2017-18 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

Monsters, Saints and Heroes – the Fantastic in the Middle Ages

Prof. Dorothy Bray
Fall Term 2017
Wednesday 8:30-11:30

Full course description

Description: This course aims to examine the idea of the fantastic and the grotesque in some of the most popular forms of literature in the Middle Ages - heroic romances and legends of saints - in the light of medieval heroic tradition, popular culture, and medieval ideas of monstrosity.

The fourteenth-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, provides a starting point to explore depictions of the grotesque and the discourse of both monstrosity and sanctity. Reading about saints was not confined to the cloister; these stories were read and heard alongside secular tales, both of which could feature demons, dragons and damsels in distress. The fantastic extended to human-animal interaction, the perception of the foreign and exotic (the ‘other’), and certain tropes in both secular and ecclesiastical narratives where virtue must win out (such as prophecy or loss and recovery). The questions which are arise are: what was considered monstrous and what was human? What was the divide between humans and animals, humans and monsters? How should we approach the grotesque?

The course includes (but is not confined to) readings from the South English Legendary and other saints’ Lives (such as the legends of St Eustace, St. Margaret, and St George (with that dragon!)), the fantastic pilgrimage in St Patrick’s Purgatory, as well as popular Middle English romances (such as Sir Isumbras, Octavian, Sir Eglamour, among others), the werewolf tale of Bisclavert by Marie de France, the Welsh tales of Arthur and of Merlin, and the romance of Alexander the Great and the account of Sir John Mandeville, whose travels to the East provided much influential, fantastic fare.

Evaluation: Seminar presentation, 15%; essay, 25%; term paper, 50%; attendance and participation, 10%.

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

ENGL 503 Eighteenth-Century

The Villain-Hero

Prof. David Hensley
Fall Term 2017
T 14:35-17:25 | Screening T 17:35-21:55

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.

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

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 2017.)

  • Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (Norton or Hackett recommended)
  • Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Hackett, Oxford, or Penguin recommended)
  • La Rochefoucauld, Maxims and Reflections (Oxford recommended; or Penguin)
  • John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester, Selected Poems (Oxford) or Selected Works (Penguin)
  • William Wycherley, The Country Wife
  • William Congreve, The Way of the World
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust. Part One (Oxford or Norton)
  • 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 recommended)

Films: 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. Most screening sessions will last about two hours; some will be longer. (The following list of films is provisional.)

  • Jan Svankmejer, Don Juan (1970) and Faust (1994)
  • Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (Greenwich Theatre, London; Stage on Screen, 2010)
  • F. W. Murnau, Faust (1926)
  • Hector Berlioz, La Damnation de Faust (dir. Sylvain Cambreling, 1999)
  • Charles Gounod, Faust (dir. Antonio Pappano, 2010)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 505 Twentieth Century

Practices of Reading

Prof. Merve Emre
Fall Term 2017
Tuesdays 8:30-11:30

Full course description

Description: Nothing seems more natural to us than the act of reading—and yet reading is anything but natural. Its performance relies on specific material and cultural parameters: the physical spaces and textual communities in which one reads; the texts and paratexts to which one is directed to attend; the temporal, spatial, and somatic habits one cultivates through scenes of literary instruction. This course examines reading as a densely mediated activity. It examines the institutional histories that have yielded such familiar twentieth-century practices as “close reading” and “critical reading,” as well as less valorized modes of reading: reading imitatively, reading emotionally, reading faddishly, reading superficially, reading pornographically.

Evaluation: TBA

Texts: (subject to change)

  • Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  • Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
  • Chris Kraus, I Love Dick
  • Tom McCarthy, Remainder
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
  • Chris Ware, Building Stories
  • Richard Wright, Black Boy
  • Essays/book chapters from Stephen Best, Pierre Bourdieu, Rita Felski, Michel Foucault, John Guillory, Gerald Graff, Bernard Lahire, Heather Love, Deidre Lynch, Sharon Marcus, Eve Sedgwick, Namwali Serpell, Michael Warner, etc.

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students 

ENGL 506 Studies in 20th C Literature

A Century of Revolutions and Activism: The Poetics and Politics of Changing the World

Prof. Monica Popescu
Fall Term 2017
R 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Description: “Be realistic, demand the impossible!”; “Peace, bread, and land!”; “Hate cannot drive out hate”; “We are the 99%”—these are slogans or quotations that summarize important moments of activism and revolutionary action from the 1900 to the present. What are the discursive roots of these slogans and how do they connect to the cultural output of other activist and revolutionary movements across the globe? Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this course examines literary and cultural reflections of various forms of revolutions throughout the 20th and the early 21st centuries. From the Bolshevik Revolution to the suffrage movement, from Gandhi’s satyagraha to the violence of the Algerian war of independence, from the effervescence of the year 1968 to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and from the antiapartheid struggle to the Occupy Movement, these are some of the moments with which we will engage.

How do ideas of radical political transformation travel to other sites and historical eras? What is the role of intertextuality and reading practices in this process? Novels, memoirs, poetry, paintings, manifestos and other cultural texts will be read in dialogue with essays by Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Simone de Beauvoir, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, Walter Rodney, Kwame Nkrumah, Aghostino Neto, Ruth First, etc.

