2022-23 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:

Graduate courses are limited to a maximum enrollment of 12 (for 6/700-level courses) or 15 students (for 500-level courses). 500-level courses with an enrollment of fewer than 7 students, and 600- or 700-level courses with an enrollment of fewer than 4 students, will not be offered except in special circumstances.

Note on registration in graduate courses:

Courses are open to students in Department of English programs. Students from outside the Department may enroll if space permits and if they have appropriate preparation for the course. In this case, students must seek the permission of the instructor and the Graduate Program Director to register.

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 exceptionally 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, particularly if the subject matter of a particular course makes a good fit for a PhD student’s research interests. 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 503 18th Century

The Villain-Hero

Professor David Hensley
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description

Prerequisites: Limited to Honours and MA students (see note below).

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.

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 January 2023.)

  • 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 in a supplementary period following the seminar; some films 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; and others)
  • Charles Gounod, Faust (dir. Antonio Pappano, 2010)
  • Alexandr Sokurov, Faust (2011)
  • Wycherley, The Country Wife (1992); and Congreve, The Way of the World (1997)
  • Stephen Frears, Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
  • Mozart, Don Giovanni (dir. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1996; and others)
  • Rupert Edwards, The Real Don Giovanni (1996)
  • Benoit Jacquot, Sade (1999)
  • Frederico Fellini, Fellini’s Casanova (1976)
  • Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin (dir. Daniel Barenboim, 2007; and others)

Evaluation: A substantial amount of careful reading, a class presentation, and a close analysis of texts both in seminar discussion and in a final 20-page paper will comprise the work in the course. The evaluation of this work will be weighted as follows: paper (60%), presentation (20%), and general participation (20%). Regular attendance is mandatory.

Note on Enrollment: Permission of the instructor is required. As a rule of thumb, enrollment is limited to 15 MA and advanced undergraduate students (Honours students in their final year have priority). MA and Honours students may register for this course but must confirm their registration with the instructor. All others must consult the instructor before registering. Students who are interested in taking this seminar but cannot register in Minerva should contact Professor Hensley. (Please bear in mind that electronic registration does not constitute the instructor’s permission.)

ENGL 504 19th Century

Novels of Vocation

Professor Yael Halevi-Wise
Fall 2022
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: While keenly engaged with the spirit of ‘progress’ and ‘reform’ sweeping through their continent, many writers in this period tended to set their novels a few decades back from their actual time of composition and publication. Keeping this historical perspective in mind, we will examine English masterpieces written in the second half of the 19th Century, as well as an earlier German bildungsroman that set the tone for later representations of vocational identity through the emerging medium of an artistic psychological realism. We will consider how our novelists portray characters that struggle to find love and meaningful employment in an increasingly mobile society. Concomitantly, we will trace how their choices remained constrained by the barriers of class, gender, and religious affiliation.


  • The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Evaluation: Attendance & participation 20%; five exploratory responses to the reading 30%; final essay 50%.

ENGL 505 20th Century

Seduction and Narrative

Professor Allan Hepburn 
Fall 2022
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: Some narratives are designed around the central problem of seduction. Other narratives explain the consequences of seduction—as a justification or a recrimination. In certain cases, seduction occurs from motives of revenge, misogyny, aggression, and, of course, passion. Why is seduction linked to narrative? What happens when seduction occurs across class lines? Does homosexual seduction differ from heterosexual seduction, and if so, how? What transpires when an older woman falls in love with a younger man, or vice-versa? What ethics are implicit within narratives of seduction? To some degree, psychoanalysis, narrative theory, and queer theory will frame our inquiries into the narrative representation of seduction. Although novels might be defined by pervasive “love interest,” it is possible to imagine a character entirely unmoved by desire and therefore free from the ensnarements of seduction, which raises a question about the conjunction of seduction and sexuality, as well as the conjunction of seduction and love. Beginning with Freud’s theory that children attempt to seduce their parents (a theory that Freud himself subsequently renounced), we will examine a range of texts that investigate the lexicon of seduction. In the novels under consideration in this course, we will encounter instances of insincere seduction, foiled seduction, adultery, cheating, pregnancy, sapphism, inversion, virginity, celibacy, compulsive Don Juanism, indifference, sadism, obsession, intimacy, transitory crushes, flirtation, and the unshakeable template that first love sets for subsequent case histories of love. Theoretical readings will include pieces by Adam Phillips, Mladan Dolar, Georg Simmel, Jane Gallup, Janice Radway, Peter Brooks, and others.

