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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 405

A Hard, Gemlike Flame: The British Essay Tradition From Wordsworth To Wilde

Instructor Curtis Brown
Winter Term 2016
Wednesday and Fridays 10:05-11:25

Full course description

Description: This is a course in major British essayists of the 19th century. Nonfiction prose writers of the period were exceptional in their stylistic vigor and variety, their intellectual ambition and range of subject matter, and their powers of synthesis across domains now commonly regarded as separate (science, philosophy, social progressivism, literature and the arts). We will study in depth a selection of writers of lasting literary influence (e.g. Coleridge, Hazlitt, Eliot, Ruskin, Arnold, Pater, Wilde), against a rich sampling of other major figures (e.g. DeQuincey, Lamb, Marx, Gaskell, Carlyle, Lady Gregory, Darwin, Martineau, Huxley, Wallace and others). The course is loosely chronological as well as topically structured, and traces the trajectory from Romanticism to Aestheticism and pre-Modernism.

This course will provide students with a fluent command of major works of British literary nonfiction of the 19th century, which in turn will (a) give them a historical understanding of the key social, political, aesthetic and philosophical preoccupations and debates of the period; (b) deepen their understanding of the contemporary imaginative literature (i.e. poetry, novels and plays), both Romantic and Victorian; and (c) give them a foundation for understanding discussions of modernist and 20th-century literature, invoking everything from Coleridge’s distinction between fancy and the imagination to Arnold’s “sweetness and light” to the fin-de-siècle “art for art’s sake.” It will moreover refine their sense of the art of the essay in all its formal possibilities.

Texts: Mary Elizabeth Leighton, Lisa Surridge (eds.), The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Prose, 1832-1901. Toronto: Broadview Press, 2012.

There will also be a coursepack with selections from such essayists as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, S.T. Coleridge, Thomas DeQuincey, Lady Augusta Gregory, William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Harriet Martineau, Walter Pater, John Ruskin, and Oscar Wilde.

Evaluation: TBA

Format: lecture and discussion

ENGL 409 Studies in a Canadian Author

Leonard Cohen

Professor Brian Trehearne
Winter Term 2016

Full course description

Prerequisite: No formal prerequisite. Because substantial attention will be paid to poetic and fictional form and style, however, this advanced course’s interests and discussions will be directed chiefly to English majors who have completed their required Poetics course.  Students not in English programs must have my permission in advance to register.  This course is not open to U1 students.

All students wishing to take this course must attend the first class, even if they have not yet been able to register; latecomers will not be admitted to the course, whether they have registered on Minerva or not.

Description: In this course we will read and listen to as many of the works of Leonard Cohen as time permits, with an emphasis on the period up to and including The Future (1992).  From seductive song lyrics to the most scandalously hilarious novel, brutal poems, and moving prayers yet published in Canada, Cohen’s work rewards and usually demands scrupulous reading, and the bulk of course time will be given to group discussion of its developing vision and technique.  This will help us to separate Cohen as a writer from the now overwhelming “Leonard Cohen” cultural phenomenon, an important critical task. At the same time, we will be interested in that phenomenon, from its emergence after 1961’s Spice Box of Earth, his attainment of international celebrity after he turned to performance and recording in 1968, its severe waning through the 1970s, its resurgence and reformation after I’m Your Man in 1988, and its global expansion after the tours of 2008.  We will try to get at the phenomenon’s premises and machinery by looking at reviews, interviews, and documentaries, and we will read the biographies (Nadel or Simmons) for a glimpse of Cohen’s experience and manipulation of his own “phenomenon.”  Finally, students will attempt to situate (through in-class presentations or essays, depending on class size) the periods of Cohen’s work and of his fame in relation to relevant cultural contexts: Beat writing; “black Romanticism”; the poetry of A.M. Klein, Irving Layton, and Michael Ondaatje; the Cold War; cultural representations of the Holocaust; the 1960s and their meanings and outcomes; modernism and post-modernism; the crisis of faith in modernity; neo-conservatism in the 1980s; celebrity and fandom.  The professor is not expert in all these areas, so students’ ideas, knowledge, and experience will be essential to the course’s success.  In its desired form the course will be a workshop for critical approaches to Leonard Cohen’s writing and for new scholarship by his future critics.


  • Cohen, Leonard. Beautiful Losers. 1966. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991.
  • The Favourite Game. 1964. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1994.
  • Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs.  Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1994.
  • Course-pack: selected poems by A.M. Klein and Irving Layton; Cohen’s complete The Spice Box of Earth (1961); selections from The Book of Longing; articles and reviews.

Evaluation: 10-12 page paper, 40%; major research paper, 50%; 10% participation in discussions. Note that the assignments are heavily weighted and presume students’ substantial experience as writers of critical essays. An option for a single longer essay worth 90% might be available to students in English Honours programs.

Please note before registering for this course: I assess active participation in discussion and not attendance.  Full attendance throughout the semester without speaking will earn 0/10 in this category and substantially affect your final grade.

Format: lecture and discussion

ENGL 410 Canadian Romanticism

Professor Eli MacLaren
Fall Term 2015
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10:35–11:25

Full course description

Expected student preparation: Prior university courses in English literature.

Description: Romanticism has a long history in Canadian poetry. Values such as natural beauty, nationalism, moral idealism, supernaturalism, and metrical aesthetics predicated on aural intelligibility resonated deeply in Canada, where the model of the English Romantics taught in schools offered aspiring writers a way to come to terms with the land without abandoning British traditions. The effects of Canadian Romanticism were diverse and widespread, and although they were eclipsed by the rise of modernism, they persisted and evolved in ways that are often overlooked. The purpose of this advanced seminar is to rediscover the extent and variety of the Romantic in Canadian poetry from the nineteenth century to the present. The course will trace the line of influence through two genres – long poem and lyric – beginning with Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel and emphasizing the canonization of the Confederation poets by the edidtor Lorne Pierce in his series, the Ryerson Poetry Chap-Book, in the mid-twentieth century. We will follow the movement through Alfred Bailey, a Ryerson poet whose founding of The Fiddlehead, Canada’s longest-running literary magazine, created a channel through which Romantic undercurrents continue to run, most notably in the work of Don McKay, Jan Zwicky, and contemporary Canadian nature poetry. Students will deliver a seminar presentation and write a research essay, analyzing the career of a writer of their choice using methods informed by bibliography, scholarly editing, and the history of the book.


