2013-14 Graduate Courses

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

5 - MA students and U3 undergraduates
6 - MA and PhD students only
7 - MA and PhD students only

Note: 500-level courses with an enrollment of fewer than 7 students, and graduate courses with an enrollment of fewer than 4 students will not be given unless warranted by special circumstances.

500-level courses are restricted to an enrollment of 15 students and are open to Master's and advanced undergraduate students. M.A. students are permitted to take two courses at the 500-level. Ph.D. students may not register for 500-level courses.

Permission of instructor required.

Please click on any of the following to read the course description, the reading list, and the evaluation.

ENGL 500 Middle English

The Medieval Dream-Vision

Professor Jamie Fumo
Winter Term 2014
Time: Monday 11:35 am – 14:25 pm

Full course description

Description: This course explores the rich body of literature on dreams and dreaming in the Middle Ages, with a focus on the peculiarly medieval genre of the dream-vision. We will first investigate the relevance of medieval “dream theory” to the dream-vision genre by surveying ancient and medieval discussions of physiology, psychology, and dream taxonomy (e.g., Aristotle, Cicero, Macrobius, Boethius of Dacia, John of Salisbury). We will then engage two central traditions that shaped the development of the dream-vision genre—the philosophical and the courtly—as expressed in Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and Guillaume de Lorris’s and Jean de Meun’s Roman de la Rose, respectively. Building upon these foundations, we will devote the remainder of the semester to close study of the dream-visions of the three most celebrated English poets of the Middle Ages, contemporaries of one another in the second half of the fourteenth century: Geoffrey Chaucer, the anonymous Pearl-poet (who also wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), and William Langland.
In the course of our study of this eccentric community of erotic daydreamers, narcoleptic sinners, and chosen visionaries, we will address the question of whether medieval dream-poetry reveals the stirrings of “modern” ideas of subjectivity, personal experience, and psychology.  To what extent does the literature of dreaming explore problems of representation and artistic self-consciousness?  Why do medieval poets use the dream-vision form to comment upon literary tradition and/or contemporary reality?  What happens when dreams become texts and texts become dreams?  All Middle English readings will be in the original (with helpful glosses); relevant Latin, French, and Italian background materials will be studied in translation.  No prior knowledge of Middle English is required; however, proficiency in Middle English pronunciation and comprehension is a formal goal of this class.  This course will be of interest to medievalists and early modernists, but also to those whose work involves them in the history of subjectivity, psychology, Freud, and/or the generally bizarre.  

Evaluation: 15% Seminar Presentation; 10% Middle English Recitation; 60% Essay (15-20 pages for undergraduates; 20-25 pages for graduate students); 15% Participation. Students should also expect to present course materials and in-progress research informally, as asked.


  • Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, trans. Richard Green
  • Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Romance of the Rose, trans. Frances Horgan (Oxford World's Classics)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, Dream Visions and Other Poems, ed. Kathryn L. Lynch (Norton Critical Edition, 2006)
  • William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman, ed. A.V.C. Schmidt (Everyman)
  • Pearl, ed. Sarah Stanbury (TEAMS - Medieval Institute Pub.) 
  • Coursepack (containing extra required readings)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 501 Sixteenth Century

Sex Differences and Sexual Dissidence in Early Modern Culture:Literary and Social Contexts

Professor Kenneth Borris
Fall Term 2013
Time: Monday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm

Full course description

Description: A study of dissident views and practices of love and sex in early modern culture from the later fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, encompassing viragos, prostitutes, sodomites, tribades, sapphists, and hermaphrodites among others.  Their treatment and representation according to various discourses and intellectual disciplines will be considered.  For example, these will include, with varying degrees of emphasis, medicine and the other former sciences (such as physiognomy and astrology), as well as erotica, theology, philosophy, and law.  Our readings of primary sources will thus involve nonliterary as well as literary texts such as Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Milton’s masque Comus, and, in translation, Nicholas Chorier’s Dialogues of Venus, some of Michelangelo’s sonnets, and Montaigne’s essay on friendship.  Depending on class size, each member will likely do two seminar papers, each in a different part of the term.  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 we will establish at the start of the course.  This format aims to create a diverse, open, and responsive seminar.

Evaluation: Two Seminar Papers, about 9/10 pages of text each (12 point), to count 45% each; Class Attendance and Participation 10%

Texts:  The last three texts will be available at the Word Bookstore, 469 Milton Street, 514.845.5640.

  • General Course Reader, Same-Sex Desire in the English Renaissance: A Sourcebook of Texts, 1470-1650 (copies on reserve, electronic copy in McLennan Library on-line catalogue)
  • Supplementary Course Reader with various additional readings including Milton’s Comus
  • Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (edition is optional)
  • Caterina de Erauso, Memoirs of a Basque Lieutenant Nun (paperback)

Format: Seminar with papers and discussion

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 503 Eighteenth Century

The Villain-Hero

Professor David Hensley
Fall Term 2013
Time: Thursday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm | Screening: Thursday 5:35 pm – 9:25 pm 

Full course description

Description: This course will contextualize the villain-hero of eighteenth-century English literature in a European tradition of philosophical, religious, and political problems, social criticism, and artistic commentary from the Renaissance to Romanticism. Against the background of representations of the desire for knowledge and power in Elizabethan drama, the anthropology of Caroline political theory, Satanic revolt in Milton, and libertine devilry in Rochester and Restoration plays, we will examine the villain-hero as a figure of persistently fascinating evil power – a power subversively critical as well as characteristically satiric, obscene, and cruel in its skepticism, debauchery, and criminality. The readings will focus especially on two examples of this figure, Faust and Don Juan, whose development we will consider from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor is required. Enrollment is limited to 15 M.A. and advanced undergraduate students (honours majors in their final year have priority). M.A. and honours students may register for this course but must confirm their registration with the instructor in the fall. All others must meet with the instructor before registering.
N.B.: Electronic registration does not constitute permission of the instructor.

Evaluation: A substantial amount of careful reading, a class presentation, and a close analysis of texts both in seminar discussion and in a final 20-page paper will comprise the work in the course. The evaluation of this work will be weighted as follows: paper (60%), presentation (20%), and general participation (20%). Regular attendance is mandatory. (Depending on enrollment and other factors, the content and evaluative weighting of work may be somewhat modified; any such changes will be discussed in class, decided, and announced before the course change period ends.)