Texts: (this list offers some possibilities of what will appear on the syllabus; a final list will be available in July 2022)

  • Alain de Botton, Essays in Love
  • Thomas Hardy, The Well-Beloved
  • Sigmund Freud, Dora
  • D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love
  • Colette, Chéri
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
  • James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
  • Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt
  • Andrew Holleran, Dancer from the Dance
  • Garth Greenwell, What Belongs to You
  • Raven Leilani, Luster
  • Sally Rooney, Normal People
  • Gregory Blake Smith, The Maze at Windermere
  • Katie Kitamura, Intimacies

Evaluation: Short paper 25%; long paper 60%; attendance and participation 15%.

ENGL 525 American Literature

19th Century American Writing and City Life

Professor Peter Gibian
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description

It does not permit itself to be read.
(Poe, “The Man of the Crowd”)

Description: Intensive study of a diverse range of American literary writings that attempt, over the course of the long nineteenth century, to develop new aesthetic forms appropriate to expression of new modes of consciousness associated with the experience of life in the modern city. Readings will include selected works of poetry, non-fiction prose, novels, short stories, highbrow literature and pop-cultural expression by authors such as: Franklin (Autobiography); Hawthorne (“My Kinsman, Major Molineux”); Poe (“Man of the Crowd,” “Cask of Amontillado,” detective stories); Melville (“Bartleby”); Thompson (Venus in Boston) or Lippard (another “city mystery” writer); Whitman (“Song of Myself” and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”); Cable (“Jean-ah Poquelin”); Crane (Maggie: Girl of the Streets); Dreiser (Sister Carrie), Alger (Ragged Dick, a rags-to-riches story for boys); Riis (How the Other Half Lives); Chopin (“A Pair of Silk Stockings”); James (“The Jolly Corner,” American Scene); Wharton (Age of Innocence), and others. At the same time, we will study diverse critical analyses of the city in literature, and theoretical works (often coming out of Walter Benjamin’s seminal studies) defining the dynamics of an emerging "city consciousness": the base value of mobility linking mental movements to the flow of urban crowds; the power of clothes and commodities in a culture of “conspicuous consumption” and “image management”; the stress on aesthetic gifts for show and performance necessary for self-fashioning in the social theater; and the desperate search for new modes of literacy that might satisfy the felt need to read city experience or to master the circulation of print in the literary marketplace of an emerging mass culture. To deepen our sense of the urban context for these primary writings, we may make side trips to explore secondary readings surveying the cultural history of urban crowds, urban periodicals, flânerie, bohemian enclaves, Olmsted’s urban parks, shows and amusements, arcades and department stores, world's fairs, museums, hotels, tenements, and also parallel developments in other arts related to the urban scene (painting, photography, panorama, cinema).

Texts: TBA—selected from among the authors mentioned above.

Evaluation (tentative): Participation in discussions, 20%; series of short response papers, 20%; oral class presentation, 15%; final research paper, 45%.

