylor’s short stories. Many 1950s novels look back to the war; after all, the Second World War had bankrupted the nation and the consequences of heavy bombardment remained visible in metropolitan centres well into the 1950s. If the 1950s concern the aftermath of the war, they also take a robust perspective on British industry, trade, and research, as manifest in the Festival of Britain (1951) and the injection of vigour given by the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (1953). An unusual number of 1950s British novels speculate on the nature of state sovereignty and the role of individuals in respecting the law, as in John Wyndham’s dystopic novels about carnivorous plants that invade England. Although the Welfare State mandated a levelling down of social difference, many characters in 1950s fiction—usually young urban males—are on the make. Spivs and hustlers fight their way to success, either through employment or strategic marriage. In works by Barbara Pym, Muriel Spark, and Alan Wildeblood, queer young men risk criminal records by having sex with other men. Consequently, this course will deal with changing ideas of sexuality for men and for women. It will also cover domestic and international politics, manifest in Welfare State reforms, the Suez Crisis, and the Notting Hill race riots. Critical readings will include works by Raymond Williams, Frank Kermode, Iris Murdoch, J. B. Priestley, Alice Ferrebe, and Richard Hornsey.

Evaluation: Short paper (25%); participation (15%); long paper (60%)

Texts: approximately 10 texts will be chosen from the following list. Short stories will be interspersed with novels. A final list will be available from the instructor in July 2016.

  •  John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids (1951)
  • Angus Wilson, Hemlock and After (1952)
  • Ivy Compton-Burnett, The Present and the Past (1953)
  • Evelyn Waugh, Love Among the Ruins (1953)
  • Iris Murdoch, Under the Net (1954)
  • Peter Wildeblood, Against the Law (1954)
  • William Golding, The Inheritors (1955)
  • Sam Selvon, Lonely Londoners (1956)
  • John Braine, Room at the Top (1957)
  • Lawrence Durrell, Justine (1957)
  • Muriel Spark, Robinson (1958)
  • Barbara Pym, A Glass of Blessings (1958)
  • Elizabeth Taylor, The Blush and Other Stories (1958)
  • Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners (1959)​
  • Alan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959)

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students 


ENGL 512 Contemporary Studies in Literature and Culture

Image/ Sound/ Text

Professor Ara Osterweil
Winter Term 2017
Fridays, 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: This seminar is open to graduate students as well as upper-level Honours undergraduates who have done significant coursework in Cultural Studies or Art History. Other students must get individual permission from the instructor to take the course.

Expected Student Preparation: Please note that this is both a critical studies and an art-making course. Some fluency in critical theory, cultural studies and/or art history is expected. Background in visual art, performance, poetry, dance, or music is encouraged but not required.

Description: Since the late 1950s, art has deliberately troubled the boundaries between media in order to critically reflect upon, and interrogate the thoroughly mediated environment of our contemporary world, as well as to investigate intimate questions of self and identity.

This experimental seminar is designed to help students respond critically and creatively to modern and contemporary art.  By focusing on multi-media artworks that incorporate elements of image, sound, and/or text, we shall explore how meaning in contemporary art is generated across multiple registers.  Over the course of the semester, students will be introduced to important examples of Conceptual art, body art, experimental film and video, photography, sculpture, and installation art from the 1960s to the present. Yet rather than approach these works as historical artifacts, students will be asked to experiment with some of the artistic strategies we study in order to create their own self-directed visual art and curatorial projects.  In other words, students will not only be expected to discuss, think and write about the works we study, but to create artworks that respond to them.  Occasionally, local and/or international artists will be invited to class to give special seminars and workshops.  On other occasions, the class will meet outside of our normal meeting time and place in order to attend local exhibitions and performances. In addition to our seminar meeting time, there is a mandatory weekly screening. Students who have conflicts with the screening time, or are unwilling to experiment with new media should not register.

Evaluation: Attendance and participation: 15; Instructional Poems: 5; Mixed Media Portrait: 15; Archive/ Museum Curation Project: 15; Slideshow/ Video/ Sound Installation: 15: Final Project: 35

Texts by:

Sergei Eisenstein
Walter Benjamin
Roland Barthes
John Cage
Douglas Crimp
Rebecca Schneider
Rosalind Krauss
Peggy Phelan
Carol Mavor
Jacques Attali
Jennifer Doyle
Maggie Nelson
Wayne Koestenbaum
Rebecca Solnit

Art and films by: Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann, Ken Jacobs, Hollis Frampton, Jonas Mekas, Chris Marker, Valie Export, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Chantal Akerman, Anthony McCall, Yvonne Rainer, David Wojnarowicz, Catherine Opie, Sophie Calle, Sharon Hayes, Greg Bordowitz, Fred Wilson, Su Friedrich, Shirin Neshat, Glenn Ligon, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Carrie Mae Weems, Adrian Piper, et al.

Format: Seminar and Creative Workshop

Average Enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 527  Canadian Literature

Writing Montreal

Professor Nathalie Cooke
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: “Writing Montreal” will examine the various ways Canadians have depicted Montreal in their writing (fiction, non-fiction and poetry), and explore what it means to map a city, in words.  Montreal’s role as the pulse of Canada’s shifting realities post WWII (cultural, geographical, political, economic, social, and historical) will be considered through close analysis of media representations of Montreal and the literature of some of Canada’s best and best-loved writers, including Leonard Cohen, Heather O'Neill, Mordecai Richler, Gabrielle Roy, and Michel Tremblay.  As well as reading, students will familiarize themselves with how Montreal is being presented today by touring the city, attending cultural events, and scrutinizing media and social media representations of the city. Students will be urged to consider the dynamics behind a wide range of constructions of this city, including its depictions in literature and film, tourist literature, and comedy routines (think, for example, of Sugar Sammy's attention to Montreal's geography at the neighbourhood level). Drawing from concepts introduced by Edwards & Ivison (2005) as well as Fraile-Marcos (2014), discussions will focus on recent reshapings of the Canadian urban imaginary. Secondary readings will provide students with a solid grounding in the emerging field of literary geography, referencing the work of Marc Brosseau, Sebastien Cacquard, and Barbara Piatti among others.  Examining and participating in various creative ways of mapping Montreal – including experimentation with geospatial tagging and digital mapping – will be part of this course and its assignments. 

