Graduate Course 2016-2017

Overview of Graduate Courses, 2016-2017

Please scroll down to view detailed course descriptions.


Professionalization workshops (Required for all graduate students):

ENG 6302 L. Gillingham, “Research Methods and Professionalization” (Fall; 1.5 credits)
ENG 6303  L. Gillingham, “Research Methods and Professionalization” (Winter; 1.5 credits)


Academic seminars, Spring/Summer 2016


ENG 7310 D. Jarraway, “American Psycho”: The Hollywood Masterworks of Alfred Hitchcock in Context” (American Literature)
ENG 7323 G. Lynch, “Humour and Satire in Canadian Fiction” (Canadian Literature)


Academic seminars, Fall 2016 [or] Winter 2017

Each of the following seminars will be offered in either Fall 2016 or Winter 2017. The exact schedule will be determined later. For more information, contact the Graduate Assistant at

ENG 6304 T. Allen, “Critical Methodologies in Literary Studies” (Theory) (Required for PhD students. MA students are also welcome to register.)
ENG 6310 G. Rector, "Where the English Epic" (Medieval)
ENG 6330 J. Panek, “Transgressive Sexuality in Early Modern Drama” (Renaissance)
ENG 6380 L. Gillingham, "Sentiment, Sensation, and Melodrama in Nineteenth-Century Britain" (Victorian)
ENG 6381 M. Arseneau, "Victorian Women Poets: Gender, Poetics, and a Female Literary Tradition" (Victorian)
ENG 7310 B. Radloff, "Political Theology in the American Poetics of Emerson, Melville, and Whitman" (American)
ENG 7300 R. Stacey, "Ut Pictura Poesis: Modern Poetry and the Visual" (Modern)
ENG 7320 D. Staines, "Canadian Fiction: The Second Feminist Wave" (Canadian)
ENG 7321 J. Blair, "Machines: Object Oriented Ontology, Speculative Realism, and Affect in Theory and Canadian Literature" (Canadian)


Academic seminars, Spring / Summer 2017

ENG 7311 A. Raine, "Affect and Agency in the Anthropocene" (American)
ENG 7322 S. Mayne, “A.M. Klein and His Circle” (Canadian)


Professor: Lauren Gillingham

Introduction: This course is a series of workshops designed to help students develop the skills they need to succeed in graduate studies. The amount of work required is minimal, as the sessions are designed not to add to students’ workload but to provide guidance and practical help with the scholarly tasks you need to be doing anyway. Some workshops will be led by the Graduate Director and others by guest speakers from within and outside the English Department. Topics will include research methods and library resources, preparing scholarship applications, teaching strategies for new TAs, and strategies for writing graduate-level essays and thesis proposals.

ENG6302 is required for all MA and PhD students.

Method: Biweekly workshops (there may be a couple of extra sessions in September), with a minimal amount of preparatory reading for some sessions and some short follow-up assignments.

Grading: S/NS


Professor: Lauren Gillingham

Introduction:This course is a series of workshops designed to help students develop the professional skills required for an academic career and/or for the transition from graduate studies to careers outside academia. The amount of work required is minimal, as the sessions are designed not to add to students’ workload but to provide guidance and practical help with the professional tasks you need to be doing anyway. Some workshops will be led by the Graduate Director and others by guest speakers from within and outside the English Department. Topics will include presenting papers at conferences, publishing in academic journals and other venues, course design and other advanced teaching skills, preparing for the academic job market, and preparing for non-academic careers.

ENG6303 is required for all MA and PhD students.

Method: Biweekly workshops, with a minimal amount of preparatory reading and some short follow-up assignments.

Grading: S/NS


(Required for PhD students; MA students are also welcome)

Professor: Tom Allen

Introduction: This course will survey a wide range of contemporary literary and critical theory. The primary goals of the course will be twofold: [1] To introduce, and develop a working knowledge of, various recent theoretical positions and critical concepts that have become important points of reference for many scholars working within the field of Literary Studies. And [2] to explore theoretical discourse as an important context within which to reflect upon the institutional position and disciplinary history of Literary Studies. What are the key areas of concern that shape current scholarly practice within our field of study? How have they emerged from (or how do they differentiate themselves from) the conceptual coordinates that have organized earlier moments in the history of the discipline? How do we situate Literary Studies in conversation with the scholarship in other disciplines (such as History, Philosophy, Art History, Sociology, Cultural Studies, or Linguistics)?

