Honours Seminars

Please note:

  • 6 cu at the 300 level is a pre- or co- requisite for any 400-level class.
  • Honours seminars are open only to students who have been admitted to an Honours program or who have the permission of the department.
  • Honours seminars are conducted in a different manner from regular classes. Limited to 15 students each, seminars provide opportunities for students to present papers and to engage in critical discussion of literature on a regular basis. 
  • Each seminar is a PERMISSION ONLY class. After honours or other senior students participate in an advising session with a designated faculty member, the advisor will notify office co-ordinator Diana Tegenkamp to allow registration in the seminar(s). Please register for the class(es) 1-2 days after registration opens (early June).  If you have any questions or problems, please contact english.department@usask.ca Seminars are first come, first served, and seats are limited.
  • This information is accurate as of March 31, 2018. Please note the University of Saskatchewan reserves the right to cancel or reschedule any classes. For the most up-to-date information, please click here.

400-Level Classes


T1 R 10:00 (Sarah Powrie)

Category 1 

In addition to being one of the most influential authors of the Western canon, Dante was also a philosopher tackling ethical, metaphysical, and spiritual quandaries in poetic form. His masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, resists traditional generic categories. It could be described as an encomium to classical epic, a compendium of medieval philosophy, a bold expression of Renaissance self-fashioning, a prototype of Utopic fiction, a meditation on human weakness, an encyclopedic summa, or a spiritual journey with heretical motifs. This class will study selections from the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise and seek to situate Dante’s work within the intellectual, social and literary context of the late Middle Ages. Topics to be explored throughout the term include the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, desire and knowledge, identity and tradition, audacity and reverence.

Uses of the Bible in Seventeenth-Century Literature 

T2 T 1:00 (Brent Nelson)

Category 2 

The Christian Bible is woven into the fabric of English literature, particularly so in post-Reformation England and the golden age of devotional writing in the seventeenth-century. This course is designed particularly for those who want to know more about the Bible, its content, and the ways in which it has been used in literature. We will look ways in which ideas, stories, and passages of the Bible are used in diverse genres, from lyrical and narrative poetry to sermons and devotional prose, in such writers as John Donne, George Herbert, Amelia Lanyer, John Milton, and John Dryden. We will see how the Bible was used to frame notions of the self and society and how it was used rhetorically to engage with political events and ideas of the time. No knowledge of the Bible will be assumed. 

Nineteenth-Century Lives 

T1 T 1:00 (Doug Thorpe)

Category 3 

The lives of nineteenth-century Britons were recorded to an unprecedented extent, though in a variety of genres, with conflicting aims, and in several key cases never intended for publication. The archive is full of such documents, from private letters to semi-confessional essays, from furtive memoirs to the manifestos of social activists, from fictions widely accepted as autobiographical to public commemorations in the growing genre of biography. Private experience is transmuted into public discourse in ways that may surprise and intrigue readers from today’s culture of “over-sharing.” We will begin with the tortured inner view of drug addiction memorably rendered in Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. We will then look at the exemplary cases of Charlotte Brontë and Charles Dickens, whose childhood sufferings were projected onto fictional protagonists, and then quarried by generations of biographers. We will examine, through the work of Harriet Martineau, Florence Nightingale, and Annie Besant, women’s attempts to find a life of full agency. Lastly, we will consider the lives of proscribed same-sex desire chronicled in J. A. Symonds’ Memoirs and Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis,” neither of which was published in full until the 1960s. 

Emily Dickinson 

T1 T 10:00 (William Bartley)

Category 3 

We will read the poems of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) who, in her lifetime, was an unknown, small-town poet with a fiercely subversive sense of vocation, and whose greatness is as undeniable as her strangeness. We will try to accommodate the latter and to account for the former. To that end we will examine her intellectual preoccupations as we learn to find our way through the inseparable complexities and idiosyncrasies of her style—a passage illuminated by attending to her appropriations and modifications of literary tradition, to the distinctive features of her poetic personae, to her techniques of composition, and to the textual issues raised in recent scholarship. More specifically, we will examine the ways in which Dickinson was shaped by and engaged the legacies of Puritanism, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism in New England culture. In the end, we will discover (among other possibly congruent qualities — for example, as one critic says, Dickinson wrote “with a brutality that could stop a truck”) a ruthlessly precise, rebellious, and profoundly incisive intelligence in critical, passionate engagement with the problems of religious belief, personal identity, and love. Required texts: The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition; Alfred Habegger, My Wars are Laid Away in Books; Helen Vendler, Emily Dickinson.