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

Texts: (Final list will be available July 2017)

  • Joseph Conrad “An Anarchist”
  • Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
  • Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban
  • Milan Kundera,  The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Alicia Partnoy,  The Little School
  • Marjane Satrapi,  Persepolis
  • Mongane Wally Serote, To Every Birth Its Blood
  • Richard Wright, The Color Curtain


  • Sergei Eisenstein, The Battleship Potemkin
  • Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers
  • Rehad Desai, Miners Shot Down

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 516 Special Studies in Shakespeare

The State of the Field

Prof. Wes Folkerth
Winter 2018
F 11:35-14:25 

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 Theory, 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.


seminar presentation 35%
long paper 50%
participation 15%

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 527 Canadian Literature

Canadian Modernism

Prof. Brian Trehearne
Fall Term 2017
M 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Description: In close study of seven exemplary poets and four novels, the course will examine the birth, growth, and consolidation of Canadian modernist writing from 1920 to 1960.  Canadian modernism has recently enjoyed a critical renaissance triggered by a wave of activity in the scholarly editing and publication of little-known or out-of-print works.  As a result, the canon of Canadian modernism is more fluid than ever before, and so is the critical understanding of “modernism” that underpins much of this recent activity.  We will read our authors as individuals participating consciously in the global modernist project, and as Canadians fashioning a distinct national course and qualities for that project.  In the process, we should gain a sense of global modernism’s essential characteristics—of what may and may not rightly be called modernist—as well as of its possible national variations.  We will be attentive to the Anglo-American and European sources of Canadian modernism, in particular to T.S. Eliot’s ideals of “impersonality” and “the objective correlative” and their eventual supplanting by a newly lyric modernism in the 1950s, as well as to the little-noticed Surrealist vein in Canadian modernist writing.  We will note the relative prominence of women writers in Canadian modernism after 1945 and clarify relations among modernism and ethnicity, regionalism, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism.  Discussion will close with consideration of Sheila Watson’s The Double Hook (1959), which has been called both the first modernist and the first post-modernist novel in Canada; we may wish to revisit that debate, but the novel will also help us open up new ethical approaches to Canadian modernist writing.


  • Conference paper on one poet or novelist, 25%: 20 minutes of presentation time with 10 minutes of follow-up discussion directed by you; your topic must be cleared in advance with the instructor; you will circulate a one-page abstract of your argument with a short bibliography of primary and secondary sources by e-mail to the instructor and your classmates no later than one week in advance.  If you are working on a poet it is presumed that you will buy a comprehensive edition of the poet’s complete or at least selected works as you prepare your presentation.  You have two options for the grading of this assignment: (1) I will grade you only on what happens in your half hour in the seminar: on your argument; on your clarity; on your effective delivery of the paper to a listening audience; on your ability to generate and focus discussion; and on your verbal responses to your paper’s discussion by others. Alternately, (2) I will grade you on all components listed under Option (1) but also on a formally presented essay version of your remarks (8-9 pp.) that you turn in immediately following your presentation.  This essay, revised, may then be incorporated into your major research paper (see below).  Option (2) is the better choice for those who would like guidance on their scholarly writing prior to the submission of the research paper
  • Major research paper (20 pp), 50%.  This paper may (1) extend and enrich the ideas of your conference paper and incorporate its content in revised form; the recycled material must show clear evidence of response to critiques received from instructor and peers; or (2) may take up an entirely new topic on a different writer; in this case, an essay topic must be cleared with the instructor in advance
  • Informed participation in class discussion, 25%.  NB: consistent and informed participation in scholarly discussion is not optional in the academic profession and so cannot be in this course, which has among its obligations the task of preparing potential apprentices for that profession.  Mere attendance is not relevant to your participation grade; absences will be noted, but full attendance is presumed.  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 (McGill Bookstore):

  • Trehearne, Brian, ed.  Canadian Poetry 1920 to 1960.  Toronto: McClelland and Stewart [New Canadian Library], 2010.

Four of the following novels will be assigned:

  • Buckler, Ernest. The Mountain and the Valley. 1952.
  • Grove, Frederick Philip. The Master of the Mill. 1944.
  • Klein, A.M. The Second Scroll. 1951.
  • Smart, Elizabeth. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. 1945.
  • Watson, Sheila.The Double Hook. 1959.
  • Wilson, Ethel. The Equations of Love. 1952.
  • ---.  Swamp Angel. 1954.

Format: Seminar. A seminar is a directed discussion group in which all participants are equally responsible for successful consideration of subject matter and readings.  Lectures will be minimal.

Average Enrollment: 10 students

ENGL 533 Modernist Allusions

Prof. Miranda Hickman
Winter Term 2018
M 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Description: One of the signatures of early twentieth-century modernist literature is its deep allusiveness – its marked tendency to signify through implicit reference to other texts. Many recognize that the bent of writers such as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, H.D., Ezra Pound, and Marianne Moore for allusive writing forms a major part of what makes for both the richness of their work and its fabled “difficulty.” The modernist tendency to deal in allusion, even depend on allusion for some levels of signification, also indicates ways in which their experimental writing was crucially (and committedly) informed by texts from other times and cultures. Joyce’s Ulysses parallels Homer’s Odyssey through extended allusion; Marianne Moore’s poems often read as networks of quotations; and The Waste Land bristles with allusions to a bewildering array of other texts: the modernist text can sometimes come across as a kind of cento, a fabric of allusion to other texts.