This course does not assume that students already possess advanced knowledge in literary and critical theory. For students who are relatively new to theory, the course will introduce you to a body of theoretical discourse that has had a significant and enduring impact upon the study of literature and culture. For students with an existing interest in and knowledge of theory, the course will provide you an opportunity to develop and extend that knowledge, and to explore the ways in which different theoretical positions might speak productively to your current or future scholarly projects. In either case, the course will give you some of the methodological tools required for graduate-level work, and provide an opportunity to reflect upon the fundamental assumptions that (implicitly or explicitly) underpin your study of literature and culture.

Grading: Seminar work (40%); Participation (15%); Term paper (45%)

Texts: Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (20th anniversary ed.)  (University of Chicago Press)
Literary Theory: An Anthology (2nd ed.). Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan eds. (Blackwell)


Professor: David Jarraway

Introduction: By 1964, Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock’s most recent biographer [2003]) records, Hitchcock was “the highest-paid director in Hollywood history” (653).  This course aims initially to chart the rise to prominence of this ex-pat British film-maker grounded, in the first instance, within the context of its mainly post-war and especially anti-Cold War notoriety within the middle decades of the last century (1940 through 1960 approximately).  Hitchcock’s further early-career indebtedness to the “gothic” or “noir” influence of American writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James, as Donald Spoto (Hitchcock’s first important biographer [1983]) observes (48, 207) establishes a second context by which to gauge the extraordinary success of a Hollywood movie canon stretching from the independent film studio of David O. Selznick (Rebecca [1940]) through to the waning of the studio system itself exemplified by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (North by Northwest [1959]) and Paramount and Universal Studios (Psycho [1960] and The Birds [1963]).  A final context for taking the measure of the film “masterwork” modelled by Hitchcock will be drawn from the discourse of psychoanalysis (Freud and Lacan) that several of Hitchcock’s best readers are compelled to think was almost programmatic throughout the film-maker’s ground-breaking and varied career.

Grading: One project “Abstract” (10%), from which a standard “Conference Paper” (40%); then, a final “Take-Home Examination” (40%) complemented by a participation grade (10%).

Texts: (A) Primary:  Nine films drawn from Alfred Hitchcock:  The Masterpiece Collection (Universal Studios 2005) including Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by North West (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), and Marnie (1964).

(B) Secondary: J. Freedman & Richard Millington, eds., Hitchcock’s America (Oxford UP); R. Stam & T. Miller, eds., Film and Theory:  An Anthology (Blackwell); F. Truffaut, Hitchcock, rev. ed., (Touchstone Books); S. Žižek, ed., Everything You Wanted to Know about Lacan . . . but Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock (Verso); A Course Pack (available from the UOttawa DocuCentre) will be used to supplement the primary and secondary sources listed above.

ENG 7323 HUMOUR AND SATIRE IN CANADIAN FICTION Spring/Summer 2016 (3 credits)

Professor: Gerald Lynch

Introduction: Canadian writers have been achieving distinction as humorists and satirists since the early nineteenth century. Influenced by and influencing American and British humour and satire, literary humour in Canada developed something of a middle-way position between the characteristic overstatement of the American tall tale and the traditional understatement of the British. Through an examination of some of the high points of humour and satire in English-Canadian prose fiction, we will test this hypothesis of a middle-way humour and the assertion of distinctiveness. Mainly, though, in a chronological survey from McCulloch to King, we will be seeking answers to two questions: What are we Canadians laughing at? and Why are we laughing?