  • Walter Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel
  • John Keats, Hyperion: A Fragment
  • Charles G.D. Roberts, Orion, and Other Poems
  • Archibald Lampman, Among the Millet, and Other Poems
  • Nathaniel Benson, Dollard: A Tale in Verse
  • E.J. Pratt, Brébeuf and His Brethren
  • Kathryn Munro, Under the Maple
  • Alfred Goldsworthy Bailey, Tâo
  • Dorothy Roberts, Dazzle
  • Don McKay, Another Gravity
  • Jan Zwicky, Songs for Relinquishing the Earth

Evaluation: Seminar presentation (20%); essay 1 (30%); essay 2 (40%); participation (10%)

Format: Seminar

ENGL 413 Special Topics in Canadian Drama and Theatre

Contemporary Political and Community Engaged Theatre

Professor Denis Salter
Winter Term 2016
Tuesday, Thursday 13:00-14:30

Full course description

Prerequisite: None

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level courses in drama and theatre, literature, or cultural studies.

Description: This course will combine the reading of plays, essays, and articles 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, and gendered subject-positions and the kinds of theatre that they have enabled, now enable, and will continue to enable.

The course 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 course, especially one that is based on 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 a play. Similarly, the close readings, by various interpretative means, of the plays, essays, and articles will be demanding. All activities will be time-consuming.

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.”


Salverson, Julie. Ed. Community Engaged Theatre and Performance. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2011.
---. Ed. Popular Political Theatre and Performance. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2010.
Ryan, Oscar et al. Eight Men Speak: A Play by Oscar Ryan et al.  Ed. Alan Filewod.  Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 2013.
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.

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), pp. [118]-125.
“Performing Emergency: Witnessing, Popular Theatre, and the Lie of the Literal,” Theatre Topics 6.2 (1996), pp. 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), pp. 125-41. (Open Source.)
Dharwadker, Aparna. “Diaspora and the Theatre of the Nation” Theatre Research International 28.3 (October 2003), pp. 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:

Or use:

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 No. 125 (Winter “2006), pp. [69]—74 (print).

Evaluation: The performance and post-performance discussion and rehearsal diary will be worth 60 %.  (The grade is for all members of a given Atelier.); a presentation on a play, essay, or article, along with an 8-page paper in the form of a distilled critical argument: 30%; continuing and full participation in the intellectual and creative life of the discussions: 10%

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 414

The Raw, The Cooked, And The Rare Bloodlines In Contemporary American Poetry

Instructor Curtis Brown
Winter Term 2016
Wednesday and Friday 1:05-2:25

Full course description

Description: This course explores major developments in American poetry since World War II, tracing vectors of influence between individual poets as well as various “schools” and movements. The approach is formal and technical, with gradually increasing cultural depth of field. We will examine meter, measure, montage, voice, image, syntax, parataxis, narrative, ornament, argument, and so on in ways that prompt consideration of the stakes of style (i.e. the kinds of ingenuity, daring, and payoff involved), and reveal aesthetic tensions as old as lyric itself (e.g. between stillness and the temporal, parts and the whole, closure and its alternatives, ritual and improvisation, laying claim to tradition and wrestling free of it) while pointing to their underlying cultural and ideological tectonics. The course is not chronological in sequence but it does build toward a literary-historical picture, bringing together work by Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Theodore Roethke, Robert Hayden, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, Muriel Rukeyser, Amiri Baraka, Edward Dorn, Lorine Niedecker, Denise Levertov, Jay Wright, Archie Ammons, James Merrill, Robert Creeley, August Kleinzahler, Anne Carson, Maureen McLane, Frederick Siedel, Nathaniel Mackey, Rae Armantrout and others.

Students will emerge from this course with fluent critical and technical vocabularies in the field of poetry criticism, a historical understanding of major figures and movements in contemporary American poetry, and a wide appreciation of current poetic traditions ranging from the mainstream to the avant-garde.

Required Texts: Course reader

Recommended Texts:

  • Eric Auerbach, Mimesis.
  • Hugh Kenner, The Art of Poetry.
  • Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination.
  • Thom Gunn, The Occasions of Poetry: Essays in Criticism and Autobiography.
  • Marc Strand, Eavan Boland, The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms.
  • Helen Vendler, Poems, Poets, Poetry: an Introduction and Anthology.
  • Kenneth Cox, Collected Studies in the Use of English.

Evaluation: TBA

Format: Lecture and discussion

ENGL 416 Studies in Shakespeare

Theatrical Adaptations of Shakespeare from the Seventeenth Century to the Present

Professor Fiona Ritchie
Fall Term 2015
Thursday 11:35-12:55

Full course description

Prerequisite: none, however previous university-level course work in Shakespeare is desirable

Description: Ever since Shakespeare’s plays were written they have been rewritten, and in various and important ways. This course will examine a selection of theatrical adaptations from an early response to a Shakespeare text, John Fletcher’s The Woman’s Prize (1611) (a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew) to more recent revisions such as Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet (1997) (a prelude to Othello), ranging across wartime Germany (Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui) and post-colonial South Africa (Welcome Msomi’s uMabatha). An examination of these rewritings of Shakespeare both allows us to explore the multiple cultural traditions and performance practices which have made use of the Bard and also demands that we look at his plays in a new light to identify and analyse the elements of his work that hold continual fascination across time and space.

In addition to reading and discussing play texts, students will also participate in practical workshops in which we will seek to understand these adaptations through performance.

