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Updated: Thu, 07/18/2024 - 18:12

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This version of the McGill Department of English, Undergraduate Studies site is deprecated but has been preserved for archival reasons. The information on this site is not up to date and should not be consulted. Students, faculty, and staff should consult the new site using the link below.

500-level Courses / Seminars

Note on maximum and minimum enrolments for graduate seminars:

All graduate courses are generally limited to a maximum enrolment of 15 students. 500-level courses with an enrolment of fewer than 7 students, and 600- or 700-level courses with an enrolment of fewer than 4 students, will not be offered except in special circumstances.

Note on registration in 500-level courses:

500-level courses are restricted to an enrollment of 15 students and are open to Master's and advanced undergraduate students. B.A. students must receive permission from the instructor before registering for a 500-level course.   As a general rule, M.A. students are permitted to take two courses at the 500-level and Ph.D. students may only register for 500-level courses after receiving permission from the Graduate Program Director. But PhD students should certainly not overlook 500-level courses when making their course selections. If the subject matter of a particular course makes a good fit for a PhD student’s research interests, then that student should simply contact the Graduate Program Director to be given permission to register for that course. Similarly, an M.A. student who has a good justification for taking a third 500-level seminar should contact the Graduate Program Director to be given permission to register for it.

Please click on the “full course description” link below any of the following course titles to find a detailed description of the course goals, the reading list, and the method of evaluation.

ENGL 500 Middle English

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

Professor Dorothy Bray
Fall Term 2015
Wednesday 11:35 – 2:25

Full course description

Description: This course aims to examine the idea of the fantastic and the grotesque in some of the most popular forms of literature in the Middle Ages - heroic romances and legends of saints - in the light of medieval heroic tradition, popular culture, and medieval ideas of monstrosity.
The fourteenth-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, provides a starting point to explore depictions of the grotesque and the discourse of both monstrosity and sanctity. Reading about saints was not confined to the cloister; these stories were read and heard alongside secular tales, both of which could feature demons, dragons and damsels in distress. The fantastic extended to human-animal interaction, the perception of the foreign and exotic (the ‘other’), and certain tropes in both secular and ecclesiastical narratives where virtue must win out (such as prophecy or loss and recovery).
The course includes (but is not confined to) readings from the South English Legendary and other saints’ Lives (such as the legends of St Eustace, St. Margaret, and St George (with that dragon!)), the fantastic pilgrimage in St Patrick’s Purgatory, as well as popular Middle English romances (such as Sir Isumbras, Octavian, Sir Eglamour, among others), the werewolf tale of Bisclavert by Marie de France, the Welsh tales of Arthur and of Merlin, and the romance of Alexander the Great, whose travels to the East provided much influential, fantastic fare.

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

Texts: TBA

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 501 Sixteenth Century

Sex Differences and Sexual Dissidence in Early Modern Culture: Literary and Social Contexts

Professor Kenneth Borris
Fall Term 2015
Wednesday 2:35 – 5:25

Full course description

Description: A study of dissident views and practices of love and sex in early modern culture from the later fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, encompassing viragos, prostitutes, sodomites, tribades, sapphists, and hermaphrodites, among others.  Their treatment and representation according to various discourses and intellectual disciplines will be considered.  For example, these will include, with varying degrees of emphasis, medicine and the other former sciences (such as physiognomy and astrology), as well as erotica, theology, philosophy, and law.  Our readings of primary sources will thus involve non-literary as well as literary texts--such as Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Milton’s masque Comus, and, in translation, Nicholas Chorier’s Dialogues of Venus, some of Michelangelo’s sonnets, and Montaigne’s essay on friendship.  Depending on class size, each member will likely do two seminar papers, each in a different part of the term.  According to their own particular interests, seminar members will determine their own topics for seminar presentations and hence related discussions, as well as discussion topics in the final period.  Insofar as possible, presentations will be grouped in a series of informal “conference sessions” on related matters according to a schedule we will establish at the start of the course.  This format aims to create a diverse, open, and responsive seminar.