Grading: seminar presentation 30%; participation and attendance 20%; term paper 50%

Texts: Atwood, M., Lady Oracle  (Bantam)

Birney, E., Turvey  (M&S)

De Mille, J., A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (McGill-Queen’s UP)

Haliburton, T.C., The Clockmaker  (Tecumseh)

Hiebert, P.G., Sarah Binks  (M&S)

King, T., Medicine River (Penguin)

Kroetsch, R., The Studhorse Man  (Vintage)

Leacock, S., Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (Tecumseh)

__. Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (Tecumseh)

Richler, M., The Incomparable Atuk  (M&S)

van Herk, A., No Fixed Address: An Amorous Journey (Red Deer Press)

ENG 6310 WHERE THE ENGLISH EPIC? Fall 2016 [or] Winter 2017 (3 credits)

Professor: Geoff Rector

Introduction: In the early 1640s, writing to Giovanni Battista Manso, the wealthy Neapolitan patron of Tasso, Milton wrote, “If ever I recall in song my native kings, and Arthur setting wars in motion even beneath the earth; if ever I tell of the high-souled heroes in the virtuous friendship of the invincible Table; and– let the spirit be present to aid me– if ever I break the Saxon phalanxes with British war; then may my lot grant me such a friend, one who knows so well how to honour the sons of Phoebus.” Yet, when it came time for Milton to take up the epic genre and the epic style, he found this English subject-matter beneath his ambitions. Abandoning his ‘native kings’, he chose instead ‘the high-souled heroes’ of Biblical history for his Paradise Lost. With that decision, and with the seemingly inimitable grandeur of Paradise Lost, Milton effectively put the English epic to bed for nearly 200 years.

This course pivots around this lacuna to chart the strange and often ideologically-charged course of the English epic. It begins with the tradition that Milton first intended to revive: the explicitly-Virgilian fantasy of an epic British past found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, and then influentially extended by his many imitators and translators (Gaimar, Wace, Layamon, etc). We will pause to look more broadly at the widespread taste for epic in the 12th century: Horn and Havelock, the Chanson de Roland, and the Roman d’Eneas– an extremely influential transformation of Virgil’s Aeneid into a courtly romance. We will ask what the epic– as genre, as style, as literary and ideological model– offered an England so disturbed by conquest, social division, and historical disruption. We then turn to the early modern period, which saw not only a series of new English translations of the Aeneid, but also a popular revival of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s legendary in Holinshed’s Chronicle and Shakespeare’s Lear and Cymbeline– again asking how the epic was conceived in this moment and what it offered English readers and authors. Then, after pausing to ask what critical conditions led to Milton’s disavowal of the English epic and to the long silences of the 17th and 18th centuries, we will look ahead to the newly-heated and sometimes desperate search for a national epic that emerged in the late-18th and 19th centuries and only died down at the end of the 19th with the logically tortuous election of Beowulf– a legend of a Swedish hero battling monsters in Denmark, written in a nearly unreadable 10th century Germanic dialect– as the ‘English’ national epic. As its medieval forms were ‘revived’ as objects of philological study and nationalist veneration, the epic passed from the repertoire of modern writers, who could only exploit the form parodically as mock-heroic or else– more tellingly– forge false medieval origins, as in the strange tale of MacPherson’s Ossian.

This course, in effect, examines the practice, theory, and reception of ‘national’ epic in England, first as a medieval cultural phenomenon and later as a medievalist artefact– pausing in the middle to consider the conditions of its interruption and disavowal in the period between Milton and MacPherson. We will contextualize our reading in the long history of the epic’s theorization– in Aristotle Poetics; Horace’s Art of Poetry; Hegel’s Aesthetics; Lukacs, Bakhtin and so on– asking how the epic’s connection to territory, place, nation, language, and origins changes over time.

