2014-15 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 Middle English

Medieval Literature and Law

Professor Michael Van Dussen
Winter Term 2015
Monday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: Literary and legal discourses in the later Middle Ages are fruitfully studied in conjunction. Literature may be analysed for its engagement with legal themes; and literary methodologies may be employed to analyse explicitly legal texts and documents. These categories are rarely distinct, however, and literature and law frequently operate (in the words of Richard Firth Green) as “parallel forms of discourse.” In coming to understand how lawyers and lawmen characterize and analyse medieval mentalities, modes of proof, and concepts of evidence, we may come to understand how texts that are less explicit about human morality and psychology are operating.

This course takes as its starting point an analysis of competing and intersecting legal systems in late-medieval England (e.g., canon law, customary law, etc.) in order to understand how law and concepts of evidence and proof developed in conjunction with text-based, documentary culture. This analysis will also equip us to study the relation between what we might be tempted to divide into “secular” and “moral” spheres of human life and conduct. We will then proceed to analyse late-medieval literary texts that specifically engage with legal forms and issues, as well as legal texts that are invested in what might be called “legal drama”. Topics to be studied include: outlaw narratives, documentary culture, legal allegory, heresy trials, legal fictions, parliamentary and courtroom drama, and much more. The class will occasionally meet for workshops in McGill’s rare books and special collections, where we will work with original manuscript materials from the Middle Ages. While the historical scope of the course will begin with the early Middle Ages and extend to the start of the sixteenth century, we will focus on the later Middle Ages, especially the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Most 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.   


  • Short paper 25%
  • Long paper 50%
  • Presentation 10%
  • Translation 5%
  • Participation 10%


  • Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales
  • Langland, Piers Plowman
  • Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls
  • Lydgate, The Temple of Glass
  • Hoccleve, “My Compleinte” and Other Poems
  • Middle English charters of Christ
  • Selected heresy trials
  • Selected mystery plays
  • Readings in legal history and theory

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 501 Sixteenth Century

Elizabethan Ovidianism

Professor Maggie Kilgour
Winter Term 2015
Tuesday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: No formal prerequisite; however, all students must have read the entire Metamorphoses before the first class. Knowledge of Ovid’s other works and some background in Renaissance literature is also useful.

Description: As the recent flurry of translations and adaptations suggests, the Roman poet Ovid has been a continuous source of inspiration for later artists and writers who have metamorphosed his tales of love and metamorphoses. While it may seem extravagant to claim that English literature begins with Ovid, it is clear that the burst of creative energy in the 16th century that we call the English Renaissance was fuelled by translations and adaptations of this Protean poet. In this course we will try to understand how and why Ovid spoke to the Elizabethan situation in particular. We will examine how Ovid was taught in school and popularized through allegorical readings and English translations, and then see how his stories and verbal ingenuity in general inspired and influenced the development of epyllia, drama, and love poetry. Does the poet associated with change help Elizabethans understand the changes taking place in their own time – as he may help us in ours? 

Evaluation: Seminar presentation (25%); final 20 page paper (50%); participation (25%)


  • On Web CT: selections from Elizabethan epyllia, poetry, translations, commentaries, and emblems
  • Marlowe: Hero and Leander
  • Spenser: “Muiopotmos”; Faerie Queene 3; Mutabilitie Cantos
  • Shakespeare: Venus and Adonis, Rape of Lucrece, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus
  • Ben Jonson: Chloridia; Poetaster
  • Milton: Comus

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 503 Eighteenth Century

Nineteenth-Century Austen 

Professor Peter Sabor
Winter Term 2015
Wednesday 11:35-14:25

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, in contrast, will begin with the first of the works that she began writing in the 1800s: her aborted novel, “The Watsons” (c. 1805). We will compare it with the novella “Lady Susan,” probably written in the 1790s but copied by Austen in c. 1804. We will then study her last three published novels, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, as well as the novel, “Sanditon,” that she was writing but could not complete at the end of her life. We will also study her 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. For this reason 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%)


  • 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 504 Nineteenth Century

Nationalism & the 19th-Century English Novel

Professor Yael Halevi-Wise
Fall Term 2014
Monday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation:  Previous university-level course work in 19th-century British literature, particularly the genre of the novel.

Description: This seminar explores constructions of national identity in canonical Nineteenth-Century English novels. Our close analysis of various national and religious rivalries portrayed in these novels will be supplemented by a spirited discussion of leading scholarly works that have attempted to explain the phenomenon of national identity in Europe and beyond. Supported by these critical readings, we will contextualize the representation of national identity in Nineteenth-Century England in relation to key historical events such as the French Revolution; the emancipation of Catholics and Jews; the Oxford Movement; colonialism; and continuing challenges to the stereotypical image of “an English gentleman” (or lady) at the end of the Victorian era.  

Evaluation:Participation (15%); three short critical essays (10% each); two brief oral reports (5% each); final oral presentation (15%); 15pp final essay (30%)

Texts: Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe; Grace Aguilar’s The Vale of Cedars; Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities; Burke and Carlyle on the French Revolution; Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley and selections from Villette; Conrad’s Lord Jim; critical readings by Benedict Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Asa Briggs, Liah Greenfeld, Michael Ragussis, Doris Sommer, Kate Trumpener and others.