Texts: The reading for this course includes the following books, which will be available at The Word Bookstore (469 Milton Street, 514-845-5640). (The list of texts below is tentative and incomplete, to be confirmed in September 2013.)

  • Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (Norton or Hackett recommended)
  • Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Hackett, Oxford, or Penguin recommended)
  • La Rochefoucauld, Maxims (Oxford or Penguin)
  • John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester, Selected Works (Penguin)
  • William Wycherley, The Country Wife
  • William Congreve, The Way of the World
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust. Part One (Norton or Oxford)
  • Pierre Choderos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Oxford or Penguin)
  • Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, The Story of My Life (Penguin)
  • Lord Byron, Don Juan (Penguin)
  • Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin (Penguin, a translation particularly recommended)

 Usually one film will be shown each week. Viewing the films is a requirement of the course, and attendance at the screenings is an expected form of participation. (The following list of films is tentative and incomplete.)

  • Wycherley, The Country Wife (1992); and Congreve, The Way of the World (1997)
  • F. W. Murnau, Faust (1926)
  • Jan Svankmejer, Faust (1994)
  • Stephen Frears, Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
  • Mozart, Don Giovanni (directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1996; and others)
  • Frederico Fellini, Fellini’s Casanova (1976)
  • Tchaichovsky, Eugene Onegin (directed by Daniel Barenboim, 2007; and others)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 525 American Literature

Literary Pragmatism

Instructor Gregory Phipps
Fall Term 2013
Time: Thursday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm 

Full course description

Prerequisites: Enrolment is restricted to MA English students and Honours English students in their final year of undergraduate study. 

Description: TWidely regarded as the paramount American contribution to intellectual thought, pragmatism has always been allied to American identity, with ideals such as action, amelioration, practicality, and pluralism serving as important links. One of the main principles of pragmatism is the idea that actions and consequences bring value to personal beliefs. But in what way is pragmatism a product of a specifically American context? How does pragmatism express an American approach to art, politics, subjectivity, individuality, and material society? And how has pragmatism influenced the American literary tradition? This course will address these questions through analyses of seminal contributions to pragmatist thought and select works of early-twentieth-century American fiction and poetry. One of the objectives of this course is to delve beneath mainstream assumptions about “pragmatic” thinking to explore how pragmatism tests the boundaries of American identity, compelling us to re-evaluate our understandings of national unity, diversity, and narratives about the American ethos. Although philosophical readings will form a substantial component of the course, our ultimate goal will be to develop a comprehensive account of literary pragmatism. Thus, we will examine how early-twentieth-century American fiction and poetry not only reflect pragmatist ideas, but also bring to fruition the insights that the movement offers. 


  • Participation: 15%
  • Short Essay: 20%
  • Presentation: 20%
  • Final Paper: 45%

Texts: (available at the McGill Bookstore)

  • The Pragmatism Reader. Ed. Robert Talisse and Scott F. Aikin. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2011.
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk
  • Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury
  • Highsmith, Patricia. The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • James, Henry. Tales of Henry James
  • O’Hara, John. Appointment in Samarra
  • Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons
  • Wright, Richard. Native Son

Format: Discussion (Regular participation in class discussion is mandatory for this course)

ENGL 527: Canadian Literature

Recuperation in Canadian Women's Writing

Instructor: J.A. Weingarten
Fall Term 2013
Time: Monday 8:35 am – 11:25 am 

Full course description

Description: This course theorizes the idea of literary “recuperation” (that is, the creative portrayal of historical figures in poetry, fiction, and theatre) and uses writings by and about the nineteenth-century pioneer Susanna Moodie as an anchor for these discussions. This course begins by investigating the dramatic reinvention of Moodie over the course of the twentieth century in the context of feminist theories of recuperation. Our discussions of Moodie’s reinvention by poets, novelists, critics, and playwrights will provide inroads into further investigations into recuperative literature by Canadian women writers. We will consider the recuperation of First Nations women and of family history, and even the reinvention of fictional characters. From these investigations, numerous questions will emerge: what is recuperated in recuperative texts? Is recuperation about the retrieval of something vital, something authentic, or both? What qualifies as recuperation? Is Lorna Crozier’s rewriting of Sinclair Ross’s fictional “Mrs. Bentley” an act of feminist recuperation? Studying theories of feminism, reading, historiography, and national identity, we will address these questions throughout our course.

Required Texts (available at The Word)
Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie
Marie Clements, The Unnatural and Accidental Women
Lorna Crozier, A Saving Grace: The Collected Poems of Mrs Bentley
Jovette Marchessault, The Magnificent Voyage of Emily Carr
Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush
Sinclair Ross, As For Me and My House
Carol Shields, Small Ceremonies
Carol Shields, Swann

a) Short Essay (1500wds): 20%
b) Longer Essay (3500-4500 wds; due one week after the last class): 40%
c) Brief Presentation on Final Essay: 5%
d) Presentation on Supplemental Text: 15%
e) Attendance and Participation: 20%

Format: Seminar, with strong emphasis on discussion

Average enrollment: 8 students

ENGL 529: Topics in American Studies

Hollywood’s Great Depression

Professor Derek Nystrom
Fall Term 2013
Time: Wednesday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm | Screening: Monday 1:05 pm – 3:25 pm

Full course description

Description: The 1930s marked a period of massive change for the U.S. as a whole and its film industry. The Great Depression that ravaged the nation’s economy also threatened to destroy the Hollywood studios, forcing them to re-organize themselves less as family businesses and more as modern corporations. The labour radicalism ignited by the Depression sparked union drives within Hollywood as well. Concern over the influence of films on America’s youth prompted the expansion and stricter enforcement of the industry’s Production Code, which imposed multiple constraints on both film form and content. In addition, Hollywood’s transition to synchronized sound necessitated a series of changes, both technological and aesthetic, that transformed the vocabulary of cinema. Operating from an understanding of these multiple social, industrial, and aesthetic contexts, this course will examine several different film genres and cycles that attempted to address—directly and indirectly—the Great Depression while it was underway. Of key interest will be questions of narrative form: how did classical Hollywood narration—whose causal structure is driven by the agency of its individual protagonists—represent a social world that dramatized the ineffectual nature of personal agency in the face of economic collapse? The course will pay special attention to genres and cycles that treated forms of life whose position in the social order was precarious—the gangster film, the fallen woman cycle, the social problem film—while also examining film styles whose relationship to the Depression may seem more tenuous, such as screwball comedy and the musical. 