A subset of the larger category of intertextuality, as Pasco notes, allusion is the technique whereby a text external to the one at hand is implicitly referenced, deliberately or not, and thus “grafted” on to the immediate text in a relationship generating more than the sum of its parts. As George Steiner notes, allusions make possible “the compact largesse of the text.” Modernist allusions operate variously: Moore’s allusions can bring in a turn of concept from an external text that adds precision to her “host” text; what Ron Bush calls T.S. Eliot’s “passionate allusions” signify through what I.A. Richards called “emotional aura”; Pound’s many allusions in the Cantos often highlight memes in myth and history; and in H.D.’s novels, allusion imports an ulterior world into the primary text. Modernist allusions can indicate a turn to anterior texts for wisdom or lexicon—or as reach to alterity as seedbed for modernist innovation.

This course will explore questions about the reasons behind such widespread modernist allusiveness. How does it relate to what experimental modernists saw as their commitments; and how relate to the complex and generative relationship between modernist work and what Eliot theorized as “tradition”? We will explore how different instances of allusion function, addressing their effects on readers—and how they contribute to the meaning-making of a text in question.

Texts (tentative): 

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems
H.D., Selected Poems and Trilogy
H.D., HERmione
James Joyce, excerpts from Ulysses
Marianne Moore, Complete Poems
Ezra Pound, selections from Personae and The Cantos
Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead
Louis Zukofsky, Selected Poems

Evaluation: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 540 Literary Theory

Debating the Conflicts

Prof. Yael Halevi-Wise
Winter Term 2018
W 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: This course focuses on points of contention among literary theorists. It will expose students to a variety of critical viewpoints, focusing especially on questions of textual interpretability, canon formation, and the difference between literary theory and literary criticism. By examining divergent interpretative approaches to works of literature in poetry and prose, we shall appreciate in greater depth why professors of literature sometimes adopt polemical positions against each other.

Evaluation: Attendance/participation (15%); ongoing position papers (30%); oral presentation (15%); final 15pp essay (40%)

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 545 Topics in Literature and Society

Narrative Theory and the Problematics of the Past: American Historical and Literary Narratives

Prof. Martin Kreiswirth
Winter Term 2018
Tuesdays 11:30-14:30

Full course description

Description: This course will focus squarely on recent developments in narrative theory as a means of asking questions about fiction and history.   It will explore the "literary" in a few examples of American historiography (specifically in its narrative forms) and the "historical" in some American historical fiction.  In order to open this inquiry we will need to gain some in depth knowledge of narrative theory, theories of history, historiography, and the historical novel, so theoretical and critical texts will be central to our discussions.

The course is designed as a discussion seminar, and students will have some input into the readings. Some possible theorists:
Gérard Genette
Hayden White
Robert Berkhoffer
David Herman
Georg Lukács
F. R. Ankersmit


  • J.F. Cooper, The Pioneers
  • Nathanial Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
  • Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
  • William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
  • J. W. Cash, The Mind of the South
  • E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime
  • Simon Schama, Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved

Evaluation: TBA

Format: Seminars

ENGL 568 Topics in Dramatic Form

Transvestism and the Performance of Gender on the Eighteenth-Century Stage

Prof. Fiona Ritchie
Winter Term 2018
T 12:05-14:55

Full course description

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

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

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

Evaluation (tentative):

  • participation (20%)
  • research presentation (20%)
  • response to another student’s research presentation (5%)
  • paper proposal and annotated bibliography (5%)
  • paper (50%)

Texts (provisional): Primary texts may include:

  • Shakespeare’s cross-dressing plays (e.g. Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice)
  • William Wycherley, The Country Wife (1675) and David Garrick’s adaptation The Country Girl (1766)
  • Aphra Behn, The Rover (1677)
  • George Farquhar, The Constant Couple (1700) and The Recruiting Officer (1706)
  • John Vanbrugh, The Provoked Wife (1697)
  • A Narrative of the Life of Mrs Charlotte Charke (1755)
  • The Female Soldier; Or, The Surprising Life and Adventures of Hannah Snell (1750)
  • Henry Fielding, The Female Husband (1746)

Other readings may include:

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

Format: Discussion seminar, presentations

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 587 Theoretical Approaches to Cultural Studies

Contemporary Memoir

Professor Berkeley Kaite
Fall Term 2017
F 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: Vladimir Nabokov describes writing from personal memory this way: “Certain tight parentheses have been opened up and allowed to spill their still active contents” (Speak, Memory). With this evocative quote Nabokov points to at least three features of the memoir that we will pay attention to in this class. One is the slender focus of the memoir (often only what is contained within the parentheses). Another is the way the material (the “contents”) is remembered and re-worked. And a third, closely related to the re-working, is the form – the shape or way the narrative is told. Thus it is of interest that Nabokov employs a grammatical term (the parenthesis) to emphasize the telling of personal stories. That is, even personal stories are subject to the form, the medium, the narrative “grammar”: the diary, the letter, the essay, the book-length story, the photograph and film, some poems. We will look at a selection of all of the above with a view to how stories are told as well as what the contents of those stories are.  Therefore, the course readings are grouped according to form and not topic/content. But, there is much overlap between the two and among the readings. So, for example, the graphic memoir may contain photographs and will also use theory; Between the World and Me, a book, is also written as a letter.

