400-level / Advanced Courses

All 500-level courses and a certain number of 200-, 300- and 400-level courses have limited enrolment and require instructors' permission. Students hoping to enroll in these courses should consult the course descriptions on the Department of English website for the procedures for applying for admission. 

ENGL 400 The Earlier English Renaissance

Elizabethan Romance: Prose Fiction, Narrative Poetry, and Drama

Professor Kenneth Borris
Winter 2021
MW 13:05-14:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: None.

Description: One of the centrally fashionable literary genres of early modern Europe, romance was the most important precursor of the novel, though in many ways different. It was characterized by much narrative variety, multiple plots, open-ended structures, digression, coincidence, fantasy, wonder, and wish-fulfillment. In its uniquely serendipitous version of the world, few social conventions or expectations can be taken for granted. Its great exponents include Ariosto, Tasso, Cervantes, Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare. From around 1575 to 1610, the writing of romance became particularly vibrant in England. Focusing on the diverse expressions of this literary form at this time there, in prose fiction, narrative poetry, and drama, this course should especially interest those attracted to early modern studies, or to the history and development of the novel, or to the theory and history of literary forms. Proceeding chronologically, the course will address texts that epitomize romance’s scope in this period, including the qualitatively best and most influential exemplars, as well as those most popular in sales, such as Robert Greene’s, which illustrate the genre’s cultural topicality. So as best to define romance and its interactions with other genres in particular texts that engineer complex generic mixtures, such as Sidney’s and Spenser’s, attention will be given to the theory of literary genres.

The Course Reader and other texts will be available in paperback for purchase at the Word bookstore, 469 Milton Street, 845-5640.


  • Course Reader
  • Robert Greene, Pandosto, Menaphon (both short)
  • Sir Philip Sidney, The New Arcadia
  • Edmund Spenser, Books I and VI of The Faerie Queene
  • William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, The Tempest

Evaluation: Term paper 50%, take-home exam 40%, class attendance and participation 10%.

Format: Lectures and discussion.

ENGL 403 Studies in the 18th Century

Jonathan Swift: Satirist, Parodist, and Poet

Professor Peter Sabor
Fall 2020
MW 10:05-11:25

Full course description

Description: This course will explore the writings of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the greatest satirist in the English language. Swift’s poetic powers have recently received belated recognition and we shall begin with an extended study of his poetry, including the excremental verse—with its unparalleled power to offend—and the brilliant but puzzling “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” which poses a variety of critical challenges. We shall then focus on an astonishing early satire, A Tale of a Tub (1704), together with The Battel of the Books. We shall turn to another key satirical work, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity (1711), before embarking on a sustained analysis of Swift’s masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Gulliver’s Travels is, inter alia, a sustained hoax on gullible readers; the course will consider Swift’s delight in hoaxes and parodies, represented in works such as the Bickerstaff Papers (1708-09). We shall also study some of Swift’s many publications on Ireland, including A Modest Proposal (1729), the most notorious and perhaps the most acerbic of all his satires. Some attention will also be given to Swift as a letter-writer, especially in his correspondence with Alexander Pope and in the letters that constitute the Journal to Stella, addressed to Esther Johnson.

The Essential Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Claude Rawson and Ian Higgins. Norton, 2010.

Evaluation: Short paper (1,000 words), 25%; seminar presentation, 15%; participation in class discussion, 20%; final paper (2,500 words), 40%. The short paper is due on Wednesday 14 October; the final paper is due on Wednesday 25 November. Papers handed in after the deadline will not be accepted without documented medical justification.

Format: Lectures, seminar presentations and class discussion.

ENGL 408 The 20th Century

Canadian Ecopoetry

Professor Eli MacLaren
Winter 2021
MW 8:30–10:00

Full course description

Description: Ecocriticism and the politics of climate change have renewed interest in the nature lyric, a genre with a rich history in Canadian literature. In this course we will explore its development in Canada over the last century. What are the motives and goals of environmental poetry, and how have these changed over time? Readings in ecocritical theory by Lawrence Buell, Barry Lopez, Mark Tredinnick and others will foreground the question – what is ecopoetics? – and we will trace the answers that influential Canadian poets have come up with over time. The canonization of Archibald Lampman, Bliss Carman, Charles G.D. Roberts, and Marjorie Pickthall in the 1920s placed nature poetry at the centre of Canadian literature, and their example propagated itself through Ryerson Chap-Book Poets such as Anne Marriott. Earle Birney and Al Purdy responded to this tradition in the 1940s and the 1960s, altering and revitalizing it in ways that in turn inspired Margaret Atwood in the 1970s and Don McKay in the 1980s. Di Brandt, Russell Thornton, and Ken Babstock represent the flourishing of ecopoetics in the contemporary period. Interpreting the work of these prominent writers will yield an understanding of the evolution of ecopoetry in Canada, an evolution with thick consistencies across region and period.

Required Books: (available from The Word Bookstore, https://www.wordbookstore.ca/)

  • Nancy Holmes, ed. Open Wide a Wilderness: Canadian Nature Poems. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-55458-033-0
  • Madhur Anand and Adam Dickinson, ed. Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry. Your Scrivener Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-896350


  • Oral Presentation 1 (10%) – summary of theoretical/scholarly reading
  • Oral Presentation 2 (10%) – interpretation of assigned poem
  • Essay 1 (30%) (5–6 pp.) – comparison of two early poets
  • Essay 2 (40%) (8–10 pp. + works cited) – research essay on contemporary poet
  • Participation (10%) – informed contribution to class discussions

Format: ​Lecture, oral presentations, and discussion.

ENGL 410 Theme or Movement in Canadian Literature

Michael Ondaatje’s Poetry and Fiction

Professor Robert Lecker 
Winter 2021
TR 11:35-12:55

Full course description

Prerequisite: None.

(Note: For English Majors, this course qualifies for the required three credits from a course in Canadian literature and also qualifies for the required three credits in a course on a major author)

Description: Michael Ondaatje started his career as a poet whose startling images and subjects defined him as a writer attracted to difference, eccentricity, lawlessness, insanity. In his early poems, Ondaatje drew on the haunting exoticism associated with his childhood years in Sri Lanka. His Canadian poems were set in strange jungles or unexplored landscapes filled with criminals and misfits. They explored bizarre transformations and imaginative realms. He liked characters who were “sane assassins” and he insisted that “My mind is pouring chaos / in nets onto the page.” His characters fall off the map. Ondaatje wants to revise history, to undermine the way we see space, to challenge the status quo when representing memory, eroticism, desire. But above all, he wants to redefine the nature of creativity. What does Ondaatje mean when he asks: “Why do I love most / among my heroes those / who sail to that perfect edge / where there is no social fuel”? We will answer that question. Then there are the novels, each of which explores a different literary form. In Coming through Slaughter Ondaatje captures the heated life of a black jazz musician who is driven to madness by what he calls “the devil’s music.” In the Skin of a Lion follows the fate of revolutionaries in Toronto in the 1930s. The English Patient and its very popular film adaptation brought Ondaatje global celebrity. How did this celebrity affect the shape of his career? In Divisadero, a novel indebted to many forms of music, Ondaatje takes us into the mining regions of northern California in the gold rush years, and then to rural France. We will listen to the music that makes the novel’s soundtrack. Ondaatje’s most recent novel, Warlight, follows the fate of a quirky group of characters who are taking care of two children in post-War London. The poems and novels introduce us to murderers, dreamers, executioners, seducers, and deviants, along with a host of others who are prepared to challenge us at every turn. This will not be innocent. It will not be easy. Confession may be involved. The first half of the course will be devoted to Ondaatje’s poetry; the second half will focus on his novels.

Texts: A course-pack including the poetry will be available prior to the start of the course. The novels and long works of poetry include the following (tentative list):

  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid
  • Coming through Slaughter
  • In the Skin of a Lion
  • The English Patient
  • Divisadero
  • Warlight

Evaluation (Tentative): A series of short, weekly online journal entries (40%); two short essays (40%); participation (10%); attendance (10%).

Format: Seminar.

Average Enrollment: 25 students maximum.