Texts: A course pack will contain short fiction and secondary criticism. Longer objects of study tbc, but will likely include:

  • Denys Arcand, Jesus of Montreal (film)
  • Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game
  • Heather O'Neill, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night
  • Mordecai Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (recommended reading: The Street)
  • Gabrielle Roy, The Tin Flute
  • Michel Tremblay, Les Belles Soeurs (drama; recommended reading The Guid Sisters)

Evaluation: 

  • Individual presentation 15%
  • Group presentation 15%
  • Annotated bibliography of a specific canon of writing about Montreal 15%
  • Assignments: to include writing an Op Ed, followed by a Letter to the Editor 25%
  • Final project, to include proposal for a scholarly conference paper & poster 20%
  • Participation 10%

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 10 students


ENGL 530 

American Confessional Poetry

Professor Robert Lecker
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level course work offering some training in critical analysis of poetry. 

Description: Some of the most accomplished American poets have been called “confessional,” even though the label is often misleading. The term has been applied to writers as diverse as Delmore Schwartz, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, and W.D. Snodgrass, to name a few of the early practitioners. More recently, the list could be expanded to include writers such as Sharon Olds, Marie Howe, and Deborah Digges. The term “poetry as confession” was first introduced in 1959. It came to describe a group of poets who focussed on extreme personal experiences, trauma, taboo sexual activities and deviance, madness, death, and suicide. The picture is not often pretty, but it changed the entire tenor of American poetry. And it also changed our conception of the scope and style of personal poetry. At the same time, confessional poetry expressed a profound shift in the relationship between individuals and their culture. Some theorists have argued that postmodernism finds its roots in the confessional mode. However we look at confessional poetry, one thing is clear: the confessional poets wrote carefully composed and highly crafted poems that spoke about a range of emotions seldom associated with the poets who came before them.

This course focuses on the work of three powerful confessional poets: Lowell, Sexton, and Plath. Lowell lived a life of conflict. His writing during the 1940s gave little indication of the kind of confessional work he would produce in his highly influential Life Studies, which is often considered to be a pivotal collection. Here we find compelling poems about Lowell’s upbringing, the tensions between his parents, and acutely rendered expressions of his own marital strife and often desperate psychological condition. Stanley Kunitz called Life Studies “the most influential book of modern verse since The Waste Land.”

Plath and Sexton both attended Lowell’s poetry seminars and, ironically, all three poets spent time in the same psychiatric institution. Sexton described Lowell as “gracefully insane” and hoped to obtain a “scholarship” to enter the hospital, which she saw as a source of creativity. Plath drew on her psychiatric treatment to create the portrait of madness that emerges in her novel, The Bell Jar, and in the extraordinary poems that make up Ariel. She also credited the influence of Sexton, who was exploring similarly dark themes in To Bedlam and Part Way Back.

The course will focus on a number of poems spanning the careers of each poet, with an emphasis on the earlier works. 

Evaluation: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 531 

History of the Book

Professor Eli MacLaren
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: The material forms and circumstances of texts fundamentally affect their meaning. This is the premise of the history of the book, an approach to literature aimed at understanding the circulation of ideas in connection with technology, sociology, and economics. If the book is not only a vessel of ideas but also a thing of industrial manufacture that is marketed and consumed, then knowledge of the book industry and of the forces that influence it becomes important to critical interpretation. In this course we will become acquainted with defining contributions to the history and theory of the book, reading works of literature in light of classic and recent studies on the socioeconomics of literary creativity. Topics will include the cultural history of authorship, publishing, and literacy; copyright; analytical bibliography; scholarly editing; the evolution of books from ancient to modern times; e-books and digital culture; the Canadian niche in the Anglo-American publishing sphere; and the rise of the writer-run small press. As the last topics suggest, emphasis will be placed on the history of the book in Canada. The course will introduce participants to primary research opportunities involving the outstanding resources in Canadian literature housed at McGill Rare Books and Special Collections. The Department of English at McGill is home to Canada’s oldest book-history journal – Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada / Cahiers de la Société bibliographique du Canada – and its presence will offer first-hand experience in procedures of academic publishing. Overall in this course, students will learn to orient themselves as scholars of book history, acquiring proficiency in a set of theoretical questions that can be applied to works of literature of any region or period. 

Evaluation:

  • bibliography assignment 10%
  • scholarly editing assignment 10%
  • seminar presentation 25%
  • research paper 40%
  • participation 15%

Texts: A few primary works of literature will be selected from the following tentative list

  • Shakespeare, Hamlet
  • Samuel de Champlain, 1613 Voyages
  • The Jesuit Relations
  • Byron, Don Juan
  • Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”
  • Margaret Atwood, The Circle Game
  • Alice Munro, Runaway​
  • Don McKay, Camber

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 545

The Spectre of Marx: Historical Materialism and Literary Studies

Professor Sandeep Banerjee
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: This course will explore historical or dialectical materialism – as a philosophical school and as a critical method – as it pertains to the study of literature. The course will introduce students to some of the key issues and debates that have occupied Marxist literary scholars, namely, the relationship of literary form to history; the emergence of the novel; debates on realism and modernism; the concept of allegory; the idea of utopia; commodity aesthetics; postmodernism; and the practice of dialectical criticism. While we will read some of Karl Marx’s writings, the course will primarily engage with the work of scholars who have taken up Marx’s insights to shape the uneven and contested terrain of Marxist literary criticism. They include, but are not limited to, Georg Lukacs, Theodore Adorno, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin, Raymond Williams, Fredric Jameson, Roberto Schwarz, Ñgugi wa Thiong’o, and Gayatri Spivak. We will also examine how these critics understand, and develop, some of the concepts that are central to their critical enterprise, such as, history, ideology, totality, reification, dialectics, hermeneutics, modernity, and structure of feeling. We will also investigate the persistence of these issues, debates, and concepts in literary criticism and theory in our contemporary moment as evidenced in categories such as “national allegory,” “magic realism,” “global novel,” “peripheral realism,” “global modernism” and “world literature.” The course is open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students. 