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


  • General Course Reader, Same-Sex Desire in the English Renaissance: A Sourcebook of Texts, 1470-1650 (copies on reserve, electronic copy in McLennan Library on-line catalogue)
  • Supplementary Course Reader with various additional readings including Milton’s Comus
  • Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (edition is optional)
  • Caterina de Erauso, Memoirs of a Basque Lieutenant Nun (paperback)
  • The last three texts will be available at the Word Bookstore, 469 Milton Street, 514.845.5640.

Format: Seminar with papers and discussion

Average enrollment: 7 to 10 students

ENGL 503 Eighteenth Century

The Villain-Hero

Professor David Hensley
Fall Term 2015
Thursday 2:35-5:25 (and film screenings every Thursday starting at 5:35 pm)

Full course description

Description: This course will contextualize the villain-hero of eighteenth-century English literature in a European tradition of philosophical, religious, and political problems, social criticism, and artistic commentary from the Renaissance to Romanticism. Against the background of representations of the desire for knowledge and power in Elizabethan drama, the anthropology of Caroline political theory, Satanic revolt in Milton, and libertine devilry in Rochester and Restoration plays, we will examine the villain-hero as a figure of persistently fascinating evil power – a power subversively critical as well as characteristically satiric, obscene, and cruel in its skepticism, debauchery, and criminality. The readings will focus especially on two examples of this figure, Faust and Don Juan, whose development we will consider from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

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

Texts: The reading for this course includes the following books, which will be available at The Word Bookstore (469 Milton Street, 514-845-5640). (The list of texts below is tentative and incomplete, to be confirmed in September 2015.)

  •  Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (Norton or Hackett recommended)
  • Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Hackett, Oxford, or Penguin recommended)
  • La Rochefoucauld, Maxims and Reflections (Oxford recommended; or Penguin)
  • John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester, Selected Poems (Oxford) or Selected Works (Penguin)
  • William Wycherley, The Country Wife
  • William Congreve, The Way of the World
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust. Part One (Oxford or Norton)
  • Pierre Choderos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Oxford or Penguin)
  • Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, The Story of My Life (Penguin)
  • Lord Byron, Don Juan (Penguin)
  • Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin (Penguin recommended)

Films: Usually one film will be shown each week. Viewing the films is a requirement of the course, and attendance at the screenings is an expected form of participation. Most screening sessions will last about two hours; some will be longer. (The following list of films is provisional.)

  •  Jan Svankmejer, Don Juan (1970) and Faust (1994)
  • Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (Greenwich Theatre, London; Stage on Screen, 2010)
  • F. W. Murnau, Faust (1926)
  • Hector Berlioz, La Damnation de Faust (dir. Sylvain Cambreling, 1999)
  • Charles Gounod, Faust (dir. Antonio Pappano, 2010)
  • Alexandr Sokurov, Faust (2011)
  • Wycherley, The Country Wife (1992); and Congreve, The Way of the World (1997)
  • Stephen Frears, Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
  • Josée Dayan, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (2003)
  • Mozart, Don Giovanni (dir. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1996; and others)
  • Rupert Edwards, The Real Don Giovanni (1996)
  • Benoit Jacquot, Sade (1999)
  • Wong Kar Wai, 2046 (2004)
  • Frederico Fellini, Fellini’s Casanova (1976)
  • Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin (dir. Daniel Barenboim, 2007; and others)

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students maximum

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

ENGL 504 Nineteenth Century

The Victorian Novel and the Working Class

Professor Tabitha Sparks
Fall Term 2015
Monday 8:35 – 11:25

Full course description

Description: The rise of the Victorian industrial working class is carefully if unevenly documented in the realist fiction of the period.  This course examines seven novels about the working class that variously call upon fiction as a form of social and political intervention into the widespread problem of poverty.  The novels we will read include early period 'Condition of England novels' that write about the poor for the edification of the middle classes (Dickens, Gaskell), to later-century novels that attempt to portray the subjective experience of the poor in realist form (Gissing, Harkness).  Central to the course discussions will be the ability of the novel -- largely a form created by and for the middle classes that assumes both education and leisure time in its readers-- to represent working-class experience.  An autobiography (Thompson) and excerpts from working-class memoirs will provide examples of first-person narrators whose stories, while still mediated by conventional narrative paradigms, are comparatively free from novelistic objectification. 