ENGL 413 Special Topics in Canadian Drama and Theatre

Contemporary Canadian Political and Community-Engaged Theatre

Professor Denis Salter
Winter 2021
TR 14:00-15:30

Full course description

Expected Preparation: Previous and / or coterminous university courses in film, literary, cultural, theatre, drama, and performance studies. Or by permission of the Professor.

Description: This seminar will combine the reading of plays, essays, articles and chapters with the creation of an original play / staged performance put on by groups of students working in Ateliers. The essays and articles will come from two anthologies edited by Julie Salverson and from online journals. Authors will include Salverson, Sherene H. Razack, Honor-Ford Smith, Catherine Graham, Ingrid Mündel, Jennifer H. Capraru, Jan Selman, Alan Filewod, Savannah Walling, Denis Salter, Nandi Bhatia, Aparna Dharwadker, and Edward Little. The plays will include Eight Men Speak by Oscar Ryan et al, Waiting For Lefty by Clifford Odets, The Monument by Colleen Wagner, Bhopal by Rahul Varma, and Palace Of The End by Judith Thompson. All of these readings will be contextualized in relationship to the work of various theatre companies, together with an examination of a range of historical, political, community, social, racial, ideological, and gendered subject-positions and the kinds of theatre that they have enabled, now enable, and will continue to enable.

The seminar is unusual in the (intense) degree to which it will engage with close readings of texts along with the creation of original plays / performances.

As with any performance-based seminar, especially one that is rooted in the principles and practices of collective creation (to choose but one term for this way of working), all students will need to make an unconditional, disciplined, highly focused, and co-operative engagement with the work of conceptualizing, developing, researching, writing, rehearsal, and performance of their (new) play, always practising the discourse of “respectful dialogue.” Similarly, the close readings, by various interpretative means, of the plays, essays, and articles will be demanding. All activities will be time-consuming, though always instructively so.

There are four “mantras” that I shall be urging you to practise to guide you and your ensemble on what will indeed become a journey:

  • Teesri Duniya Theatre’s motto: “Change the world, one play at a time.”
  • Some sage words often ascribed to Hippocrates, though the attribution is in doubt: “Do no harm.”
  • Two pithy statements by Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win”; and “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Participation counts a good deal in the seminar. That means being there, sensorially full and procreative, and it also means bringing your ideas, feelings, impressions, musings and questions to the seminar. It will be a safe space. It is really true: there is no such thing as a stupid comment or question. Questions and comments of all kinds will drive the intellectual and cultural life of the entire seminar from beginning to end. We shall always follow the principles and practices of respectful dialogue.


  • Salverson, Julie. Ed. Community Engaged Theatre and Performance. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2011.
  • ---. Ed. Popular Political Theatre and Performance. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2010.
  • Filewod, Alan. Committing Theatre: Theatre Radicalism and Political Intervention in Canada. Toronto: Between The Lines, 2011.
  • Ryan, Oscar et al. Eight Men Speak: A Play by Oscar Ryan et al. Ed. Alan Filewod. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 2013. [e-text]
  • Odets, Clifford. Waiting for Lefty. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc. [1935], 1962.
  • Wagner, Colleen. The Monument. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1996.
  • Varma, Rahul. Bhopal. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2004.
  • Thompson, Judith. Palace of the End. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2007.
  • Diamond, David. Theatre for Living. Foreword by Fritjof Capra. Victoria: Trafford Publishing, 2007.

There are also two online articles by Julie Salverson to read:

  • “Change on Whose Terms? Testimony and an Erotics of Inquiry,” Theater 31.3 (Fall 2001): [118]-125.
  • “Performing Emergency: Witnessing, Popular Theatre, and the Lie of the Literal,” Theatre Topics 6.2 (1996): 181-191.

Instructive articles in relation to Rahul Varma, Bhopal, and Teesri Duniya Theatre include:

  • Bhatia, Nandi, “Diasporic Activism and the Mediations of ‘Home’: South Asian Voices in Canadian Drama,” Studies in Social Justice 7.1 (2013): 125-41. (Open Source.) http://goo.gl/WRkwm0
  • Dharwadker, Aparna. “Diaspora and the Theatre of the Nation,” Theatre Research International 28.3 (October 2003): 303-325. The section on Teesri and Varma is on pp. 309-317. (e-journal)
  • Little. Edward. “Intercultural Mediation: Inter-, Intra-, and Crosscultural Approaches to Cultural Democracy.” In Culture pour tous. Actes du Colloque international sur la médiation culturelle. Montréal – Décembre 2008. 7 Pp. [un-numbered].Open source: http://goo.gl/gQt7mf

Or use:

  • http://www.culturepourtous.ca/forum/2008/PDF/07_Little.pdf
  • This article by Professor Little is very instructive in relation to the contexts in which Teesri’s work, and that of similar activist theatre groups, has taken place. There is an excellent set of photos in colour.
  • Salter, Denis. “Change the World, One Play at a Time: Teesri Duniya Theatre and the Aesthetics of Social Action: Denis Salter talks with Rahul Varma, Ted Little and Jazwant Guzder.” Canadian Theatre Review 125 (Winter 2006): [69]-74. (Print) (pdf will be provided)

I shall be inviting Rahul Varma to visit our class.

Evaluation: The creation of the performance, the performance itself, the post-performance discussion and the rehearsal “diary”—to which everyone in a given Atelier will contribute--will be worth 60 %. (The grade is for all members of a given Atelier.); A ‘positionality’ presentation on a play, essay, chapter, or article, along with a subsequent 8-page paper in the form of a distilled critical argument: 30%; Continuing and full participation in the intellectual and creative life of the seminar, adding substantially to discussions: 10%.

Format: Lectures, discussions, presentations, out-loud readings, student-generated performances.

ENGL 414 Studies in 20th Century Literature 1

Twentieth-Century African American Literature

Professor Alexander Manshel
Winter 2021
TR 13:00-14:30

Full course description

Description: This course will provide students with a survey of twentieth-century African American literature, including notable works of fiction and poetry, as well as central aesthetic manifestos. As a class, we will consider how African American literature transformed over the course of the twentieth century by looking at key literary periods, historical moments, and aesthetic movements: high modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, mid-century social realism and the fight for civil rights, literary postmodernism and the Black Arts Movement, as well as the rise of “literary multiculturalism” and the so-called “canon wars” at the century’s end. We will supplement the fantastic list of novels below with a coursepack of poetry and nonfiction, including works by Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Amiri Baraka, Countee Cullen, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Toni Morrison, George Samuel Schuyler, Tracy K. Smith, Jean Toomer, Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, and others.


  • Coursepack
  • Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
  • Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)
  • Ann Petry, “In Darkness and Confusion” (1947)
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  • James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (1956) and excerpts from Notes of a Native Son (1955)
  • Ishamel Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972)
  • Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1974)
  • Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters (1980)
  • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993)
  • Percival Everett, Erasure (2001)

Evaluation: Participation (10%); Two Essays (30% each); Final Research Paper (30%).

Format: Seminar

ENGL 416 Studies in Shakespeare

Shakespeare and Transformation

Professor Paul Yachnin
Fall 2020
MW 11:30-13:00

Full course description

Description:  The multi-billion-dollar self-transformation industry promises to create “a new you” and also to make you into the person you were always meant to be. That is straight out of Oprah Winfrey. If Oprah is the leading proponent of the modern ideal of self-transformation, then Shakespeare is the progenitor as well as a key critic of transformational modernity. In this course, we study how Shakespeare became the supreme artist of transformation, and we consider how transformation has become an ideal of modern life.

The lectures for the course will be posted online on our myCourses site. That feature will free us up to do plenty of work in four- or five-person tutorial sessions. The course will also feature student presentations on all the plays and all the key issues in the course. You will sign up to create one five-minute powerpoint presentation on a topic you will choose from a list of topics.

We will develop a taxonomy of transformation (e.g., metamorphosis, conversion, metanoia, translation, transversion, kenosis, revolution); we’ll read a number of Western transformational artists and/or thinkers about transformation, including Plato, Paul, Ovid, Augustine, John Donne, and John Lyly. From start to finish, our main focus is on six plays by Shakespeare.