Evaluation: TBA

Texts: Course pack including essays by Charles Eckert, Robert Warshow, Fran Mason, Thomas Schatz, Henry Jenkins, Richard Maltby, Lary May, Michael Denning, Lea Jacobs, Vivian Sobchack, Brian Neve, Morris Dickstein, Tino Balio, and others.

Required Films: This list is subject to change, but it will likely include:

  •  Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, First National/Warner Bros., 1931)
  • Public Enemy (William A. Wellman, Warner Bros., 1931)
  • The Easiest Way (Jack Conway, MGM, 1931)
  • Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, Paramount, 1932)
  • Red-Headed Woman (Jack Conway, MGM, 1932)
  • Scarface (Howard Hawks, The Caddo Company/United Artists, 1932)
  • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy, Warner Bros., 1932)
  • Baby Face (Alfred E. Green, Warner Bros., 1933)
  • Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, Paramount, 1933)
  • Wild Boys of the Road (William A. Wellman, First National/Warner Bros., 1933)
  • Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, Warner Bros., 1933)
  • Gabriel Over the White House (Gregory La Cava, MGM, 1933)
  • Dinner at Eight (George Cukor, MGM/Loew’s, 1933)
  • Stand Up and Cheer! (Hamilton MacFadden, Fox Film, 1934)
  • Our Daily Bread (King Vidor, King W. Vidor Productions/United Artists, 1934)
  • It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, Columbia, 1934)
  • Black Fury (Michael Curtiz, First National/Warner Bros., 1935)
  • Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, Charles Chaplin Productions/United Artists, 1936)
  • Fury (Fritz Lang, Loew’s/MGM, 1936)
  • Marked Woman (Lloyd Bacon/Michael Curtz, Warner Bros./First National, 1937)
  • Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, Paramount, 1937)
  • Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, Selznick International/MGM/Loew’s, 1939)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1940)
  • Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, Paramount, 1941)
  • Meet John Doe (Frank Capra, Frank Capra Productions/Warner Bros. 1941)

Format: Seminar, Weekly Screenings

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 535 Literary Themes

Reading (into) the Landscape

Professor Sandeep Banerjee
Fall Term 2013
Time: Friday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm

Full course description

Description: “Landscape” means both a kind of space (such as the “cultural landscape” or the “natural landscape”) and a form of representation (for instance, a genre of painting or photography). Importantly, landscapes – as representations or as places – are also particularly interesting points of political and cultural struggle. In this course we will analyze literary, visual, and other cultural texts to understand how they articulate the power of landscapes. Drawing on work by cultural theorists, literary critics, art historians and human geographers, we will examine how landscapes represent the interests of specific social groups; how they settle questions of belonging; how landscapes naturalize relations of power; and, most important, how they shape and transform social relations between people.

Among the texts in the course are colonial and contemporary British writing on South Asia, as well as postcolonial authors from that region. We will read how literary texts make imperial claims on a space; how these claims are contested; and especially, how, after decolonization, postcolonial authors imagine, articulate, and make sense of the spaces they inhabit, and of the larger space of the nation. We will also examine authors from the South Asian diaspora and inquire into their imaginations of the region. As we read the texts in the course, we will continuously examine the relationship between space, affect, representation and the question of belonging. 

Texts (tentative): 

  • EM Forster – A Passage to India
  • Khushwant Singh – Train to Pakistan
  • Amitav Ghosh – The Hungry Tide
  • Arundhati Roy – God of Small Things
  • Aravind Adiga – The White Tiger
  • Jhumpa Lahiri – The Namesake
  • Paul Theroux – The Great Railway Bazaar

Evaluation: Participation 10%; presentation 20%; final paper proposal 20%; final paper 50%

Format: Seminar

Engl 545: Topics in Literature and Society

Contemporary South Africa in Literature and Film

Professor Monica Popescu
Winter Term 2014
Time: Wednesday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm

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 of 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 postapartheid 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 and watch films while contextualizing them within larger global phenomena as presented in essays by Achille Mbembe, Timothy Brennan, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Gayatri Spivak, Jean and John Comaroff, 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: Presentation 20%; Short paper on theoretical text 20%, Final essay 45%; Participation 15%

Texts: Course pack with essays. Possible fiction includes:

  • J. M. Coetzee: Disgrace
  • Zakes Mda: Ways of Dying
  • Ivan Vladislavic: The Exploded View
  • Zoe Wicomb: The One That Got Away
  • Antjie Krog: Country of My Skull
  • Mandla Langa: The Lost Colours of the Chameleon
  • Nadine Gordimer: The Pickup
  • Sifiso Mzobe: Young Blood

[The final list will be available in October 2013]


  • Neill Blomkamp: District 9
  • Mark Dornford-May: U-Carmen eKhayelitsha
  • Lee Hirsch: Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony
  • Ralph Ziman: Jerusalema

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 568 Studies in Dramatic Form

Contemporary Tragedy

Professor Sean Carney
Winter Term 2014
Time: Monday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm

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 the theory and practice of tragedy, with special attention to the possible appearance of tragedy within postmodernity.  We will read theoretical essays to be drawn from a wide range of critics including, Steiner, Eagleton, Raymond Williams, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Szondi, Charles Segal, Frances Fergusson, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Juliet Mitchell, Jean-Pierre Vernant, G.W.F. Hegel, A.C. Bradley, Luce Irigaray, Judith Butler, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Gilles Deleuze.  At the same time, we will study contemporary tragedians, particularly those who identify their own work as tragedy and theorize about the concept of the tragic in their work, such as English playwrights Edward Bond and Howard Barker.  It is likely that the plays to be studied will be restricted to a national literature, most likely the contemporary United Kingdom.

Evaluation (tentative): Two ten-page essays, worth 30% each; One seminar presentation: 25%; Seminar Participation: 15%

Texts: A course kit of critical readings and a selection of plays, probably including Edward Bond, Howard Barker, Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Caryl Churchill, David Hare, Howard Brenton, Timberlake Wertenbaker, David Edgar, Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett.

Format: Seminar discussion

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 587/IPLAI 500 Movement Practices 

Thought and Technique in Motion

Professors Alanna Thain and Michael Jemtrud
Fall Term 2013
Time: Monday 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Full course description


Prerequisites: None.

Expected Student Preparation: This is an advanced practice-based research-creation course oriented towards upper level undergrads and graduate students.