ENGL 566 Special Studies in Drama: Performance Studies: Theories and Methods

Performance as/and History

Professor Katherine Zien
Fall 2022
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: This course examines complex and multifaceted questions of how we represent and reenact diverse and contested histories. Attempts to grapple with the past, and uses of performance (both embodied and post-bodied) in these contestations, form a constant in our mediascapes and our daily lives. While news and social media pundits comment upon last week’s events in a cascading series of interlinked responses – often utilizing performance modes of discourse to ask “what if” – constituents from a variety of groups examine recent and distant pasts through simulations, immersions, digital and embodied reenactments, and other performance-related modes. Additionally, we are witnessing a watershed moment of theatre and performance scholarship on the topic, as evidenced in the recent publication of the comprehensive and field-transforming Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography (2020). This volume, edited by Tracy Davis and Peter Marx, attempts to set the standard on definitions of theatre and performance and their relationships to historical events.

In approaching this topic, we will examine a range of interdisciplinary texts that chronicle intersections of theatre, performance, and historiography. We will also read plays and analyze their approaches to reconfiguring historical events and their intellectual querying of acts of witness. Topics that we will examine include: performance and “world-historical events,” including genocidal traumas, revolutionary movements, and transitional justice processes; sites of commemoration and re-enactment (including battlefield reenactments, museums, and immersive events); performances of minoritarian histories; speculative and invented alterna-histories; and the place of digital reenactments in media and legal fields. Our goals will be to refine methodological and theoretical approaches and tease out problems for debate as we examine the place of performance in the practices whereby societies revisit and redefine past events, and the impacts of these legacies on contemporary lives.


  • Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo
  • Aimé Césaire, The Tragedy of King Christophe
  • Marie Clements, Unnatural and Accidental Women
  • Michael Frayn, Copenhagen
  • Lorena Gale, Angélique
  • Lorraine Hansberry, Les Blancs
  • Jeremy O. Harris, Slave Play
  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon
  • Moises Kaufman and Tectonic Theatre, The Laramie Project
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
  • Ariane Mnouchkine and Théâtre du Soleil, 1789
  • Daniel David Moses, Almighty Voice and his Wife
  • Qui Nguyen, Vietgone
  • Yvette Nolan, Annie Mae’s Movement
  • Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play
  • Jackie Sibblies Drury, We Are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915
  • Lloyd Suh, The Chinese Lady
  • August Wilson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

A course packet including passages from secondary sources:

  • Natalie Alvarez, Immersions in Cultural Difference: Tourism, War, Performance
  • Claire Cochrane and Jo Robinson, Theatre History and Historiography: Ethics, Evidence and Truth
  • Catherine Cole, Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice
  • Selena Couture, Against the Current and Into the Light: Performing History and Land in Coast Salish Territories and Vancouver’s Stanley Park
  • Tracy C. Davis and Peter Marx, The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography
  • Laura Edmondson, Performing Trauma in Central Africa: Shadows of Empire
  • Margot Francis, Creative Subversions: Whiteness, Indigeneity, and the National Imaginary
  • Alyson Forsyth and Chris Megson, Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present
  • Jeremy Glick, The Black Radical Tragic: Performance, Aesthetics, and the Unfinished Haitian Revolution
  • Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory
  • Andreas Huyssen, Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia
  • Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage
  • Erica Lehrer, Cynthia Milton, and Monica Eileen Patterson, Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places
  • Scott Magelssen, Living History Museums: Undoing History Through Performance
  • Scott Magelssen and Rhona Justice-Malloy, Enacting History
  • Yvette Nolan, Medicine Shows: Indigenous Performance Culture
  • Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory: Conflicts and Divisions
  • Neema Parvini, Shakespeare’s History Plays: Rethinking Historicism
  • Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Volume 1
  • Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance
  • Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History
  • Freddie Rokem, Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past
  • Rebecca Schneider, Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment
  • Jenn Stephenson, Insecurity: Perils and Products of Theatres of the Real
  • Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas
  • Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation

Evaluation: In-class presentations (30%); short response essays (30%); term paper (40%).