All Shakespeare texts are available free from Oxford Scholarly Editions Online. Note that you have to be connected into the McGill system by VPN to access them. John Lyly’s play, Galatea, is online at Internet Shakespeare Editions (see below). All the other readings for the course will be available on our myCourses site.

Journal (due Friday Dec 18): 30%
Presentation: 15%
Participation: 25%
Course paper (12 pages; due Friday Dec 18): 30%

Journal: 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 (about 350 words) about each week’s readings (and our discussions of the readings). It certainly doesn’t have to be formal like an essay. After all, it mostly for you and about your thinking, questioning, arguing. But it’s also going to be read by me, so make it reader-friendly.

Presentation: You will produce a five-minute powerpoint presentation on the topic you sign up for. You are allowed three slides. 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 advance of the first set of presentations.

Course Paper: If you want, you can develop your course paper from the work you will have done for your five-minute presentation. Or, if you prefer, you can choose one of the paper topics I will prepare. In either case, your work will need to take account of some 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, say, Antony and Cleopatra as a rethinking of the sexuality of the self, 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 among theatrical art, sexuality and selfhood in Shakespeare’s time.

Participation: Participation requires your vital, active (virtual) presence in (zoom) class and in (zoom) tutorial. You have to come to each class and tutorial 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.

Syllabus: 416_fall_2020.pdf

ENGL 418 A Major Modernist Author

T.S. Eliot

Professor Brian Trehearne
Winter 2021
TR 10:05-11:25

Full course description

Expected student preparation: No formal pre-requisite. Because substantial attention will be paid to developments in Eliot’s poetic form and style, however, this course is directed to English Literature Major and Honours students in U2 and U3 who have completed the required Poetics course (ENGL 311). Students in other departments must have my advance permission to register. U1 students may not register for this course. All students wishing to take this course must attend the first class; latecomers will not be admitted, whether they have registered on Minerva or not.

Description: A study of the writings of T.S. Eliot, in cul­tural, historical, and biographi­cal contexts. Concerns arising from our close primary engagement with the poems will include Eliot’s inquiry into “immediate experience,” the nature of his modernist scepticism, his reconstruction of spiritual conscious­ness between the two World Wars, and his ongoing critique of dualism. Class discussions will focus on his poetry and on one of his plays, The Cocktail Party, but we will attend intermittent­ly to the major works of prose criticism and to less well-known essays that help to situate the poems in major trends of twentieth-century thought. Additional contexts of discussion will include the sources of Eliot's poetics and critical ideas, the ambient modernism he enjoyed and furthered, and the challenges to his present-day reputation. In the course of the semester we will hope to articulate the aesthetic radicalism and spiritual anguish that made this paradoxically conservative Anglo-American poet’s writings exemplary for generations of poets.


  • Eliot, T.S. The Cocktail Party. Edition TBD.
  • ---. The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot (selections). Online resource through McGill Libraries. 8 vols. Eds. Ronald Shuchard et al. London: Faber and Faber; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014-2018.
  • ---. The Complete Poems and Plays. London: Faber, 1969.

Evaluation: To be determined, but probably:

  1. short report on one of the cultural / historical contexts of Eliot’s career, 3 pp. and bibliography, 20%
  2. close reading or other short essay topic, 5 pp., 20%
  3. term paper, 15 pp., 50%
  4. active participation in class discussion, 10%. Please note before registering for this course: I assess active participation in discussion and not attendance. Full attendance through the semester without speaking will earn 0/10 in this category and substantially affect your final grade.

Format: Seminar.

Average Enrollment: 30 students.

ENGL 419 Studies in 20th Century Literature

Canadian Inuit Literature after 1950

Professor Marianne Stenbaek
Winter 2021
MW 16:05-17:25 (Now online and may be viewed at any time. Weekly discussions groups will be arranged at different times.)

Full course description


To read a book by an indigenous author is a step towards reconciliation.

Often times, Inuit literature is thought to be mainly legends or myths, recorded by outsiders. This course will focus on works actually written by Canadian Inuit, in a variety of formats: diary, poetry and essays, satirical and political cartoons, drawings, articles, animated films, autobiographies or short stories. It will examine some of the earliest work, but the course focuses mainly on contemporary times.

The course will begin by looking at the diary of the first Canadian Inuit writer, Abraham Ulrikab, from Nunatsiavut. He wrote in 1880.

Saqiyuq is a collaborative life story told by three Inuit women, between 1930- 1995 in Nunavut. The three women lived the extraordinary changes that took place during these years.

Alootook Ipellie, 1951-2007, is also from Nunavut. He is an Inuit artist whose work portrays many of the effects of colonialism and his own reactions to that situation in the contemporary world. Ipellie, who is from Nunavut, is introverted and spiritual but also radical and outspoken in his quest for meaning in a life where he lives in “two worlds” but with “one spirit”. His work reflects what was and is the reality for many Canadian Inuit, since 1950. Some of his stories and cartoons will be included in the modules.

Daisy Watt remembers her youth in Nunavik in a story that will be posted on My Courses. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, her granddaughter, is also from Nunavik and writes a compelling story of her own life as well as of the Inuit and climate change in the midst of cultural, social and political changes. Her book, The Right to be Cold portrays the contemporary world in which modern-day Inuit live. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize because of her work.

Evaluation: TBA

ENGL 421 African Literature

Professor Monica Popescu
Fall 2020
W 11:30-14:30

Full course description

Description: In early 1987, the police in Kenya were searching for an activist called Matigari, who was stirring the peasantry and the workers with his demands for truth and justice. Matigari, however, existed only as the protagonist of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novel with the same title—an embarrassing discovery for the police that turned them against the book and its author. This anecdote attests to the transformative powers of literature within the social and political realms, especially in a postcolonial context.

One of the giants of African literature, author of numerous novels, plays, collections of essays, a prison diary, and children’s literature, Ngugi has influenced contemporary debates on postcolonial literature and globalization, the role of leftist esthetics, decolonization and neo-colonialism, the languages of African literature, nationalism and literary production, oral literature and its audience in the era of the internet and, more recently, the concept of “poor theory.” The questions he raises in his works resonate with those posed by other postcolonial intellectuals so that to read them is to discuss cultural dilemmas representative of the past 50 years around the world. We will read a selection of his works in tandem with essays by Chinua Achebe, Kwame Nkrumah, Molara Ogundipe Leslie, Gayatri Spivak, Karl Marx, Georg Lukacs, Raymond Williams, Simon Gikandi and others.

Required Texts:
N.B. The final list of readings will be available by the end of July. You are encouraged to start reading before the beginning of classes.

Electronic coursepack


  • Ngugi wa Thiong’o Devil of the Cross
  • Ngugi wa Thiong’o: A Grain of Wheat
  • Ngugi wa Thiong’o In the House of the Interpreter
  • Ngugi wa Thiong’o Petals of Blood
  • Ngugi wa Thiong’o Wizard of the Crow
  • Binyavanga Wainaina: One Day I Will Write about This Place


  • Pumzi. Dir. Wanuri Kahiu
  • Xala. Dir. Ousmane Sembene

Format: Lectures and discussions.

ENGL 422 Studies in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Whitman and Dickinson

Professor Peter Gibian
Fall 2020
TR 16:05-17:25

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level course work offering some training in relevant areas: critical analysis of poetry; 19th-century British and/or American Literature. (This course is designed as a participatory seminar for advanced students of literature—often for English majors in their final year.)


“I look in vain for the poet whom I describe.” (Emerson, “The Poet”)

This advanced seminar will compare and contrast two idiosyncratic and still-vital American poets--Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson--as these foundational authors can be seen to work in close dialogue with one another, exploring aesthetic problems and cultural preoccupations crucial to mid-nineteenth-century America at the same time that they break the ground for a wide range of self-conscious, experimental writings in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Extended studies of Whitman and Dickinson will trace their similarities and differences--especially in their responses to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call for the emergence of an original “American Poet” and a radically new mode of “poetry.” The seminar will begin, then, with a brief unit on Emerson, analyzing the dynamics of his prose style and his characteristic imagery as well as his key notions about nature, poetry, language, symbolism, correspondence, rhetorical process, eloquence, power, democracy, cultural leadership, self-culture, vision. After this contextualizing introduction, we will devote about five weeks to intensive close reading of major writings by each poet--mainly poems, but also prose pieces, letters, and manuscripts-- investigating the ways in which they can be seen to build upon, to test, to transform, or to challenge the bases of Emerson’s poetic model.