Texts (tentative):

Novels:

  • Charles Dickens: Great Expectations
  • H.G. Wells: The Time Machine
  • Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis
  • Rabindranath Tagore: Home and the World
  • Mulk Raj Anand: Untouchable
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Jamaica Kincaid: A Small Place
  • Aravind Adiga: White Tiger

Criticism: Selections from the works of Georg Lukacs, Theodore Adorno, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin, Raymond Williams, Terry Eagleton, Pierre Macherey, Fredric Jameson, Roberto Schwarz, Ñgugi wa Thiong’o, and Gayatri Spivak.

Evaluation: Participation: 10%; Short Analytical Papers (x7): 35%; Paper Proposal: 15%; Final Paper: 40% 

Format: Seminars


ENGL 566 

Queer Theatre and Performance in North America

Professor Erin Hurley
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: In this course, we will read and view a range of queer plays and performances by North American authors.  Genres will include: solo performance, dramatic realism, and musical theatre, among others.

Evaluation: Discussion Questions and response paper (20%); seminar facilitation (30%); final paper (40%); participation (10%)

Texts, may include:

  • Jean O’Hara, ed. Two-Spirits Acts: Queer Indigenous Performance. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2013.
  • Lise Vaillancourt, Marie-Antoine, Opus One
  • Corrinna Hodgson, Privilege   
  • Michel Tremblay, La Maison suspendue
  • Sébastien Harrison, From Alaska
  • Stephen Schwartz, Wicked
  • Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, Fun Home
  • Trey Anthony, ‘Da Kink in my Hair (Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2005). 
  • Muriel Miguel, Hot n Soft
  • Jovette Marchessault, Night Cows
  • T. Miller, My Queer Body
  • Nina Arsenault, The Silicone Diaries
  • Johanna Nutter, My Pregnant Brother
  • Alina Troyano, (Carmelita Tropicana) Milk of Amnesia—Leche de Amnesia
  • Chay Yew, A Beautiful Country – or A Language of their Own
  • Waawaate Fobister, Agokwe
  • Richard Greenberg, Take Me Out
  • Madeleine George, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England
  • Marie-Claire Blais, The Execution
  • Kent Monkman, Taxonomy of the European Male, Séance, and Justice of the Piece
  • Winton Christopher Kam, Bachelor Man
  • Brad Fraser, Love and Human Remains
  • Normand Chaurette, Provincetown Playhouse 1919
  • Fabien Cloutier, Scotstown
  • Sharon Bridgforth, The love conjure/blues: Text Installation 

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 568 Studies in Dramatic Form

Contemporary Tragedy

Professor Sean Carney
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: The critical argument concerning the possibility of tragedy and tragic experience within the condition of postmodernity remains open to debate.  On one side, George Steiner’s infamous thesis of The Death of Tragedy (1961) stands as the most forceful declaration that the form and its unique content are no longer feasible within a secular, reified society.  On the other hand, recent books like Terry Eagleton’s Sweet Violence (2003) and Rita Felski’s edited collection Rethinking Tragedy (2008) constitute persuasive theoretical resuscitations of tragedy and ask us to consider what tragedy offers to present experience.  Whatever their critical positionings, these critics demonstrate that the question of tragedy is vital and animates a vein of contemporary scholarly discourse.

In this course we will study both the theory and practice of tragedy, with special attention to the possible appearance of tragedy within postmodernity.  As an introduction we will consider Steiner’s argument against modern tragedy.  The first section of the course will then address Oedipus Rex and Antigone, alongside critical readings of these plays by Peter Szondi, Charles Segal, J. P. Vernant, Judith Butler and A.C. Bradley.  We will then consider the argument of Raymond Williams in the theoretical section of Modern Tragedy, and then put William’s ideas to work.  We will then study contemporary English tragedians, particularly those who identify their own work as tragedy and theorize about the concept of the tragic in their work, such as British playwrights Edward Bond and Howard Barker.  

Evaluation: 

  • One ten-page essay worth 30%, analyzing the theoretical materials in the first section of the course
  • One ten-page essay analyzing one or more contemporary English plays from the perspective of the tragic
  • One seminar presentation: 25%
  • Seminar Participation: 15%

Texts: A group of critical readings and a selection of plays, TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 569 

Image/ Sound/ Text

Professor Ara Osterweil

Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Prerequisite: This seminar is open to graduate students as well as upper-level Honours undergraduates who have done significant coursework in Cultural Studies or Art History. Other students must get individual permission from the instructor to take the course.

Expected Student Preparation:  Please note that it is both a critical studies and an art-making course. Some fluency in critical theory, cultural studies and/or art history is expected. Background in visual art, performance, poetry, dance, or music is encouraged but not required.

Description: 

One of the axioms of modernist aesthetics is that an artwork should investigate the intrinsic conditions of its own ontology rather than attempt to recreate properties of other media. Critical modernist discourse insisted that writing should be about writing, painting should be about painting, sculpture should be about sculpture, and so forth.  Yet one need only consider Rene Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (from The Treachery of Images, 1928-29) to consider the ways in which even modernist artworks frequently combined different semiotic systems to create subversive meaning. Since the 1960s, Conceptual art has deliberately troubled the boundaries between media in order to critically reflect upon and interrogate the thoroughly mediated environment of our contemporary world, as well as to investigate intimate questions of self and identity.

This experimental seminar is designed to help students respond critically and creatively to Conceptual and avant-garde art.  By focusing on multi-media artworks that incorporate elements of image, sound, and/or text, we shall explore how meaning in contemporary art is often generated across multiple registers.  Over the course of the semester, students will be introduced to important examples of Conceptual art, body art, experimental film and video, photography, sculpture, and installation art from the 1960s to the present. Yet rather than approaching these works as historical artifacts, students will be asked to experiment with some of the artistic strategies we study in order to create their own self-directed visual art and curatorial projects.  In other words, students will not only be expected to discuss, think and write about the works we study, but to create artworks that respond to them.  Occasionally, local and/or international artists will be invited to class to give special seminars and workshops.  On other occasions, the class will meet outside of our normal meeting time and place in order to attend contemporary art exhibitions and performances.