Further to Nabokov’s spilling of “still active contents”: this suggestion of an involuntary and volcanic rush of memories connotes authenticity, the truth. However, memories by their very nature are unreliable, change and mutate. For Paul Auster, memory is “the space in which a thing happens for the second time” (The Invention of Solitude).  A performative space is just that – a recreation – where nothing is performed the same way twice. Here is Nietzsche: “’ I have done that’, says my memory. ‘I cannot have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually – memory yields” (Beyond Good and Evil). So, what is truth in the recounting of one’s memoir? How reliable is it and how would the reader know? In the telling of a good story, does it matter?

It is tempting to see the memoir as comprised of ‘authentic’ and unassailable details – the truth in other words – as if the traditional idea of the truth were a  “bourgeois plot against the people” (Ben Yagoda, Memoir: A History). We will resist the urge to read these works as truthful non-fiction and instead read them as if they were fiction, ghost-written, in a sense, by the author. To that end, we will recall Virginia’s Woolf’s take on the writing of memoirs: “the things one does not remember are as important; perhaps they are more important” (in Yagoda, Memoir). We could ask, what does each text not say, not reveal, suppress and repress? What is still aching to get out, to slip outside the parentheses, to partake of that spilling of contents? And yet cannot. Auster: “even the facts do not always tell the truth.”

And, Auster again: “Playing with words … [is] not so much a search for the truth as a search for the world as it appears in language. Language is not truth. It is the way we exist in the world. Playing with words is merely to examine the way the mind functions, to mirror a particle of the world as the mind perceives it… As in the meanings of words, things take on meaning only in relationship to each other. ‘Two faces are alike’, writes Pascal. ‘Neither is funny by itself, but side by side their likeness makes us laugh’. The faces rhyme for the eye, just as two words can rhyme for the ear… It is possible for events in one’s life to rhyme as well. A young man rents a room in Paris and then discovers that his father has hid out in this same room during the war. If these two events were to be considered separately, there would be little to say about either one of them. The rhyme they create when looked at together alters the reality of each… two (or more) rhyming events set up a connection in the world, adding one more synapse to be routed through the vast plenum of experience.”

We will want to ask what are the rhyming events in the stories we read. To what does the author attach meaning? What does the author believe to be true and how does that truth resonate? What words, images, metaphors are employed? What is the story trying to be told?

Evaluation (tentative):

  • Participation 10%
  • Short commentaries 6X5%= 30%
  • Short essays on 3 books 3X20% = 60%

Texts (provisional):

  • Books: The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison
  • Essays: by Daphne Merkin, Katha Pollitt, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Zadie Smith, Steve Martin
  • Journals, diaries, letters: selections from Anais Nin, Heidi Julavits, Sylvia Plath, John Cheever, Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • Theoretical reflections: selections from Roland Barthes, Olivia Laing, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Blake Morrison
  • Autobiographical photography: by Sally Mann, Annie Leibovitz, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano; selections from Annette Kuhn, Paul Auster, Marianne Hirsh
  • The graphic memoir: selections from Alison Bechdel, Art Spiegelman, Roz Chast
  • Film: Stories We Tell (dir. Sarah Polley, 2013)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 607 Middle English

Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Contact

Prof. Michael Van Dussen
Winter Term 2018
R 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: The medieval millennium (c. 500-1500) saw the birth of Islam, the expansion and formalization of western and other forms of Christianity, the continued development of Jewish culture in the diaspora surrounded by majority Christian and Muslim populations, and the rise of universities that benefitted from intellectual exchange among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, including the re-introduction of Aristotelianism. This course examines how later medieval English writers registered some of these developments and the opportunities or challenges they posed for interfaith encounter and self-definition. These encounters will often involve representations of racial, physiological, and gendered difference, among others. The genres and literary modes we will discuss include travel writing, romance, allegory, hagiography, and mystical writing.

English people in the later Middle Ages (c. 1350-1500) had much to say about religions, cultures, and practices from elsewhere in the known world and had frequent contact, often through travel and trade, with African, Asian, and what we now call Middle Eastern peoples. They participated in academic and cultural developments that had origins in the rich cultural interchange (both peaceful and violent) between Christians and their Jewish and Muslim neighbors. In medieval England we find a variety of representations of Jews and Muslims, though (in the late Middle Ages, at least) few Jews or Muslims could be found living anywhere in England. And so the representations would seem to stem from textual influences, international communication, or reliance (in the case of the Jews) on older accounts from England. The religious experiences of English people also shared a great deal with that of their contemporaries on the European continent. In some important ways, then, it is misleading to speak of English religious culture as “insular”. At the same time, there were many developments in England that held little in common with what was happening elsewhere, and so it is valid to study English religiosity as involving unique phenomena or developments that took on a particularly English identity—though never in isolation. In the late Middle Ages we witness the rise of a vibrant lay piety, including detailed representations of women’s religious experiences; the first complete translation of the Bible into English; and an unprecedented academic heresy (Wycliffism) that spread from university halls to the wider population. Many of these developments were in turn met by severe responses that were not always consistent with attitudes on the continent. A variety of voices, many of them reformist, could still be heard in the face of strong opposition, and England would eventually become one of the decisive centers of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century and after. These later developments cannot be understood completely without an awareness of late-medieval English religious experience in a global context. Nor can modern dynamics involving Christian, Jewish, and Muslim populations be fully grasped without an understanding of their medieval origins—a context that is frequently mischaracterized for ideological purposes in present-day political discourse and fundamentalist rhetoric.