Grading: 2 seminar presentations: 15%, 1 position paper - proposal: 15%, 1 final paper: 50%, participation: 20%

Texts: (available at Benjamin Books)
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
Wace, Gaimar, Layamon (excerpts)
Roman d’Eneas
Song of Roland
Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
Morte d’Arthur (excerpts)
Holinshed, Chronicle (excerpts)
Milton, Mansus
Abraham Cowley, Davideis (excerpts)
Pope, Dunciad (excerpts)
James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian and Related Works

+ Theoretical and critical readings (Aristotle; Horace; Hegel, Aesthetics; Dryden, Pope, Davenant, Lukacs; Bakhtin; critical articles etc), available through Blackboard Learn

ENG 6330 TRANSGRESSIVE SEXUALITY IN EARLY MODERN DRAMA Fall 2016 [or] Winter 2017 (3 credits)

Professor: Jennifer Panek

Introduction: The early modern theatre, particularly through the Jacobean period, is known for is fascination with transgressive erotic practices: its plots routinely involve adultery, rape, prostitution, incest, and necrophilia. In this course we will read a wide range of plays—some well-known, others less so—about unorthodox sexual behaviour, supplemented with contemporary non-dramatic texts (conduct books, medical treatises, sermons, polemics) as we explore the appeal of these representations and the ideological work they may have performed in the culture of early modern England. Beginning with the two acts with which contemporary playwrights and audiences were most immediately concerned—the breach of pre-marital chastity and marital infidelity—and moving on to the criminal transgressions listed above, we will examine how staged sexuality intersects with such concerns as gendered authority and autonomy; honour and reputation; national identity and foreign “otherness”; masculinity and effeminacy. What was the relation of sexuality to gender in a period that conceived of lust as “feminine” and feared that sexual activity was emasculating? What were the implications of representing explicit sexual situations—if not sexual acts—on an entirely male stage?

Grading: Seminar presentations and participation, 50%, Term paper, 50%.

Texts: Plays on Women. Ed. Kathleen McLuskie. Manchester University Press.
From this anthology, all four plays: A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (Middleton); The Roaring Girl (Middleton and Dekker); Arden of Faversham (anon.); A Woman Killed with Kindness (Heywood).

Four Jacobean Sex Tragedies. Ed. Martin Wiggins. Oxford World Classics. Oxford University Press.
From this anthology, three plays: The Insatiate Countess (Marston and collaborators); The Maiden’s Tragedy (Middleton); The Tragedy of Valentinian (Fletcher)

The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley. Ed. N.W. Bawcutt.
The Revenger’s Tragedy by Thomas Middleton. Ed. R. A. Foakes.
Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford. Ed. Brian Morris.
The Dutch Courtesan by John Marston. Ed. David Crane.
Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton. Ed. J. R. Mulryne.
Edward II by Christopher Marlowe. Ed. Robert Lindsey.
Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare. (On the assumption that most students already own or have access to a scholarly edition of Shakespeare’s complete works, individual editions of this play will not be ordered for the course.)

There will be a course reader of supplementary contextual texts sold at Laurier Office Mart. Selected critical articles will be available through Blackboard Learn.


Professor: Lauren Gillingham

Introduction: This course will take up the formative relationships among sentiment, sympathy, and the melodramatic that are forged in the novel in nineteenth-century Britain. Contemporary theorists of film and affect often point to the sentimentality, sensationalism, and melodrama of the nineteenth-century novel as the foundation of modern cinema as well as the representational ground of what Matthew Buckley calls the “unique modes of perceptual apprehension” associated with modernity: “sensations of suspense and of continual change, the thrill – and the threat – of shock, and . . . more complex formations of urban spectatorship.” Melodrama helped to form a modern mass culture; it also articulated the transformations of everyday life and subjective experience in the urban, industrialized nation. For a novelist like Dickens, sentiment and melodrama also formed the basis of a theory of community for the modern age: community forged by collective experience of shared emotions and by modes of communication premised, not on literacy, but on what Juliet John describes as the “bodily semiotics” of gesture, passion, spectacle, and music. Our focus will be predominantly on novels of sentiment and sensation from the 1830s through 1890s, supplemented by a sample of sensation drama from the 1860s. We will also read selections from film and affect theory to help frame our investigations; some recent literary criticism on our novels and related issues; and a selection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century prose texts on metropolitan life, performance, sentiment, sympathy, sensation, and melodrama.