Evaluation: Participation 20%; Presentation 30%; Final Paper/ Project 50%

Selected artworks byRobert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, John Cage, Robert Morris, Jean-Luc Godard, Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann, Ken Jacobs, Hollis Frampton, Kenneth Anger, Joseph Kosuth, Mel Ramsden, Lawrence Weiner, Chris Marker, Valie Export, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Chantal Akerman, Anthony McCall, Yvonne Rainer, Louise Lawler, Bas Jan Ader, David Wojnarowicz, Catherine Opie, Sophie Calle, Sharon Hayes, Greg Bordowitz, Fred Wilson, Su Friedrich, Shirin Neshat, Glenn Ligon, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Carrie Mae Weems, Adrian Piper, William Pope L., Walid Raad, and others. 

Selected texts by: Sergei Eisenstein, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, John Cage, Clement Greenberg, Michael Fried, Douglas Crimp, Amelia Jones, Rebecca Schneider, Peggy Phelan, R. Murray Schaefer, Carol Mavor, Kaja Silverman, Jacques Attali, Jacques Rancière, Nicolas Bourriaud, Claire Bishop, Susan Howe, Jennifer Doyle, Maggie Nelson, Wayne Koestenbaum, Rebecca Solnit.

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 587

Solitude in Literature and Film

Professor Berkeley Kaite
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: This courses addresses the literary and cinematic/televisual manifestation of solitude in a short story, novels, films, non-fiction essays and a TV show. We will examine how it is imagined, elaborated and, if not exalted, presented as inescapable: the experience of being one in a world.  Our characters negotiate “the self” in relation to, among others: their environments; their location or dislocation within culture; the central ambiguities of modern life; memories and official memory, or memory as solitude; others; their emotions, desires and fears; and, perhaps foremost, language itself. A central human paradox is that we have words to describe the indescribable. Solitude may be indescribable but it still seeks expression in language, metaphor and images.  All our characters are marginal in some way or another and that  means they foreground questions about what constitutes a center. Our works depict hope, longing and creative imaginings of understanding and existing.

Evaluation (tentative): oral report (20%); short reading responses (20%); essay, c. 3000 words (40%); participation in class discussions (20%)

Texts:

  • Selected chapters from Edward Engelberg, Solitude and its Ambiguities in Modernist Fiction (2001)
  • Nina Norgaard, “Pleasure and Pain: Solitude as a Literary Theme,” Orbis Litterarum, 59 (2004)
  • Nicole Krauss, The History of Love (2005)
  • Hjalmar Soderberg, Doctor Glas, trans. Paul Britten Austin (2002 [1905])
  • Thomas Pletzinger, Funeral for a Dog, trans. Ross Benjamin (2011 [2008])
  • Kathryn Harrison, Seeking Rapture (2004)
  • Lorrie Moore, “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk,” Birds of America (1998)

Films:

  • Hiroshima, Mon Amour (dir. Alain Resnais, 1959)
  • Last Tango in Paris (dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)
  • Paris Texas (dir. Wim Wenders, 1984)
  • The Straight Story (dir. David Lynch, 1999)
  • In Treatment (HBO, 2008-2010)

Format:Seminar 

Average Enrollment: 15 students maximum


ENGL 608 Chaucer I

The Poems of the Pearl-Manuscript

Professor Dorothy Bray
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: British Library Manuscript Cotton Nero A.x, dating from the mid-fourteenth century, contains the four poems known as Pearl, Cleanness (or Purity), Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a dream-vision, a homily, a near-allegory, and a chivalric romance. Such disparate genres and subjects, however, do not point to disparate authors: there is sufficient internal evidence from the West Midland dialect of the poems to presume that they were composed by the same person, a near contemporary to Chaucer. The poems reflect the fourteenth-century alliterative revival, as exemplified by William Langland’s Piers Plowman, and like Langland, the poet employs the modes of dream-vision and allegory. Pearl offers the vision of a man grieving for the loss of a child, who is taken on a journey of theological enlightenment; Cleanness carries its theme through a sweep of biblical narrative to emphasize the moral point, while Patience teaches the virtue by means of exemplar. These three all deal with Christian beliefs and morality from what many see as a clerical point of view, but what of the last piece? Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is ostensibly a secular narrative which takes chivalric romance in a new direction, exploring chivalric ideals in a landscape where such ideals are challenged and the language of ‘courtly love’ proves wanting.

Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are perhaps the best known of the four, and each has attracted a substantial body of scholarship. However, studies of the four poems together are not as plentiful. The aim of this course is to read and analyze each of these poems in their manuscript sequence, to uncover what (if any) literary evidence exists that might allow us to view them in dialogue, in order to interrogate their generic modes and their political, social and religious concerns.

Note: We will read the poems in the original, but the textbook comes with a CD-ROM containing a prose translation by the editors.

Texts: The Poems of the Pearl-Manuscript, ed. Andrew Waldron and Malcolm Andrew. Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies. Liverpool University Press, 2008 (ISBN 9780859897914).

Evaluation: Essay, seminar presentation, final paper, other tba.

Format: Seminar

Average Enrolment: Maximum 15 students.


ENGL 640

What Is The Contemporary Novel?

Professor Merve Emre
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: What is the contemporary novel? What historical dynamics or aesthetic features define its emergence as a formal category? This seminar will tackle such broad questions by pairing ten to twelve novels, all published since 2009, with criticism drawn from literary sociology, media studies, anthropology, new economic criticism, and feminist theory. Reading across a rich cross-section of authors and genres—graphic novels, genre fiction, auto-fiction, avant-garde fiction—we will examine the novel’s various and evolving conditions of production, reception, and criticism; its relationship to other media forms, both old (print culture) and new (the Internet); its investment in national boundaries, “global English,” and the politics of translation; and the always vexed interplay between the novel’s aesthetic and commercial value. Students will have the opportunity to write and workshop a short conference paper (which they will be encouraged to submit to a venue like Contemporaries, Public Books, or Los Angeles Review of Books), as well as an article length essay.