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 505 Twentieth Century

The Global Cold War

Professor Monica Popescu
Fall Term 2014
Tuesday 8:35–11:25

Full course description

Description: In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, marking the end of a period that involved not only the USA and the USSR, but engulfed the entire world. Following the most recent research in the field, we will discuss literary works and films from Britain, the USA, and Anglophone (post)colonial nations that present the Cold War as a world-wide conflagration, which involved both superpowers from the Northern hemisphere and nations from the global South. What scientific and technological developments fueled the arms race and how were they represented in fiction? What literary genres emerged as a result of the competition between East and West? What forms of masculinity and femininity were forged by Cold War cultures? How does the East that constitutes the object of Cold War studies compare to the East discussed in postcolonial criticism? These questions will constitute the starting point for our exploration of literary representations of espionage and intrigue, the nuclear threat, the space race, new forms of imperialism, the Bandung Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement, African socialism, utopian and dystopian societies. Along with films and literary works, we will read essays by Jacques Derrida, Jean Franco, Timothy Brennan, Ann Douglas, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, etc.

Evaluation (tentative): Presentation, 20%; Short paper on theoretical text, 20%, Final essay, 45%; Participation, 15%.

Course pack: (available from the McGill bookstore)
Includes: Richard Wright, The Color Curtain and critical essays. 


  • Graham Greene, The Quiet American
  • Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Devil on the Cross
  • Mark Behr, The Smell of Apples
  • Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban
  • Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown


  • Dr. Strangelove, Dir. Stanley Kubrik
  • The Manchurian Candidate, Dir. John Frankenheimer
  • Apocalypse Now Redux, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola
  • The Hero, Dir. Zeze Gamboa
  • Double Take, Dir. Johan Grimonprez 

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students 

ENGL 516   Shakespeare

In Search of the Natural Fool in Shakespeare

Professor Wes Folkerth
Winter Term 2015
Monday 8:35–11:25 

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 idiotimbecilemomemoron, 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 that 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 works by Shakespeare that represent some of the natural fool’s many guises as a familiar social type in early modernity, including The Two Gentlemen of VeronaThe Merchant of VeniceAs You Like ItMuch Ado About NothingTwelfth NightAll’s Well That Ends WellA Midsummer Night’s DreamHenry the Fourth Part OneHamletKing LearThe Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. Along the way we will also consider the enduring cultural influence of the humanistic “cult of folly” in the works of Erasmus and Thomas More, as well as early modern accounts of natural fools in the writings of Robert Armin, Tomaso Garzoni, Roger Sharpe, 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.

Texts: Specific texts TBA.


  • Seminar presentation 35%
  • Long paper 50%
  • Participation 15%

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 527  Canadian Literature

Michael Ondaatje

Professor Robert Lecker
Winter Term 2015
Tuesday 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level course work offering some training in relevant areas: critical analysis of poetry and fiction; 20th-century Canadian Literature. 

Description: An in-depth look at the poetry and fiction of Michael Ondaatje, with an emphasis on his evolving sense of the contemporary artist's responsibilities in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture. The first half of the course will focus on Ondaatje's poetry and will consider many of the defining features of his work: an emphasis on the outlaw figure, madness, ex-centricity, eroticism, and the temptations offered by silence. In this context we will be reading both short and long poems, including The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. The second half of the course will be devoted to Ondaatje's fiction and its postmodern preoccupation with centre, margin, historical reconstruction, modes of representation, and the political role of the writer. The course will also cover two of Ondaatje's semi-autobiographical works, including Running in the Family and The Cat's Table.


  • The Cat's Table
  • Cinnamon Peeler
  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid
  • Coming through Slaughter
  • Divisadero
  • The English Patient
  • In the Skin of a Lion
  • Running in the Family

Evaluation (Tentative): participation (10%); 1 oral presentation (20%); short essay (30%); final essay (40%)

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students maximum

Engl 545 Four Media of the American Uncanny

Professor Ned Schantz
Fall Term 2014
Wednesday 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Description: This course is designed to bring together the Literature and Cultural Studies streams of the English Department around the concept of the uncanny—a concept that cuts straight to the troubled heart of literature, film, and other media in their definition and practice. The course may also appeal to theoretically minded Drama and Theatre students, since the uncanny cannot be fully conceived without the notion of theatricality. Together, we will attempt to track over 150 years of American Culture in some of its most unsettling manifestations in literature, film, radio, and television; it is the tradition in which “things are not what they seem,” in which tidy complacencies give way to vast unknown forces, where time is out of joint and the individual character/reader/viewer/listener radically lost. We will provisionally expect the uncanny in three overlapping domains: in social worlds that resist navigation, in natural environments that defy mastery, and in technology that creates its own imperatives.  If these domains house respectively the American Dreams of equality, frontier, and progress, it may be only to show that there is nothing more uncanny than the idea of America itself.

Note: for the first class meeting all students will read the first three items in the coursepack: E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman,” Freud’s “The Uncanny,” and Samuel Weber’s “Uncanny Thinking.”

Evaluation: Journals 50%, participation 40%, presentations 10%

Texts: Possible authors include Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Frank Norris, Edith Wharton, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Shirley Jackson, Philip K. Dick, Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, and Colson Whitehead.

Possible films include Vertigo, Seconds, Chinatown, The Stepford Wives, Daughter Rite, Blue Velvet, Safe, and Meek’s Cutoff. 