  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Selected Writings
  • Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
  • Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems

Evaluation (Tentative): Attendance and participation in discussions, 15%; series of 3 textual analyses, 15%; two critical essays, 20% each (or one extended research paper, 40%); take-home final exam, 30%.

Format: Mainly seminar discussion.

Average Enrollment: maximum 25-30 students

ENGL 423 Studies in 19th Century Literature

Mothers, Fathers, and Monsters: Forms of Reproduction in Nineteenth-Century British Literature & Culture

Professor Michael Nicholson
Fall 2020
TR 10:00-11:30

Full course description

Description: This seminar analyzes a range of British, Irish, and South African writings from the Romantic and Victorian periods to provide insight into a number of major literary developments across the prose fiction, poetry, and critical prose of the long nineteenth century (1789-1909). This particular syllabus allows us to intensively explore literatures of revolution and reform, innovations in feminist poetics and theory, the rise of domestic and gothic fiction, the development of nineteenth-century realism and the Bildungsroman, the appearance of the Romantic lyric and the closet drama, the emergence of the dramatic monologue, aspects of literary Darwinism, and the aesthetic turn of the fin de siècle.

Our study of nineteenth-century British literature and culture will focus in particular on three literal and figurative forms of reproduction: 1) maternity and domesticity; 2) paternity, self-production, and parthenogenesis; and 3) race, evolution, and eugenics. Our three main topics of inquiry will each center on two anchoring texts and the debates that they engage: 1) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh; 2) Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray; and 3) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm.

This syllabus therefore neither follows a strict chronological nor historical narrative; we will not proceed from beginning to middle to end. Instead, our course will look at three related clusters of development within nineteenth-century literature and culture. As a result of this seminar’s emphasis on important constellations of thought in the era, certain historical, formal, and cultural topics will recur in our reading: representations of war and imperial conflict; transformations of prosody and narrative style; transnational migrations; vacillations between faith and doubt; authorial negotiations of the idea of posterity; critiques of tradition and innovation; intertextual relations among literary works; and depictions of emotional and sexual intimacy.


  • Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld, “To a Little Invisible Being Who is Expected Soon to Become Visible” (c. 1795; 1825)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus” (1838) and selections from Aurora Leigh (1856)
  • Harriet Martineau, Life in the Sick-Room (1844)
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Jenny” (1848)
  • Augusta Webster, “Circe” (1870) and “Medea in Athens” (1870)
  • Amy Levy, “Medea” (1884)
  • William Blake, The Book of Thel (1789) and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Frost at Midnight” (1798)
  • William Wordsworth, “We are Seven” (1798), “The Thorn” (1798), “My Heart Leaps up when I Behold” (1802) and selections from The Prelude (1805)
  • Felicia Hemans, “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England” (1820)
  • Alfred Tennyson, “Ulysses” (1833; revised 1842) and The Princess (1847)
  • Christina Rossetti, from The Convent Threshold (1858) and “Under the Rose, or, the Iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children” (1866)
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne, “Hermaphroditus” (1863)
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins, from A Voice from the World (1864-1865)
  • Matthew Arnold, “Rugby Chapel” (1867)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
  • John Keats, Lamia (1819; 1820)
  • Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market (1859; 1862)
  • Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach” (1867)
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890; 1891)
  • George Egerton, Keynotes (1893)
  • Thomas Hardy, from Time’s Laughingstocks (1909)
  • Selections from Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin, Francis Galton, Margaret Gatty, George Henry Lewes, and John Tyndall

Participation (15%)
Creative assignment (10%)
Reading responses / short essays (25%)
Class conference / presentation of research essay (10%)
Research essay (40%)

Format: Lecture and discussion.

ENGL 431 Studies in Drama 

Black Theatre and Drama

Professor Katherine Zien
Winter 2021
TR 11:30-13:00

Full course description

Prerequisite: None.

Description: In this course, we will explore the rich and dynamic history of Black theatre and drama in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries across the United States and Canada. While we investigate what constitutes a “Black play,” we will also track the many movements, changes, and intersections that Black theatre has sustained over this period. From a Du Boisian call to make theatre “by us, for us, about us, and near us,” in the early twentieth century, to the Federal Theatre Project’s Black theatre initiatives and the pre-war movements, to historical milestones like A Raisin in the Sun’s Broadway run and the radical theatre of the Black Arts Movement; and into the contemporary moment, with African American playwrights and artists including August Wilson, Suzan-Lori Parks, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Lynn Nottage, Robert O’Hara, Jeremy O. Harris, Anna Deavere Smith, and Marcus Gardley. In Canada, we will examine the works of Djanet Sears, Lorena Gale, Trey Anthony, and many others, whose plays have been staged by Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. Along the way, we will query the intersections of Blackness and sexuality, gender, and class, introducing other writers – like Sonia Sanchez and Adrienne Kennedy – who have in the past been excluded from Black movements but whose works deserve copious study. We will supplement our readings with embodied exercises and some trips to the theatre to see Black plays onstage.


Plays (many available digitally through the Black Drama Database), including:

  • W.E.B. Du Bois, The Star of Ethiopia
  • August Wilson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Adrienne Kennedy, Funnyhouse of a Negro
  • Amiri Baraka, Dutchman; Slave Ship
  • Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play; Topdog/Underdog
  • Tarell Alvin McCraney, The Brother/Sister Plays
  • Lynn Nottage, Sweat
  • Djanet Sears, Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God
  • Lorena Gale, Angelique
  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon
  • Robert O’Hara, Insurrection: Holding History
  • Jeremy O. Harris, Slave Play

A digital coursepack comprising secondary sources by: Sandra L. Richards; Renee Alexander Craft, Kathy Perkins; LaDonna Forsgren; Rashida Shaw McMahon; E. Patrick Johnson; Soyica Colbert; and Douglas Jones.

    Evaluation: 30% short response essays; 10% theatre review; 20% presentation; 10% participation and attendance; 30% final essay.

    ENGL 434 Independent Theatre Project

    Fall 2020 and Winter 2021

    Full course description

    This course will allow students to undertake special projects, frequently involving background readings, performances, and essays. 


    • This course is normally not available to students who are not Majors or Honours students in the Department.
    • Intended for advanced and/or specialized work based on an extensive background in Departmental studies.
    • Permission must be obtained from the Department before registration.

    Application Deadlines:

    Fall 2020 Term Monday September 14, 2020 4:00 pm
    Winter 2020 Term Monday January 18, 2021 4:00 pm

    PDF icon engl434_application_form.pdf (Also available in the Students Affairs Office, Arts Building, Room 155)

    ENGL 438 Studies in Literary Form

    Global Realisms

    Professor Sandeep Banerjee
    Fall 2020
    TR 11:35-12:55

    Full course description

    Description: Realism is a paradoxical aesthetic mode claiming to be both, and simultaneously, artful and truthful. Scholarly engagements with Realism have also, unsurprisingly perhaps, engendered strong and divergent opinions: its champions claim that it presents an accurate picture of the totality of social life while its modernist detractors revile it for remaining chained to the referential, that monstrous entity called “reality.” This advanced seminar critically examines Realism to understand how the aesthetic mode functions; the ways in which it structures its effects; and, most crucially, the manner in which it balances its contradictory claims to artifice and truth. In particular, this seminar interrogates Realism in a global frame – and as a global aesthetic mode – to illuminate its life and life-worlds beyond Euro-American contexts, and in relation to the emergence and deepening of colonial capitalist modernity. Considering Realism in relation to categories such as Naturalism, Socialist Realism, and Peripheral Realism, the course will think about the aesthetic and political function of the realist aesthetic, historically and in the contemporary moment


    • Bankim Chatterjee – The Sacred Brotherhood (1888)
    • Rudyard Kipling – Selections from City of Dreadful Night (1890)
    • Mulk Raj Anand – Coolie (1936)
    • VS Naipaul – Miguel Street (1959)
    • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o – A Grain of Wheat (1967)
    • Mahasveta Devi – Mother of 1084 (1974)
    • Jamaica Kincaid – A Small Place (1988)
    • Jerry Pinto – Em and the Big Hoom (2012)

    This is an indicative list and course texts will be finalized in August 2020.