Texts: Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier (eds.), Adaptations of Shakespeare: A Critical Anthology of Plays from the Seventeenth Century to the Present (London: Routledge, 2000); further readings on adaptation theory will be provided electronically; a scholarly edition of the complete works of Shakespeare or the individual plays studied will also be necessary

Evaluation (tentative): attendance and participation 10%; midterm exam 20%; practical assignment 30%; final paper (choice of traditional essay or creative assignment with reflection) 40%

Format: Lecture, discussion, group work, practical work

ENGL 417 A Major English Poet

Spenser’s Faerie Queene

Professor Ken Borris
Winter Term 2016
Wednesday 14:35-17:25

Full course description

Description: Spenser’s richly imaginative Faerie Queene, written in the late sixteenth century, is one of the single most widely influential texts in English literary history, and constitutes a literary education in itself, since it critically surveys the resources of western culture–including literature, mythology, iconography, philosophy, and theology-- up to its point.  While having major socio-political investments, this romantic epic is nonetheless a central exemplar of English literary fantasy, romance, and allegory.  This course would especially complement study of early modern literature and culture, and particular writers of the period such as Shakespeare and Milton, but would also facilitate study of any literary periods in which Spenser particularly influenced writers, readers, and critics, as he did from around 1580 to 1900.  Knowledge of The Faerie Queene thus provides a highly valuable basis for any literary studies within that broad expanse of time.  Spenser is one of the great fantasists, and would also appeal much to anyone interested in such literature and its development.


  • The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton, 2nd Longmans edition, paperback
  • Course Reader
  • All available at the Word bookstore, 469 Milton Street.

Evaluation: 4 brief in-class quizzes of 10% each; term paper 50%; class attendance and participation 10%

Format: Lectures, discussion.  Please note:  courses given a three-hour time block like this one have a break for relaxation in the middle, of about 10 minutes, corresponding to the time normally allotted for moving between courses in different locations.  There will be such a break in this course.

ENGL 418 A Major Modernist Author

H.D. and Modernism

Professor Miranda Hickman
Fall Term 2015
Tuesday, Thursday 2:35-3:55

Full course description

Expected student preparation: Some familiarity with poetry and modernist literature.

Description: Since the mid-1980s, American expatriate poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle, 1885-1961), once on the periphery of the official canon of modernist literature, has been acknowledged as a major modernist writer. For decades associated chiefly with the poetic movement of Imagism, H.D. is now recognized for a wide-ranging oeuvre including not only her early Imagist poetry, but also more complex verse inspired by the work of Greek antiquity, as well as the epic poetry of her later career: Trilogy is now read as a major poetic response to the conditions of World War II; and Helen in Egypt, like much of H.D.’s work, transmutes traditional mythic narratives into feminist counter-mythologies. Recently, criticism has highlighted H.D.’s experimental prose fiction, little of it published during her lifetime, which traces H.D.’s struggle to fulfil her vocation as a poet, develop a lexicon for diverse modes of desire, and understand what, through her work with Freud, she came to think of as her bisexual identity.

H.D.’s work engages many of the major themes and problematics we now associate with modernism: how to forge a new aesthetics suited to twentieth-century modernity; how to draw upon cultures of the past to discover resources and wisdom toward the future; how to re-imagine spirituality in an era in which “God” was thought to be “dead”; how to transcend culturally received gender and sexual identities and understandings of desire toward greater freedom for women and men; and how to recover from the cultural trauma of war. As a result, H.D.’s oeuvre provides a valuable window on to the major questions, debates, and generative communities of modernist literature.

Our course material includes a variety of H.D.’s poetry (Imagist, mythic, epic) as well as excerpts from several autobiographical novels—which, among much else, register the maturation of her artistry; her feminist critiques of social convention; her responses to conditions of wartime; her relationship to Ezra Pound, to whom she was at one time engaged; and her narrative strategies for encoding desire. We will also address her ambivalent memoir of Freud (which critiques and rewrites psychoanalytic assumptions even as it tributes the man she called “The Master”); her work with avant-garde cinema; and her meditations on visionary consciousness, partially inspired by D.H. Lawrence. We will address excerpts from her letters to many correspondents, including poet Richard Aldington, her spouse; Norman Pearson, the Yale professor who became steward of her archive; and Bryher (Winifred Ellerman), her life partner and adoptive mother of her daughter.

We will also address the work of many other modernists whose work and lives intersected in significant ways with hers—including T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, and Amy Lowell.

Evaluation: 2 brief critical essays (5 pp.); one imaginative response (4 pp.); final paper (10 pp.); class participation

Format: Lectures and discussion.  

ENGL 422 Studies in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

The Development of the American Short Story through the Long 19th Century

Professor Peter Gibian
Winter Term 2016
Tuesday, Thursday  2:35–3:55

Full course description

Prerequisite: None.

Expected Student Preparation: Previous coursework in American Literature before 1900, or in 19th-century British fiction, or permission of instructor. (This course is designed as a participatory seminar for advanced students of literature.)

Description: Intensive study of a diverse range of shorter prose fictions produced by American authors over the course of the long nineteenth century—culminating in close readings of some of the classic short stories produced in the early twentieth century. Rather than tracing a singular evolution of the short story mode, we will explore a variety of authors whose works test the possibilities of the short form in very different ways. Each of these writers discovered early on that the short story is not simply a miniaturized novel but operates as a literary vehicle with its own distinctive powers and limitations. After an introductory review of recent scholarly work on the theory of the modern short story, and on the history of its development, we will survey a selection of foundational and influential short fictions that reveal the short story’s uses in relation to myth, romance, and the fantastic; to uncanny plots about ghosts and haunting; to evocation of suppressed emotional or psychic states; to representation of neglected cultural identities; to the impulses of regionalism; to urban experience; to crime and detection; and to self-reflexive interrogations of fictional form itself. Indeed the short story has often served for thoughtful and ambitious American writers not only as a simple form with which they could begin their literary training but as a privileged site for self-conscious experimentation with new modes of imagery, new subject matter, and new narrative techniques. Though it may sometimes be seen as minor, low-brow, and popularizing, always hidden in the shadow of the high art of the great American novel, the short story in fact frequently functions as a rarefied realm for serious ideological and formal critique—a testing-ground for the most advanced critical and self-critical thinking by American writers. We will focus on the works of authors selected from the following list: Irving, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Hale, Harris, Harte, Twain, Stowe, Cable, Chesnutt, Crane, Gilman, Chopin, Jewett, James, Howells, Wharton, London, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Anderson, and Porter.

Texts: (collections of short fiction TBA)

Evaluation (tentative): Participation in discussions, 15%; series of one-page textual analyses, 15%; two critical essays, 20% each; take-home final exam, 30%.

Format: Lectures and discussions

ENGL 424 Irish Literature

Professor Allan Hepburn
Winter Term 2016
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1:35-2:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: Students must have 3 or 4 prior courses in English literature.