Grading: Seminar presentation and write-up 30%, Archive assignment 10%, Participation 10%, Research paper 50%

Texts: William Harrison Ainsworth, Jack Sheppard
Rhoda Broughton, Cometh Up as a Flower
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
Charles Dickens, Bleak House
—, “A Christmas Carol”
—, Oliver Twist
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Ellen Wood, East Lynne

Plus a course reader of supplementary critical and contextual material.


Professor: Mary Arseneau

Introduction: This seminar course will consider gender and poetics within the specific context of the nineteenth-century British female poet’s tradition. We will consider how women poets self-consciously identified themselves as working in a female tradition, how that identification informs their poetics, and the critical implications of approaching this female canon as sequestered from a mainstream, predominantly male, canon.

Beginning with Felicia Hemans and Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L.E.L.) as originators of a discernible female poetic tradition in the nineteenth century, we will trace the tradition of the “poetess” through Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti, paying particular attention to these poets’ deliberate self-representations as female artists. Finally, through a study of late Victorian poets Augusta Webster and Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper), we will consider how the Victorian woman poet’s tradition extends to the later part of the century. We will trace the poets’ emulations of Sappho, Corinne, and the "improvisatrice"; their experiments with genres including the epic, dramatic monologue, and sonnet; and their engagement with larger social issues. Throughout the course, we will examine these poets’ compromises and confrontations with dominant gender ideology as they attempt to negotiate a transgression into the public arena while asserting and performing their “femininity.”

Through brief seminar presentations we will also consider the poetry and critical reputations of other figures whose poetry is less well known, with particular focus on identifying promising areas for future scholarship. Other poets to be explored might include Dora Greenwell, Adelaide Procter, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Matilde Blind, Bessie Rayner Parkes (Madame Belloc), Constance Naden, A. Mary F. Robinson (Madame James Darmesteter, Madame Mary Duclaux), Alice Meynell, Amy Levy, Mary E. Coleridge, and Graham R. Tomson (Rosamund Marriott Watson).

Grading: 30% major seminar presentation and handout, 15% “recuperating women poets” seminar and handout, 10% participation, 45% final essay

Texts: Barrett Browning, Elizabeth. Aurora Leigh and Other Poems. Ed. John Robert Glorney Bolton
and Julia Bolton Holloway. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995.
—. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Selected Poems. Ed. Marjorie Stone and Beverly Taylor. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2009.
Field, Michael (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper). Michael Field, The Poet: Published and Manuscript Materials. Ed. Marion Thain and Ana Parejo Vadillo. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2009.
Hemans, Felicia. Felicia Hemans: Selected Poems, Prose, and Letters. Ed. Gary Kelly. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2002.
Landon, Letitia Elizabeth. Letitia Elizabeth Landon: Selected Writings. Ed. Jerome McGann and Daniel Riess. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1997.
Rossetti, Christina. Christina Rossetti: The Complete Poems. Text by R.W. Crump. Notes and introduction by Betty S. Flowers. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001.
Webster, Augusta. Augusta Webster: Portraits and Other Poems. Ed. Christine Sutphin. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2000.


Professor: Bernhard Radloff

Introduction: This course will examine the relation between discourses of nature, nationhood, and political theology in the poetics in Emerson, Melville, and Whitman. We will begin with a close examination of Emerson’s Nature and several key essays, followed by readings of Melville’s Moby-Dick conceived as responses to Emerson. Whitman’s Leaves of Grass will be examined as a political theology of the “democratic divinity” of the American people. The concept of “political theology” refers to the construction of the political idea of America in relation to theologically founded ideas of America’s unique mission in world history. Our objective will be to uncover the ways in which key theological ideas inform the authors’ responses to nature and the politics of revolution and social utopia.