Secondary readings will take historical and theoretical approaches to the primary material. Students will have opportunities to view medieval maps and original medieval manuscripts during workshops held in McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine. Primary course texts will be read in the original Middle English. Prior experience with the language is helpful but not required, and portions of several seminar sessions will be spent on gaining facility with Middle English.

Evaluation (provisional): short papers 25%; final research project 50%; presentation 10%; participation 15%

Texts (provisional):

Geoffrey Chaucer, selections from The Canterbury Tales
William Langland, Piers Plowman
Thomas Malory, selections from Le Morte d’Arthur
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Book of John Mandeville
The Book of Margery Kempe

English Wycliffite writings (selections)

***other texts to be provided on MyCourses

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 661 Seminar of Special Studies

Early Modern Sex Differences and Discursive Norms and Forms

Prof. Kenneth Borris
Fall Term 2017
M 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Description: A study of diversities of gender, sexual expression, and sexual affiliation in early modern culture from the later fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, encompassing viragos, prostitutes, sodomites, tribades, sapphists, and hermaphrodites among others, as they were represented within different literary forms, intellectual disciplines, and discourses.  My own approach will combine sexual history, literary historicism, and historical formalism, and other approaches are welcome.  Surveyed disciplines and discourses will include, with varying degrees of emphasis, medicine and the other former sciences (such as physiognomy and astrology), as well as verbal and visual erotica, theology, philosophy, and law.  Our readings of primary sources will also encompass imaginative fictions such as Marlowe’s Edward II, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Milton’s masque Comus, and, in translation, Nicholas Chorier’s Dialogues of Venus and some of Michelangelo’s sonnets, as well as Montaigne’s essay on friendship and Caterina Erauso’s remarkable autobiography.  Depending on the size of the seminar, each member will likely do two seminar papers, each in a different part of the term.  According to their own particular interests, 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, that will fully take into account the scheduling preferences of each member.  This format aims to create a diverse, open, and responsive seminar.

Texts: 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
Supplementary Course Reader with various additional readings including Milton’s Comus
Marlowe, Edward II (edition is optional)
Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (edition is optional)
Caterina de Erauso, Memoirs of a Basque Lieutenant Nun (paperback)

Evaluation: two seminar papers, about 9/10 pages of text each (12 point), to count 45% each class attendance and participation, 10%

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 7 to 10 students

ENGL 662 / PLAI 600

Cultures of Uneven Development

Prof. Gavin Walker (History) and Prof. Sandeep Banerjee (English)
Winter Term 2018
Th 11:30–14:30

Full course description

Description: The uneven development of our world is an obvious fact: from the underdevelopment of the Global South to the dynamics of core and periphery in political and economic structures, a globalized world of equality remains a distant utopia. Yet the world is also a coherent whole, intimately connected through structures of investment in addition to supranational political and financial institutions. Centered in contemporary Marxist theory, this course examines our globalized world through the lens of uneven development. It seeks to understand the structure of our present conjuncture that is marked, simultaneously, by hierarchy and difference as well as integration and homogeneity. We will locate this question in the relation between the sphere of culture and the logic of capital. In addition, it queries how this uneven world shapes social, cultural, and aesthetic forms (and norms) in addition to our conceptions of time and space. The course will take up four themes: the social formation; the question of transition; the national question; and peripheral aesthetics. Drawing on readings from history, literary and cultural studies, film studies, and theory this seminar will attempt to think through the politics and aesthetics of uneven development on a global scale.

Enrolment: Instructor permission required. Please e-mail either Gavin Walker (gavin.walker [at] mcgill.ca) or Sandeep Banerjee (sandeep.banerjee [at] mcgill.ca) to enroll in the course.

Enrolment: Instructor permission required. Please e-mail either Gavin Walker (gavin.walker [at] mcgill.ca) or Sandeep Banerjee (sandeep.banerjee [at] mcgill.ca) to enroll in the course.

Texts: TBD

Evaluation: TBD

Format: Seminar

ENGL 680 Canadian Literature 

Margaret Atwood’s Fiction

Prof. Robert Lecker
Winter Term 2017
M 11:35-14:25

Full course description


Description: Margaret Atwood’s fiction seems to know few limits. Her short stories and novels offer multiple insights into contemporary life through narratives marked by black humour, satire, wry wit, and political nuance. Atwood is an acute observer of her times who writes from a feminist perspective. She challenges conventional assumptions about how storytelling works, just as she challenges our preconceptions about how cultures and social systems operate. Atwood’s fiction-as-critique encompasses a variety of genres. She has created dystopian fantasies and science fiction that explores climate change and environmental collapse. She delves into the imagination of criminals and the prison systems that confine them. There is madness, deception, hunger, disease. And sometimes, in the middle of it all, a warming gothic breeze. Her works are often filled with bizarre images and incidents that make them very funny. On one level, Atwood is an accomplished comic writer. But her fiction also offers chilling accounts of the interface between humans and new technologies—technologies that are forever altering the natural world, the food chain, our communication networks, and the very ways in which we reproduce ourselves. Where have we been in the past? How can we reread history in new ways? Where are we now, and what are we blind to in the world around us? Where will we be in the future, and how bleak does that picture look? To explore these questions, the course focuses on a range of Atwood’s novels and short fiction in order to provide a detailed consideration of her major concerns.