  • A course pack of critical and autobiographical writings
  • Gaskell, Mary Barton
  • Dickens, Hard Times
  • Eliot, Felix Holt
  • Gissing, Workers in the Dawn
  • Harkness, A City Girl
  • Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students maximum

ENGL 505 Twentieth Century

Collaborative Modernisms

Professor Miranda Hickman
Winter Term 2016
Wednesday 2:35 – 5:25

Full course description

Description: This course starts from the premise that the concepts of “collaboration” and “modernism” are mutually illuminative: on the one hand, a critical approach focused on collaboration can shed valuable light on modernism, the influential early twentieth-century experimental movement in literature involving writers such as T.S. Eliot, H.D., James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf. Moreover, because the work of modernism, both on and off the page, offers a particularly rich collection of collaborative practices, the modernist movement provides a site especially apt for theoretical exploration of collaborative literary production.  Accordingly, the course situates itself at the intersection of collaboration studies and modernist studies.

Collaboration was one of the modernists’ signature practices: modernist work emerged from a cultural milieu that fostered, prized and rewarded collaborative endeavor. Writers and artists often banded together under the banners of movements or the umbrellas of “little magazines”; interacting through the conversational fora provided by salons, cafés, periodicals and letters; critiquing and promoting one another’s work, conceiving of the modernist revolution as a shared project.

Sometimes evidence of these collaborations appears overtly in the pages of a text, in the form of a co-signature or otherwise; at other times, it does not.  In some instances, texts we consider will have been composed collaboratively by two authors working in tandem; in others, one writer will have played a significant role in the editing and revision of another’s writer’s text; in still others, collaboration of another kind will be involved—such as an extra-literary relationship between two individuals, preceding the production of a literary text—that significantly informs, and is registered in, a text produced by one of them.

This course is partly inspired by a wave of theoretical work on collaboration in literary studies that first arose in the 1990s—initially led by commentators such as Wayne Koestenbaum and Jack Stillinger, and more recently, by Holly Laird, Bette London and Lorraine York. Such work has often focused on collaboration in order to interrogate established notions about the nature of authorship, especially to interrogate the widespread tendency to assume and prefer the model of single authorship. From a variety of theoretical perspectives—feminist, queer, cultural-materialist, textual-scholarly—many of these commentators have undertaken to trouble, as Stillinger puts it, “the myth of solitary genius.”

Evaluation: Book review (15%); oral presentation (20%); brief essay (20%); longer essay (30%); seminar participation (15%)

Texts (provisional):

  • Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1937)
  • T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, ed. Valerie Eliot (1971)
  • H.D., Tribute to Freud (composed 1944, 1948; first published in its entirety, 1974)
  • Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, Mule Bone (1930)
  • Marianne Moore, selections from The Complete Poems
  • Gertude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933)
  • Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)
  • Oscar Wilde, Salomé (first French edition, 1893; first English edition, 1894)
  • We will also address additional poetry by such modernist poets as H.D., T.S. Eliot,  Ezra Pound, and William Butler Yeats