Radio and TV will include Orson Welles’ “panic broadcast” of The War of the Worlds and episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 566 Special Studies in Drama 1

Nineteenth-Century Melodrama: Theory / Practice

Professor Denis Salter
Fall Term 2014
Friday 11:35—14:25

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level courses in drama and theatre, literature, or cultural studies of the kind that have taught you how to undertake original research and disseminate your interpretations of that research by various scholarly means.

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, 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 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;  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;  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 perhaps 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 reflects on a wide range of melodramas in relation to a study of painting and fiction. The study of these works will introduce preoccupations found in Brooks, but will also introduce another complementary cluster of interrelated themes, subjects, structures, and modes of articulation, including seeing the melodramatic tableau as an exercise in affective pictorial anagnorisis engendered by both movement and stasis; the gentrification of melodrama; Christian mytho-poesis; the policing and normalization of traditional gender roles, along with incipient interrogations of those roles; fears of industrialization;  the exploitation of workers, along with resistance from workers, together with rebellions, and continuing anxieties about the potential for a large-scale political revolution; the baleful consequences of land enclosures and the predatory actions of absentee landlords; the human suffering caused by unchecked urbanisation; inter-racial strife and the creation and legitimation of racialized discourse; what Jacky Bratton has described as “the important ironizing influence of the comic dimension of Victorian melodrama, which was in many ways the element which added complexity to the high drama of right and wrong;” the juxtaposition of radical and conservative values and value-systems, in some instances in the same play; the project to give expression to ‘voices from below’ and in doing so to question the rigid divisions of the class system; what Emily Allen has referred to, in glossing the work of Elaine Hadley, as the ways in which “the melodramatic mode provided a public and theatricalized paradigm for resistance to the hierarchies of market capitalism;” the phenomenon of making a woman into the villain in at least one melodrama, a move that asked questions about female agency and identity; and the use of melodrama as an instrument to advance and legitimate the jingoistic project of world-wide imperialism.

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, 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, 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,  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. Although some of these plays did not fall exclusively within the generic category of melodrama, they nonetheless are the offspring of melodrama, a generative, copious, multi-, inter-, and intra-textual mode of literary and theatrical expression.


  • 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.
  • With the exception of East Lynne the play, The Silver King, The Moonstone the play, The Ticket-of-Leave Man, The Factory Lad, Lady Audley’s Secret the play, Black Ey’d Susan, and The Rent Day—all of which will be in a Course Pack—all of the plays are available for downloading from LION (Literature Online).
  • The Melodramatic Imagination and Realizations will be available on library reserve.

Evaluation (tentative): Fully engaged and continual participation in the intellectual life of the seminar: 15%; a presentation on a play 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 50%, with an analytical through-line, all themes / topics to be individually-negotiated, in the order of 15 to 20 pages.

Format: Brief lectures; led-discussions; individual and collective presentations including interrogative Q & As; and mini-performances when warranted

Average Enrollment: 10-15 students

ENGL 585 Cultural Studies: Film

The Sexual Revolution in Cinema

Professor Ara Osterweil
Fall Term 2014
Wednesday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Special Note to Prospective Students: Many of the images we will study may be offensive, difficult, and/or arousing.  To sign on to this course is to agree to treat this material with the same scrutiny and seriousness you would any other topic.

Description: This course investigates the sexual revolution that occurred in American cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. Pausing to consider a few examples from the demise of the stag film era, this course moves from the explosion of a sexually explicit Underground in the early sixties, through parallel developments in sexploitation cinema, to the demise of the Production Code, followed by the development of legal, feature-length hard core pornography in the early 1970s, and the emergence of a sexually explicit international art cinema.  While the historical axis of the course situates these revolutionary sexual cinemas alongside other historical developments in their era, including the civil rights movement, the "sexual revolution," second wave feminism, body art, gay liberation, and the legal history of film censorship and regulation, we shall also be guided on our journey by insights from critical sex, gender, and queer theory, as well as film and art history.

By approaching a variety of examples of avant-garde, sexploitation, hard core, and art cinema that feature the explicit representation of sexual acts, this course foregrounds the difficulty of representing sexuality and corporeality in a predominantly visual and aural medium.  Several key questions animate the theoretical axes of this course: How can a predominantly visual medium create conditions for embodied perception?  How does the filmic investigation of sexuality contribute to the power/ knowledge/ pleasure nexus?  What are the politics--sexual and otherwise--of the films under consideration? How do the various cinemas under consideration address us as both embodied spectators and socially constructed subjects? How do these film movements help to explore and articulate emerging identities and counter-publics? How do historical discourses of racial, sexual, and gender difference contribute to the development of sexually explicit cinema and complicate our reception of it?

The course is an advanced seminar in which students will be expected to make a major contribution to discussion during each class meeting. In addition to copious readings and a mandatory weekly screening, oral presentations and a substantial research paper are required.  Students who fail to participate regularly and meaningfully in class discussion will simply not succeed in the course.  Regarding the mandatory screenings: as many of the avant-garde films be will be shown on 16mm, students who are not able to attend the screening every week should not register for the course.  As the seminar only meets once a week, attendance at every seminar meeting must be a serious priority. 