Grading: Paper 1: 20%, Seminar and Written Report: 30%, Final Research Paper: 40%, Class participation: 10%

Texts: Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson’s Prose and Poetry (Norton Critical)
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick (Norton Critical)
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass and Other Writings (Norton Critical)

ENG 7300 UT PICTURA POESIS: MODERN POETRY AND THE VISUAL Fall 2016 [or] Winter 2017 (3 credits)

Professor: Robert Stacey

Introduction: "As is painting so is poetry": Horace's famous dictum from the Ars Poetica establishes an equivalence—or at least a connection—between painting and poetry based on the principle of mimesis, an imitation of action. Historically, however, poets have been even more direct in their attempts to enjoin poetry with the visual arts. Throughout the Renaissance and well into the neo-classical period ekphrastic exercises and shaped poems literalized (in different ways) the idea that poetry and painting could do 'the same thing' or occupy the same ground. Nor was poetry resistant to the aesthetic discourse of the sublime and the beautiful that informed the development of a poetics of landscape throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Arguably, though, the modern period sees both an intensification of the desire to yoke the poetic and the visual together as well as a proliferation of experimental strategies for doing so. From Pound's imagist, Vorticist and ideogrammic experiments and Eliot's "objective correlative" to Mallarmé's picture poems and the graphism of Un coup des dés; from the visual experiments of Italian futurism and the Russian avant-garde to the French lettricists; from the influence of abstraction and cubism on the poetics of Gertrude Stein to the simultaneous emergence of concretism in Brazil and Sweden; from the typographic self-conscious of Cummings to the typewriter art of de Vree, Cobbing and Riddell, modern poetry is everywhere marked by an awareness of the growing primacy of visual modes of understanding and communication. It is the purpose of this course to explore some of the primary ways that poets, internationally, worked to incorporate modes of visual representation into their verbal art. Beginning with the modernist doctrine of the image in Pound and Eliot and ending with the post-modern "treated texts" of Tom Phillips' A Humument, the course focuses on four main themes: the image, typography and font, illustrated and "treated" texts, and concretism. Our examination of primary texts and objects will be supplemented by readings in theoretical poetics and aesthetics.

Grading: Seminar presentation 30%, Final essay 50%, Curated exhibit 20%

Texts: (tentative reading list)
Ezra Pound et al., “An Imagist Cluster,” “Some Do and Don’ts By an Imagiste” (1913)
Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (1914)
Mallarmé, Un Coup de Des (1914)
Apollinaire, Calligrammes (1918)
Jorn Asger and Guy Debord, Fin de Copenhague (1957)
Institute of Contemporary Art, Between Poetry and Painting (1965)
Emmett Williams, An Anthology of Concrete Poetry (1967)
Judith Copithorne, Runes (1970)
bill bissett, RUSH: what fuckan theory (1972)
Steve McCaffery, Carnival: Panels One and Two (1975, 1978)
Tom Phillips, The Humument (1986)

ENG 7320 CANADIAN FICTION: THE SECOND FEMINIST WAVE Fall 2016 [or] Winter 2017 (3 credits)

Professor: David Staines

Introduction: Nellie McClung, L.M. Montgomery, and later Mazo de la Roche ushered in the first feminist wave in Canadian fiction in the 1900s. Starting in the 1960s, a more robust and explicit feminist wave appeared in the fiction. From the pioneering novels of Marian Engel and Margaret Laurence through the acknowledged significance of Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, some of the important works will be studied in detail, focusing on their acknowledgement of a patriarchal system in their country’s fiction and their methods of challenging and overturning this pattern. Particular attention will be paid to the cultural and political events of the times and the feminist books that stand behind these authors’ writings. Whether they are protofeminist or feminist works, these books form the nucleus of our study of this topic.

Grading: Attendance and participation 20%
Small term assignment 30%
Major term paper 50%

Texts: Margaret Atwood. The Edible Woman (1969)
—. Surfacing (1972)
—. Alias Grace (1996)
Marian Engel. No Clouds of Glory (1968)
—. Bear (1976)
Margaret Laurence. The Prophet’s Camel Bell (1963)
—. The Stone Angel (1964)
—. The Diviners (1974)
Alice Munro. Dance of the Happy Shades (1968)
—. Lives of Girls and Women (1971)
—. Dear Life (2012)

Fall 2016 [or] Winter 2017 (3 credits)