ENGL 661 Seminar of Special Studies

Text, Nature, World: Literature and the Environmental Imagination

Professor Sandeep Banerjee
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: Human beings, Karl Marx wrote in Capital, work on external nature to transform it, and in so doing, transform themselves. Taking this formulation of Karl Marx as the starting point, this course will engage with a range of literary and cultural texts from South Asia to understand how literary and cultural texts mediate the natural world. Focusing, in particular, on the category of the landscape, the course will examine how the landscape mode articulates human-nature relations; how it functions as a dialectical image that imagines human beings in – and in relation to – the worlds they inhabit. Additionally, the course will take up some of the recent theoretical scholarship on the climate crisis and the age of capitalocene.

Texts (tentative):

  • Rabindranath Tagore – selections from poems
  • Indra Sinha – Animal’s People
  • Amitav Ghosh – Gun Island
  • Jamaica Kincaid – A Small Place
  • Peter Mathiesen – Snow Leopard

Evaluation: Participation; Critical Responses (x8); Final paper (12-15pp).

ENGL 662 Seminar of Special Studies

Modernist Allusions

Professor Miranda Hickman
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: One signature of early twentieth-century modernist literature is its deep allusiveness – its marked tendency to signify through implicit reference to other texts. 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 rely on allusion for some levels of signification, also indicates ways in which modernist experimental writing was intentionally formed and informed by texts from other times and cultures. Joyce’s Ulysses parallels Homer’s Odyssey through extended allusion; H.D.’s poems often revise Greek myth; Marianne Moore’s poems often read as networks of quotations; and Eliot’s 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 Allan Pasco notes, allusion is a technique whereby a text external to the one at hand is implicitly referenced, whether or not intentionally, and thus “grafted” on to the immediate text in a synergistic relation. George Steiner comments on how allusions make possible “the compact largesse of the text.” Modernist allusions function 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 “emotional aura”; 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 a reach to alterity as wellspring for innovation.

This course will consider the forces and reasons shaping such widespread modernist allusiveness. How might this tendency relate to what experimental modernists saw as their commitments and allegiances; and how might it bear on the complex, generative relationship between modernist work and what Eliot theorized as “tradition”? We will also address how different instances of allusion operate, addressing their effects on readers’ experience and how they contribute to the ways that a text makes meaning.

Texts (provisional):

  • T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems
  • H.D., Selected Poems and Trilogy
  • H.D., HERmione
  • James Joyce, Dubliners
  • Marianne Moore, Complete Poems
  • Ezra Pound, selections from Personae and The Cantos
  • Jean Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead
  • Anne Spencer. Poems from Time’s Unfading Garden
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Evaluation (provisional)Brief essay (25%); Book review (20%); Longer essay (30%); presentation (15%); participation (10%).

ENGL 670 Topics in Cultural Studies

Restless Times: Contemporary Biopolitics of Sleep, Rest and Care

Professor Alanna Thain
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: Sleep is an experience, and a form of intimacy, that we often don’t trust. Our own testimony of sleep is undercut by a lack of conscious access to the experience itself--we can only report back from the margins of experience, impacting credibility and expertise even when it comes to our own bodies. Sleep confounds normative epistemologies and forms of control. A recently identified sleep disorder--”orthosomnia” (Abbott et al 2017), or “straight sleep” –names how “poor” sleepers attempt to conform to the biometric data of sleep monitors in order to measure up to social norms; poor sleep is an antisocial state. We are both experts of our somatic experience of sleep, and yet access to our sleeping selves often relies on the perceptions of human and technological “others.” In sleep, we are our own intimate stranger: our autonomy is dispossessed and redistributed, and we become radically vulnerable in a way that requires social forms of care and collective concern for sleep’s tender thresholds. This seminar examines how the sleeper’s relation to the social since the 1970s, as medicalization, metrics, media and monitoring have experimented with the ability to make sleep “actionable” in the service of something other than rest. Especially attentive to how sleep has increasingly become a site of work, we will also look at the critiques and resistances of attempts to exploit our off hours. We will read recent works exploring the rise of 24/7 cultures, the history of sleep medicine, and aesthetic and political mobilizations around sleep equity, or the uneven distributions of rest and recuperation in society. We will explore how artists, scientists and technologies have sought to make sleep representable, shareable, exploitable and protected, though works such as Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s Somniloquies (2017), their sensory ethnography companion piece to the sleep talking recordings of Dylan McGregor, Apitchatpong Weerasthekul’s films and immersive installations from sleepcinemahotel to Cemetery of Splendour, feminist sleep activist interventions such as Jasmeen Patheja’s Meet to Sleep (2016-) and The Nap Ministry, and more. Through late 20th and 21st century theorists and media/performance artists exploring multimedia and intersectional approaches to sleep as a sociable form across minoritarian lifeworlds, we will trace the somatics, politics and aesthetics of sleep’s intimate opacity as the contested terrain of more expansive public intimacies. Students will also take part in sleep salons and workshops with sleep experts through the research-creation project The Sociability of Sleep (sociabilityofsleep.ca).