    Evaluation: TBA

    Format: Lectures and discussion.

    ENGL 440 First Nations-Inuit Literature and Media

    Alootook Ipellie

    Professor Marianne Stenbaek​
    Fall 2020
    WF 14:35—15:55

    Full course description

    Description: This course will focus on a main figure in Canadian Inuit literature: Alootook Ipellie, 1951-2007.

    Alootook Ipellie is an Inuit artist whose work portrays many of the effects of colonialism and his own reactions to that situation in the contemporary world. Ipellie is introverted and spiritual but also radical and outspoken in his quest for meaning in a life where he lives in “two worlds” but with “one spirit”. His work reflects what was and is the reality for many Canadian Inuit, since 1950. The course will also look at the first Canadian Inuit writer, Abraham Ulrikab as an entry into Ipellie’s work.

    Ipellie explores his ideas in a variety of formats: poetry and essays, satirical and political cartoons, drawings, articles, animated films.


    • The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab. University of Ottawa, 2005
    • Arctic Dreams and Nightmares. Alootook Ipellie. Theytus Books Ltd. 1993. Available as a course pack.

      Diary is available at Paragraphe bookstore; Arctic Dreams will be available at the James bookstore as a course pack. Poems and articles will be distributed in class and/or on myCourses.

    Evaluation: TBA

    Format: Lectures and discussion.

    ENGL 452 Studies in Old English

    Reading Beowulf

    Professor Dorothy Bray
    Winter 2021
    TR 14:30-16:00

    Full course description

    Prerequisite: ENGL 342 Introduction to Old English or its equivalent (i.e. an introductory course in Old English).

    Description: Hwæt! This course aims to build on students’ knowledge of Old English by engaging in a reading and translation of selected passages from Beowulf. The course aims to advance students’ knowledge of Old English grammar and poetic form. We will examine the poetic structure and rhetoric of the text, its heroic theme, the conventions of Anglo-Saxon poetry, and the numerous variations in the editing and translating of this great poem. We will also explore the cultural world of Anglo-Saxon England as it is represented in the text, some related poems (in translation), and some of the debates surrounding its dating and historical context. Classes will be conducted in an informal seminar fashion, as we tackle the translations and interpretations together.

    Text: Beowulf: An Edition. Ed. Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

    Evaluation: Translations, 20%; translation essay, 25%; final paper, 35%; seminar presentation 10%; participation and attendance 10%.

    Format: Seminar.

    ENGL 456 Middle English / MDST 400: Interdisciplinary Seminar in Medieval Studies

    Mnemonic Theory and Practice from Plato to Chaucer

    Professor Michael Van Dussen
    Winter 2021
    TR 10:00-11:30

    Full course description

    Note: Students who have taken ENGL 456/MDST 400 under a different course topic are free to take this version of the course. Although the course number is the same, the content is entirely different; therefore, these will count as two different courses toward university and program requirements. Several course texts are written in the original Middle English, but no prior experience with Middle English is required. Introduction to the language will be provided and a portion of several classes will be devoted to reading and translating.

    Description: Theory of memory and recollection has been entwined with considerations of external textual form for millennia. In his Socratic dialogues Plato linked recollection with learning and ultimately the immortality of the soul; yet Socrates also argued that external aids to memory hindered the ascent to truth. Aristotle used textual and other material images to elaborate his physiological theory of human storage and retrieval of information. These models would later influence the “place theories” of Roman rhetors and medieval intellectuals, who advocated the construction of mind palaces and other spatial schemes for the storage and retrieval of knowledge. These schemes characterized the process of recollection as one of composition—recollection as a creative endeavor. With the rise of universities and the reintroduction of many of Aristotle’s writings in the Latin west in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the forms of books themselves were adapted to correspond to new intellectual needs, like the need to find information quickly. The book became not just a repository for externalized knowledge, but a prosthesis for the human memory that could work in cooperation with it. All of this was happening at a time when institutional bureaucracies were expanding rapidly; secular, ecclesiastical, and academic were the sites of innovation in archival practice. Finally, many authors in the later Middle Ages found earlier theories and practices of memory and recollection to be fruitful ground for exploring questions of authorship, poetics, textual materiality, and longevity, and poets developed their own mnemonic theories using a range of literary forms.

    This course will be organized around categories including, but not limited to, the following: mnemonic theory (classical, late antique, and medieval); writing and artificial intelligence; memory and the archive; curiosity and collecting; preservation and destruction, remembering and forgetting; storage and access; the book form (manuscript and print); and information overload. We will meet at several points for workshops in McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections to work with original manuscript and early print materials. While the historical scope of the course will begin with classical antiquity and extend to the start of the sixteenth century, we will focus on philosophical, theological, and literary writings from Antiquity and the Middle Ages in Europe. Students should be prepared to analyze and discuss not only literary texts, but also challenging philosophical and theological treatises in a sustained way. Some of our primary literary texts will be read in the original Middle English, though no previous knowledge of the language is required. Portions of several classes will be spent developing proficiency in Middle English.

    Texts (provisional):

    • Geoffrey Chaucer, The House of Fame
    • William Langland, Piers Plowman
    • Plato, Meno, Phaedo, Phaedrus
    • Aristotle, On Memory and Recollection and Aquinas’s commentary on this text
    • Selections from Cicero, De oratore; ps.-Cicero, Rhetorica ad Herennium; Quintilian, Institutio oratoria
    • Augustine, Confessions (selections)
    • Mary Carruthers and Jan Ziolkowski, The Medieval Craft of Memory

    Evaluation (provisional): Analytical reading journal, 30%; longer analytical essays (2), 40%; in-class translations, 10%; Participation, 20%.

    Format: Seminar.

    ENGL 459 Theories of Text and Performance 2

    The Actress: Theory / History / Practice

    Professor Denis Salter
    Fall 2020
    TR 14:30-16:00

    Full course description

    Preferred student preparation: ENGL 230 Introduction to Theatre Studies, ENGL 269 Introduction to Performance, and ENGL 355 The Poetics of Performance, or permission of instructor.

    Description: This line from the distinguished American stage and screen actress, Ethel Barrymore, sums up in a witty fashion the complex subject who is at the front and centre of this research seminar: “For an actress to be a success, she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.”

    There are literally hundreds of biographies of and autobiographies by actresses.

    There is a large body of scholarly and non-scholarly literature on the history of the actress, on the lives, times, and careers of individual actresses, and on how the actress has been re/presented in diverse ways, some of which are contradictory, paradoxical, and bogus.

    There are plays and films in which actresses are traduced, venerated, aestheticised, and demonised.

    There are novels in which actresses (or their surrogates) are major and minor characters, frequently involved not only in acting but in acts of performative self-fashioning.

    There remains, however, so much more to learn about the actress: not only about her ever-shifting complexly gendered iconic status—and why, how, and to what ends it is constructed to create sexuality, identity, image, and re/presentation--but also about the material conditions which she has faced and continues to face as she has sought to create that iconic status. These conditions include training (both in formal acting programs and as tyros on the stage), actually getting work and being properly paid, being chosen and not chosen for particular (ideally star) roles, experimenting with innovative interpretations and sometimes subversive, sometimes conventional styles of performance, working within an ensemble, recognizing her position within a long genealogy of performance traditions, making or not making the transition from silent film to sound film, developing a repertoire defining the singularity of her persona both on and off the stage, wooing her fans, becoming and not becoming a sex symbol, dealing with both popular and specialist criticism, going into management as a practical act of agency, touring both at home and abroad, contesting social, family, and social stigmas, challenging racism and white-only casting and anti-theatrical hostility, struggling through the difficulties of aging, including the devastating impact of memory loss, and achieving iconic autonomy and emancipation in a theatrical world often dominated by men obsessed with patriarchal principles and practices. And this is just a short list of some of those material conditions.