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


  • Surfacing
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Alias Grace
  • The Blind Assassin
  • Oryx and Crake
  • Wilderness Tips
  • Stone Mattress

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 690 Seminar of Special Studies

Al Purdy, Don McKay, and the Canadian Small Press

Prof. Eli MacLaren
Winter 2018
F 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Description: Since the nineteenth century, small-scale publishing has played a crucial role in the creation of Canadian literature. Often run by writers themselves, the small press operates at the fringe of commercial publishing, without much (if any) office space, staff, or marketing, and the little remuneration offered in exchange for a manuscript is far less than minimum wage. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the small press is greatly responsible for the making of Canadian authors, especially poets – connecting them with a local public, drawing them into an editorial relationship (usually their first), positioning them for grants and awards, and most importantly giving them the validation of a properly published book bearing their name. The purpose of this course is to read two major Canadian poets of the Centennial and the contemporary periods (Al Purdy and Don McKay) as well as a handful of their successors, in order to analyse the importance of the small press to their poetic careers. Ryerson Chap-Books, Fiddlehead Books, Contact Press, Anansi, Gaspereau, Véhicule … what did publication by one or more of these small Canadian presses mean for the writers’ creative practices? Did it function as a stepping stone toward better publishing terms and greater prominence? How involved in editing and publishing were they themselves? Ultimately this course will reflect on the constitution of the poet and his/her place in Canadian society in the last fifty years.


  • short essay 20%
  • seminar presentation 25%
  • research paper 40%
  • participation 15%


  • Al Purdy, Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets
  • Don McKay, Camber
  • Don Coles, The Essential Don Coles
  • Jan Zwicky, Songs for Relinquishing the Earth
  • A.F. Moritz, Sequence
  • Dionne Brand, No Language is Neutral
  • Fred Wah, Diamond Grill
  • Ken Babstock, Methodist Hatchet
  • Nyla Matuk, Sumptuary Laws

Coursepack of secondary readings in the history of the book
We will also subscribe as a group to a contemporary Canadian literary magazine such as The Fiddlehead.


Average Enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 710 Renaissance Studies

Converting Conversion in Shakespeare’s Playhouse

Prof. Paul Yachnin
Fall Term 2017
T 11:35-14:25

Full course description

Description: In this course we ask, how did the crisis of conversion in the early modern world open up a space for dramatists to play with one of the key questions of their time? The conversional crisis extended from the Reconquista to the European conquest of the Americas to the wars of religion in France, to the extraordinary enterprise of the Spanish Armada, to the social, political, and military struggles that swept across Northern Europe and the British archipelago.

How did early modern theatre repurpose, transform, and multiply the forms of religious conversion? A conversion, by the way, 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 material transformation, class and sex change, and human-animal metamorphosis. We study plays by Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, and Philip Massinger; related texts about conversion such as those by Augustine, Ovid, and others; and work on the history and theory of conversion.

The idea for the course emerges from a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project, “Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Ecologies of Cognition” (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.


  • Marlowe, The Jew of Malta
  • Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale
  • Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
  • Massinger, The Renegado


  • Journal 30%
  • 3-minute presentations 10%
  • Course paper (12-15 pages) 40%
  • Non-academic version of your paper (1-2 pages) 10%
  • Participation 10%

Your journal is, first of all, for you to do some thinking by writing at each step of the course. But it is also something you do for marks, so you have to write at least a page (350 words) about each week’s readings (and our discussions of the readings).

From near the start of the course, you’ll be thinking about the course paper that you will want to write. I’ll work with you and provide a sounding board for your ideas. We’ll put on a course conference in the middle of the term. You will have three minutes—you’ll be on the clock—to present the question and/or argument that you will develop into your course paper. This part of the course is based on the three-minute thesis program, where graduate students compete for prizes in recognition of the clarity, succinctness, value, and appeal of their research. We’ll take the competition out of what we do, but leave in the emphasis on clear, succinct, and engaging accounts of valuable research. We’ll do prep work in the weeks leading up to the course conference.

Your course paper will develop a topic of your own devising. Your work will need to take account of the most important research on the question or argument you’re developing. What you write does not have to be original work, in the sense that it does not have to be an idea or a view that no one has thought of before. But it does have to be work that you care about, have thought a good deal about, and are keen to share with others. So you could write about Midsummer Night’s Dream as an experimental blending of Ovidian metamorphosis and Christian conversion, which is not a new idea, but you could do that with new evidence, with thinking that takes previous work further than it was willing or able to go, and with a conclusion that might shift the perspective from which we see the relationship between theatre and conversion in Shakespeare’s time.

Once you’ve completed your course paper, you’ll have one more task. This one is non-traditional, even experimental. You’ll write a version of your paper’s central argument as if for a non-academic readership—readers who are intelligent and thoughtful but who have not taken the course and who are not in the academy (though they might have an undergrad education in their past). So think about writing a piece on Shakespeare and religion for the weekend edition of the Globe and Mail or maybe as a script for a Ted Talk. We’ll take a bit of time during the course to look at models for this kind of writing.