Description: This interdisciplinary course tracks and enacts movement techniques from different areas of art and academic practice to explore how thought moves thought techniques of corporeal, mediatic, social and political mobility.  The course will include four units (“Architecting Practices”. “Dance and Performance Ecologies”, “Media and  embodiments”, and 'Urbanity: Moving on the social and political field', each combining critical theory, expert practitioners from a variety of fields (including dance, architecture, cinema, gaming, and more) and student centered experimentation with research-creation projects. Our aim is to collaboratively develop working concepts of movement. Students will both explore existing movement practices and develop their own techniques for putting thought in motion. How do ideas circulate? How might we conceive of collective forms of movement, or the unconscious choreographies we participate in at in our habitual disciplinary practices? How can a thought take flight? 

Evaluation: TBA

Texts: Coursepack

Format: Discussions, workshops, project based research-creation approach

Average enrollment: 18 students

ENGL 607: Middle English

Collectors, Memory, and the Archive

Professor Michael Van Dussen
Fall Term 2013
Time: Monday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm

Full course description


In the Middle Ages, the idea of collecting gradually came to take on a positive cultural value, though the value of collecting remained (and remains) hotly contested. Medieval innovations in collecting and archiving hold great significance for medieval and early modern humanist, antiquarian, religious, and political developments, as well as for modern concepts of evidence, research, and historical narrative. Yet while early modern antiquarianism and collecting have received a great deal of scholarly attention, we still know relatively little about collecting or collectors in the Middle Ages. In the medieval period, however, we witness vibrant developments in encyclopedism, mnemonics, cataloguing, compilation, preservation, and retrieval of knowledge. We also see the formation of lively social networks that surrounded collectors and their collections, library formation, and communication. In England, we also find the ironic situation that an explosion of collecting activity in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was immediately followed by a wave of library destruction and redistribution in the sixteenth, which in turn contributed to unprecedented preservation attempts and historical narrative that some have claimed gave “birth” to modern historiography and archiving.

This course will be organized around categories including, but not limited to, the following: compilation and encyclopedism; travel and curiosity; the marvellous; memory and the archive; preservation, retrieval, and destruction; acquisition; storage and access; network theory; the book (manuscript and print); cataloguing; and information overload. The class will frequently meet for workshops in McGill’s rare books and special collections and in the Osler Library of the History of Medicine. While the historical scope of the course will begin with Classical antiquity and extend to the start of the seventeenth century, we will focus on the Middle Ages, and especially the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Many of our primary texts will be read in the original Middle English, though no previous knowledge of the language is required. Portions of several classes will be spent refining our proficiency in Middle English. 

Evaluation: Short paper 25%; Long Paper 50%; Presentation 10%; Translation 5%; Participation 10%

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

Texts (provisional):

  • Richard de Bury, Philobiblon
  • Sir Orfeo
  • The Book of John Mandeville
  • John Trevisa, On the Properties of Things
  • William Langland, Piers Plowman
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The House of Fame
  • The Paston Letters and Papers
  • William Caxton, The Mirror of the World
  • John Leland/John Bale, The Laboryouse Journey
  • Carruthers and Ziolkowski, The Medieval Craft of Memory

Coursepack readings, including selections from:

  •  Plato, Meno, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Timaeus
  • Aristotle, On Memory and Recollection
  • Cicero, Pseudo-Cicero, and Quintilian, writings on memory
  • St. Augustine, Confessions and City of God
  • Isidore of Seville, Etymologies
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  • Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend
  • John Foxe, Actes and monuments
  • John Bale (various catalogues of British writers)
  • William Camden, Britannia
  • Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning
  • Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social
  • Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects
  • Susan Stewart, On Longing
  • Roger Chartier, The Order of Books
  • Other theoretical and secondary readings on collecting, memory, and archive theory

ENGL 620 Studies in Drama and Theatre

Theatre and Diaspora 

Professor Katie Zien
Fall Term 2013
Time: Thursday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm

Full course description

Description: In their chapter of the edited volume Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities (2010), Helen Gilbert and Jacqueline Lo discuss the ways in which performance represents and “activates a wide range of links with homelands and host lands, situating diaspora within specific cultural, political, geographical and historical contexts” (151). Simultaneously engaging abstract concepts and close-range materiality, performances elicit the potential to bring bodies, spaces, and affects together in dynamic convergences. As such, performances of diaspora have created and disseminated localized representations of long-distance communities or iterations of diasporic histories for the descendants of migrants, exiles, and refugees, including those who have come of age without the memory of their country of origin. Inherent in these representations, however, are detailed conceptualizations and deployments of the contentious and often ambiguous term “diaspora.” Is diaspora the result of forced migration? Does the concept belong to a particular era, or have diasporas evolved since the term came into popular and scholarly use with reference to Jewish and African populations?
This course will examine the ways in which various theatre and performance practitioners have engaged the knotty concept of “diaspora.” Does “diaspora” imply an originary trauma or a lost homeland? How have theatre artists sought to inculcate or incubate theories of diaspora in their readers and audiences? We will analyze changing definitions of “diaspora” alongside play texts and performances that approach this concept from multiple angles. After querying the intersections of theatre and performance with “classic” iterations of diaspora, we will transition to asking how conceptions of diaspora have shifted in the multicultural present, intersecting with new motivating factors to produce new representations of diaspora in performance. While some scholars argue that globalization is not a new phenomenon, current debates over diaspora necessarily engage recent studies of postcolonialism, globalization, neoliberalism, and transnationalism. Because theatre creates a multifaceted semiotic landscape of performative identity, we will ask how and why certain groups are labeled “diasporic” while others are excluded from this category. Moreover, we will compare representations of the experience of diaspora among communities situated in Canada, the United States, Europe, and throughout the world, noting how the locale of the host nation affects the community members’ experiences and performances of diasporic sensibilities. 

Evaluation: In-class participation 10%; Weekly question forum 15%; Analytical essay (5 pages) 20%; Review Essay (2-3 pages) 15%; Final research paper (8-10 pages) and symposium 40%

Format: Seminar

Text: We will read a variety of plays, secondary sources, and works of critical theory addressing the intersections of diaspora and performance. Theorists whose research undergirds our conceptual analysis of diaspora will include James Clifford, Brent Hayes Edwards, Michael Hanchard, Sandra Richards, and Paul Carter Harrison. We will also read plays by dramatists including Maryse Condé, Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, August Wilson, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sunil Kuruvilla, Djanet Sears, Han Ong, Guillermo Verdecchia, and Patricia Suárez.