  • Oral presentation (15 minutes): 20%
  • Short write up of oral presentation: 15%
  • Long paper 50% (20 pages)
  • Participation 15%

Selection of Possible Films (subject to change):

  • Fireworks (Kenneth Anger, 1947)
  • Un Chant d'Amour (Jean Genet, France, 1950)
  • Flesh of Morning (Stan Brakhage, 1956)
  • Window Water Baby Moving (Stan Brakhage, 1959)
  • Kiss (Andy Warhol, 1963)
  • Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger, 1963)
  • Christmas on Earth (Barbara Rubin, 1963)
  • Blow Job (Andy Warhol, 1964)
  • Couch (Andy Warhol, 1964)
  • My Hustler (Andy Warhol, 1965)
  • Fuses (Carolee Schneemann, 1964-1967)
  • Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963)
  • Blonde Cobra (Ken Jacobs, 1963)
  • Sins of the Fleshapoids (Mike Kuchar, 1965)
  • Piece Mandala End War (Paul Sharits, 1966)
  • Hold Me While I’m Naked (George Kuchar, 1967)
  • T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G (Paul Sharits, 1968)
  • Fly (Yoko Ono, 1970)
  • Deep Throat (Gerard Damiano, 1972)
  • Behind the Green Door (The Mitchell Brothers, 1972)
  • Boys in the Sand (Wakefield Poole, 1971)
  • Pink Narcissus (James Bidgood, 1971)
  • Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)
  • Dyketactics (Barbara Hammer, 1974)
  • Double Agent 73 or Satan Was a Lady (Doris Wishman, 1973, 1975)
  • The Opening of Misty Beethoven (Radley Metzger, 1975)

Partial Bibliography: This course will include selections from

  • David Allyn, Make Love Not War: The Sexual Revolution, An Unfettered History
  • Sally Banes, Greenwich Village 1963
  • Jennifer Barker, The Tactile Eye
  • Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum a Grave? And Other Essays
  • Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer
  • Douglas Crimp, "Our Kind of Movie" The Films of Andy Warhol
  • Jeffrey Escoffier, Bigger than Life: The History of Gay Porn Cinema
  • Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1.
  • Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
  • David James, Allegories of Cinema
  • Amelia Jones, Body Art/ Performing the Subject
  • Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One
  • Jon Lewis, Hollywood v. Hard Core
  • Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization
  • Laura Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media and The Skin of the Film
  • Maurice Merleau Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception and The Visible and the Invisible
  • Jose Esteban Munoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
  • Yoko Ono, Grapefruit
  • Ara Osterweil, Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Cinema
  • Wilhelm Reich, The Function of the Orgasm
  • Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
  • Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible"
  • Linda Williams, Screening Sex

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 587 Theoretical Issues in the Study of Communications and Culture

The Silent Figure in Film and Literature

Professor Berkeley Kaite
Winter Term 2014
Tuesday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: The course problematizes silence and the mute figure in film and literature. The focus is not on silence as a sign of repression or oppression but silence as a productive site which has the effect of amplifying voices, anxieties, and forces around it. That is to say, we will ask what interests are filled in to replace the silence of the mute. One could say this is a course about cultural ventriloquism.  We will of necessity discuss the fetishization of truth, identity and voice. The theoretical framework is drawn from some of the ideas of Michel Foucault on the productivity of power via silence; as well there are a few short readings on silence and voice which adopt a Foucauldian perspective. In this light, we will read a range of fictional works and analyze films in which there is a mute character.  

Evaluation (tentative): Attendance and participation, 10%; oral presentation, 20%; précis of films and books, 70%

Texts (provisional):

  • Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, volume 1, An Introduction, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith,  selections, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979)
  • Chloe Taylor, “Confession and Modern Subjectivity,” The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault: A Genealogy of the ‘Confessing Animal (Routledge, 2008)
  • Michael Chion, “The Mute Character’s Final Words,” The Voice in Cinema, ed. and trans by Claudia Gorbman (New York: Columbia UP, 1999
  • Valerie Hazel, “Disjointed Articulations: The Politics of Voice and Jane Campion’s The Piano,” Women’s Studies Journal, 10:2 (September 1994)
  • Kathryn Harrison, The Seal Wife (New York, Random House, 2002)
  • Barbara Gowdy, Mister Sandman (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2007 [1995])
  • Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum, trans. Brion Mitchell (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2009 [1959])
  • Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005) 


  • The Piano (dir. Jane Campion, 1993)
  • Persona (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
  • Johnny Belinda  (dir. Jean Negulesco, 1948)
  • Talk to Her (dir. Pedro Almodovar, 2002)
  • Sweet and Lowdown (dir. Woody Allen, 1999)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  (dir. Milos Forman, 1975)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 608 Medieval Literature

The Senses in Middle English Literature

Instructor Michael Raby
Fall Term 2014
Monday 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university work in medieval literature (at either the undergraduate or graduate level) would be helpful. Texts will be read in Middle English, but previous experience with Middle English is not required. Some instruction in Middle English will be provided. 

Description: This course explores how the literature of late medieval England represents the five senses. The late Middle Ages was the site of important and long-lasting debates about the nature of perception. Beginning in the twelfth century, the rediscovery of Aristotle’s corpus—which includes several works touching upon perception—spurred medieval thinkers to develop sophisticated accounts of the various senses. The late Middle Ages also witnessed the apex of a theological movement that stressed Christ’s embodiment and proscribed highly affective forms of worship. For instance, Julian of Norwich’s A Revelation of Love urges its readers to “behold” Christ, an imperative that blends the modalities of sight and touch. Medievalists thus have much to contribute to the ongoing attempt to write the history of the senses. Recent studies of perception in medieval texts have tended to focus mostly on the sense of sight. In this course we will pay special attention to the sense of touch. Aristotle observed that at first glance, touch seems to make “direct contact” with objects; yet, upon further reflection, it becomes clear that the interval separating the organ of touch from its object is only veiled or forgotten, never entirely removed. How do Middle English texts represent this forgetting of distance? Other issues that we will address include the distinction between physical and spiritual senses; the passivity of sensation; the role of attention; and the gendering of perception.