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 15 students 

ENGL 525 American Literature 

19th-Century American Writing and City Life

Professor Peter Gibian
Fall Term 2015
Monday 2:35 – 5:25

Full course description

Description: Intensive study of a diverse range of American literary writings that attempt, over the course of the long nineteenth century, to develop new aesthetic forms appropriate to expression of new modes of consciousness associated with the experience of life in the modern city. Readings will include selected works by authors such as: Franklin, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Lippard (or other “city mysteries” writers), Whitman, the diarist George Templeton Strong, Holmes, Cable, Crane, Dreiser, Alger, L. Frank Baum, Jacob Riis, Chopin, Howells, James, Wharton. At the same time, we will study diverse critical analyses of the city in literature, and theoretical works (often coming out of Walter Benjamin’s seminal studies) defining the dynamics of an emerging "city consciousness." To deepen our sense of the urban context for these primary writings, we will make side trips to explore secondary readings surveying the cultural history of urban crowds, urban periodicals, flanerie, bohemian enclaves, urban parks, shows and amusements, arcades and department stores, world's fairs, museums, hotels, tenements, and also parallel developments in other arts related to the urban scene (painting, photography, panorama, cinema).

Texts: TBA--selections from authors listed above

Evaluation: Tentative: Participation in discussions, 20%; series of one-page textual analyses, 20%; class presentation, 15%; final research paper, 45%

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 527  Canadian Literature

Canadian Modernism

Prof. Brian Trehearne
Fall Term 2015
Friday 11:35 – 2:25

Full course description

Description: In close study of four novels and a wide range of poetry, the course will examine the birth, growth, and consolidation of Canadian modernist writing from 1920 to 1970.  Canadian modernism is currently enjoying a critical renaissance triggered by a recent wave of activity in the scholarly editing and publication of little-known or out-of-print works.  As a result, the canon of Canadian modernism is more fluid than ever before, and so is the critical understanding of “modernism” that underpins much of this recent activity.  We will read our authors as individuals participating consciously in the global modernist project, and as Canadians fashioning a distinct national course and qualities for that project.  In the process, we should gain a sense of global modernism’s essential characteristics—of what may and may not rightly be called modernist—as well as of its possible national variations.  We will be attentive to the Anglo-American and European sources of Canadian modernism, in particular to T.S. Eliot’s ideal of “impersonality” and its eventual supplanting by a newly lyric modernism in the 1950s, and the little-noticed Surrealist vein in Canadian modernist writing; to the fruitful interaction of late realism and modernism that is particular to Canadian fiction of the period; and to the complex relation of mid-century women writers to modernism.  Our later readings will give us an opportunity to reflect on the period and conceptual boundaries of modernism and post-modernism.


The following texts will definitely be assigned—feel free to purchase and read ahead:

  • Trehearne, Brian, ed.  Canadian Poetry 1920 to 1960.  Toronto: McClelland and Stewart [New Canadian Library]: 2010.
  • Watson, Sheila.  The Double Hook. (1959)
  • Wilson, Ethel.  The Equations of Love. (1952)

At least two more novels will be selected from the list below:

  • Buckler, Ernest.  The Mountain and the Valley. (1952)
  • Cohen, Leonard.  Beautiful Losers. (1966)
  • Grove, Frederick Philip.  The Master of the Mill. (1944)
  • Klein, A.M.  The Second Scroll. (1951)
  • Richler, Mordecai.  The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.  (1956)
  • Smart, Elizabeth.  By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. (1945)

Evaluation: Textual exercises and/or reading reviews and/or presentations, 25%; major research paper (20-25 pages), 50%; participation in class discussion, 25%.  NB: consistent and informed participation in class discussion is optional neither in post-graduate studies nor in the academic profession and so cannot be in this course.  Perfect attendance is expected at the 500-level and will not be relevant to this portion of your grade.  A failing grade will be given in this category to those who don’t participate consistently, constructively, and in an informed way in class discussions.