ENGL 662 Seminar of Special Studies

Adapted for Cinema

Professor Trevor Ponech
Winter Term 2014
Time: Thursday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm

Full course description

Description: Cinematic adaptation--roughly speaking, the practice of making a usually feature length movie from a literary or other source-work--is nearly essential to the existence of cinema, conceived as a popular entertainment artform.  This seminar will take a critical glance at some attempts to theorize cultural, economic, and aesthetic issues pertaining to adaptation.  Of central importance, though, is the goal of assessing the prospects for a genuine aesthetics of adaptation.  An “aesthetics of adaptation” is concerned with how best to go about critically appreciating an adaptation as an adaptation, that is, as a certain kind of artistic achievement.  It comprises: a sound, defensible concept of adaptation; an account of what the adaptation’s distinctive artistic and artistically-relevant properties are; a general description of the constitutive relations between cinematic adaptations and their literary or other sources; a conceptual framework in which to pose and resolve evaluative questions about the relative merits and demerits of adaptations and their sources.  At its limits, such a project would also contribute to our understanding of the nature and specificity of both literary and cinematic art.

Evaluation: Seminar presentation in conjunction with a brief written assignment, 30%; term paper, 70%

Format: Seminar

Texts: A selection of readings drawn from contemporary film theory and aesthetic philosophy:

  • Linda Hutcheons, A Theory of Adaptation
  • Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Stephen King, The Shining
  • Alberto Moravia, Contempt


  • Trollflöjten/The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975)
  • Plein Soleil/Purple Noon (René Clément, 1960)
  • Le Mépris/Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
  • The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
  • Kumonosu  jô/Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)

ENGL 680 Canadian Literature

Problems in Early Canadian Literature

Eli MacLaren
Winter Term 2014
Time: Friday 8:35 am – 11:25 am

Full course description

Description: Canada is vividly manifest in its nineteenth-century writing, but several obstacles past and present interfere with our ability to understand it. Writers of that period lacked neither education nor ambition and they strove to interpret personal experiences and public issues in ways that would both establish themselves and legitimate their national identity; their efforts, however, collided with factors that lay beyond their control, and the result is a wealth of valuable writing that lies in canonical disarray. Canada’s entanglement in British imperial politics complicated the meaning of nation. The relations between aboriginals, French Canadians, and diverse waves of settler pioneers destabilized the meaning of native. The growing conflict between science and religion threw into doubt the value of traditions, giving rise to new concepts of gender and race. Most importantly, Canadian reading was so dominated by foreign print culture that there was no consensus as to what even constituted the true Canadian book. In this course we will approach 19th-century Canadian writing as scholarly editors, seeking to explain why it took the form it did. We will situate the writing of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Charles G.D. Roberts, Sara Jeannette Duncan, and others in international contexts that were at once political, aesthetic, and industrial. Secondary readings in the history of books and printing will foreground the challenges these writers faced in trying to become authors, as well as the difficulties that printer-booksellers such as H.H. Cunningham and Alexander Belford encountered in their attempt to become publishers. Students will learn basic methods of bibliography, textual criticism, and explanatory annotation, and apply them in the scholarly editing of a passage of their choice. In a major research paper, they will identify and break down the barriers to comprehending a work from the period. Literary ambition waxed strong in the century that saw the country grow to its present shape, and in this course we will discover that the nineteenth-century Canadian canon is anything but a closed case.

Evaluation: Scholarly editing assignment 25% (1500 words); Major research paper 60% (5000 words); Participation 15%

Texts: Approximately ten texts will be selected from the following list. We will not be reading all these works. A final decision will be made about which texts will be on the syllabus by May 2008. Availability sometimes dictates what we can and cannot read.

  • John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea (1823)
  • John Howard Willis, Scraps and Sketches (1831)
  • John Richardson, Wacousta (1832)
  • Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush (1852)
  • Charles Sangster, The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay (1856)
  • David Thompson, Travels (1850)
  • Robert Michael Ballantyne, Snowflakes and Sunbeams (1856)
  • Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Poems (1869)
  • Louis-Honoré Fréchette, Poésies choisies (1879; selections, in translation)
  • Charles G.D. Roberts, Orion and Other Poems (1880)
  • Earth’s Enigmas (1895)
  • James De Mille, A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (1889)
  • Frederick George Scott, My Lattice and Other Poems (1894)
  • Sara Jeannette Duncan, A Social Departure (1890)
  • Lily Dougall, What Necessity Knows (1893)
  • Pauline Johnson, The White Wampum (1895)
  • Ralph Connor, Black Rock (1898)
  • Louis Dantin, Émile Nelligan et son œuvre (1903; selections, in translation)
  • Lilian Leveridge, A Breath of the Woods (1926)
  • Lionel Stevenson, A Pool of Stars (1926)
  • Susan Frances Harrison, Later Poems and New Villanelles (1928)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 694 Bibliography

Graduate Research Methods

Professor Erin Hurley
Fall Term 2013
Time: Wednesday 8:35 - 11:25 am

Full course description

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

Description: This course aims to familiarize students with a variety of research methods necessary for study at the graduate level. Topics of discussion in this course will include: developing effective work habits, using research resources in the discipline, understanding scholarly editions and editing, exploring libraries and archives.  Students will be introduced to methodologies from literature, drama and theatre, and cultural studies, in order to prepare them to conduct their own independent research.

 Evaluation: Pass / Fail. Evaluation is based on attendance and any required in-course assignments.

 Format: Lectures by invited speakers; seminar.

 Average enrollment: maximum 30 students

ENGL 708 Studies in a Literary Form

Experimentation in Canadian Literature

Professor Robert Lecker
Winter Term 2014
Time: Thursday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm

Full course description


Although experimentation in Canadian literature is typically aligned with a shift toward postmodernism in the 1970s, experimental Canadian writing has much earlier roots. Gregory Betts argues that the avant-garde in Canada appeared in literary activity before World War I and that it can be traced through Surrealist and Vorticist writers from the 1920s to the 1970s. However, the recognition of such experimentation has been suppressed by institutional and critical ideologies aligned with a conservative narrative of Canadian literary history, a narrative that is reflected in canonical values. This course focuses on a group of novels that challenge these prevailing values—novels that embody new ideas about the author and radical concepts of literary production that are open, subversive, and multi-vocal. The course will examine experimentation in Canadian fiction between World War II and 2012 by looking at a group of provocative novels that are based on a wide range of experimental models and aesthetics. Topics to be discussed include canonicity and literary value, literary nationalism, editing, material culture, politics and style, ideology and literary form, experimentation and eroticism, and literary parody, to name a few. Some of the writers to be considered include George Bowering, Anne Carson, Lynn Crosbie, Robert Kroetsch, Stephen Marche, Yann Martel, Michael Ondaatje, Elizabeth Smart, Michael Turner, and Sheila Watson.