Several contemporary philosophers have returned to premodern sources to help them think through the problems of perception, especially touch. Alongside our primary medieval texts, we will read works (or excerpts) by thinkers such as Derrida, Marion, and Merleau-Ponty. We will do so in order to open up new vantage points on medieval texts and to contextualize this premodern turn. One of the goals of the course is to reflect critically on the practice of using contemporary theory to read historical texts.  


  • Participation – 20%
  • Presentation – 15%
  • Prospectus (to be circulated to the class) – 15%
  • Essay – 50%


  • Coursepack 
  • The Cloud of Unknowing (ed. Gallagher)
  • Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love (ed. Watson and Jenkins)
  • Pearl (ed. Stanbury)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde (ed. Barney) 
  • The Cloud of Unknowing and Pearl are available online in editions published by TEAMS (The Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages). They can be downloaded for free as PDFs or ordered as inexpensive paperbacks. See http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/


Average Enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 616 Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama

Theatre and Conversion in Early Modern England

Professor Paul Yachnin
Fall Term 2014
Thursday 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Description: Ben Jonson’s play Bartholomew Fair ends with the conversion of a puritan into a playgoer. “Be converted, I pray you,” says the puppet-master Leatherhead to “Rabbi” Zeal-of-the-Land Busy, “and let the play go on.” “Let it go on,” says Busy, “for I am changed, and will become a beholder with you.” In this course, we study theatre and conversion in early modern England. A conversion is a “turning in position, direction, destination” (Oxford English Dictionary) within a field of possibilities that reconstitutes the field itself. Religious conversion is one kind within a field of interrelated forms that includes geopolitical reorientation, material transformation, commercial exchange, literary translation, class and sex change, and human-animal metamorphosis. We ask, how did the forms of conversion translate the horizon lines of knowledge and experience for early modernity, what were the lines of connection among the different forms, and how did theatre integrate, critique, and enable forms of conversion for its playgoers? We study plays by Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton (and Middleton and William Rowley); related texts about conversion such as those by Augustine, Ovid, John Donne, and others; and work on the history and theory of conversion.

The idea for the course emerges from a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project, now in its initial phase, called “Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies”—http://earlymodernconversions.com/.  The links between the course and the project mean that students in the seminar will not only be studying theatre and conversion in Shakespeare’s England but will also be taking an active part in the creation of a new way of understanding religion, culture, theatre, and individual and collective transformation.


  • Participation 10
  • Three one-page responses 10
  • Conference paper 20

We will set aside two class meetings for a “course conference” that will include presentations (of five-page papers) and critical and constructive discussion.

  • Conference paper response 10

Each member of the seminar will be assigned to write a 3-page response to one of the course conference presentations.

  • Final paper 50

Final papers (eighteen to twenty pages) are revised, expanded versions of the conference papers. 


  • Christopher Marlowe: Dr. Faustus
  • Ben Jonson: Bartholomew Fair
  • Thomas Middleton: A Mad World, My Master
  • Thomas Middleton and William Rowley: The Changeling
  • Shakespeare:  Midsummer Night’s DreamMerchant of VeniceMeasure for MeasureAntony and CleopatraWinter’s Tale,
  • The Tempest

Format: Seminar

Average Enrolment: Maximum 15 students.

ENGL 661 Seminar of Special Studies

Difficulty in Modern Poetry

Professor Miranda Hickman
Winter Term 2015
Monday 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Description: In 1921, with typically suave ambiguity, T.S. Eliot suggested that “it appears likely that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult.” Eliot’s enigmatic statement both reflected and contributed to a cultural trend of this moment—to construe “modern poetry,” the avant-garde poetry of this period marked as progressive, as characteristically “difficult,” posing resistance to readers’ inherited ways of approaching verse. As Leonard Diepeveen’s sociohistorical work evidences, “difficulty” was increasingly regarded as that which marked modern poetry and differentiated it from early twentieth-century verse that did not present readers with such challenges: it became a foregrounded category in discourse about modern poetry, highlighted in both commentary championing experimental modern work, such as Riding and Graves’s A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), and in criticism deploring “difficult” modern poetry as alienating, meaningless, worthless, even fraudulent. By the 1950s, when Randall Jarrell commented in retrospect on the phenomenon of modern poetry, he and his audience took for granted that such difficulty was the hallmark, even sine qua non, of what was by then read as the watershed verse of the early twentieth century. For better or for worse, modern poetry is still understood today as complex, cryptic, deeply allusive, perplexing—difficult to access. Although recent revisions to early-twentieth century literary canons have expanded understandings of “modern poetry” to include not only Eliot’s The Waste Land, Pound’s Cantos, and Stevens’s Harmonium, but also H.D.’s Trilogy, Mina Loy’s Lunar Baedeker, P.K. Page’s As Ten, As Twenty and much else, this reputation for difficulty has persisted.