Evaluation: Class presentation/response (25%); Participation (25%); Final paper (50%)

Texts (subject to change):

  •  Elena Ferrante, The Neapolitan Novels
  • Sheila Heti, How Should A Person Be
  • Mat Johnson, Incognegro
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Vol. 2
  • Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station
  • Tao Lin, Taipei
  • Tom McCarthy, Satin Island
  • China Mieville, The City and the City
  • Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
  • Chris Ware, Building Stories
  • Course pack with secondary criticism

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum


ENGL 661 Seminar of Special Studies

Contemporary South Africa in Literature and Film

Professor Monica Popescu
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: How does one speak about South Africa beyond the clichés of the “rainbow nation” or the hushed-tone reverence accorded the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Acknowledging the groundbreaking nature of the transition from apartheid to a democratic society in 1994, while also avoiding sanctifying the recent past, South African writers and film-makers have questioned the tensions that underscore their contemporary culture. South Africa made a spectacular non-violent transition from apartheid to democracy, integrating the black majority and the white minority, yet in 2008 the immigrants from other African countries were the targets of violent outbreaks of xenophobia; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission played an exemplary role in acknowledging the violence of apartheid and projected the image of a healing country yet the newly established official histories are oftentimes contested by community and individual memories; trade unions and the communist party play a decisive role in post-apartheid politics yet they have not managed to prevent neoliberal capitalism from shaping the economy; the country has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world and prides itself on a culture of ubuntu yet homophobia and violence against women have a high incidence. 

These are some of the tensions that will engage our attention in this seminar as we read fiction, discuss new publication forms, debate about photography and watch films released from 1990 to the present, while contextualizing them within larger global phenomena as presented in essays by Achille Mbembe, Timothy Brennan,Jean and John Comaroff, Gayatri Spivak, Zoe Wicomb, etc. As Jacques Derrida acknowledged in the preface to Specters of Marx, the events in South Africa during the latter half of the twentieth century concern us all as they stand in a metonymic relation to the status quo of the world as a whole: “At once part, cause, effect, example, what is happening there translates what takes place here, always here, wherever one is and wherever one looks, closest to home.”

 Evaluation: TBA

Texts: 

N.B. The final list of texts will be available by October 2016. Possible texts include:

  • J. M. Coetzee: Disgrace
  • Nadine Gordimer: My Son's Story
  • Antjie Krog: Country of My Skull
  • Zakes Mda: The Heart of Redness
  • Phaswane Mpe: Welcome to Our Hillbrow
  • Sifiso Mzobe: Young Blood
  • Ivan Vladislavic: Double Negative

Films:

  • Neill Blomkamp: District 9
  • Rehad Desai: Miners Shot Down
  • Mark Dornford-May: U-Carmen eKhayelitsha
  • Gavin Hood: Tsotsi
  • Ralph Ziman: Jerusalema

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum


ENGL 662 Seminar in Special Studies

Nineteenth-Century Melodrama: Theory/Practice

Professor Denis Salter
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description:  

This seminar will take much of its theoretical orientation and its conceptual preoccupations from arguments developed by Peter Brooks in The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess (1976; republished with a “new Preface’ in 1995) and in various book chapters and articles by him, in which he postulates that “melodrama is a form for a post-sacred era, in which polarization and hyperdramatization of forces in conflict represent a need to locate and make evident, legible, and operative those large choices of ways of being which we hold to be of overwhelming importance, even though we cannot derive them from any transcendental system of belief.” To advance his case, Brooks examines recurrent terms and concepts, including the confluence of verbal and non-verbal sign systems; hysteria as an exercise in “bodily writing;” repressed affects and effects; psychoanalysis as a melodramatic heuristic device; the aesthetic values and ethical preoccupations of the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque; the literal and figurative journey, from which no return might be possible, into a kind of Conradian ‘heart of darkness;’ “somatic form” and somatic psychology; ‘expressionism’ avant la lettre as inherently a mode of demonstrative and troubled excess; guilt and what is often figured, somewhat paradoxically, as  its antinomy, purgation; “’demonic dread;’” “manichaeistic demonology;” “the Gothic castle [as] an architectural approximation of the Freudian model of the mind;” “an epistemology of the depths;” the “’moral occult;’” the “romance” conventions that govern and are articulated by the triad of “fall-explusion-redemption;” the “’Naturalization of the dream life;’” “the melodrama of psychology;” the functions and forms of “rhetorical excess;” the poetics of torture and terror; the phenomenon of “self-nomination;” “the topos of the voix du sang;” “’the text of muteness;’” the appetite for wonder; the pleasures of virtuosic performance; magical transformations of quotidian life into the realm of the extraordinary, perhaps particularly the 'green world';  the locked-room paradigm; “the language of presence used for the expression of absences;” the “anaphoric” and “desemanticized” nature of the vocabulary and syntax of the language of gesture;  the performative construction of The Other; seeking to speak “the unspeakable” and to transcend the limits of representation; and the pervasive presence of doppelgängers. 

Although Brooks includes the study of fiction by Balzac and James, this seminar will instead concentrate on plays for the stage, with some excursions into the examination of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century melodramatic films. In addition to Brooks, for the purposes of their essays and presentations, students will be expected to draw from the large body of theoretical / historical work on melodrama, much of it referenced by Brooks, much of it be suggested in discussions with me, including  books, chapters, and articles by Michael R. Booth, Eric Bentley, Laura Mulvey, Jacky Bratton, Jim Cook, Christine Gledhill, Elaine Hadley, Michael Hays, Anastasia Nikolopoulou, Maurice Willson Disher, Jeffrey N. Cox, Thomas Postlewait, Jane Moody, David Mayer, Marvin Carlson, Gary Richardson, Bruce McConachie, Simon Shepherd, Nina Auerbach, E. Ann Kaplan, T. S. Eliot, Richard Altick, Louis James, Martha Vicinus, Robert Heilman, and Denis Salter. 

A magisterial work that serves as a kind of meta-text for Brooks’s study is Martin Meisel’s Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth Century England, which, among other tasks, reflects on a wide range of melodramas in performance in relation to a study of painting and fiction. The study of the aforementioned works along with a close reading of Meisel will not only re-introduce preoccupations found in Brooks, but will also introduce another complementary cluster of interrelated themes, subjects, structures, and modes of articulation.