  • Course Text Preview, 20%
  • Attendance and Participation, 20%
  • Seminar Presentation, 20%
  • Final Paper, 40%

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

Texts: Note:  All texts are available from The Word Bookstore, 469 Milton. The store accepts cash and cheques only.  Students are advised to purchase all texts by December 15. Texts will be at The Word by December 10. 

  • Bowering, George. Burning Water
  • Carson, Anne. Autobiography of Red
  • Crosbie, Lynn. Paul's Case
  • Kroetsch, Robert. The Studhorse Man
  • Martel, Yann. Self
  • Marche, Stephen. Shining at the Bottom of the Sea
  • McEwan, Paul. Bruce McDonald's Hard Core Logo
  • Ondaatje, Michael. Coming through Slaughter
  • Smart, Elizabeth. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
  • Turner, Michael. Hard Core Logo
  • Watson, Sheila. The Double Hook

ENGL 716 Special Studies in Shakespeare

The State of the Field

Professor Wes Folkerth
Winter Term 2014
Time: Monday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm

Full course description

Description: In this seminar we will canvas various critical and theoretical approaches that have come to characterize Shakespeare Studies in the 21st Century. Our attention will focus on readings that exemplify current critical perspectives on Shakespeare such as Presentism, Disability Studies, Adaptation Studies, Ecocriticism/Green Shakespeare, Queer Studies, Cognitive Science, New Economics, Philosophical/Ethical Criticism, and the New Formalism. In addition to the theoretical reading, we will discuss a selection of Shakespeare's plays in relation to these approaches.

Evaluation: Seminar Presentation 35%; Long Paper 50%; Participation 15%

Format of class: Seminar

Average enrolment: 15 Students

Texts: Specific critical texts are TBA, but will likely include a course pack, a few monographs, and a few critical collections. An edition of the complete works of Shakespeare will be required. For those who do not yet have an edition of the complete works, I will order copies of the Longman edition (ed. David Bevington) for the McGill bookstore to carry.

ENGL 722 Milton

Professor Maggie Kilgour
Winter Term 2014
Time: Wednesday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm

Full course description

Description: A close reading of Milton’s major poetical works, focusing on Paradise Lost, but beginning with selected early poetry and some prose, and finishing with a brief look at the double volume of Samson Agonistes and Paradise Regain’d. We will trace Milton’s development as a poet and its relation to his political thought, considering especially the relations between poetry, freedom, and change.  From Areopagitica on, Milton is a passionate defender of the freedom of the imagination as essential to a democratic society. His God is above all a creator who inspires creativity in others – not only Adam and Eve, but also the poet himself. Paradise Lost has itself has inspired many later responses and reworkings by writers and visual artists, from Dryden’s State of Innocence to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Through critical readings and individual projects we will consider Milton’s pivotal role in the canon and the many myths of Milton, Romantic revolutionary, as well as the source of Bloom’s anxiety of influence.

Evaluation: Book review 10%; Editorial exercise 10%; Reception project 10%; Participation (includes class Prolusion) 20%; Final 20 page paper 50 %

Format of class: Seminar

Average enrolment: 15 Students


  • John Carey ed, Milton: Complete Shorter Poems (Longman)
  • Alastair Fowler, ed. John Milton: Paradise Lost (Longman)
  • Selections from the prose, on-line
  • Selected criticism


ENGL 726 Narrative Prose of the Eighteenth Century

Epistolarity: The Novel in Letters from Clarissa to “Lady Susan”

Professor Peter Sabor
Winter Term 2014
Time: Monday 8:35 am – 11:25 am

Full course description

Description: Epistolary fiction, in which the narrative is conveyed through an exchange of letters, has ancient and medieval antecedents. This course, however, begins with Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, the tragic novel that even Richardson’s great rival Henry Fielding acknowledged as a masterpiece. Using the full range of epistolary techniques, some of which Richardson inherited and some of which he created, Clarissacombines multiple finely distinguished narrative viewpoints, each advancing its own account of the action, the overall effect being to complicate and intensify the novel’s meaning and impact. Because of its great length (the first edition was published in seven volumes), we shall devote four weeks of the class to Clarissa. We shall then turn to three comic novels published in the decade from 1769 to 1778: Frances Brooke’sThe History of Emily Montague, set in Quebec City and showing the interplay between French, English and Huron communities; Tobias Smollett’s final novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, in which the author experimented with epistolary fiction for the first and only time; and Frances Burney’s dazzling first novel, Evelina, in which she exploits the resources of epistolarity to the fullest, only to abandon it in her three subsequent novels. We shall devote two weeks to each of these works before concluding with three of Jane Austen’s short youthful writings of the 1790s: “Love and Freindship,” “Lesley Castle,” and “Lady Susan.” For all her admiration of Richardson, Austen was acutely conscious of the limitations of epistolary form. After parodying it in her juvenilia, written when she was in her mid-teens, she wrote the novella-length “Lady Susan,” which she completed but did not attempt to publish. In considering why Austen, like Burney, made the move from epistolarity to third-person narration, we shall fulfil part of the course’s principal objective: to examine the various advantages and disadvantages of telling a novel in letters.