In this seminar, we will use the conceptual category of “difficulty” as a portal into Anglo-American modern poetry (c. 1900-1950) by a range of North American and British poets, seeking to move past received notions about this body of verse. On the one hand, through literary-historical readings, we will consider the early-twentieth-century conversation about difficulty, sometimes involving heated debate, that shaped both the reputation of modern poetry and the influential criticism that arose in response to it. How did readers of the 1920s and 1930s understand this phenomenon of “difficulty”? What significances did the concept accrue? What did early twentieth century readers construe as its purposes, its harvest, and its price? As “difficulty” directs attention to readerly experience, we will also use the category to investigate the experience of reading modern poetry—what processes and affects are involved in the encounter with modern poetry?  What hermeneutical approaches might be most appropriate to it? Taking a cue from George Steiner’s seminal essay “On Difficulty” (1978)—which theorizes readerly difficulty, drawing upon modern poetry as a touchstone example—we will seek a lexicon for the forms of difficulty we discover, along with their effects and implications. As part of the focus on reading experience, we will also explore contemporary debates about “close reading,” the cultural practice that arose in part in response to the demands of modern poetics in the early twentieth century—which in turn contributed crucially to the development of literary studies in Anglo-American contexts.

Evaluation: Participation (15%), oral presentation (15%), book review (15%), brief critical essay (20%), final essay (35%)

Texts: Primary readings will include work by W.H. Auden, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, H.D., A.M. Klein, Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, P.K. Page, Ezra Pound, Muriel Rukeyser, Wallace Stevens, W.B. Yeats

Secondary readings will include Laura Riding and Robert Graves, A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), Cleanth Brooks, Modern Poetry and the Tradition (1939), Theodor Adorno, “On Lyric Poetry and Society” (1957), George Steiner, “On Difficulty” (1978), Leonard Diepeveen, The Difficulties of Modernism (2003), recent commentary on close reading by Charles Altieri, Jane Gallop, Terry Eagleton, John Guillory, N. Katherine Hayles, and Simon Jarvis

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 670 Topics in Cultural Studies

The Cinema of Precarity

Professor Derek Nystrom
Fall Term 2014
Thursday 14:35-17:25 | Screening Monday 9:35 to 11:55 

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?

 Evaluation: TBA


  • Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism
  • Judith Butler, Precarious Life
  • Course pack of essays by writers such as Zygmunt Bauman, Michael Denning, Lee Edelman, Donna Haraway, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Maurizio Lazzarato, Joseph Mai, Jason McGrath, Angela Mitropoulos, Paolo Virno, Linda Williams, 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), L’emploi du temps (Time Out) (Laurent Cantet, France, 2001), In This World (Michael Winterbottom, U.K., 2002), Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater, U.S.A., 2006), Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani, U.S.A., 2007), Lorna’s Silence (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium, 2008), Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, U.S.A., 2008), 24 City (Jia Zhangke, China, 2008), Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, U.S.A., 2009) and others. 

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 680 Canadian Literature

Canadian Modernist Poetry

Professor Brian Trehearne
Fall Term 2014
Friday 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Description:  All of the major English-Canadian poets from 1920 to 1960 recognized modernism as the definitive literary, cultural, philosophical, and critical innovation of their era. Like modernists in almost all the English-speaking traditions, Canadian poets organized themselves into cultural (usually regional) groups, produced and defined themselves through little magazines, published and “boosted” themselves and one another in those little magazines and in associated small presses, and contributed polemical and self-canonizing critical statements to the national literary discussion. They were not, with a few exceptions, the innovators of modernism: they were innovators in Canadian poetry who saw in modernist developments elsewhere both a consciousness to which they were deeply sympathetic and an opportunity to develop and promote their own poetry as the needed Canadian expression of that consciousness. While they pursued such modernist ideals as T.S. Eliot’s notion of impersonality and Ezra Pound’s injunction to “make it new,” they typically adopted modernist techniques and socio-political analyses to their own ends, which include an often covert cultural nationalism at odds with the internationalist assumptions of most Anglo-American modernist criticism and theory, and a socialist vision at odds with authoritarian and fascist sympathies that are occasional if incoherent in Pound, Yeats, and Eliot. The surprisingly strong Surrealist strain in Canadian poetry is one sign of what A.J.M. Smith called its “eclectic detachment,” its readiness to import, with discrimination and adaptation, its inspirations from a wide range of sources. The prominence of women poets in the Canadian modernist canon, from its earliest formation by anthologists, is another noteworthy national phenomenon. Canadian modernist poets were readier to revert to traditional verse forms now and then than their counterparts elsewhere, and they were slower to develop the modernist long poem that has been seen as definitive of modernist consolidation in England and the United States. In short, Canada’s poetic modernism is a distinct national expression which must be studied in the context of original modernisms elsewhere but is not usefully measured against them. We will pursue six to eight Canadian poets as individual modernist writers first and foremost and attempt to bring important new light to bear on the work of each. Close readings through group discussion of assigned poems will take up a substantial part of our class time. There has been much recent editorial and critical activity in the area of Canadian modernism, and we will profit from new textual and contextual information in our studies. The major Canadian little magazines of the period in question will provide a secondary narrative of development in the period; we will also be attentive to the history of the modernist canon in Canadian criticism, for the canonical place of many of these poets is by no means assured today. To the extent made possible by students’ prior training in the area, other Canadian modernists not on the syllabus may be brought in for contrast and comprehension.