ENG 7321 Machines: Object Oriented Ontology, Speculative Realism, and Affect in Theory and Canadian Literature (3 credits)

Professor: Jennifer Blair

Introduction: What is a machine? From the steam engine to the search engine, machines shape life as we know it and also our understanding of what knowing is. They are the tools we depend on to survive, communicate, and move around in the world, sometimes so much so that they are part of us. According to some theorists, the human body is itself a kind of machine, if not a series of machines. Even though machines (more and less human ones included) are meant to serve a certain purpose or, at least, are expected to perform certain tasks, they have always contributed to outcomes their inventors or operators did not anticipate. This unforeseen productivity of machines might be their greatest utility of all.

This course examines new theorizations into the unique natures, causal capacities, and social and political impacts, of machines—that is, entities material and immaterial, human and non-human, that affect the social, material, economic, and political formations that shape daily life. The first four classes will be devoted to examining the interrelated critical realms of object oriented ontology, speculative realism, and affect theory. In the second portion we will read both theoretical and literary texts in order to explore how the new schools of thought introduced in the first weeks of class might be applied to the study of works of Canadian literature that are somehow or other partial to machines—whether they were produced by non-human machines, like Erin Mouré’s book of computer-generated lesbian sex poetry, and Christian Bök’s text of a poem “written” by a strand of bacterial DNA, or whether they take machines as their subject. In the case of the latter, some of the machines that are of particular interest to the literary texts on the reading list include the Briggs and Stratton two-stroke engine, tape recorders, codes, androids, pipelines, highways, and bombs. In looking specifically at the applications of machine theory to Canadian fiction and poetry, we will be focussing our discussions in the last eight weeks of the course on critical, political, and social contexts specific to Canada (and to the question of how machine-thinking might advance Canadian postcolonial criticism), but students may, if they wish, write their final papers on books that are not “Canlit.”

Grading: Seminar: 35%, Final Paper: 50%, Participation: 15%

Texts: Literature
Madeleine Thien, Certainty
Rawi Hage, De Niro’s Game
Erin Mouré, Pillage Laud
Christian Bök, The Xenotext: Book 1
Peter Culley, The Age of Briggs and Stratton
Larissa Lai & Rita Wong, Automaton Biographies
Josh Massey, The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree

Levi Bryant, Onto-Cartography
William Connolly, The Fragility of Things
Brian Massumi, Semblance and Event

Plus a coursepack including works by: Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Elizabeth Grosz, Ian Bogost, Timothy Morton, Jane Bennett, Bruno Latour, Manuel De Landa, and Graham Harman

ENG 7311 AFFECT AND AGENCY IN THE ANTHROPOCENE Spring/Summer 2017 (3 credits)

Professor: Anne Raine

Introduction: At the turn of the twenty-first century, the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen argued that human activity has altered the earth’s biological, chemical and geophysical processes on such a scale that the human species must now be considered a geological agent and the present a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Even as scientists debate whether the anthropocene is a true geologic epoch and how to define its boundaries, humanities scholars have taken up the term as a controversial but potentially useful way of organizing critical discussions of how to understand, and respond to the radically altered socioecological conditions we now inhabit. Scientific research has provided empirical evidence of the nature and scale of human impact on the earth’s climate and ecology. But how to understand and live with the implications of this evidence remains an open question. Writers, artists, and activists face new challenges: how to find literary and cultural forms that express the uncertainties and anxieties of living in the anthropocene; how to turn the “slow violence” of catastrophes like climate change, toxic contamination, and species extinction into cultural forms dramatic enough to motivate people to action; how to develop cultural forms that help us think beyond the face-to-face scale of our everyday interactions with the world and apprehend the much larger scales of human, evolutionary, and geological history; and how to rethink our understanding of human and nonhuman agency in ways that undermine the assumptions about human nature, culture, and selfhood that underlie the very concept of the humanities.