Evaluation: Seminar Presentation 25%; Term Paper 50% (5000 words); Participation 25%


  • Samuel Richardson, Clarissa (1747-48)
  • Frances Brooke, The History of Emily Montague (1769)
  • Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771)
  • Frances Burney, Evelina (1778)
  • Jane Austen, “Love and Freindship” (1790), “Lesley Castle” (1792) and “Lady Susan” (c. 1795)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 733 The Victorian Novel


Professor Tabitha Sparks
Fall Term 2013
Time: Tuesday 11:35 am – 14:25 pm

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, Jurgen Habermas, Rita Felski, Regenia Gagnier, George Levine, Patricia Waugh) 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%; Paper presentation 10%; Long paper 60%

Texts: (subject to minor changes)

  •  Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857)
  • James Payn, Married Beneath Him (1865)
  • Rhoda Broughton, Cometh Up as a Flower (1867)
  • Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (1875)
  • George Gissing, New Grub Street (1891)
  • Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle (1903)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 734 Studies in Fiction

Later British Modernist Fiction

Professor Allan Hepburn
Fall Term 2013
Time: Tuesday 8:35 am – 11:25 am 

Full course description


In Bowen’s Court, Elizabeth Bowen writes disparagingly of the high-toned, modernist discourse about civilization and the necessity of culture: “And to what did our fine feelings, our regard for the arts, our intimacies, our inspiring conversations, our wish to be clear of the bonds of sex and class and nationality, our wish to try to be fair to everyone bring us? To 1939.” The period from the late 1930s through the 1960s has been, by and large, neglected in favour of scholarly discussions of high modernism and postmodernism. For this reason, this course investigates British fiction in the years immediately preceding World War II, as well as fiction written during the war and its aftermath. In this period, problems that affected British domestic politics cannot be dissociated from international situations. The bombing of London, the election of the Labour government, the dissolution of the empire, the years of high taxation and food rationing, the rebuilding of blitzed cities all have important effects on fiction. Moreover, in the postwar period, British fiction merges with Cold War tenseness and a consciousness of global responsibility: the British occupation of Germany and Austria; the Suez Crisis; the formation of NATO and the UN; the expansion of international security; the ongoing situation in Ireland. The novels on this syllabus indicate ways in which British writers conceived of the changed realities of the war and the postwar years. Throughout this course, attention will be paid to nationalist discourse, pageants, firestorms, apocalyptic discourse, espionage, Egypt, Ireland, love in the time of war, alienation, existentialism, trials and tortures, and comedy. Some of the novels are parts of multi-volume series (Powell, Mitford, Durrell), so we will speculate on genres, including the saga, the novel, and the serial. Some attention may be given to films, both documentary and feature films: Things to Come, The Third Man, Diary for Timothy, London Can Take It, Coal Face. The final syllabus will have about twelve novels; we will alternate longer novels with films and shorter novels to spread out the workload. Secondary readings by Peter Kalliney, Alan Sinfield, Marina MacKay, Cyril Connolly, and others will be available in a course pack, as will theoretical readings by Hannah Arendt, Tony Judt, Mark Rawlinson, and John Grierson.

Evaluation: Short Paper 25% (1500 words); Long Paper 60% (5000 words), Participation 15%

Texts: Approximately twelve texts will be selected from the following list. We will not be reading all these works. A final decision will be made about which texts will be on the syllabus by May 2013. Availability sometimes dictates what we can and cannot read.

  • Eric Ambler, Background to Danger (1937)
  • Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon (1941)
  • Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (1941)
  • Henry Green, Caught (1943)
  • Elizabeth Taylor, At Mrs. Lippincote’s (1945)
  • Rebecca West, “Greenhouse with Cyclamens 1” (1946)
  • Patrick Hamilton, Slaves of Solitude (1947)
  • Aldous Huxley, Ape and Essence (1948)
  • Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate (1949)
  • Elizabeth Bowen, The Heat of the Day (1949)
  • Graham Greene, The Third Man (1949)
  • Rose Macaulay, The World My Wilderness (1950)
  • Anthony Powell, A Question of Upbringing (1951)
  • Barbara Pym, A Glass of Blessings (1958)
  • Lawrence Durrell, Justine (1957)
  • Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958)
  • Muriel Spark, The Girls of Slender Means (1963)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 757 Modern Drama

Performance Studies (with special attention to affect and objects) 

Professor Erin Hurley
Winter Term 2014
Time: Thursday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm

Full course description

Description: In the last twenty years, “performance” has gained widespread currency as a heuristic device and analytic tool in the humanities and social sciences. From pedestrian business usage (“performance indicators”) to rather more involved literary theories of “performativity,” the metaphor of performance has proven useful to a range of academic disciplines and critical projects.

This seminar will provide a critical introduction to performance theory as it is currently deployed in performance studies and English studies. After exploring “what is performance” and its “universals” through readings of now classic texts in performance theory (Schechner, Phelan, Turner, Hochschild, etc.), we will read theories of performance’s relationship to text (Worthen, Brody, Puchner), of performativity (Butler, Schneider, Davis), and of cultural memory (Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, Roach, Taylor, Richards). Special attention will be paid to recent turns in performance theory, which investigate affect (Ridout, Muñoz, Dolan, Warner) and objects or things (Hamera, Schweitzer, Bernstein). 

Instructional Method:  Seminar discussions

Evaluation: Discussion prompts 10%; Presentation 25% (10 minutes); Long paper 50% (5000 words); Participation 15%

Texts: Custom course packet (at McGill Bookstore)

ENGL 770  Studies in American Literature

Cosmopolitanism in Nineteenth-Century American Writing 

Professor Peter Gibian
Winter Term 2014
Time: Friday 11:35 am – 2:25 pm

Full course description

Description:This seminar on literary responses to and enactments of cosmopolitan vision in nineteenth-century America will begin by surveying definitions and uses of the notion of "cosmopolitanism" in other eras and contexts. In early weeks, we will compare and contrast some key twentieth- and twenty-first-century theories of the cosmopolitan (Bourne, Robbins, Nussbaum, Clifford, Hannerz, Bhabha, Appiah, Anderson, and others) with writings by Benjamin Franklin that epitomize the "cosmopolitan ideal" as it was developed in eighteenth-century England and Europe. This international and cross-historical context may then help us to see nineteenth-century American writing in an unusual new perspective, bringing out developments often ignored through a traditional critical focus on dominant tendencies to nationalism, regionalism, nativism, provincialism, ruralism, and so on.  From this new perspective, though, we can trace a long and important alternative line of American writing and thought as it develops through a somewhat unusual roster of authors and works. This survey of the varieties of cosmopolitan experience will include a primary focus on authors selected from the following list: Franklin, Irving, Poe, Holmes, Hale, Melville, Cable, Chopin, Du Bois, James, and Wharton. Melville's deeply divided relation to the cosmopolitan will be central to the course; we will focus on "Benito Cereno," and on the predicament of Ishmael and Queequeg in Moby-Dick, in the context of allusions to passages from Melville's early travel writings.
Tracing this line of American writing as it develops through the nineteenth century, we find that we are following an ongoing, anxious debate about the powers and limits of the cosmopolitan, about the American writer as a cosmopolitan figure, and even about America as a cosmopolitan culture. Indeed, this tradition of nineteenth-century American writing gives us some of the clearest examples we have of what Randolph Bourne describes in his famous essay evoking a "Trans-National America," and what anthropologist James Clifford describes as the vision of a "traveling culture." Following the evolution of cosmopolitan thought in this line of writers, what emerges is the paradox of a national vision that finds itself most fully in trans-national situations, where the writer is characteristically seen not as a defender of unicultural coherences but as an intercultural ambassador, speaking not from within a bounded and self-contained "home culture" (be it American or European or cosmopolitan) but more often from a life of constant physical and spiritual movement through a series of homes-away-from-home. Here cosmopolitanism can emerge less as a privilege than as a predicament; it does not always involve the easy detachment of the distant, aesthetic observer. When the protagonists in these exploratory writings move away from isolation and detachment, their travelers’ experience leaves them torn between the competing responsibilities and emotional involvements that come with multiple allegiances to diverse home-worlds. No longer in the classic position of the leisured aesthetic tourist, they find themselves condemned to cosmopolitanism—in the role of the homeless bachelor wanderer. The story of this sort of cosmopolitan figure then raises large questions about (to borrow a phrase from Homi Bhabha) "the location of culture": the location of home, the location of home culture, for American writers who characteristically see themselves, after this move into the realm of the international or inter-cultural, as unable to go home again. 