    This is a research seminar whose main objective will be to engage in research into primary and secondary sources—actresses’ memoirs and biographies, photographs and drawings, performance reviews, histories of the theatres, plays, films, and novels, the growing catalogue of scholarly work about the figure of the actress, etc.—in order to interpret the multiple significances of those sources, to rethink existing scholarship, and as a result, to expand our understanding of why, how, and to what effects the actress has functioned, continues to function, in society as both a complex, mobile heterogeneous sign system and as a working woman.

    Your essential research tool will be a bibliography of scholarly literature on the actress (including a list of autobiographies, biographies, plays, films, novels) which will be provided at the beginning of the seminar. The required text is The Cambridge Companion to the Actress, ed. Maggie B. Gale and John Stokes (Cambridge UP, 2007). We shall devote specific seminars to a discussion of the issues raised in specific chapters.

    Evaluation: In addition to engaging with the Cambridge Companion, you will work together as individuals and, if you wish, as research teams, on the following projects and assignments:

    1. A “bibliographic / methodological” report on both historical and historiographic issues arising from an article, chapter, book, play, film, or novel chosen from the seminar’s syllabus, accompanied by your own hand-out “annotating” the salient issues of the selected work .The report will be linked to one of the chapters in the Companion so that everyone has a context in which to understand the report. The report will take approximately 45 minutes; the remaining 45 minutes of the seminar will be devoted to a discussion of issues raised in the report and in the linked chapter. The document will be revised and submitted in the form of an 8-page paper advancing a set of interrelated interpretative arguments: 15%.

    2. A presentation on an actress or group of actresses, analytical and issue-related; the presentation will take up an entire seminar; you can leave questions and answers to the end or respond to them at key points throughout. A hand-out outlining your main line of inquiry is required. The showing of iconographic material is essential: 30%.

    3. A scholarly essay, analytical and issue-related, in the order of 15 to 20 pages plus bibliography. It must include glossed iconographic material. This essay can develop in a cumulative fashion from ideas and material arising from the annotated ”bibliographic / methodological” report and / or from the actress or actresses presentation: 40%.

    4. Full regular participation in and contributions to the intellectual and cultural life of the seminar: 15%.

    Please note that actresses who have mostly performed on the stage but who have also worked in various types of media, including digital performance (e.g. Helen Mirren) can be considered in your report, presentation, and essay.

    Please also note that plays, films and novels in which the actress is a central figure will be important sources for investigation.

    Format: Seminar, mini-lectures, reports, presentations, and continual discussion.

    ENGL 461 Studies in Literary Theory 2

    Eros, Confession, and Self-Construction in Autobiography and the Novel

    Professor David Hensley
    Fall 2020
    TR 13:05-14:25

    Full course description

    Prerequisite: None.

    Description: This course will approach the form of autobiography in the Enlightenment through a brief survey of the European tradition of autobiographical texts from antiquity to the Renaissance. Classic models such as Plato’s Apology, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, and Saint Augustine’s Confessions will help us appreciate the motivation and methods of later writing in autobiographical form. Our readings will include not only “real” autobiographies but also first-person narratives in philosophy and literature that provide a background for understanding the emergence of the novel in the “long” eighteenth century (1650-1850). A basic assumption of this course is that the modern novel absorbs and adapts conventions of spiritual autobiography and the presuppositions of selfhood in other forms of first-person storytelling such as dramatic monologue, letter writing, and the diary. We will analyze particular autobiographical narratives to develop a critical vocabulary that should enable us to conceptualize key problems in the evolving relationship between truth and fiction in the history of first-person narrative. Our study of these problems in the representation of inner experience and the sociohistorical conditions of subjectivity will focus on claims to truth or authenticity in relation to the logic of eros, confession, and self-construction.

    Texts: The required reading for this course will include selections from most or all of the following books, which will be available at The Word Bookstore (469 Milton Street, 514-845-5640). (The list of texts and editions below is tentative and incomplete, to be confirmed in September 2020.)

    • Plato, Aristophanes, and Xenophon, The Trials of Socrates (Hackett)
    • Plato, Plato on Love (Hackett)
    • Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations (Oxford, Penguin, or Hackett)
    • St. Augustine, Confessions (Hackett or Oxford)
    • Dante Alighiere, Vita Nuova (Oxford or Penguin)
    • Benvenuto Cellini, My Life (Oxford)
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays (Hackett)
    • John Bunyan, Grace Abounding (Oxford)
    • Daniel Defoe, Roxana (Broadview or Oxford)
    • Denis Diderot, The Nun (Oxford)
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sufferings of Young Werther (Norton)
    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (Oxford)
    • Benjamin Constant, Adolphe (Oxford or Penguin)

    Evaluation: Paper (60%), presentations (20%), and participation (20%). Regular attendance is required for a passing final grade (a maximum of two absences will be allowed except for documented medical or similar emergencies). Two or three optional supplementary film screenings may be offered in this course, depending on the interest and schedules of the participants.

    Format: Seminar.

    ENGL 465 Theatre Lab

    Chekhov & Distance

    Professor Myrna Wyatt Selkirk
    Fall 2020 and Winter 2021
    Fall/Winter MW 14:35-17:25 

    Full course description

    Prerequisite: ENGL 230, ENGL 269 and/or permission of instructor. 

    Limited enrollment. Priority will be given to Drama and Theatre students. Admission to the class requires a written application (see questionnaire below) and attendance at an entrance workshop on Zoom.

    Description: As this course moves to remote delivery for the fall term, traditional acting opportunities will be challenged, and new insights found! The key words for the course are embodiment, creativity, space and Chekhov. We will be exploring somatic practices, which entails listening to and learning from your own body. In terms of space, we will work with what is readily available in your own environment. Much will come from found spaces that can be explored. If you so choose, family members and pets may be included in projects! We will engage with Chekhov and other works through text analysis and thematic explorations. Our physical explorations will allow us to deconstruct his major works and find their essence.  

    The course aims to culminate in a production in Moyse Hall Theatre in March/April of 2021. Forces beyond our control may necessitate adaptation in the final performance space or format, but the show will go on!

    VERY IMPORTANT: This course is an extremely large time commitment with a great deal of rehearsal and preparation outside of class time in the second term. In the winter term we will rehearse during class time and on Friday afternoons from 2:35-5:25 plus two or three other days of the week.


    •  The Viewpoints Book: A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition. Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2005. 

    Playscript(s) and other texts: TBA 

    Evaluation: Class participation and attendance (attendance is mandatory) 20%; Mini performances 25%; Dramaturgy Package and Presentation 10%; March Production: Compositions, Engagement. Development, Rehearsals, Performances 30%; Journals and Reflections 10%.

    Format: Warm-ups; discussion; improvisation; movement and voice exercises; text interpretation; movement improvisation; presentation of research; scene work; oral presentations and rehearsals for a March/April Production.

    Average Enrollment: 15 students.

    Application (see note above):
    Submit answers to the following questions to myrna.wyatt.selkirk [at] mcgill.ca. It is due before the entrance workshop. (In your application please include both the number and subject before each response):

    1. Acting Experience: 
    2. Improvisation Experience: 
    3. Theatre courses taken at McGill or elsewhere: 
    4. Any other relevant experience: 
    5. Other things I should know about you: 
    6. Expected year of graduation and Major(s) and Minor(s): 
    7. Have you taken ENGL 230? ENGL 269? 
    8. What will you bring to this course? This can expand on numbers 4 and 5 above. Discuss special attributes and personality traits. Talk about your ability as a collaborator. 
    9. What do you hope to get out of this course? 
    For numbers 10-13 you need to say “YES, I have read this and agree.” after each statement or question. If you need to say NO you shouldn’t apply for the course. 
    10. Are you able and willing to commit 15 to 20 hours each week to rehearsals for this course in the Winter Term 2021? That means not being involved in another big project. 
    11. In Winter Term 2021 I will keep Fridays from 2:35-5:25pm available for rehearsals. 
    12. I understand that we will also rehearse some evenings (usually Tuesdays and Thursdays) and Saturdays during January and February 2021. 
    13. In March, April rehearsals and performances move to all evenings and Saturdays. I am able and willing to keep that time free. 
    14. Be sure to sign-up for an entrance workshop. 