Description: Without by any means attempting to exhaust its subject, this course surveys twentieth-century Irish literature: poetry, drama, and fiction. Discussion will focus to some extent on the correlation between Irish political history and Irish literature; the two domains cannot be kept separate. To that end, we will consider the relation of the Irish Republic to Northern Ireland, as well as the relation between Britain and Ireland. “Modernity” and “postcolonial” theory will be applied, as will discussions of the “Celtic Tiger” in the 1990s and early 2000s. We will discuss form (lyric, sonnet, long poem, short story, drama, novel) and the utility that different modes of literary expression have. Works by W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain, John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bowen, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Eavon Bolund, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, Denis Johnston, Patrick Kavanagh, Marina Carr, Edna O’Brien, and others will be on the syllabus.

Texts: This list of texts is provisional and subject to change. A final selection will be made in October 2015.

  • Patrick Crotty, ed. Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology
  • John P. Harrington, ed. Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama
  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Relevant materials posted on MyCourses

Evaluation: Essays, responses, final exam

Format: Lecture and discussion. If enrollment permits, conferences will be organized.

Enrollment: 35

ENGL 430 Studies in Drama

Modernism and the Theatre

Professor Sean Carney
Fall Term 2015
Tuesday, Thursday 4:05-5:25

Full course description

Description: This course will examine the energetic, sometimes antagonistic, counter-responses to dramatic realism and naturalism, which emerged in late nineteenth-century Europe and had a profound effect upon theatre of the twentieth century.  Of interest to us here will be the many and varied -isms that arose in response to the naturalist moment, all of which contributed to the  rise of expressionism on the European and North American stage and to the innovations of that broad artistic and cultural movement that we call modernism.  We will examine not only this unique historical turn in the theatre, but also the ways in which contemporary directors continue to bring these plays to life and allow them to speak to the present.

Texts: (tentative):

  • A course kit of critical readings and plays, possibly including:
  • Strindberg, August.  Miss Julie, The Dance of Death Part One, and A Dream Play
  • Maeterlinck, Maurice.  The Intruder and The Blind
  • Wedekind, Frank.  The First Lulu
  • Jarry, Alfred.  The Ubu Plays
  • Ibsen, Henrik.  When We Dead Awaken
  • Schnitzler, Arthur.  Hands Around
  • Yeats, William Butler.  On Baile’s Strand and Purgatory
  • Büchner, Georg.  Woyzeck
  • Sternheim, Carl.  Paul Schippel Esq
  • Kaiser, Georg.  Alkibiades Saved
  • O’Neill, Eugene.  The Hairy Ape and The Emperor Jones
  • Glaspell, Susan.  The Verge
  • Artaud, Antonin.  The Theatre and its Double.

Evaluation: TBA

Format: Seminar discussions

ENGL 431 Studies in Drama

Popular Entertainment in the Long Eighteenth Century

Professor Fiona Ritchie
Winter Term 2016
Tuesday, Thursday 11:35–12:55

Full course description

Prerequisite: none

Expected student preparation: students enrolled in this course will ideally have already taken ENGL 230 Introduction to Theatre Studies and/or some drama and theatre coursework at the 300 level.

Description: This course explores a variety of forms of popular entertainment in England in the long eighteenth century (c. 1660-1830). Traditional theatre flourished in the eighteenth century but the division of the theatrical evening into mainpiece and afterpiece allowed new forms to develop beyond the conventional tragedies and comedies that were staged in the main slots. Afterpiece forms such as farce, dramatic satire, burletta and most notably pantomime developed at this time and it was often unclear whether audience members paid to see the mainpiece or to experience the exciting new forms of entertainment that made up the second half of the evening. In the early nineteenth century, the growth of the “illegitimate” theatre scene gave rise to additional new types of entertainment, including melodrama, burlesque, equestrian entertainment (the forerunner of the modern circus) and the further development of pantomime, which reached a high degree of artistic and technological sophistication in this period.

Our focus in this course will be on the theatrical forms noted above but we will also look at popular pastimes that could be pursued outside the theatre, such as pleasure gardens, public executions and visiting asylums.

In addition to reading and discussing theatre history documents and play texts, students will also participate in practical workshops in which we will seek to understand these forms of popular entertainment through performance.

Texts: The primary and secondary texts we will study will be supplied in a coursepack.

Evaluation (tentative): participation 10%; midterm assignment 20%; practical assignment 30%; final paper 40%

Format: Lecture, discussion, group work, practical work.

ENGL 434 Independent Theatre Project

Fall 2015 and Winter Term 2016

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 2014 Term


September 16, 2015

4:00 pm

Winter 2015 Term


January 13, 2016

4:00 pm

PDF icon engl434_applicationform.pdf (Also available in the Students Affairs Office, Arts Building, Room 155)

ENGL 437 Studies in Literary Form

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

Professor David Hensley
Fall Term 2015
Monday, Wednesday 11:35-12:55

Full course description

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 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 below is tentative and incomplete, to be confirmed in September 2015.)

  • St. Augustine, Confessions (Hackett or Oxford)
  • Benvenuto Cellini, My Life (Oxford)
  • 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)
  • Stendhal, Love (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 film screenings may be offered in this course, depending on the interest and schedules of the participants.

Format: Seminar discussions

ENGL 438 The Picaresque Novel

Instructor Andrew Bricker
Fall Term 2015
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8:35-9:25

Full course description

Description: A largely comic if occasionally dark prose genre that first emerged in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the picaresque novel offered an episodic first-person account of the adventures of some mischievous and wily anti-hero. Such pícaros (Spanish for rascal or rogue) were notorious if charismatic: usually lowborn bastards and orphans, these down-on-their-luck never-do-wells often entered the world naïve bumpkins only to discover its ruthless indifference to suffering and its endemic nastiness. Quickly chastened, such anti-heroes made their way through theft, trickery, criminal mischief, and violence, using their charms (and sometimes force) to get a leg up. Such prose fictions were part fantasy and escapism, but they were also works, especially during the early modern period, intended for elite readers who took such narratives as damning if entertaining proof of the inherent criminality and depravity of their social and economic inferiors and of the iniquity of the world at large. The genre proved a ticklish blend of lower-class escapism and top-down voyeuristic condescension—an experimental comic staging ground for half-concealed social tensions.