Texts: Possible readings and screenings may include:

  • Matthew Fuller, How to Sleep
  • Franny Nudelman, Fighting Sleep: The War for the Mind and the US Military
  • Cressida Heyes, Anaesthetics of Existence: Essays on Experience at the Edge
  • Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, Somniloquies
  • Tsai Ming Liang, I don’t want to sleep alone
  • Apitchatpong Weerasthekul, Cemetery of Splendour
  • Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
  • Julia Leigh, Sleeping Beauty
  • Gus Van Sant, My Own Private Idaho
  • Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation
  • Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalisms and the Ends of Sleep
  • Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa, Black Power Naps

Evaluation: TBA

ENGL 680 Canadian Literature

Margaret Laurence and the Structures of 20th Century Canadian Authorship

Professor Eli MacLaren
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: Margaret Laurence (1926–87) has long been celebrated as a major author of Canadian fiction. Her Manawaka books, which began with The Stone Angel (1964) and culminated with The Diviners (1974), went a long way in realizing hopes around the Canadian Centennial for a new national self-expression in literature: they articulate a new regionalism, depicting settings in the Canadian West; they portray Canadian history and political issues, such as the encounter between Scottish settlers and the Métis; and they bring women’s experiences to the fore. In her close and mutually beneficial dealings with McClelland & Stewart of Toronto, Laurence enjoyed what many talented Canadian writers before her had wished for – a local publisher. Literary nationalism has much to celebrate in Margaret Laurence, but recent scholarship, new writers, and a changing political landscape are expanding the account of this landmark writer whose name has been synonymous with CanLit since 1967. The purpose of this course is to use Laurence as an extended case study through which to investigate the evolution of literary authorship in Canada and the twentieth-century world. What role did her African experience, her first publication in Nairobi, and a nascent postcolonialism play in her creativity? How did the example of her mother-in-law, Elsie Fry Laurence – a prolific poet and author of two novels, about whom critics know almost nothing – influence and sustain her as a young writer, especially through the pressures of young motherhood and divorce? The translation of Laurence’s works into German brought significant income: in what editions, through whose intervention, and on what scale did this occur, and to what extent did the German market affect an author whom Canadian readers have perhaps been too quick to celebrate as purely and entirely Canadian? What impact did the censorship of Laurence’s last novel have on her? What was her influence on subsequent writers (both contemporaries such as Alice Munro and Rudy Wiebe, and emerging writers today, such as Katherina Vermette), and in what ways have they responded to, resisted, and revised her work? In this course we will blow open the career of an iconic Canadian author, severing the two terms, Canadian and author, into new analyses that assume nothing about what they mean or how they may fit together.