Participation requires your presence in class, both body and mind. You have to come to each class with questions, ideas, puzzlement (which you have to speak about), expressions of joy or grief. It is true—it’s really true: there is no such thing as a stupid question.

ENGL 722 Milton

Prof. Maggie Kilgour
Winter Term 2018
M 11:35-14:25

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


  • Stella Revard ed, John Milton: Complete Shorter Poems (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
  • Barbara Lewalski ed, John Milton: Paradise Lost (Blackwell, 2007)
  • Selections from the prose, on-line
  • Selected criticism

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 731 Romantic Anachronisms

Prof. Michael Nicholson
Fall Term 2017
F 8:35-11:25

Full course description

Description: Britain erased eleven days from the calendar in the 1750s, France turned back the hands of time to Year One in the 1790s, and the British Railway Clearing House adopted Greenwich Mean Time in the 1840s. By the 1850s, the solidification of this mechanized time program was complete; Big Ben towered over London, the marine chronometer (the so-called sea clock) governed navigation, and the trains arrived on schedule. Victorian imperialists and industrialists spread the gospel that Britain’s economic supremacy was a product of the empire’s efficient arrangements of time. At the same moment, English and American writers from a broad range of backgrounds were developing new literary strategies of anachronism (in its literal, etymological sense, ana: “against” and chronos: “time”) to contest the increasing dominance of “imperial time”: the new clock-based, machine-regulated, and strictly standardized temporality used to enforce a forward-moving narrative of empire.

Romantic writers’ active challenges to this new model of temporality (as inherently abstract, commercial, reproductive, industrial, and imperial) resonate with the recent turn toward time in contemporary critical theory and literary criticism. “Romantic Anachronisms” will examine the remarkable temporal insights of Romantic poets, essayists, and novelists along with those of present-day literary critics (from Eighteenth Centuryists to Postmodernists) and temporality theorists (from Jack Halberstam to Timothy Morton). Our examination of these diverse temporalities will seek to historicize modern critical theories of anachronism. By attending to late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century works that moved beyond Whig and Tory debates about the progressive or cyclical nature of history, we will trace the recent reappearance of untimeliness back to its historical roots in Romantic literature and culture.

Toward these ends, each week of our syllabus will pair a critical or theoretical work from the twentieth- or twenty-first century with a literary text from the Romantic century (1750-1850). This seminar will also connect these conversations to further readings in eighteenth-century literature and culture that anticipate Romanticism. We will therefore devote a large part of this course (and our research) to the development of our own theories, histories, analyses, and methodologies of anachronism. Together, we will attempt to map the contested ground of literature and theory’s alternative temporal forms.


  • Participation (15%)
  • Reading Responses (25%)
  • Presentation (10%)
  • Seminar Paper (50%)


Poetry, Fiction, & Critical Prose

  • Samuel Johnson, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759)
  • Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764)
  • Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)
  • Frances Burney, Evelina: Or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778)
  • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)
  • Lord Byron, selections from Hours of Idleness (1807) and Don Juan (1819-24) 
  • Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817)
  • John Clare, The Shepherd’s Calendar (1827)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
  • William Cowper, The Task (1785)
  • William Hazlitt, The Spirit of the Age: Or, Contemporary Portraits (1825)
  • Charlotte Smith, Beachy Head (1807)
  • William Wordsworth, selections from The Prelude (1805): “The Discharged Soldier” and “The Blind Beggar”

Criticism & Theory

  • Julia Kristeva, “Women’s Time,” Signs 7.1 (1981): 13-35.
  • Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (1983)
  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983; 2006)
  • Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (1994)
  • Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (1995)
  • Stuart Sherman, Telling Time: Clocks, Diaries, and English Diurnal Form, 1660-1785 (1996)
  • Jerome Christenson, Romanticism at the End of History (2000)
  • Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time & Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (2005)
  • Dana Luciano, Arranging Grief: Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-Century America (2007)
  • Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (2008)
  • Mary Favret, War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime (2009)
  • Valerie Traub, “The New Unhistoricism in Queer Studies,” PMLA 128.1 (2013): 21–39.
  • Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip (2013)
  • Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (2013)

Format: Seminar

ENGL 734 Narrative Prose of the 18th Century

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

Prof. Peter Sabor
Winter Term 2018
W 8:35-11:25 

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, Clarissa combines 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 read the novel in the Broadview abridgment. We shall then turn to three comic novels published in the decade from 1769 to 1778: Frances Brooke’s The History of Emily Montague, set partly 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 conclude 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%, participation 25%


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

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 757 Modern Drama

Contemporary English Theatre

Prof. Sean Carney
Fall Term 2017
T 15:05-17:55

Full course description

Description: The recent Brexit vote in June 2016 has turned the world’s eyes towards the United Kingdom and raised pressing questions about British cultural identity and the relationship of “Britishness” to the history of immigration to England.

This course is concerned with representative plays by both established playwrights and the new generation of young dramatists in the United Kingdom.  Our particular focus will be the representation of cultural and ethnic diversity in post-Imperial England. 

The syllabus will be made up of plays that demonstrate an interest in the unique aesthetics of theatre while simultaneously evincing social commitment and an engagement with politics.

We will consider a variety of different dramatic responses to the transformations of British identity in the face of various significant historical events.