This course will begin by tracing the genre’s early European origins. But we will also consider the ways in which the picaresque novel developed and in turn affected the development of numerous other literary forms during the eighteenth century, including Romance fiction, satire, the emergent realist novel, criminal biography, ramble novels, adventure fiction, Oriental tales, children’s literature, early journalism, and even life writing itself. Above all, we’ll think about the ways in which the loose picaresque form travelled during this period—how its flexibility allowed it to be adapted by and absorbed into a variety of narrative forms. We’ll close the course by thinking about the transmutation (and often the sanitation) of the picaresque in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, understanding how the picaresque novel—a largely under-appreciated comic form—remains today one of our most enduring and adaptable transhistorical literary genres.


  • The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (selections)
  • Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller (selections)
  • Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
  • Eliza Haywood, The Adventures of Eovaai
  • Tobias Smollett, Roderick Random
  • Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling
  • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Evaluation: Attendance and Participation (15%); Discussion Moderation (10%); Weekly Q&A Responses (15%); Short Essay (20%); Peer Review (5%); Final Essay (35%)

Format: Lecture and Conference Sections

ENGL 441 Canadian Literary Fare

Professor Nathalie Cooke
Winter Term 2016
Wednesday, Friday 11:35-12:55

Full course description

DescriptionWhy do authors feed their characters? After all, no literary character needs to eat. One answer is that it makes fiction seem more realistic. In this course, however, we will discover more intriguing answers.

We will study food scenes in Canadian literature, reading works of fiction and some poetry in which food (or the longing for food) is a major theme and vehicle for meaning creation. We will read a variety of Canadian literature from across the country in order to explore the wide range of roles played by food scenes in the creation of literary meaning and impact. Readings will include stories by Margaret Atwood, Lynn Coady, Rabindranath Maharaj, Rohinton Mistry and Alice Munro; novels and novellas by Dionne Brand, Hiromi Goto, Mordecai Richler, Gabrielle Roy; a murder mystery by popular writer Louise Penny.

We will pose a number of questions. What role does food play in the development of plot, character and setting? In what way does it provide structure to the work? How do food choices serve to define an individual or community in relation to others? What narrative emerges from the food choices made in the text? What do food scenes tell us about gender roles and expectations? Do food scenes offer a non-verbal narrative that supports or undermines the primary plot line? What is Canadian cuisine? A course pack will include a selection of significant commentaries on the role of food in literature, which will enrich our answers to these questions discussions. However, students should be aware that there has been very little written about food scenes in Canadian literature specifically, despite the wealth of primary material. Existing bibliographies and studies of food literature consistently overlook Canada’s contributions. At one level, then, this course is intended as an intervention.

The course will involve three units of study with specific learning objectives. As a first step, aided by key articles in the field of social food studies, we will explore the range of roles food can play in a literary text (for example, to further character development, provide socio-historical context, or offer a non-verbal cues that supports or undermine the primary plot line). In this introductory unit, we will also identify Canadian literary works -- generally fiction, but also some works of poetry and drama -- in which food is a primary trope in order to understand the range of possibilities for food-themed work. An existing online bibliography will be a key resource for this introductory unit, and we will draw from and extend this bibliography of works of Canadian literature in which food figures as a primary vehicle for meaning throughout the course (see

Next, working in groups, students will explore, use and develop a series of interpretive tools (including annotated bibliographies, online mapping and data visualization tools) in order to approach the body of literature from multiple angles and better understand the relationships between different texts dealing with similar themes. These interpretive tools will be used in the first instance to explore course texts, and student presentations will describe ways in which visualization tools enable new insights into the material.

Finally, in the concluding unit of the course, armed with knowledge of the material and a variety of critical tools, students will be asked to pinpoint gaps in the critical dialogue, texts and topics that deserve closer scrutiny.

This is a writing intensive course with weekly writing assignments. Students will be asked to produce a wide variety of regular, short written assignments, including expository essays and blog entries, in addition to producing visualization tools. This will provide students with opportunities to hone their writing and technical skillsets. While no expertise in software development is expected or necessary, students are expected to bring a sense of adventure to the class, and be comfortable exploring, using and experimenting with available online software (e.g. CartoDB, ArcGIS, Voyant tools). In order to earn a strong participation grade, students will be required to bring new information and original research findings to class discussion. 

Texts: In addition to the course pack, there will be five full-length texts for this course

Mordecai Richler, Solomon Gursky Was Here
Fred Wah, Diamond Grill
Dionne Brand, What We all Long For
Hiromi Goto, Chorus of Mushrooms
Louise Penny, Still Life

Evaluation: 8 short assignments 80%; presentation, 10%; participation, 10%

Format: Lectures and discussions

Maximum Enrollment: 35 students

ENGL 444 Studies in Women’s Writing and Feminist Theory

Gender and Postcolonial Literature

Professor Monica Popescu
Winter Term 2016
Friday 8:35-11:25

Full course description

DescriptionIn her book Woman, Native, Other, Trinh Minh-Ha criticizes the essentialism with which women from the “Third World” are treated by the West: with special readings, seminars, and workshops dedicated to the “native woman,” it is as if “everywhere we go, we become Someone’s private zoo.” Trinh’s outburst highlights the uneasy yet attractive alliances between feminists in the West and those in the rest of the world and between postcolonial studies and gender scholarship. Starting from these convergences, we will discuss the differences between Western feminism and womanism and we will trace the evolution of forms of femininity and masculinity in various colonial and neocolonial contexts, with a focus on Africa and the Caribbean. We will talk about the relationship between women and their bodies, ideas of beauty, rebellion and conformity. We will equally explore normative and subversive forms of masculinity, and the role of states in creating willing soldiers. Theoretical readings by Sara Suleri, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Gloria Anzaldúa, Frantz Fanon and bell hooks will help us to think about relations between mothers and daughters; young men and the state; sexuality; violence inscribed on the female body and representations of women.


  • Tsitsi Dangarembga—Nervous Conditions
  • Mark Behr—The Smell of Apples
  • Lewis Nkosi—Mating Birds
  • Ama Ata Aidoo—Our Sister Killjoy
  • Michelle Cliff: No Telephone to Heaven


  • The Battle of Algiers. Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo
  • Reassamblage. Dir. Trinh T. Minh-ha
  • U-Carmen eKhayelitsha. Dir. Mark Dornford-May
  • Coursepack with relevant articles.