Texts (tentative):

  • A Tree for Poverty (1954)
  • This Side Jordan (1960)
  • The Stone Angel (1964)
  • A Jest of God (1966)
  • The Fire-Dwellers (1969)
  • A Bird in the House (1970)
  • The Diviners (1974)
  • Secondary readings on Laurence, authorship, and book history made available through McGill Library

Evaluation: Seminar presentation (15%); bibliographical essay (30%); research paper (40%); active participation in every class meeting (15%).

ENGL 690 Seminar of Special Studies

Pre-Modern Text Technologies

Professor Michael Van Dussen
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: Description: Before the late-medieval introduction of printing with movable type, every text was produced by hand, in individual copies that were numerically unique. This included not only books (codices), but also pamphlets, diplomatic documents, deeds, and letters. Accelerated rates of textual production became increasingly possible in the fifteenth century, when rising literacy rates and a burgeoning professional class of clerks and artisans created an environment where “demand” justified the production of a speculative “supply”. It was no accident—and, from this perspective, no revolution—that experimentation with print technologies also accelerated at this time. Before then (but not stopping with print), communication, interpretation, and concepts of authorship, readership, and literacy were conditioned by the products of a versatile technology: the human hand.

This course, which will be held almost exclusively in McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections, introduces students to concepts and techniques that are central to the study of the manuscript (i.e., hand-written) medium. The emphasis of the course is on close engagement with original medieval and early modern materials and text technologies in McGill’s collections. Students will work directly with medieval manuscripts and incunables, as well as with McGill’s printing presses (though the emphasis will be on pre-print technologies). Students will acquire skills in codicology (the study of the physical features of books for historical and literary purposes) and paleography (the study of ancient handwriting), and they will come to understand how to employ these skills in original research. They will also consider theories of the pre-modern book and the particular challenges that textual critics face when dealing with hand-made textual artefacts. This class will also bring theories of hand-made text into conversation with print and digital approaches to media, and special attention will be given to relationships between manuscripts and early printed texts. Several class sessions will be grounded in literary readings from the late-medieval period, which we will consider for the theoretical and literary insights they provide on the manuscript medium. Students will learn that developments in book and documentary forms during the medieval millennium are essential to grasp if we’re to understand how later textual forms shape our intellectual processes.

Topics that we will cover include: Textual criticism and the manuscript medium; medieval theory of authorship; manuscripts and communication; non-text uses of books; manuscript “biographies”; the manuscript as intellectual prosthesis; manuscripts and economics; descriptive bibliography; books and the body.

Texts (provisional):

  • Michael Johnston and Michael Van Dussen, The Medieval Manuscript Book: Cultural Approaches (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
  • Weekly secondary readings on manuscript studies.
  • Literary readings from Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Hoccleve, William Langland, Margery Kempe, Richard de Bury, and others.

Evaluation (provisional): Short papers (25%); archival projects (50%); presentation (10%); participation (15%).

ENGL 710 Renaissance Studies

Sex Differences and Sexual Dissidence in Early Modern Culture

Professor Kenneth Borris
Fall 2022
Time TBA

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.


  • 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)

Texts will be available at the Word Bookstore, 469 Milton Street, 514.845.5640

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

ENGL 734 Studies in Fiction

Fictions of the Literary Field

Professor Alexander Manshel
Fall 2022
Time TBA

Full course description

Description: In this course, we will examine contemporary fiction not as the product of a few lone author-geniuses (struck by inspiration as inexplicable as lightning), nor as the logical outcome of totalizing historical forces like political revolutions, economic crises, and technological innovations. Instead, we will consider literary production in the context of the social relations that govern its production, circulation, reception, and consecration. That is, we will investigate the various actors and institutions that bring books into the world, cast a select few as literature, and canonize fewer still as literary history. To do this, we will read a range of scholarly work on the sociology of literature alongside, and in alternation with, an array of novels that thematize the same logics and phenomena. Possible pairings may include:

● Pierre Bourdieu’s The Rules of Art and Percival Everett’s Erasure on the concept of the literary field and the division between high art and mass culture