Format: Seminar

Average Enrollment: 10 students

Engl 529 Topics in American Studies

Hollywood’s Great Depression

Professor Derek Nystrom
Fall Term 2015
Friday  2:35 – 5:25

Full course description

Description: The 1930s marked a period of massive change for the U.S. as a whole and its film industry. The Great Depression that ravaged the nation’s economy also threatened to destroy the Hollywood studios, forcing them to re-organize themselves less as family businesses and more as modern corporations. The labour radicalism ignited by the Depression sparked union drives within Hollywood as well. Concern over the influence of films on America’s youth prompted the expansion and stricter enforcement of the industry’s Production Code, which imposed multiple constraints on both film form and content. In addition, Hollywood’s transition to synchronized sound necessitated a series of changes, both technological and aesthetic, that transformed the vocabulary of cinema. Operating from an understanding of these multiple social, industrial, and aesthetic contexts, this course will examine several different film genres and cycles that attempted to address—directly and indirectly—the Great Depression while it was underway. Of key interest will be questions of narrative form: how did classical Hollywood narration—whose causal structure is driven by the agency of its individual protagonists—represent a social world that dramatized the ineffectual nature of personal agency in the face of economic collapse? The course will pay special attention to genres and cycles that treated forms of life whose position in the social order was precarious—the gangster film, the fallen woman cycle, the social problem film—while also examining film styles whose relationship to the Depression may seem more tenuous, such as screwball comedy and the musical. 


  • 10-15 minute class presentation: 15% of final grade
  • Class contribution: 25%
  • 2pp proposal for end-of-term paper: 10%
  • End-of-term paper (15-20pp): 50% 

Required films:

  • Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, First National/Warner Bros., 1931)
  • Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, Paramount, 1932)
  • American Madness (Frank Capra, Columbia, 1932)
  • Prosperity (Sam Wood, MGM, 1932)
  • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy, Warner Bros., 1932)
  • Wild Boys of the Road (William A. Wellman, First National/Warner Bros., 1933)
  • Baby Face (Alfred E. Green, Warner Bros., 1933)
  • 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, Warner Bros., 1933)
  • Gabriel Over the White House (Gregory La Cava, MGM, 1933)
  • Stand Up and Cheer! (Hamilton MacFadden, Fox Film, 1934)
  • It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, Columbia, 1934)
  • Our Daily Bread (King Vidor, King W. Vidor Productions/United Artists, 1934)
  • Black Fury (Michael Curtiz, First National/Warner Bros., 1935)
  • My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, Universal, 1936)
  • Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, Charles Chaplin Productions/United Artists, 1936)
  • Fury (Fritz Lang, Loew’s/MGM, 1936)
  • Marked Woman (Lloyd Bacon/Michael Curtiz, Warner Bros./First National, 1937)
  • Black Legion (Archie Mayo, Warner Bros., 1937)
  • Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, Paramount, 1937)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1940)                   
  • Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, Paramount, 1941)

Format: Seminar, weekly screenings

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 545/PLAI 500 Activism in Revolution(s)

The Micromechanics and Poetics of Changing the World

Professor Monica Popescu and Professor Tassos Anastassiadis (History)
Fall Term 2015
Tuesdays 11:35-2:25

Full course description

Description: This course examines from an interdisciplinary perspective the anatomy and evolution of the discursive and concrete practices of activism. It aims at understanding the micromechanics of activism, i.e. the process through which the interaction of various individual experiences can lead to revolutionary outcomes, as participants subscribe to narratives of social justification and personal fulfillment. It also tackles the poetics of revolutionary action by looking at its discursive practices.

Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), foretold that his overthrow would not be the end, as the slave revolt “will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.” How do these roots connect to other activist and revolutionary movements and what are their offshoots across the globe? To understand such connections we look at a selection of sites of social action from the late 18th century to the present, which we set in dialogue. What were the networks of sociability and the discursive connections at play when disenchanted European liberals traveled hundreds of miles away and decided to enroll to fight and even give their life in the Greek War of Independence (1821-1827), as the Romantic poet Byron did? Was their action spontaneous or homogeneously meditated, and what legacy did it leave for the future? How is this connected to later perceptions of international mobilization and political friendship? How do ideas of radical political transformation, such as the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, travel to other sites and historical eras, animating ideas of decolonization or the struggle against apartheid in the second half of the 20th century? What is the role of intertextuality, reading practices as well as practices of analogical identification, in this process? Memoirs, novels, poetry, films, paintings, manifestos and other cultural texts will be read in dialogue with essays by Karl Marx, G. W. F. Hegel, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Walter Rodney, Jacques Derrida, Kwame Nkrumah, Aghostino Neto, Ruth First, etc. We will also reflect on these topics by occasionally excursing into the domains of religious, educational and scientific activism, or by concretely engaging in a contemporary activist agenda.