    ENGL 467 Advanced Studies in Theatre History

    Uncovering the history of English-language theatre in Quebec

    Professor Erin Hurley
    This course will not be offered in the fall 2020 term.

    Full course description

    Expected Preparation: Previous course-work in drama and theatre is preferred; skills with textual analysis of plays likewise.

    Description: English-language theatre in Quebec is the largest, longest-lived, and most internally varied minority-language form of dramatic production in Quebec, whose organised practice extends from the garrison theatricals of British officers in the mid-18th century to today's 19 professional and 66 semi-professional or independent theatre companies. It is also almost invisible in the historical record. This is surprising given the influence of English-language theatre and its workers on both the anglophone and francophone theatres in the 1930s and 40s, the national impact of its institutions, its abundant amateur activity, and the formal innovations--particularly vis-à-vis language-use--of its independent theatre milieu. This class examines the history of this long-lived minority-language practice from the 1970s to today through its dramatic corpus and its theatre history data (venues, personnel, repertoire, etc.). Readings in minority-language literature and theatre practices will establish an analytical context for the course; those in Quebec theatre history and in Anglophone populations will provide the historical context for our work. Student will engage with primary and archival sources as well as with data about the history of English-language theatre in Quebec; together, we will work toward a partial historical reconstruction of this history of artistic practice. There may be opportunities for interviewing key figures in English-language Montreal theatre and/or for curating an exhibition on McGill’s holdings related to theatre in English in Quebec.

    Texts: A coursepack of articles on minority-language literatures, Quebec’s Anglophone populations, Quebec theatre history, and English-language drama and theatre in Quebec. In addition, some representative published plays will be assigned by, perhaps, Michaela di Cesare, Aviva Ravel, Rahul Varma, Michael Mackenzie, Lorena Gale, David Fennario, Ann Lambert, Don Druick, or others.

    Evaluation: Text analysis (30%); in-class presentation (30%); final project (40%).

    Format: The class will run seminar-style, with an emphasis on class discussion of the readings and work with the historical material before us, research-based presentations by students, and framework remarks offered by Prof Hurley.

    ENGL 469 Acting 3

    Exploring Monologues

    Professor Myrna Wyatt Selkirk
    Fall 2020
    MW 11:35-13:25 

    Full course description

    Limited Enrollment. Permission of instructor required. Admission to the course will be by application and interview. See format below.

    Description: Acting 3 will be centered around monologues this year, so as to capitalize on certain benefits of remote delivery. Your specific needs and interests will be paramount, particularly in one-on-one sessions throughout the term. You will assist and be assisted by fellow students. Various approaches will be used during exercises, text analysis and in the rehearsal process, including Stanislavski, Brecht, verbatim and physical theatre. This is very much a time to build skills, expand your imagination and explore your creativity!  


    • Five Approaches to Acting by David Kaplan (West Broadway Press, 2001).

    Other Play scripts as required.

    Evaluation: Attendance and Participation; rehearsals and monologues; written analysis, journals and research.

    Format: Voice work; text and movement exercises; improvisation; presentations; discussions. 

    Submit answers to the following questions to myrna.wyatt.selkirk [at] mcgill.ca. (In your application please use both the number and subject before each response):

    1. Acting Experience: 
    2. Improvisation Experience (not required for this course): 
    3. Theatre courses taken at McGill or elsewhere: 
    4. Any other relevant experience: 
    5. Other things I should know about you: 
    6. Expected year of graduation and Major(s) and Minor(s): 
    7. Have you taken ENGL 230? ENGL 269? 
    8. What will you bring to this course? This can expand on numbers 4 and 5 above. Discuss special attributes and personality traits. Talk about your ability as a collaborator. 
    9. What do you hope to get out of this course?

    Average Enrollment: 14 students. 

    ENGL 472 Special Topics in Cultural Studies 2

    Contemporary Television Narrative

    Professor Lynn Kozak
    Winter 2021
    R 11:35-14:25

    Full course description

    Description: This course will focus on narrative forms and strategies within contemporary Anglophone television series. As the definition of television continues to expand, with new platforms and streaming services proliferating exponentially, competition for market share often comes with claims of innovative storytelling. This explosion of scripted television programs across platforms (“peak TV”) has indeed shown increasing diversity in showrunners and producers as well as in narrative forms and elements, though new shows often incorporate, build on, or subvert older narrative strategies. This class focuses primarily on shows that consciously play on generic expectations in order to illustrate conventional televisual genre forms. We will cover formal elements like cold opens and title sequences, examine recall strategies and televisual analepses and prolepses, consider time, space, and place, analyze narrators and characters, and think about episodes and seasons as narrative units. A recurring theme throughout the course will be narrative approaches to trauma, collective and personal, real and imagined, and the role that televisual genre plays in how trauma is framed, received, and, sometimes, overcome.

    Possible Television TextsHannibal, Twin Peaks The Return, The Good Fight, I May Destroy You, Fleabag, Mohawk Girls, Brujos, Brown Girls, Random Acts of Flyness, Inside No. 9, Atlanta, Lovecraft Country, The Terror, Watchmen, Castle Rock, The Magicians, The Arrowverse, Carmilla, Homecoming, Sense8, Kim’s Convenience, What We Do In the Shadows, High Fidelity, The OA, One Day at a Time

    Evaluation: TBA

    Format: TBA

    ENGL 481 A Filmmaker 2

    Godard/ Akerman

    Professor Ara Osterweil​
    Fall 2020
    MW 11:30–13:00 | Mandatory Screening: TBA

    Full course description

    Prerequisite: None.

    Expected Student Preparation: The work of both of these filmmakers can be extremely difficult—long, boring, alienating, politically militant, and formally opaque. Familiarity with concepts and terminology from film studies and cultural studies will be helpful, but unless you are willing to challenge yourself with aesthetic difficulty, you should not take this course.

    Description: This course puts the films of two of the most important postwar European filmmakers into dialogue—Jean-Luc Godard (1930- ) and Chantal Akerman (1960-2015)—in order to study the affinities and differences in their experimental approaches to cinema. The comparison is not an idle one: By the early 1960s, the French-Swiss Godard was the most radical filmmaker associated with the French New Wave; after seeing his outrageous Pierrot Le Fou in 1965, a fifteen-year-old Polish-Belgian teenager named Chantal Akerman immediately decided to become a director. Within ten years, Akerman had become the most important feminist filmmaker in the history of medium, and Godard had foresworn commercial filmmaking in favor of creating work that was as politically rigorous as it was formally audacious. By studying the trajectories of these filmmakers, this course aims to understand not only the impulses and motifs that animate each filmmaker’s oeuvre, but the ways in which their political and aesthetic commitments developed in tandem—while simultaneously departing from each other around issues of gender and ethnicity. Although this course concentrates on these filmmakers in their first decades of productivity—the 1960s for Godard, the 1970s for Akerman—it also samples relevant titles from later in their careers in order to underscore the important distinctions between their approaches to representation, gender, sexuality, politics, and history.

    Required Films:

    • Breathless (Godard, 1960)
    • Contempt (Godard, 1963)
    • Une Femme Mariee (Godard, 1964)
    • Vivre sa Vie (Godard, 1962)
    • Pierrot Le Fou (Godard, 1965)
    • 2 or Three Things I Know About Her (Godard, 1967)
    • Numero Deux (Godard, 1975)
    • Here and Elsewhere (Godard, 1976)
    • Saute ma ville (Akerman, 1968)
    • Je Tu Il Elle (Akerman, 1974)
    • Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, 1975)
    • News from Home (Akerman, 1977)
    • Les rendez-vous d’Anna (Akerman, 1978)
    • Night and Day (Akerman, 1991)
    • From the Other Side (Akerman, 2002)
    • No Home Movie (Akerman, 2015)

    Required Texts:

    • Richard Brody, Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard
    • Ivone Margulies, Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman’s Hyperrealist Everyday
    • Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki, Speaking About Godard
    • Michael Temple, Forever Godard
    • Patricia White, ed., On Chantal Akerman (Camera Obscura
    • Course Packet

    Evaluation: Class Participation, Take Home Midterm Essay, Final Exam, Final Paper.