So, how do we do literary scholarship in the anthropocene? How do recent debates about the anthropocene change the way we think about human-nonhuman relations, and how do they change the way we read literary texts? This course will explore these questions in two ways. First, we will examine how contemporary writers and artists are responding to the challenge of representing the anthropocene. Secondly, we will consider how recent work on the anthropocene might change how we read earlier texts that respond to some similar challenges. The socioecological crisis of the 1930s, with its spectacular iconography of flooding and drought, prefigures in many ways the current crisis provoked by global change on a planetary rather than a continental scale. We will therefore consider how literary responses to the Dust Bowl and related socioecological disasters anticipate, or differ from, 21st-century writers’ responses to the challenge of anthropogenic climate change. Can we find in 1930s texts an anthropocene sensibility that has something in common with that of contemporary writers and artists? Or do we see a decisive break between the humanistic politics and aesthetic strategies of the 1930s texts and the attempts of 21st-century writers, artists, and activists to articulate more sustainable and ethical relations between humans, nonhumans, and the earth?

Grading: Seminar work, 50%, Seminar paper, 50%, Seminar work will include two presentations, one on a primary text and one on a critical article

Texts: (tentative list)
Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior (2012)
Richard Powers, The Echo Maker (2006)
Juliana Spahr, Well Then There Now (2011) or This Connection of Everyone With Lungs (2005)
Valerie Vogrin and Marina Zurkow, eds., The Petroleum Manga (2014)
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
Gertrude Stein, The Geographical History of America (1936)
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead (1938)
Paré Lorentz, The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and/or The River (1937)
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

There will also be a course packet of theoretical, critical, and historical writings by scientists, journalists, cultural theorists and literary scholars like Paul Crutzen, Elizabeth Kolbert, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Bruno Latour, Anna Tsing, Rob Nixon, and Timothy Clark.

(Reading list to be confirmed; contact the instructor for the most up to date information.)


ENG 7322 A.M. KLEIN AND HIS CIRCLE  Summer 2017 (3 credits)

Professor: Seymour Mayne

Introduction: From the 1920s to the 1960s Montreal was the thriving literary center for poets of various cultural backgrounds. In recent years critics and literary historians of Jewish Canadian poetry have begun to examine the cross-cultural connections of this period, and have singled out A.M. Klein as the major figure in these active decades.

In this course we will mainly focus on Klein's writings, and we will study the poetry of poets whose work is linked to his, including Irving Layton, Miriam Waddington, Leonard Cohen, and others. In order to appreciate more fully the cultural contexts of Klein's oeuvre, we will also read Yiddish Canadian poetry in translation. In addition, attention will be paid to Québecois poetry and poetics of the period.

Given recent interest in cross-cultural approaches, we will consider how Klein has influenced and shaped the development of Jewish Canadian poetry, and how he and his associates in Montreal prepared the ground for poets of other communities who have come to the fore in the past thirty-five years.

Grading: Seminar presentation and short paper, class participation and attendance 50%
Term paper 50%

Texts: The following texts are either in print and/or on reserve at Morisset. Many are also available online from book dealers specialising in Canadiana. Students need not purchase all of them and should consult the instructor before acquiring texts.

Cohen, Leonard, Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs (McClelland & Stewart)
Klein, A.M., The Second Scroll (McClelland and Stewart, New Canadian Library; University of Toronto Press)
—, Selected Poems, Z. Pollock, S. Mayne, and U. Caplan, eds. (University of Toronto Press)
Layton, Irving, A Wild Peculiar Joy: The Selected Poems (McClelland & Stewart)
—, Engagements: The Prose of Irving Layton, S. Mayne, ed. (McClelland and Stewart)
Waddington, Miriam, The Collected Poems, R. Panofsky, ed. (University of Ottawa Press)
—, Apartment Seven: Essays Selected and New (Oxford University Press)
Atwood, Margaret, ed., The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (Oxford University Press)
Geddes, Gary, ed.,15 Canadian Poets X3 (Oxford University Press)
Mayne, Seymour and B. Glen Rotchin, eds., A Rich Garland: Poems for A.M. Klein (Véhicule Press)
Telushkin, Joseph, Jewish Literacy (HarperCollins)


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