The plays to be studied not as dramatic literature but as performance texts will be selected from Charles Robert Maturin’s Bertram; or the Castle of St. Aldobrand, Thomas Holcroft’s A Tale of Mystery and Vanderdecken, Isaac Pocock’s The Miller and His Men, Tom Taylor’s The Ticket-of-Leave Man, Mrs Henry Wood’s East Lynne, Henry Irving and Leopold Lewis’s The Bells, Henry Arthur Jones and Henry Herman’s The Silver King, George Aiken's Uncle Tom's Cabin; Or, Life Among The Lowly, A Domestic Drama In Five Acts, Dion Boucicault’s The Corsican Brothers, The Octoroon, and  The Poor of New York, David Belasco’s The Girl of the Golden West, James Robinson Planche’s  The Vampire, C. H. Hazlewood’s Lady Audley’s Secret,  Douglas Jerrold’s Black-Ey’d Susan and The Rent-Day, Henry M. Milner’s Mazeppa; or the Wild Horse of Tartary, . . .  Dramatised  from Lord Byron’s Poem,  Edward Stirling, The Courier Of Lyons, C. H. Hazlewood's Lady Audley's Secret, John William Buckstone’s  Luke the Labourer; or, The Lost Son, John Walker’s The Factory Lad,  Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone and Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins’s No Thoroughfare. The films to be studied will include Les Enfants Du Paradis (aka Children Of Paradise, 1945), directed by Marcel Carné, script by Jacques Prévert, and In The Name Of The Father (1993) starring Daniel Day-Lewis, directed by Jim Sheridan, based on Gerry Conlon's autobiography, Proved Innocent.  

Evaluation: (tentative): Fully engaged and continual participation in the intellectual life of the seminar: 15%; a presentation on a play / production and / or theoretical-historical text: 15%; an 8-page essay arising from that presentation in the form of a distilled critical argument: 20%; a scholarly paper, with an analytical through-line, all themes / topics to be individually-negotiated, in the order of 15 to 20 pages: 50%.

Texts: 

  • Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1976, rpt. with a New Preface, 1995.
  • The Melodramatic Imagination and Realizations will be available on library reserve.
  • Les Enfants Du Paradis is available on KANOPY (McGill Library database).

Format: Brief lectures; led-discussions; individual and collective presentations including interrogative Q & As; mini-performances, and lots of reading plays out loud as we seek to understand their original interpretations and modes of performance.  

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 670

Contemporary Theories of Embodiment

Professor Alanna Thain
Winter Term 2017
Mondays 10:00-13:00

Full course description

Description: Cultural theory of the last two decades has been marked by a corporeal turn, reconsidering questions of embodiment, sensation, affect, and materiality in relation to questions of cultural production, identity and social and political concerns. This class will read broadly across key theories and perspectives on the body of the last two decades, including consideration of authors whose work is seen as foundational to these approaches. In parallel we will consider examples from recent media productions and performance to explore these questions in more depth. Key areas of inquiry include: feminist, gender and sexuality studies, with a particular emphasis on women of colour feminisms and queer theory; new materialisms; affect theory; questions of the nonhuman; disability studies; trans* studies; mediated bodies and performance; theories of immaterial and affective labour, critical race and postcolonial theory.

Evaluation: TBA

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 708 Studies in Drama

Eighteenth-Century Transvestism and the Performance of Gender

Professor Fiona Ritchie
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: This course will examine examples of cross-dressing from the long eighteenth century with the goal of exploring how they might inflect our understanding of transvestism as an aspect of the trans* experience today. We will begin by examining the change in gender dynamics that occurred on the English stage from 1660 onwards when women began to play Shakespeare’s cross-dressed heroines, roles that were originally written for boy actors. Focusing on the stage, we will consider actresses who made their name in breeches parts and travesty roles (such as Margaret “Peg” Woffington and Dorothy Jordan) and examples of men dressing as women in performance (such as David Garrick as Sir John Brute in The Provoked Wife). We will also discuss Charlotte Charke, a performer who cross-dressed outside the theatre.

To supplement our focus on drama, we will also consider cross-dressing in the novel by looking at selections from texts such as Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess (1719-20), Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740), John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (1748), Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda (1801), and Frances Burney’s The Wanderer (1814).

Furthermore, we will explore examples of real-life transvestites including Hannah Snell (a female soldier), the Chevalier d’Éon (who infiltrated the court of the Empress of Russia by presenting as a woman), John Cooper (a.k.a. Princess Seraphina), Margaret Ann Bulkley (who as James Barry performed the first C-section surgery in which both mother and baby survived), Mary Hamilton (who allegedly duped another woman into marriage by posing as a man), Hortense Mancini (a mistress of Charles II with a penchant for cross-dressing), and female pirates Ann Bonny and Mary Reade. These real-life examples will help us to understand the context in which accounts of fictional transvestism might have been received.

Our discussion will of course be informed by theoretical work on cross-dressing by Marjorie Garber and others and by theorists of gender performativity such as Judith Butler. We will consider cross-dressing as a form of gender expression, an opportunity for objectification and eroticisation, a type of deception, and a means of liberation. Throughout the course we will interrogate whether contemporary ideas of gender as spectrum rather than binary are in fact new.

Evaluation (tentatively): 

Primary texts may include:

  • Shakespeare’s cross-dressing plays (e.g. Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice)
  • William Wycherley, The Country Wife (1675) and David Garrick’s adaptation The Country Girl (1766)
  • Aphra Behn, The Rover (1677)
  • George Farquhar, The Constant Couple (1700) and The Recruiting Officer (1706)
  • John Vanbrugh, The Provoked Wife (1697)
  • A Narrative of the Life of Mrs Charlotte Charke (1755)
  • The Female Soldier; Or, The Surprising Life and Adventures of Hannah Snell (1750)
  • Henry Fielding, The Female Husband (1746)
  • Extracts from novels including Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess (1719-20), Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740), John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (1748), Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda (1801), and Frances Burney’s The Wanderer (1814)

Other readings may include:

  • Contextual primary source material (such as performance reviews, actor biographies and newspaper commentary) 
  • Historical fiction/drama
  • Critical essays on primary sources
  • Theoretical readings

Format of class: Lectures by invited speakers; seminar.