  • 25%: Symposium presentation. Symposium evaluation is based on a 5-6 page position paper circulated to class one week in advance of symposium date; 5-minute verbal synopsis of paper’s argument to open symposium; effective chairing of discussion and responsiveness to your paper’s discussion by others.
  • 50%: Major research paper, minimum 20 maximum 25 pp. It may derive from your symposium presentation or be wholly independent of it.
  • 25%: Preparedness for and participation in seminar discussions and symposia. NB: attendance is not relevant to this portion of your evaluation, since at the graduate level students are expected to attend every class without exception. A failing grade will be given in this category to those who don’t participate consistently, constructively, and in an informed way in class discussions.

Texts: to be determined, drawing six to eight poets from the following

  •  Avison, Margaret. Always Now: The Collected Poems.
  • Cohen, Leonard. Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs.
  • Dudek, Louis. Infinite Worlds: The Poetry of Louis Dudek.
  • Glassco, John. Selected Poems.
  • Klein, A.M. The Complete Poems of A.M. Klein.
  • Layton, Irving. A Wild Peculiar Joy: Selected Poems.
  • Livesay, Dorothy. The Self-Completing Tree and Archive for Our Times.
  • Page, P.K. Kaleidoscope: Selected Poems.
  • Scott, F.R. Collected Poems.
  • Smith, A.J.M. The Complete Poems of A.J.M. Smith.
  • Webb, Phyllis. The Vision Tree: Selected Poems and Water and Light.

Students may wish to purchase Canadian Poetry 1920 to 1960, ed. B. Trehearne (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2010), for an advance introduction to these and many other poets of the period.

Format: Seminar with two symposia

Average enrollment: 8 students

ENGL 694 Bibliography

Graduate Research Methods

Professor David Hensley
Fall Term 2014
Thursday 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: This required 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 of class: Lectures by invited speakers; seminar.

Average enrolment: 30 students maximum

English 714 Renaissance Poetry

Early Modern Epic: Spenser’s “Faerie Queene” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

Professor Kenneth Borris
Winter Term 2015
Wednesday 11:35-14:25

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.  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 mind the diverse commitments of seminar members) at the start of the course.  This format aims to establish a diverse, open, and responsive seminar.

Texts: I recommend the Longman Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost, and there is a Course Reader, all available at the Word Bookstore, 469 Milton Street

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

Format: Seminar

Average enrolment: 10 students (15 students maximum)

ENGL 726 Narrative Prose of the 18th Century

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

Professor David C. Hensley
Fall Term 2014
Tuesday 14:35-17:25

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 also view a wide range of relevant films—including operas by Purcell, Händel, Gluck, and Mozart; films by Dreyer, Rohmer, and Almodóvar; and the BBC Clarissa.) 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%)

Texts: The 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: 15 students

ENGL 733 The Victorian Novel

Covert Narration in Victorian Fiction

Professor Tabitha Sparks
Winter Term 2015
Monday 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation:  Previous university-level course work in the 19th C Novel, British or North American. 

Description:  This class focuses on seven Victorian novels, dominantly realist, in which indecent events or relations (adultery, homosexuality, seduction, drunkenness, among others) are both integral to the plot and yet considered too sordid to identify, confront, or narrate directly. Tracing these representations of the unsayable in Victorian fiction, we will uncover the threads of covert narrative techniques and bring out subtexts subtly referenced by other cultural and ideological cues. Close attention to a range of critical writing, from a variety of approaches including New Historicism and Queer, Psychoanalytic, and Feminist Studies, will supplement the readings for the class and inform our analyses of these Victorian novels.  In examining these critical approaches, we will also consider the translative act whereby contemporary critics expose what the Victorians could not or would not articulate.  Do these translations indeed liberate culturally repressed texts--and by extension, authors--as is sometimes claimed?  Or does the process of translation (which will include the ones we engage with in this class) instead appropriate the texts, redirecting them to say what we want them to say? The reading load in this course is heavy; it is recommended that students read some of the novels in advance.  

Evaluation: Tentative: participation (20%); oral presentation (15%); abstract (15%); seminar paper (15 pps) (50%)


  • Ruth (Elizabeth Gaskell)
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
  • The Law and the Lady (Wilkie Collins)
  • Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
  • The Clever Woman of the Family (Eliza Lynn Linton)
  • He Knew He Was Right (Anthony Trollope)
  • Reuben Sachs (Amy Levy)
  • A course reader of critical essays

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 734 Studies in Fiction

(Post)Colonial Geographies

Professor Sandeep Banerjee
Fall Term 2014
Tuesday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said notes that “none of us is … free from the struggle over geography,” suggesting that this struggle is complex and interesting because it is as much “about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings” as it is about soldiers and wars. Taking a cue from Said, this course will examine how – and why – thinking about the “spatial” is important for understanding colonial and postcolonial life-worlds. In other words, this course will investigate the geographical dimension of the historical experience of British colonialism and its aftermath.

The course will engage with novels and travelogues, as well as photographs and graphic novels, from the eighteenth through the twenty-first century, to query how spaces are constructed and articulated, investigating the dis/continuities in the representations of space across the colonial and postcolonial eras but also, most fundamentally, analyzing how space works in these narratives. In addition to these literary texts, the course will draw on theoretical writings by, among others, Karl Marx, Halford Mackinder, Frantz Fanon, Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, David Harvey, Gillian Rose, and Arjun Appadurai. Finally, throughout the course, we will seek to understand how a focus on space in these narratives affects our understanding of categories such as “colony,” “home,” “nation,” and “world” in addition to the ideas of “colonialism,” “postcolonialism,” “neo-colonialism,” and “globalization.”