Evaluation: Short paper and/or presentation 20%; Midterm 30%; Final paper 35%; Participation (including myCourses assignments) 15%.

Format: Lectures and discussions

ENGL 452 Studies in Old English

Professor Dorothy Bray
Winter Term 2016
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 4:35-5:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: ENGL 342 Introduction to Old English or its equivalent.

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.

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

Evaluation: Translation 40%; term paper 35%; seminar presentation 15%; participation and attendance 10%.

Format: Seminar

ENGL 456 Middle English

Medieval conceptions of Muslims, Jews, and Christians

Professor Michael Van Dussen
Fall Term 2015
Monday, Wednesday 1:05-2:25

Full course description

Description: England in the Middle Ages had its own special brand of religiosity. English people in this period also had much to say about religions, cultures, and practices elsewhere in the known world, both in their own time and from Classical Antiquity. The religious experience of English people shared a great deal with that of their contemporaries on the European continent, and so in some very important ways it is misleading to speak of English culture as “insular”. At the same time, there were many developments in England that held little in common with what was happening on the continent, and so it is valid to study English religiosity as involving unique phenomena, or at least developments that took on a particularly English identity. In medieval England we find a variety of representations of Jews and Muslims, though (in the late Middle Ages, at least) few Jews or Muslims could be found living anywhere in England. And so the impressions and representations would seem to stem from textual influences, international communication, or reliance (in the case of the Jews) on older accounts from England. Christianity in England was also a strange beast. In the late Middle Ages we witness the rise of a vibrant lay piety, the first complete translation of the Bible into English, and an academic heresy that spilled over the walls of the university and into the streets. Many of these developments were in turn met by a severe response that was not always consistent with attitudes on the continent. And yet a variety of voices, many of them reformist, could still be heard in the face of strong opposition. Further, England would eventually become one of the decisive centers of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century and after. These later developments cannot be understood completely without an awareness of late-medieval English religious experience.

Students in this course will study English literary representations of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and paganism in the late Middle English period, from approximately 1300-1500, as well as select texts from the early Protestant period in the sixteenth century. Most texts will be read in the original Middle English. Prior experience with Middle English is encouraged but not mandatory.


  • The Siege of Jerusalem
  • The Book of John Mandeville
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Prioress’ Tale, The Man of Law’s Tale
  • William Langland, Piers Plowman
  • Select texts pertaining to: English heresy, the Bible translation debate, lay devotion, female mysticism and spirituality
  • Selections from Middle English courtly romances

Evaluation: Mid-term essay, 25%; Final research project, 40%; Rare books responses (2), 20% (10% each); In-class translations, 5%; Participation and attendance, 10%

Format: Lecture, discussion, workshop

ENGL 458 Cultural and Theatre Studies 

Theatricality and Performativity

Professor Denis Salter
Fall Term 2015
Tuesday, Thursday 13:00-14:30

Full course description

Prerequisite: None

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level courses in drama and theatre, literature, or cultural studies.

Description: The object of our seminar is to define, at a theoretical level and through applied case-studies, the epistemologically fraught terms 'theatricality' and 'performativity' (and their cognates) to determine not only why, how, and to what ends each term can / might be used, but also to arrive at an understanding of to what extent they are sovereign and / or complementary. As Josette Féral proposes: "I would argue […] that there is no contradiction whatsoever between these two perspectives, which seem widely divergent. Rather, they complement each other, allowing us to better understand the phenomenon of representation, underscoring that performativity, far from contradicting theatricality, is one of its elements. In integrating performativity within itself, theatricality sees it as one of its fundamental modalities, giving theatricality its power and meaning. In fact, such an approach allows us to better understand any spectacle, which is an interplay of both performativity and theatricality."

In defining and using our evolving critical vocabulary, we shall be examining drama, theatre, performance, and film fields and sub-fields, including theatre and anthropology, gender studies, musicology, philosophy, linguistics, philosophy, art history, archival practices, and critical theory. Key topics will include not only ‘theatricality’ and ‘performativity (performance)’, but also presence and representation, embodiment and subjectivity / subject-positions, the archive and the repertoire, gender politics, ideologically-determined poetics of space / place, the dis/ease of memory, intra- and inter-medial translation, the principles and practices of the gaze, acting vs. performance, ‘cultural literacy,’ dislocated identities, the poetics of tradition and experiment, exercises in deconstructing the hegemony of (mainstream) naturalism, the constitution of the ‘natural,’ the de-naturalized subject, corporeal reifications, and the performance / enactment of the trinity of race, class, and gender / sexuality.

Our seminar will first devote itself to a close reading of a selection of mostly theoretical essays, several of which come from a special online issue of SubStance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism 31.2 & 3 (2002), ed. Josette Féral. These will include two essays by Féral, and one essay by Freddie Rokem and perhaps some others. Other theoretical readings to be found in the Course Pack and online are by Philip Auslander, J. L. Austin, Judith Butler, David Savran, Dwight Conquergood, Diana Taylor, Rebecca Schneider, Jacques Derrida, W. B. Worthen, Peggy Phelan, Richard Schechner, Marvin Carlson, Victor Turner, Frantz Fanon, Homi K. Bhabha, Andrew Parker, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Shannon Jackson, and Michel de Certeau.

Our seminar will then examine some dramatic / film texts as case-studies, exploring, (re)interpreting, and applying the critical vocabulary that we have acquired and created to see what its use-value might be.