Texts: (tentative, the final list will be available in July)

  • François-René de Chateaubriand Memoirs From Beyond the Tomb
  • Charles Dickens Hard Times
  • Frantz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth
  • C. L. R. James: The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
  • Marjane Satrapi Persepolis
  • Mongane Wally Serote To Every Birth Its Blood


  • Sergei Eisenstein October
    Gillo Pontecorvo The Battle of Algiers
    Andrzej Wajda Danton

Evaluation: TBA

Format: Seminars

ENGL 568 Studies in Dramatic Form

Contemporary Canadian Aboriginal Theatre

Professor Denis Salter
Winter Term 2016
Fridays 11:30-2:30

Full course description

Description: This seminar is a study of the extraordinary efflorescence of First Nations Drama in English from the 1970s through to and including 2016.  We will both historicize and theorize, as we concentrate our attention on theatre movements, dramatic modes, a matrix of recurrent themes and subjects, particular plays and playwrights, and on the continuous/continual encounters between Native and (primarily) European cultures.  The seminar will ask and seek to answer a number of problematic questions, among them: what is meant by the words First Nations, Indians, Natives, and Indigenes? What is meant by the words drama, play, performance, ritual, dance, and theatre?  We shall travel into worlds occupied by “The Trickster,” who appears in multiple guises as Coyote, Weesageechak, Nanabush, Raven, Rabbit, Spider, Monkey, Agouti, or Koshare. We shall learn the languages of translation, for as Monique Mojica and Ric Knowles write in the first volume of their co-edited anthologies entitled Staging Coyote’s Dream, “One of the tasks of First Nations Theatre artists, and one of the subjects of most of the plays in this collection, is translation, broadly understood: translation between cultures and world views; translations between the unseen and the material worlds; translation between interior and exterior realities; translation between languages and discourses, including the values and ideologies they embody; and translation of the ways in which First Nations peoples navigate identity,” together with “the language of conquest, the language that Native peoples were brutalized into speaking.” We shall come to apprehend, literally and figuratively, Coyote’s dream of the “dream world, that realm of intangible reality in which the ethereal and the material coexist and are co-extensive.”  All of this is theatre in a never-ending process, as Native artists have created and create hybrids of traditions and experiments, of cultures and counter-cultures, of what is old and what is new, of what was then and what is now; and as they engage in the recuperation, creation, and memorialization of different kinds of embodied knowledge, and of what Mojica has described as “blood memory.”

Among the plays we shall read, considering both their generative identities and their afterlives, particularly in the here and now, are Aria by Tomson Highway, Reverb-ber-ber-rations by Spiderwomen Theatre, Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots by Mojica, Almighty Voice and His Wife  and The Indian Medicine Shows  by Daniel David Moses, Job’s Wife or The Delivery of Grace and Annie Mae’s Movement  by Yvette Nolan, Lady of Silences and Governor of the Dew: A Memorial to Nostalgia and Desire by Floyd Favel, Girl Who Loved Her Horses by Drew Hayden Taylor, The Unnatural and Accidental Women and Burning Vision by Marie Clements, Confessions of an Indian Cowboy by Margo Kane,  Please Do Not Touch the Indians by Joseph A. Dandurand, and The Scrubbing Project by Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble. We shall also be reading articles by some of these artists along with scholarly studies of contemporary Canadian aboriginal theatre from the set-text edited by Rob Appleford and from the quarterly magazine published under the aegis of Teesri Duniya Theatre, alt. theatre: cultural diversity and the stage.