Average enrolment: 15 students maximum


ENGL 714 Early Modern Epic 

Spenser’s “Faerie Queene” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

Professor Kenneth Borris
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: A forum for inquiry into The Faerie Queene (reading Books III, IV, and VI) and Paradise Lost, with about half the course devoted to each of Spenser and Milton.  The central topics of those highly complementary parts of The Faerie Queene are, respectively, love, friendship, and courtesy.  For each text, initial sessions will introduce its literary, socio-political, and intellectual contexts, and effective methods of original primary research. These discussions will emphasize current issues in Spenser and Milton studies while also providing a toolbox of techniques for devising and supporting original interventions. According to their own particular interests, seminar members will determine their own topics for seminar presentations and hence related discussions, as well as discussion topics in the final period.  Insofar as possible, presentations will be grouped in a series of informal “conference sessions” on related matters according to a schedule that we will consultatively establish (bearing in minds the diverse commitments of seminar members) at the start of the course.  This format aims to establish a diverse, open, and responsive seminar.

Evaluation: two seminar presentations at 45% each, one on Spenser and the other on Milton; seminar attendance and participation 10%

Texts (provisional): I recommend the Longman Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost, and there is a Course Reader, all available at the Word Bookstore

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


ENGL 716 Shakespeare

In Search of the Natural Fool in Shakespeare

Professor Wes Folkerth
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: 

Scholarly attention to the figure of the fool in Shakespeare has tended to focus on the festive licence the fool enjoys in his interactions with other characters. Shakespeare’s “artificial” or “wise” fools derive this licence from their mimicry of “natural” fools—individuals of limited mental capacity who were known in the period by a variety of names such as idiot, imbecile, mome, moron, and numerous similar epithets still in use today. Broader studies of the fool as a literary and historical type also highlight the figure’s ambivalence, an ambivalence which seems to originate in medieval and early modern attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities. The fool’s very lack of cognitive ability was also considered a positive trait, for such individuals remained impervious to and unaffected by the corruptive effects of social life and manners. What rendered the natural fool special in terms of his relationship to the social environment was his aloofness from it. This positive quality was frequently construed in a religious sense as sacred.

Shakespeare’s fools are a class of character that audiences, readers, and even scholars of today typically have enormous difficulty understanding. In this seminar we will study Shakespeare’s works that represent some of the natural fool’s many guises as a familar social type in early modernity, including The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry the Fourth Part One, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well, and King Lear. Along the way we will also consider the enduring cultural influence of the humanistic “cult of folly” in the work of Erasmus, as well as early modern accounts of fools in the writings of Robert Armin and Timothy Granger. Recent work on the history of intellectual disability by scholars such as C.F. Goodey and Tim Stainton will provide important context for our efforts as we trace the fool’s connections to other closely-related figures such as clowns, fairy changelings, melancholics, and madmen.

Evaluation: 

  • seminar presentation 35%
  • long paper 50%
  • participation 15%

Texts: TBA

Format:  Seminar

Average: Enrolment:15 students maximum


ENGL 726 

Richardson’s Clarissa and the Theory of the Novel: Philosophy, Passion, Piety

Professor David Hensley
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: This course will focus theoretical questioning on Samuel Richardson's million-word-long Clarissa, which many readers since the eighteenth century have regarded as the greatest European novel. From week to week, our readings will canvas various approaches to different parts of this gigantic text. Insofar as possible, the syllabus will orient our discussion toward an analysis of the terms in which Clarissa articulates a theory that some of Richardson’s contemporaries viewed as an encyclopedic “system” of thought. We will be concerned with interactions or disjunctions between large conceptual areas such as Richardson’s celebrated “new” psychology, his account of moral judgment, and his critique of aesthetics. Clarissa is a self-consciously intertextual work. To relate our understanding of the novel’s argument to Richardson’s literary-cultural and intellectual context, we will read a wide range of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts drawn from the traditions of the emblem book, libertine poetry, the Restoration stage, sentimental romance, erotic narrative, theological controversy, British moral philosophy, and early feminist criticism. (To supplement seminar discussion we will view a wide range of relevant films – including operas by Lully, Purcell, Händel, Gluck, and Mozart; and films by Dreyer, Rohmer, Breillat, and Almodóvar.) The logic of this course, as of Richardson’s novel, gives particular attention to the conflicting ideological and representational claims of allegory and theatricality. It is hoped that such textual and categorial analysis will enable (1) a theorization of problems in Clarissa and (2) an understanding of Clarissa’s contribution to the “history of problems” – problems not only of literary form but also of gender, psychology, ethics, law, politics, and religion – that constitute the theory of the novel.

Evaluation: participation (20%), oral presentation (20%), term paper (60%)

TextsThe recommended version of Clarissa is the one-volume Penguin paperback (ISBN 0140432159 or 9780140432152) edited by Angus Ross. The books for this course will be available at The Word Bookstore (469 Milton Street, 514-845-5640). One or more photocopy packets may supplement the books on order. A full schedule of assignments will be available at the first meeting of the seminar. Our readings, in addition to Clarissa, will probably include assignments in the following texts.

  • Emblems of Francis Quarles and George Wither (seventeenth century)
  • John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester (1647-80), poems
  • Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv’d ((1682)
  • John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1690)
  • Anthony Ashley Cooper, third earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks (1711; rev. 1714)
  • Eliza Haywood, Fantomina (1725)
  • William Law, An Appeal to all that Doubt the Gospel (1740)
  • Sophia, Woman’s Superior Excellence over Man (1740)
  • Samuel Johnson, Rambler No. 4 (1750)
  • Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
  • Denis Diderot, Éloge de Richardson (1762)
  • Vivant Denon, “No Tomorrow” (1777) 

READING ASSIGNMENT FOR FIRST MEETING: Before coming to the first session of the seminar, please read Richardson's “Preface” to Clarissa (35-36) and the first two letters in the novel (39-44).