Evaluation: Participation: 15%; Presentation: 15%; Weekly Critical Response: 20%; Final Research Paper: 50%


  • Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe
  • Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
  • Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness
  • Rudyard Kipling – Kim
  • Alexandra David-Neel – My Journey to Tibet
  • E. M. Forster – A Passage to India
  • Hergé – Tintin in Congo
  • V. S. Naipaul – An Area of Darkness
  • Graham Greene – The Quiet American
  • Jamaica Kincaid – A Small Place
  • Mohsin Hamid – Reluctant Fundamentalist
  • William Dalrymple – City of Djinns
  • Monica Ali – Brick Lane

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 757 Modern Drama

Feminist Drama and Theatre in North America

Professor Erin Hurley
Winter Term 2015
Wednesday 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Description: This seminar will consider some of the major interventions of feminist theatre workers (playwrights, performers, critics, producers, etc.) in the theatre culture of Canada and the United States from about 1965 to today.  Key questions for discussion will include: How might we define “feminist aesthetics”?  Can one occupy a feminist spectatorial position?  How are women’s bodies used on stage to alter relations between spectacle and spectator?  What might the ideological power of collective creation be?

We will consider a range of dramatic and performance forms along with their theoretical exegetics.  Collective creation, musical theatre, and avant-garde dramaturgies will be our key formal locus points.  

Evaluation: Participation (15%, will include a structured debate); annotated bibliography (20%); oral presentation (25%); final research paper of approximately 20 pages (40%)

Plays/readings/criticism: Approximately twelve plays/performances will be selected from the following list; they will be read alongside articles or chapters of feminist dramatic performance theory (from the second list). We will not be reading all these works, alas. A final decision will be made about which texts will be on the syllabus by the end of December 2014.

 Readings may include plays by/performed at:

  • WOW Café
  • Nightwood Theatre
  • Théâtre expérimental des femmes
  • Finger in the Dyke productions
  • Pol Pelletier, Joie
  • Anne-Marie MacDonald, Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet
  • Carmelita Tropicana, Milk of Amnesia
  • Paula Vogel, How I Learned to Drive
  • Jovette Marchessault, Night Cows or The Edge of the Earth is Too Near, Violette Leduc
  • Gloria Montero, Frida K.
  • Evelyn de la Chenelière, Public Disorder
  • Djanet Sears, Afrika Solo or Harlem Duet
  • Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus
  • Adrienne Kennedy, Funnyhouse of a Negro

And critical writings by:

  • Jill Dolan
  • Stacy Wolf
  • Susan Bennett
  • Louise Forsyth
  • Kate Davy
  • TL Cowan
  • Shelley Scott
  • Rebecca Schneider
  • Sue-Ellen Case

Format:  Seminar

Average: Enrolment:15 students maximum

ENGL 770 Studies in American Literature

Emergence of the Modern Short Story: Poe, Hawthorne, Melville

Professor Peter Gibian
Winter Term 2015
Friday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: Intensive study of shorter prose fictions and critical essays by Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. These foundational authors can be seen to be working in dialogue with one another, exploring aesthetic problems and cultural preoccupations crucial to mid-nineteenth-century America at the same that they are breaking the ground for the emergence of the modern short story—anticipating fundamental developments in form and theme that would become the bases for self-conscious, experimental short fiction produced in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Evaluation (tentative): Participation in seminar discussions, 20%; series of one-page textual analyses, 20%; oral presentation, 20%; final research paper, 40%.

Texts (tentative): (editions of collected short fiction TBA)

  • Poe, The Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe;
  • Hawthorne, Selected Tales and Sketches;
  • Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter;
  • Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor, and Selected Tales or Great Short Works of Herman Melville.

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 778 Studies in Visual Culture

Post-Digital Cinematic Practices

Professor Alanna Thain
Winter Term 2015
Friday 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: What is new about cinema after the digital turn? As cinema increasingly moves “out of the box” of the movie theatre, and onto mobile platforms, into museum and art gallery installations, through video games and immersive environments, and in other sites of a “post-cinematic” experience, how do we understand the cinematic event today?  What new kinds of ambiguous embodiments are being generated by a post-digital cinema to make up the enactive event (Massumi 2011) of contemporary media, where we explore “what it feels like to live in the 21st century” (Shaviro 2010). How might post-digital cinema, as Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener put it, “seem poised to leave behind its function as a medium (for the representation of reality) in order to become a "life form" (and thus a reality in its own right),” a cinema that proposes “besides a new way of knowing the world, also a new way of "being in the world" (2009)? This course will look at a post-digital cinema (since the early 1990s), exploring both historical predecessors (such as the cinema of attractions reanimated in today’s digital effects, or expanded cinema) as well as key contemporary works by narrative and experimental filmmakers such as David Lynch, Christian Marclay, Janet Cardiff, Gustav Deutsch, Jim Campbell, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tsai Ming Liang, Harmony Korine, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, and more. We will also explore the emergence of an “anarchival cinema,” through the recirculation of cinema in multiple forms, including short clips, on the web and in contemporary art and performance. 

Evaluation: TBA

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 787 Proseminar

Professor Wes Folkerth
Fall Term 2014
Tuesday 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: This required 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 2015
Thursday 14:35-17:25

Full course description


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

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

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