• Course Pack of articles and essays
• Michel Tremblay, Albertine In Five Times, trans. Linda Gaboriau (Talonbooks)
• Georg Bϋchner, Woyzeck (Nick Hern Books)
• Federico García Lorca, The House of Bernarda Alba, trans. Rona Munro (Nick Hern Books)
• Lorena Gale, Angélique (Playwrights Canada Press)
• Anton Chekhov, Three Sisters, trans. Paul Schmidt, in The Plays of Anton Chekhov (HarperCollins)


• Baz Luhrmann, Romeo + Juliet (Bazmark Films), Baz Luhrmann, director, written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce  (Bazmark Films, 1996 ; Beverley Hills: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, ca. 2002)
• [Marina Abramovic]: The Artist Is Present, directors Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre. Chicago, IL: Music Box Films, [2012]. HSSL: AV Reserve Room: 9488
Bob Wilson’s The Life & Death of Marina Abramovic, directed and written by Giada Cola Grande (2012)
• The Wooster Group, director, Elizabeth LeCompte, narrator Kate Valk, Brace Up! (The Wooster Group, 2009)
• Werner Herzog, director, Woyzeck (Anchor Bay Entertainment,  ([2000])
• Mario Camus, director, written by Mario Camus and Antonio Larreta, The House of Bernarda Alba (1987; [Chicago]: Cińemateca, ca. 2005])
• Film Script: Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann, Romeo + Juliet -

Evaluation: Active participation in the intellectual life of the seminar: 15%; one seminar presentation on a theoretical text or case-study: 15%; a distilled critical argument arising from the seminar presentation advanced in a 8-page long essay: 20%; a 20-page long scholarly essay from a choice of individually-negotiated topics: 50%

Format: Brief, mid-sized, and longer lectures; led-discussions; presentations including interrogative Qs & As.

ENGL 466 Directing for Theatre

Professor Myrna Wyatt Selkirk
Monday, Wednesday 2:35-4:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: ENGL 230 and ENGL 269 and/or permission of instructor is required for enrollment.

Application Process: Sign-up sheets for interviews will be posted on the door of Arts 240 the first week of April.  Please send a letter (of less than one page, double spaced) outlining why you are interested in taking the course and what you would bring to it.  E-mail it to myrna.wyatt.selkirk [at] with the subject heading Directing Class Application.  It is due two days before your interview.

Description: The preparation of the dramatic text for production: 1) script analysis, research, planning, 2) auditions and casting, 3) the rehearsal process (with a strong focus on the actor/director relationship), 4)technical elements, 5) performance.


  • The Directors Eye by John Ahart (Meriwether Publishing, 2001).
  • The Viewpoints Book: A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau (Theatre Communications Group, 2005).
  • Actions: The Actors' Thesaurus by Marina Caldarone (Maggie Lloyd-Williams, 2004).

Evaluation: Class Participation and Attendance; Scene rehearsal and performance; Metaphor/Action Board; Research; Production Book (script analysis, and annotated script) and a journal of the entire process (including final reflections); Workshop Production


Avg. enrolment: 10 students

ENGL 467 Special Topics in Theatre

Musical Theatre

Professor Katherine Zien
Fall Term 2015
Monday, Wednesday 1:05-2:25

Full course description

Prerequisites: None.

Description: Is the era of musical theatre over? Is the musical dead? Or is it evolving, dynamic, and more lively than ever? Moreover, what might the musical, seemingly pure pop fluff, have to tell us about political economy, race, gender, sexuality, archives, and affect? This course will survey diverse genealogies of Anglo-American musical theatre, from the genre’s precursors in vaudeville and variety, melodrama, Tin Pan Alley, and mass spectacle to early Broadway and the musical’s extended “Golden Age” in the staged and filmic works of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim. We will then turn to contemporary mega-musicals, including the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julie Taymor, and “social issue” and “postmodern” musicals, from the 1990s to the present. We will supplement our readings with viewings and audio clips.

Topics discussed will include:

  • The middlebrow musical: class, musical theatre, and the ambivalence of the “popular”
  • Spectacle, commodification, and commerce: the lucrative musical
  • The collaborative, ephemeral musical: choreography, book, score
  • Filmic versus staged musicals: what changes in the shift from “live” to archive?
  • Opera/musical/theatre
  • Avant-garde musicals, impossible musicals, alienating musicals, weird musicals
  • Singing politics, staging dissensus
  • Race, ethnicity, and the ‘multi-culti’ musical
  • Gender and sexuality: the queer, sexy musical
  • Musical theatre goes global: touring, translation, and the transnational musical

Texts: Works viewed and examined, in whole or part, may include

  •  Busby Berkeley spectacle; Porgy and Bess (original and revised versions); Ziegfeld’s Follies; Williams and Walker’s In Dahomey; The Cradle Will Rock
  • Oklahoma; South Pacific; The King and I; The Sound of Music
  • The Wiz; Into the Woods; Follies
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman; Falsettos
  • The Lion King; Phantom of the Opera; Cats
  • Rent; Book of Mormon; Spring Awakening; Wicked, Fun Home; In the Heights; Next to Normal; Hamilton
  • A course packet of secondary texts (including treatments by Andrea Most; David Savran; Stacy Wolf; John Bush Jones; Sam O’Connell; and others) will accompany our explorations in musical theatre.

Evaluation: Participation, attendance at screenings, and in-class presentation: 20%; Short response essays (3): 45%; final essay: 35%

Format: Lecture, discussion, and screenings

ENGL 481 A Year in Film


Professor Ned Schantz
Fall Term 2015
Monday 2:30-5:30

Full course description

Prerequisites: non-majors need instructor’s permission

Expected Student Preparation: Previous university-level course work in film studies.

 Description: This course will be an experiment in historical immersion.  We will project ourselves into New York City in 1950 and simulate the moviegoing career of a film buff at that time, watching films as they would have become progressively available in the theatres. To appreciate better how these films might have spoken to our film buff, our simulation will include a substantial immersion in the periodicals of that time as well.  But one caveat is in order: our zeal for historical inquiry will at no time allow us to assume that film constitutes a well-scrubbed window on the past. Skill at detecting the distortion and displacement inherent in the cultural work of film is essential. For this reason, prior experience in film studies is strongly recommended.

Texts include readings by: TBA

Films To Be Screened: TBA

Evaluation: Term paper 35%; film journals 35%; participation and attendance 30%

Format: Seminar and group work

ENGL 483 Special Topics in Cultural Studies

David Lynch In Relation

Professor Alanna Thain
Fall Term 2015
Thursday 10:00-11:30 | Weekly screenings(required): TBA

Full course description

Description: David Lynch is one of the few contemporary directors to have a style so distinct and influential that “Lynchian” has become a recognized shorthand for a surreal and potent cinematic style, “wild at heart and weird on top”. In this class we will explore Lynch’s films, from his first feature, the “midnight movie” Eraserhead (1976) to his recent Hollywood trilogy (1997’s Lost Highway,2001’s Mulholland Drive and 2006’s Inland Empire), three scathing and tender critiques of the dream factory. Lynch’s extensive and lesser known body of short film works, as well as his online platform will also be examined. Lynch’s work will be considered in relation to such topics as surrealism, sound in cinema, the legacy of genre film, the influence of popular culture, disjunctive narrative, dream logics, auteurism, the film industry, the shift from analog to digital cinema and contemporary critical theory.