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 20 students


ENGL 731 19th Century Poetry

Professor TBA
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description:  TBA

Evaluation: TBA 

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum


ENGL 733 The 19th Century Novel

Victorian Metafictions

Professor Tabitha Sparks
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: Metafiction, the process that a text or narrator uses in drawing attention to its own artifice, is often associated with postmodern fiction.  This course will locate the self-reflective techniques of metafiction in a range of mid-to-late nineteenth-century British novels, drawing attention to their irony and provisionality as an effect, and cause, of materialist critique.  Some of the novels we will read figure novel-writing characters, whose experiences and struggles complicate and draw attention to the story they participate in; other novels (as well as Gaskell’s highly fictionalized biography of Charlotte Brontë) explore the limits of Victorian narrative formulas including the Bildungsroman and the use of marriage or death as closure.  A course pack with readings by a variety of critics (including Mikhail Bakhtin, Rita Felski, George Levine, Patricia Waugh, Jerome McGann) will supplement our list of novels.  Students will be expected to contribute to spirited discussion as well as to a variety of exercises for professional training, including abstract-writing, a class conference, and the art of diplomatic critique.

Evaluation: 

  • Participation: 20%
  • Abstract: 10%
  • Essay (15-20 pps): 60%
  • Conference-style paper presentation: (8-9 pps) 10%

Texts may include:

  • Grant Allen, The Type-Writer Girl (1897)
  • Mary Braddon, The Doctor’s Wife (1864)
  • Rhoda Broughton, Cometh Up as a Flower (1867)
  • Wilkie Collins, The Evil Genius (1886)
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857)
  • George Gissing, New Grub Street (1891)
  • George and Weedon Grossmith, Diary of a Nobody (1892)
  • Ella Hepworth Dixon, The Story of a Modern Woman (1894)
  • Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle (1903)
  • Eliza Lynn Linton, The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland (1885)
  • William Thackeray, Rebecca and Rowena (1850)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


English 778 Topics in Cultural Studies

The Cinema of Precarity 

Professor Derek Nystrom
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: Over the past decade, the term “precarity” has been used by theorists and activists to identify the particular kinds of social and economic vulnerability generated by current conditions under late capitalism, especially the fraying of the social safety net and the attenuation of other forms of worker protection as part of capital’s demand for a more “flexible” workforce. According to many critics, these conditions have generated a new “precariat” which is made up of not only the industrial working class but also undocumented immigrants and other marginalized workers not normally represented by labour movement institutions, as well as some highly educated professional workers who have become newly exposed to the vicissitudes of “contingent” employment. This course will survey the theoretical and political work that has generated the concept of precarity—from the Italian “autonomist” movement to more recent North American theorists of “post-Fordist affect”—and utilize this body of thought to examine a series of recent films from around the globe which attempt to visualize and narrate precarious life. How do these films depict our changing social order? What narrative trajectories do they create for characters who are struggling (and sometimes failing) to locate themselves in this social order? Do the films indicate a precariat coming into being as a class-in-itself, or even a class-for-itself?

Texts: Essays from Zygmunt Bauman, Angela Mitropoulos, Michael Denning, Gilles Deleuze, Maurizio Lazzarato, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Giorgio Agamben, Paolo Virno, Judith Butler, Lee Edelman, Lauren Berlant, and others.

Films:

  • Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, Italy 1948)
  • Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1952)
  • La promesse (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium, 1996)
  • Rosetta (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium, 1999)
  • Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, U.S.A., 2009)
  • L’emploi du temps (Time Out) (Laurent Cantet, France, 2001)
  • In This World (Michael Winterbottom, U.K., 2002)
  • Le silence de Lorna (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium, 2008)
  • Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, U.S.A., 2011)
  • Le temps du loup (Michael Haneke, Austria, 2003)
  • Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani, U.S.A., 2007)
  • Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, U.S.A., 2008)
  • 24 City (Jia Zhangke, China, 2008)

Evaluation: 

  • 10-15 minute class presentation: 15% of final grade
  • Class contribution: 25%
  • 2pp proposal for end-of-term paper: 10%
  • End-of-term paper (15-20pp): 50% 

Format: Seminar

Average enrolment: 15 students 


ENGL 785 Literary Theory

Points of Contention

Professor Yael Halevi-Wise
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Description: This course acquaints students with points of contention among literary theorists. It aims to expose advanced students to as many critical viewpoints as possible, focusing especially on questions of interpretability, canon formation, and on the differences between literary theory and literary criticism. Rather than rattle off a ‘who’s who’ among the isms—formalism, marxism, post-structuralism, new historicism, ecocriticism, and so on—we will read works of literature in conversation with divergent interpretative approaches and examine why professors of literature have sometimes adopted polemical positions against each other.  

Evaluation: Attendance/participation (15%); ongoing position papers (25%); oral presentation (20%);  final essay applying a theory to a text of your choice or placing two theorists in conversation with each other, 15pp (40%)

Texts: Coursepack and David Richter’s Falling into Theory.

Format: TBA

Average enrollment: 7-8 students


ENGL 787 Proseminar 1

Professor Derek Nystrom
Fall Term 2016
TBA

Full course description

Prerequisite: This course is open only to PhD2 students in English.

Description: The first semester of the PhD Proseminar will focus on the discussion of recent theoretical texts and issues. Our encounters with theory will serve the following goals: (1) to orient you to some recent theoretical movements and their various loyalties, histories, and methodologies; (2) to develop your conceptual skills, including a feel for determining not only how but also when to be theoretical; and (3) to cultivate creativity and a sense of possibility as you find the critical repertoire most effective for your work.

Evaluation: 

  • Seminar presentation: 20% of the final mark
  • Seminar participation/contribution: 20%
  • Three short (2-3pp) reviews of recent books in one’s field: 20% each

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 7-8 students


ENGL 789 Proseminar 2

Professor Tabitha Sparks
Winter Term 2017
TBA

Full course description

Description: the second half of the required pro-seminar series for entering PhD students.  

Evaluation: TBA

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 7-8 students