Examples of such events include the de-colonization of India, the decline of the British Empire, the increased waves of commonwealth immigration to the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, the Irish Troubles of the 1970s, the dismantling of the Soviet Union following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the siege of Sarajevo and the war in Bosnia, the changing face of terrorism in the post 9/11 and 7/7 era, the financial crisis of 2007-08, globalization, the out-sourcing of labor to India and the growth of transnational capitalism, the “special relationship” between George W. Bush Jr. and Tony Blair, the international proliferation of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, and most recently the pending exit of the UK from the European Union.

 Evaluation (tentative): 

  • Seminar presentation with accompanying written component, 20%
  • Two ten page essays, 30% each
  • Class participation, 20% 

Texts (tentative): 

  • Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine
  • Brian Friel, Translations
  • David Edgar, Destiny
  • David Edgar, Pentecost
  • Sarah Kane, Blasted
  • David Edgar, Testing the Echo
  • Ayub Khan-Din, East is East
  • Sebastian Barry, The Steward of Christendom
  • Robin Soans, Talking to Terrorists
  • Richard Bean, England People Very Nice
  • Mark Ravenhill, Product
  • Caryl Churchill, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You
  • Anupama Chandrasekhar, Disconnect
  • Jez Butterworth, Jerusalem
  • debbie tucker green, Truth and Reconciliation
  • Phil Davies, Firebird
  • Rory Mullarkey, The Wolf from the Door
  • Caryl Churchill, Escaped Alone

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 761 Studies in Fiction

Later British Modernism

Prof. Allan Hepburn
Fall Term 2016
T 14:35-17:25

Full course description

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. This course investigates British fiction in the years immediately preceding the Second World War, 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 British 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 tension and a consciousness of global responsibility. 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, love in the time of war, melodrama, alienation, existentialism, citizenship, trials, and some comedy. There will also be a conversation about cinema and documentary in relation to novelistic discourse. Secondary readings by Peter Kalliney, Hannah Arendt, Tony Judt, John Grierson, Lyndsey Stonebridge, David Trotter, Rod Menghem, and others will be available on MyCourses.

Evaluation: short paper (25%), participation (15%), long paper (60%)

Texts: approximately 12 texts will be chosen from the following list. A final list will be available from the instructor in July 2017.

  • Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca (1938)
  • George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)
  • W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, Journey to a War (1939)
  • Patrick Hamilton, Slaves of Solitude (1941)
  • James Hanley, No Directions (1943)
  • Elizabeth Taylor, At Mrs. Lippincote’s (1945)
  • 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)
  • Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son (1955)
  • Barbara Pym, Less than Angels (1955)
  • Muriel Spark, The Girls of Slender Means (1963)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 770 Studies in American Literature

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

Prof. Peter Gibian
Winter Term 2018
F 14:35-17:25 

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Previous coursework in American Literature before 1900, or in 19th-century British fiction, or permission of instructor.

Description: Intensive study of shorter prose fictions and critical essays by Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville, as these foundational authors can be seen to work in dialogue with one another, exploring aesthetic problems and cultural preoccupations crucial to mid-nineteenth-century America at the same that they break 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 (tentatively): 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 of class: Seminar

Average enrolment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 776 Film Studies

Ecology of Film

Prof. Ned Schantz
Fall Term 2017
W 11:35-14:25 

Full course description

Description: This course will consider film’s fundamental representational and transformational capacities from a broad ecological perspective—which is to say, in terms of the sustainable flourishing of life in any number of environments, including the unforgiving terrains of cities, suburbs, highways, oceans, and outer space. Our concern will be to understand film ecologies socially, which means in terms of their principles of association, of how human and nonhuman members come into relationship. The course will therefore be as much about cinematic form as about “green” themes, considering how cinema itself produces environments in specific relational terms. In short, the premise of this class is that film inevitably is social theory (whether implicit or explicit), and the procedure of this class will be to put film and film theory in conversation with other social theory, including Critical Space Theory, Ecofeminism, and Actor-Network Theory. Possible films include The Gleaners and I, Los Angeles Plays Itself, Amores Perros, Safe, Under the Skin, and Leviathan.


  • film journals 50%
  • presentation 15%
  • participation 35%


  • Hugh Raffles Insectopedia
  • Michel Serres The Natural Contract
  • and a coursepack

Note: Before the first class meeting please read the first chapter of The Natural Contract ("War, Peace") and the chapter in Insectopedia called "Generosity (the Happy Times).”

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 778 Studies in Visual Culture

Image/ Sound/ Text

Prof. Ara Osterweil
Winter Term 2018
T 14:30-17:30 | Screening: Th 17:30-20:30

Full course description

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

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

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


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

Selected artworks by: Chantal Akerman, John Cage, Derek Jarman, Su Friedrich, Jean-Luc Godard, Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann, Ken Jacobs, Hollis Frampton, Kenneth Anger, Chris Marker, Valie Export, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Anthony McCall, Yvonne Rainer, David Wojnarowicz, Catherine Opie, Sophie Calle, Sharon Hayes, Greg Bordowitz, Shirin Neshat, Glenn Ligon, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Carrie Mae Weems, Adrian Piper, and others.

Texts by:

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

Format:  Seminar and Workshop

Average Enrolment: 15 students maximum

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