Texts: Coursepack (McGill bookstore)

EvaluationEssay 35% (due Dec. 3); Lynch in Relation screening log: 40%; group presentation/ discussion session 20%; participation 15%

Format: Lectures, discussion and screenings

ENGL 486 Special Topics in Theatre History

History of Costume: 1850 to 1969

Instructor Catherine Bradley
Fall Term 2015
Friday 11:25-2:25

Full course description

Prerequisite: None.

Expected Student Preparation: Previous University level course work in English, Art History, Architecture, other relevant fields and/or experience in costuming.

Description: Costumes do not exist in a vacuum; they respond to social and political factors specific to the era in which they were created.  They are inextricably linked to the art and architecture of their day as they are to the current political and moral beliefs.  A micro mini skirt comments on the sexual revolution of the 1960’s as succinctly as any treatise on sexual liberation. 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 structure of this course will alternate between instructor information and student response.  The instructor will present the costume history of each specific era through images, example pieces, and embodied learning.  In the next class, students will present their oral projects which respond to the specific era.  They will answer questions such as:  What is the common aesthetic between furniture and clothing design of the Victorian era (or “How the heck did they sit down in that”?).  How does the music of the 1920’s effect dance, and in turn, clothing styles? How do the political and economic realities of the Great Depression impact fabric usage during the 1930’s?

Historical overview of costumes will be enhanced by embodied learning and an inquisitive look at the link between clothing and the culture that created them.

Texts: None required. Expect one museum entrance fee during the semester.

Evaluation: Attendance/participation 10%, costume critique 10%, oral presentations 40% (two presentations worth 20% each), mid term quiz 10%, long paper or major independent project 20%, end of term quiz 10%.

Format:  Alternating lectures by the instructor and oral presentations by the students.

Average Enrollment: 25 students maximum

ENGL 489 Culture and Critical Theory 1

Marxist Literary and Cultural Theory

Professor Derek Nystrom
Winter Term 2016
Tuesday, Thursday 10:05-11:25

Full course description

Expected Student Preparation: Familiarity with the basic concepts of literary and/or cultural theory will be very useful.

Description:  This course will critically examine the efforts within the Marxist tradition to theorize literary and cultural production. After starting with an overview of Marxism as a system of thought, we will trace the critical formulations of various Marxist theorists as they address the aesthetic modes of realism, modernism, and postmodernism—modes whose periods of cultural dominance correspond, Fredric Jameson and others have suggested, to different stages in the development of the capitalist mode of production. As we follow a somewhat chronological itinerary through the critical debates each of these aesthetic modes has occasioned, we will also engage with Marxism’s dialogue (and sometimes conflict) with other critical traditions, such as feminism and postcolonial studies. Throughout the term, we will also examine some primary works of literary and cultural production to “test out” the claims of these theorists. The guiding metaphor for our inquiries will be that of base and superstructure: How are literary and cultural productions related to the realm of economic production? What role does the study of aesthetic form have in Marxist analysis? What is the role of culture in capitalism? Our inquiries will be undertaken in a collaborative, rather than competitive spirit, even as we pursue what Marx once called the “ruthless criticism of all that exists.”

Format: Lecture, discussion

Evaluation: TBA

Required Texts:                                   

  • Ruis, Marx for Beginners
  • Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne, eds., Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader
  • Ronald Taylor, trans. and ed., Aesthetics and Politics
  • Course pack                                           

Average enrollment: 30 students

ENGL 490 The Mute Figure in Literature and Film

Professor Berkeley Kaite
Fall Term 2015
Friday 2:35-5:25

Full course description

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

Format: seminar, screenings, lectures, discussion, oral reports

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



  • Kathryn Harrison, The Seal Wife (New York, Random House, 2002)
  • Barbara Gowdy, Mister Sandman (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2007 [1995])
  • Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
  • John Banville, The Infinities (Vintage, 2009)
  • Selections from Michel Foucault, Chloe Taylor, Michael Chion, Valerie Hazel


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

ENGL 492 Image and Text

The Graphic Novel

Professor Sean Carney
Fall Term 2015
Tuesday, Thursday 1:05-2:25

Full course description

Description: This course will introduce students to contemporary graphic novels from a variety of different theoretical perspectives, attending to the form as a popular medium while also considering its unique aesthetic qualities.  Considerable attention will be paid to close reading and to the analysis of formal and stylistic elements that distinguish comics as a unique artistic phenomenon.  Students will be encouraged to develop their own approaches and bring diverse critical and theoretical frames of reference to bear upon the texts studied, taking full advantage of the many research possibilities that exist in respect to this form. The course will be organized into approximately four thematic groupings: revisionist narratives within the mainstream, memoirs and confessionals, new journalism, and auteur comix.  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.  So, while students will no doubt recognize some familiar names and titles, there will also be some less well-known books represented.  Writers and artists to be chosen from include: Will Eisner, James Sturm, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Eddie Campbell, Art Spiegelman, Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Frank Miller, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Alison Bechdel, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Chris Weston, Warren Ellis, David Collier, Ben Katchor, Marjane Satrapi, Rutu Modan, Jason Lutes, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, Jeff Smith, Guido Crepax, Joe Sacco, David B., Chris Ware, Los Bros. Hernandez, Nick Abadzis, Rick Veitch, Phoebe Gloeckner, Neil Gaiman, Harvey Pekar, R. Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Jack Jackson, Craig Thompson, James Kochalka and  Scott McCloud.

Texts: A course pack of critical and theoretical readings, and a selection of graphic novels TBA

Evaluation: TBA

Format: Group Discussions

ENGL 495 Individual Reading Course

Fall Term 2015

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 2015 Term: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 by 4:00 PM

Application Form (Also available in the Department of English General Office, Arts 155)

ENGL 496 Individual Reading Course

Winter Term 2016

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 2016 Term: Wednesday, January 13, 2016 by 4:00 PM

PDF icon engl495_496_applicationform.pdf (Also available in the Students Affairs Office, Arts Building, Room 155)


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