    Format: Lecture, discussion, mandatory weekly screenings.

    ENGL 484 Contemporary Narrative Film and Literature

    Professor Ned Schantz
    Fall 2020
    M 11:30-14:30

    Full course description

    Prerequisite: Registration for this class is by application only. Interested students should send me an email at ned.schantz [at] mcgill.ca with the subject heading “application to ENGL 484” stating their interest in the course and qualifications.

    Expected Student Preparation and Commitment: In most cases, students will be expected to have earned a solid “B” or better in a 300-level film or literature course, but strong students from other fields will be considered. Students interested primarily in fulfilling a degree requirement will be directed elsewhere, as there are many ways to complete requirements. 20 applicants will be admitted. All admitted students are expected to make the course a priority, keeping up with work and attending every seminar meeting.

    Description: This course will test Garrett Stewart’s recent claim that, in the past few decades, narrative has come to suffer from “plot exhaustion,” from an inability to render contemporary social forces and lived experience in the form of a coherent, forward-moving story with a satisfying resolution. Homing in on some of the more elaborate plot conceits of recent fiction, we will consider to what extent these narrative strategies confirm our worst dilemmas in the way Stewart suggests, and to what extent they offer new ways of conceptualizing the relations that make up our world. Possible films include Memento, Primer, and After Life. Possible novels include Life After Life, Remainder, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

    Note: Students must have access to the Netflix series Russian Doll.

    Texts: Coursepack of narrative theory.

    Evaluation: Film journals, short assignments, term paper, participation.

    Format: Seminar.

    ENGL 486 Special topics in Theatre History

    History of Costume 1800 to 1969

    Instructor Catherine Bradley​
    Fall 2020
    MW 10:05-11:25

    Full course description

    Description: Costumes do not exist in a vacuum; they respond to socio-political factors specific to the era in which they were created. They are inextricably linked to art and architecture of their day as they are to the political and moral beliefs. We, along with Webster's Dictionary, use the term “costume” to mean a style of clothing, ornaments, and hair used especially during a certain period, in a certain region, or by a certain class or group.

    The course structure alternates between the instructor presenting costume information, and the following class a designated group of students will respond with an oral presentation to contextualize the styles of the era. The instructor will present the costume history of each era through images, example pieces, and embodied learning.

    In the next class, students will present their oral projects, which respond to the specific era. Each student in the presentation group will handle one specific topic relating to the era. Topics include Art, Music and Dance, Science and Technology, Popular Culture, and Historical Context. Additional topics include Architecture, Furniture Design, Politics, and Advertising. Each presentation group consists of five students.

    By listening to their fellow students’ presentations, the class will be able to answer questions such as: What is the common aesthetic between furniture and clothing design of the Victorian era? How does the music of the 1920’s effect dance, and in turn, clothing styles? Historical overview of costumes will be enhanced by an inquisitive look at the link between clothing and the culture that created them. The goal is to see the bigger picture of the inter-related nature of different disciplines, and how each impacts the system as a whole. Although this class specifically relates to fashion, it is also a way of seeing and understanding larger cultural, social, historical, and political contexts.

    Texts: Readings will be supplied on myCourses.

    Evaluation: Short paper, 2 quizzes, 2 oral presentations, 1 final project (option of essay or creative project.)

    Format: Classes alternate between lectures by the instructor and oral presentations by the students. Each student will do two oral presentations during the semester.

    ENGL 490 Culture and Critical Theory 2

    Bodies and Ecologies

    Professor Alanna Thain
    Fall 2020
    T 11:30-14:30

    Full course description

    Prerequisite: n/a

    Description: “Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin?”—Donna Haraway.Even before the Covid pandemic, recent critical theory has been intently revisiting social, political and aesthetics work on the vulnerability, permeability, leakiness and entanglements of bodies and ecologies. This course reads across recent cultural theory in feminist, critical race, Indigenous, queer and critical disability studies to trace an emergent concern for rethinking embodiment and its attendant theories of subjectivity through their entanglement with what Felix Guattari called the “three ecologies”: subjective, social and environmental lifeworlds. Rather than seeing these as distinct, we will look to the theories, histories and practices of minoritarian forms of life that rethink questions of agency, control, politics, aesthetics and collectivity at the messy edges of life itself. In particular, we will ask, what are the affordances of understanding ourselves as fully enmeshed with, rather than outside or in control of the environment that surrounds us. We will move across scales of relation, starting from the intimacy of breath, to the expanse of the planetary. The course will be organized around small units that will work through a key idea from multiple perspective and using mixed methods. Students will also collaboratively produce a critical catalogue of original work in multiple formats that maps that entangled places where bodies and ecologies mingle. This course will include a number of hands on research-creation activities and workshops, designed for multiple forms of engagement (solo, collaborative, distributive, synchronous and non-synchronous), to allow for pragmatic experimentation with the ideas we will explore.

    Texts: Online coursepack. Texts may include work by Kim Tallbear, José Muñoz, Mel Chen, Christina Sharpe, Magdelena Gorska, Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha, Sara Ahmed and others.

    Evaluation: Short assignments; essay; Critical Catalogue.

    Format: Lectures, screenings, discussions and small working groups; workshops.

    ENGL 492 Image and Text

    The Graphic Novel

    Professor Sean Carney
    Fall 2020
    TR 11:35-12:55

    Full course description

    Description: This course examines the unique formal and aesthetic qualities of the North American graphic novel, with particular emphasis on visual analysis. Considerable attention will therefore be paid to close reading and to the analysis of formal and stylistic elements that distinguish comics as a unique artistic phenomenon. The course does not provide an historical survey of comics, nor does it evince interest in popular genres.

    The texts will be chosen based not only on historical impact, verifiable influence or general popularity with readers but also with an eye to comics that experiment and expand the boundaries of the medium.

    The course will be organized into approximately four thematic groupings: revisionist narratives within the mainstream, memoirs and confessionals, new journalism, and auteur comix.

    Writers and artists to be chosen from may include: Nick Drnaso, Adrian Tomine, Guy Delisle, Debbie Dreschler, James Sturm, Lynda Barry, Ivan Brunetti, Howard Cruse, Eddie Campbell, Art Spiegelman, Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Alison Bechdel, David Collier, Ben Katchor, Marjane Satrapi, Rutu Modan, Jason Lutes, Jeff Smith, Joe Sacco, Carla Speed McNeil, David B., Chris Ware, Los Bros. Hernandez, Nick Abadzis, Rick Veitch, Phoebe Gloeckner, Harvey Pekar, R. Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Jack Jackson, Craig Thompson, James Kochalka, Tom Gauld, Ed Piskor, Jeff Lemire, Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, Kate Beaton, Gene Luen Yang, Faryl Dalrymple, Matt Kindt, Stephen Collins, Sarah Glidden, Will Eisner,Alex Robinson, and Scott McCloud.

    Texts: TBA

    One formal analysis: 25%
    One mid-term essay: 30%
    One final essay: 30%
    Class Participation: 15%

    Format: Group Discussions.

    ENGL 495 Individual Reading Course

    Fall 2020

    Full course description

    PrerequisitesBy arrangement with individual instructor. Permission must be obtained from the Department before registration.


    • This course is normally not available to students who are not Majors or Honours students in the Department.
    • Intended for advanced and/or specialized work based on an extensive background in Departmental studies. 

    Application Deadlines:

    Fall 2020 Term: Monday, September 14, 2020 by 4:00 PM

    PDF iconengl495_496_application_2020_21.pdf (Also available in the Students Affairs Office, Arts Building, Room 155)

    ENGL 496 Individual Reading Course

    Winter 2021

    Full course description

    PrerequisitesBy arrangement with individual instructor. Permission must be obtained from the Department before registration.


    • This course is normally not available to students who are not Majors or Honours students in the Department.
    • Intended for advanced and/or specialized work based on an extensive background in Departmental studies. 

    Application Deadlines:

    Winter 2021 Term: Monday, January 18, 2021 by 4:00 PM

    PDF iconengl495_496_application_2020_21.pdf (Also available in the Students Affairs Office, Arts Building, Room 155)

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