● Mark McGurl’s The Program Era and Mona Awad’s Bunny on how the creative writing program has institutionalized contemporary authorship

● John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture and Ben Lerner’s 10:04 on the role of agents, editors, and the conglomerated publishers known as the “Big Five”

● Beth Driscoll’s The New Literary Middlebrow and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven on middlebrow aesthetics and institutions (e.g. book clubs, “common reads,” and literary prizes)

● Pascale Casanova’s The World Republic of Letters and Pola Oloixarao’s Mona (trans. Adam Morris) on “World Lit” and the global circulation of literary prestige

● Simone Murray’s The Adaptation Industry and Alexandra Kleeman’s Something New Under the Sun on the economics of literary adaptations to film and television

● Joseph North’s Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer on how the shifting methodologies of literary studies and the changing politics of university English departments shape the literary canon as we know it.

Evaluation: Students in this class will be asked to respond to these texts in a series of critical responses and/or a final research project of their own design.

Note: A limited number of additional spaces may be available for students with a strong rationale for taking this course. If the course is full, please contact the instructor for more information.

ENGL 757 Modern Drama

Contemporary British Theatre

Professor Sean Carney
Fall 2022
R 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Description: The Brexit vote in June 2016 and the recent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union has turned the world’s eyes towards the Britain 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.

Our syllabus is organized into three units: the political play pre-Thatcher, the political play post-Thatcher, and the political play post-2001.

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, the exit of the UK from the European Union, and most recently, the ongoing global pandemic.


  • Edgar, David. Destiny
  • Friel, Brian. Translations
  • Churchill, Caryl. Top Girls
  • Khan-Din. East is East
  • Kane, Sarah. Blasted
  • Ravenhill, Mark. Shopping and Fucking
  • Penhall, Joe. Blue/Orange
  • Kwei-Armah, Kwame. Elmina’s Kitchen
  • Williams, Roy. Sing Yer Heart Out For the Lads
  • Stephen, Simon. Pornography
  • Chandrasekhar, Anupama. Disconnect
  • Butterworth, Jez, Jerusalem
  • Bartlett, Mike. Albion
  • Dyer, Clint, and Roy Williams. Death of England: Face to Face
  • Hare, David. Beat the Devil

Evaluation (provisional):

1) Seminar presentation with accompanying written component, 20%;
2) Two ten page essays, 30% each;
3) Class participation, 20%.

ENGL 785 Studies in Theory

The Rise of the World Literature Paradigm

Professor Monica Popescu
Winter 2023
Time TBA

Full course description


“National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the many national and local literatures, a world literature arises.” This trenchant statement was not issued in the past decade; more than a century and a half earlier, and following in the footsteps of their compatriot Goethe, Marx and Engels made it part of their argument in the “Communist Manifesto.” Yet their call resonates today in the academic world. Since the start of the new millennium countless tomes have been dedicated to asking what is world literature?; how does one read world literature?; how is the canon of world literature formed?; what is the relation between the world-system and world-literature?; how does a specific national literature relate to world literature? To these, we will add our own questions to unearth what other models of world literature exist but might have been forgotten by mainstream scholarship.

In order to get a better sense of these issues, we will look at paradigms and methodologies from the latter half of the twentieth century that have allowed researchers to transcend a narrow focus on national literatures: Third World literature studies, postcolonial studies, Tricontinentalism, and comparative literature studies. We will engage with contemporary essays and books by Pascale Casanova, David Damrosch, Franco Moretti, The Warwick Research Collective, Gayatri Spivak, Fredric Jameson, Ngugi wa Thiong’o as well as with earlier theorizations by J. W. von Goethe, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Maxim Gorky, as well as within journals like Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings. We will use three or four novels as testing grounds for our assumptions.

Texts: Aside from electronic coursepack, we may read the following novels (final list available in Fall 2022):

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah
  • Amitav Ghosh: The Hungry Tide
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Da

Evaluation: TBA

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