Evaluation (tentative): Participation 20%; Series of one-page response papers or textual analyses 20%; Oral Presentation 15%; Final Research Essay 45%

Texts (tentative): Selections from among the following works: Franklin, Autobiography; Irving, Sketchbook; Poe, selected stories; Melville, Moby-Dick (selections) and Benito Cereno; Hale, Man Without a Country; Cable, Old Creole Days; W. E. B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk; James, Daisy Miller An International EpisodeAmbassadors and/or Portrait of a Lady; Wharton, The Age of Innocence; course pack of additional readings in 19th-c. literature and in contemporary theory of the “cosmopolitan.

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 778 Studies in Visual Culture

The Erotic Child

Professor Ara Osterweil
Fall Term 2013
Time: Wednesday 2:35 pm – 5:25 pm | Screening: Tuesday 4:05 pm – 5:55 pm

Full course description

Description: Sigmund Freud's fin-de-siècle repudiation of the myth of childhood innocence was part of what Michel Foucault might describe as an explosion of pedophilic discourses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This explosion became most visible in the cinema, which helped to transform the child’s body into an erotic signifier that condensed anxieties concerning race, gender, and sexuality.
This course examines the representation of the erotic child in popular culture from the late 19th through the early 21st century. Focusing mostly on American cinema, with supplementary evidence from photography,, and literature, this course traces the ways in which discourses of innocence, eroticism, and perversion coalesce in the figure of the sexualized child.  As we shall discover through our study of American cinema's pedophilic imagination, images of the erotic child have been a defining feature of narrative film recurring with particular intensity during periods of political, economic, and social crises. By looking closely at the fraught representations of the child’s body in silent cinema, early sound film, Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, European art cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, and contemporary independent and world cinema, we shall map what is at stake in the evolving cinematic figuration of erotic children. Finally, by situating the cinematic exploration of erotic child in its various historical contexts, this course will illuminate how inscriptions of the erotic child reflect larger social anxieties and concerns.  In addition to our investigation of the evolving conception of the child in psychoanalytic, feminist, queer, and film theory, we will be watching and discussing one feature length film per week.  Directors to be studied include D.W. Griffith, Fritz Lang, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Larry Clark, Pedro Almodovar and Gregg Araki. Attendance at the weekly screening is mandatory.

Evaluation: Participation 15 %; Small Paper/ Presentation 25 %; Final Paper (20-25 pages) 60 %

Partial Filmography:

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Edwin S. Porter, US, 1903)
  • Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, US, 1915)
  • Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith, US, 1919)
  • Daddy Long Legs (Marshall Nielan, US, 1919)
  • M (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1931)
  • The Little Colonel (David Butler, 1935)
  • Child Bride (Harry Revier, US, 1938)
  • Baby Doll (Elia Kazan, US, 1956)
  • Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, UK, 1962) and (Adrian Lyne, US, 1997)Murmurs of the Heart (Louis Malle, France, 1971)
  • Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, US, 1976)
  • Pretty Baby (Louis Malle, US, 1978)
  • Kids (Larry Clark, US, 1995)
  • LIE (Michael Cuestas, US, 2001)
  • Capturing the Friedmans (Eugene Jarecki, US, 2003)
  • Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 2004)
  • The Woodsman (Nicole Cassel, US, 2004)
  • Mysterious Skin (Greg Araki, US, 2005)
  • Little Children (Todd Field, US, 2006)

Texts will include writings by:

  • Sigmund Freud
  • Michel Foucault
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Melanie Klein
  • Lauren Berlant
  • Lee Edelman
  • James Kincaid,
  • Marjorie Heins
  • Gayle Rubin
  • Judith Levine
  • Cynthia Fuchs and others

Format: Seminar and weekly screening.

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 787: Proseminar 1

Professor Ned Schantz 
Fall Term 2013
Time: Friday 8:35 am – 11:25 am 

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 discussion of theoretical texts and issues. The aim of the course is to situate critical theories and their various loyalties, histories, and methodologies. The seminar will also emphasize critical exchanges—how and why they function as they do. At the same time, the Proseminar will introduce PhD students to the program. The main concern, however, is to orient participants towards a theoretically informed and professionally appropriate plan for doctoral study.

Evaluation: Seminar presentations and short written assignments.

Texts: TBA

Format: TBA

Average enrollment: 7-8 students

ENGL 788: Proseminar 2

Professor Peter Gibian
Winter Term 2014
Time: Wednesday 8:35 am – 11:25 am

Full course description


Prerequisite: This course is open only to PhD2 students in English; it is a continuation of ENGL 787.

Description: The emphasis of this course is divided between preparation of the Compulsory Research Project and a discussion of issues related to the profession of English studies broadly conceived. Topics of conversation include conference papers and conference-going, academic publishing, archival research, editing, expectations for the Compulsory Research Project, the dissertation, and so forth. Related issues of pedagogy, collegiality, professionalism, and originality in research may also arise.

Evaluation: Pass / Fail based on attendance and presentation of the CRP proposal.

Texts: None.

Format: seminar with invited speakers.

Average enrollment: 7-8 students

Back to top