Reading Materials in the Anthropocene 

T1 W 9:30 (Joanne Leow)

Category 4 

The cultural geographer David Harvey argues that “the final victory of modernity is not the disappearance of the non-modern world, but its artificial preservation and reconstruction.” Large-scale environmental manipulations are accelerating in a time that a growing number of theorists and scientists have come to refer to as Anthropocene—a geological era named by the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000 that acknowledges the planet-altering impact of the human race. The recognition of the Anthropocene has led many scholars to call for a reorientation and recalibration of the aims of literary and theoretical studies. In this course, we will read theories of the Anthropocene and the “materials” that are crucial to humanity’s impact on the planet: water, land, coal, oil, plastic, meat, and wheat. Through an eclectic selection of contemporary literary and cultural texts including poetry, film, performance, critical writing, short stories, and novels, we will examine how writers, artists, composers, and filmmakers have confronted the very materials that we are destroying, creating, polluting, and inventing. Possible literary texts include works by Alistair Macleod, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jeanette Armstrong, Daniel Coleman, Lee Maracle, Ruth Ozeki, Abdelrahman Munif, and Sinclair Ross. 

Virginia Woolf 

T2 F 10:30 (Ann Martin)

Category 4 

Virginia Woolf’s body of work reveals her consistent questioning of early twentieth-century Britain and the traditions by which it was shaped. This course will explore her status as a high modernist and self-proclaimed snob (she was joking) (mostly), as well as a cultural analyst whose writings constitute a sustained social critique and politicized resistance to expectations of art and identity. We’ll work from A Room of One’s Own (1928) as an introduction to her challenges to ideology through more contemporary theoretical perspectives. We’ll explore connections between form and content, and thus the implications of her experimental style, through selections of her short fiction and literary criticism that engage with the material and cultural worlds from which she wrote. The performative nature of modern subjectivity will be central to our readings of novels such as Jacob’s Room (1922), Mrs Dalloway (1925), and To the Lighthouse (1927), where the shadow of the Great War affects individuals and gendered, classed, and sexed relations. We will end with her final works—the anti-fascist polemic Three Guineas (1938) and her last novel, Between the Acts (1941)—as they set the stage for the uncertain future of a society moving again to war. 

Canadian Literary Regionalism 

T2 R 10:00 (Kevin Flynn)

Category 4, Canadian 

If you’ve ever spent more than a few moments watching the Weather Channel, you will know that Canada may be handily broken down into discrete regions: Newfoundland, the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario, the Prairies, the west coast, and the far north. It’s not surprising that a nation as large as ours might be divided, in a turn of imaginative geography, into such regions. But how does Canadian literature evoke these regional distinctions, and to what ends? On one hand, some Canadian literature seems merely to express the “local colour” of a region; on the other hand, it might do work to preserve regional culture in the face of nationalist and globalist narratives and values. In this course we will study contemporary fiction from Canada’s various regions in order to arrive at an understanding of how regional literatures preserve regional cultures—or don’t—and interrogate the ways in which a literary mode that seems best suited to depicting rural spaces is being adapted to an ever-increasingly urban and interconnected Canadian landscape.


T2 M 3:30 (Yin Liu)


“So, what are you going to do with that English degree?” If you’ve ever found yourself at a loss for an answer to this question, this course may be for you. Internship students earn three credit units while gaining valuable experience in:

  • research public relations,
  • writing for publication,
  • grant-writing, editing,
  • teaching writing, and
  • promoting literacy. 

Interns provide approximately 80 hours to the organization over a twelve-week period under the joint supervision of Prof. Liu and a workplace supervisor. The time commitment is comparable to that expected in other honours seminars. In addition, all interns meet as a class fortnightly throughout the term. One short incident analysis, two brief journal entries, and one substantial term paper are required. There is no final written examination. Internships are currently available with such organizations as Sage Hill Writing Experience, Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, PAVED Arts, Student Learning Services, the University Library, the Communications department in the College of Arts and Science, Student Enrolment and Services Division, the Saskatchewan Literacy Network, Frontier College, Saskatoon Correctional Centre, and Sherbrooke Community Centre. Other placements may also become available. 

Interested students should contact Prof. Yin Liu (yin.liu@usask.ca) in Arts 316 or Diana Tegenkamp in Arts 319 (english.department@usask.ca) for further information about how to apply for an internship. 


T1T2 (Ann Martin) 

The Department of English Honours Colloquium is a compulsory (and really great) part of the Honours program and consists of an oral presentation of a short scholarly paper at a conference of Honours students. The presented paper is normally based on an essay that has already been submitted and graded, or is about to be submitted and graded, for a 300- or 400-level course. Three development sessions starting in first term will guide your adaptation of the source essay; and as well as information on the form and function of the colloquium, working groups will be arranged and tips will be provided on presentation techniques. Students are also expected to seek the advice of a faculty member. The Honours Colloquium itself is typically a day-long event, this year on Friday 1 February 2019 at the Diefenbaker Centre. Note that, while this course is required for all Honours and Double Honours students, it has no credit unit value, and while students will receive informal feedback, there will be no formal evaluation.