Evaluation: A presentation on a key issue, play, theatre movement, group of interrelated themes, etc. (20%); an 8-page paper arising from that presentation in the form of a distilled critical argument (20%); a scholarly paper, topics individually-negotiated (35%); and regular and instructive contributions to the intellectual and creative life of the seminar (25%).


  • Appleford, Rob. Ed. Aboriginal Drama and Theatre. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2005.
  • Mojica, Monique and Ric Knowles. Eds. Staging Coyote’s Dream, 2 vols. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2003 and 2008.
  • Course Pack of pieces from alt. theatre: cultural diversity and the stage.

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 586 Modes of Communication 2

Affect, Emotion, and Artistic Performance

Professor Trevor Ponech
Winter Term 2016
Wednesday 11:35 – 2:25

Full course description

Description: Theoretically informed discourse about affect and emotion is now integral to humanistic inquiry into literature, cinema, theatre, and cultural forms in general.  This seminar should appeal to students seeking a foundational understanding of basic concepts, topics, and puzzles underlying such discussions and the theories that they embrace.

Our course will have two distinct but intermeshing facets.  One of these consists of a survey of some major contemporary theoretical statements about the nature of affect, emotion, and passion, with special attention to problems associated with differentiating between affective, emotional, and various other possible species of feelings with motivational and dispositional powers.  These theoretical statements will be drawn exclusively from recent studies within cognitive psychology and the philosophy of mind.  The seminar's other aspect consists of a somewhat historical survey of major philosophical statements about the relevance of affect and emotion to the production, reception, appreciation, and critical understanding of artworks.  Topics up for discussion will include: whether it is the special nature or function of artworks to express emotions; debates over the existence of specifically fictional emotions in response to fictional works; the relations between emotions and moral evaluations of artworks; the role of emotion and affect in the identification of genres; and the nature of beauty and aesthetic experience, viewed from the perspective of theories of emotion and affect.

Our reflections on affect and emotion will range widely across art forms, including but not limited to literature, cinema, theatre, music, and painting.  Rather than thinking of works of these kinds mainly as objects, artefacts, or products, we'll conceive of them as performances, that is, as generative processes undertaken by historically and culturally situated agents pursuing artistic projects and engaging in exercises of artistry.  Hence we shall ask whether it is ever best, for the sake of interpretation, to inquire into the artists' affective and emotional histories, insofar as these psychological features are parts of agents' artistic performances.   

Evaluation: Short paper of approximately 1200 words, to be given as a seminar presentation (25%); participation (15%); term paper of approximately 5000 words (60%)

Texts: Gaut, Art, Emotion and Ethics; Prinz, Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion; Robinson, Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art; Solomon,Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions; Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe; a course reader assembling selected research from cognitive psychology and philosophical aesthetics.

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students

ENGL 587 Theoretical Approaches to Cultural Studies

Some Assembly Required: New Collectivities and Techniques of Togertherness

Professor Alanna Thain

Winter Term 2016
Thursday 11:35 – 2:25; Screening Monday 11:35 – 2:25

Full course description

Description: This course will explore the emergence of new modes of collectivity in recent cultural theory and political and aesthetic practices.  Our central question is: what are the techniques of togetherness being developed by artists, cultural theorists and citizens today? How have people responded to the challenges of new forms of technology, communication, labour, social assembly and creative practice in re-imagining how we might act and live together, including or engagement with the non-human world (such as the concerns of media ecologies, environmental activism and new materialisms)? We will read broadly in contemporary critical theory to explore concepts such as networks, distributed aesthetics, new ecologies, nonhuman affinities, the commons, the multitude and others. We will alternate these readings with case studies of collaborative aesthetic and social practices.

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

TextsReadings may include: The Invisible Committee. The Coming Insurrection; Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, eds. Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics; Isabelle Stengers, Cosmopolitics; Jane Bennett. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things; Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto, Felix Guattari. The Three Ecologies; Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus; Jussi Parikka, Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology, Alex Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, Pierre Levy, Collective Intelligence.

Format: Seminar

Average enrollment: 15 students


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