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 Pitoulis 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, 2017. 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

Medieval Texts in Historically-based Performance

T1 T 10:00 (Peter Robinson) – Category 1

This course takes a quite different approach to literary texts. Instead of reading texts on the page, this class is built on the assertion that literature is best presented and received through performance. This is particularly appropriate for literature from the medieval period, in which books were rare and many people could not read. Further, authors were working in a culture where almost all communication was by speech, and this shaped how and what they wrote. Another factor is that books were hand-written: we are dealing not only with a performance culture but also with a manuscript culture. We may guess that in the medieval period works of literature were performed on specific occasions, for specific audiences and in response to specific historic circumstances. We can see the turbulence of the 1380s and 1390s behind Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the brutality of the Wars of the Roses behind Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. Accordingly, in this course our aim is to explore how medieval literature can be best performed. Students will survey the literature of the period from the twin perspectives of performance and historical context. Each student will prepare a section of a literary text for performance. As well as the performance, students also research the audience, how the text has been preserved for us, the historical background to its composition and likely performance scenarios. Texts to be explored in this course include the Old English epic Beowulf;  Piers Plowman, the Canterbury TalesSir Gawain and the Green Knight from the 14th century; Morte D’Arthur from the 15th century; and lyric and other poetry from across the whole medieval period.

Middle English Arthurian Literature

T2 R 1:00 (Michael Cichon) – Category 1

ENG 402 will introduce students to the literature and language of medieval England, by way of the stories which chronicle that most famous king (who never existed?), Arthur. Selections for the 2017-18 academic year include, but aren’t limited to the Works of Sir Thomas Malory, the writings of the Gawain poet, Layamon’s BrutYwain and Gawain, the Alliterative and Stanzaic Morte D’Arthur, and relevant non-English Arthurian works in translation.

ENG 404.3 (02)
Love and Politics in Elizabethan Literature

T2 W 1:00 (Danila Sokolov) – Category 2

During the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the conflict between the queen’s gender and her role as sovereign ruler as well as her decision to remain single placed questions of royal love and sexuality at the forefront of politics. These controversies also left a significant imprint on what is often called the golden age of English literature. This course will investigate how the works of major Elizabethan writers—Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Marlowe’s Edward II, Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, and a selection of short texts—engage with the contentious issues of royal succession and sovereign female sexuality, the demands and anxieties of patriarchy, gender instability, queer desire, the relationship of love and monarchy, the power of emotion, and the politics of the body. By reading texts in a variety of genres (Petrarchan sonnet, allegory, pastoral romance, epyllion, tragedy) in close connection with their historical and cultural contexts, we will learn to appreciate some of the most critical issues of the Elizabethan age.

King of The Road

T1 M 1:30 (Peter Hynes) – Category 3

“Get your motor runnin’,” as Steppenwolf used to sing. We’ll be heading out on mostly seventeenth and eighteenth-century highways, starting with the Spain of Don Quixote and winding up in the Beat America of Jack Kerouac. In between there is time for a sampling of English, German, and French books set on the open road. Our aim will be first of all to read some very good work, but we will also dwell on the thematic repertoire of the road novel, its social significance, and some of its formal properties. Your job will be to pay for gas – oops! — to present two seminars of about ten minutes each, to write a major term paper and an exam, and to keep abreast of the reading. As there are a lot of pages to get through and it is essential for everyone to keep up so that we can actually discuss the texts together, I will be administering short quizzes at the beginning of our consideration of each book. Readings include: Cervantes, Don Quixote; Grimmelshausen, Simplicius Simplicissimus; Smollett, Roderick Random; Fielding, Joseph Andrews; Voltaire, Candide; Kerouac, On the Road.

ENG 418.3 (02)
Travel and Exploration

T2 T 10:00 (Wendy Roy) – Category 3, Canadian

Since the beginnings of contact between Indigenous peoples and migrants to Canada, travellers have written about their relationships with other travellers, including members of First Nations, traders, and settlers, as well as about the plants, animals, and natural world around them. The focus of this course is on these relationships as they intersect with colonialism, social class, and gender at various periods in Canadian history — from first contact, to exploration, to settlement, to northern adventure. We will study works that are temporally and geographically clustered, beginning with late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century “exploration” narratives, then turning to travel and settlement narratives of the mid-1800s, and ending with writings about travels to the north at the turn of the twentieth century. We will contextualize these published works by studying letters, diaries, essays and other writings that provide alternative historical and literary accounts, and will consider the alternative perspectives provided by visual media created to accompany the travel writing, such as sketches, photographs, and maps.


T1 F 1:00 (Ella Ophir) – Category 4

The term “modernism” refers to a range of styles in literature, music, and art that emerged between roughly 1890 and 1940. In all their diversity, these styles are linked by their provocative, often openly rebellious departures from established forms and conventions. Modernists sought to make art that responded to the new realities of the twentieth century, as new technologies were transforming everyday life, and ideas emerging from the sciences and social sciences were reshaping conceptions of time, space, and (though rather more slowly) race, gender, and sexuality. This course does not attempt to present a survey of major works of modernist literature; rather, through a limited selection of British and American works it aims to deepen understanding of the relationship between social change and aesthetic form. Along with poetry and fiction we will read essays and manifestos, and delve into painting, music, and the era’s most disruptive new form, film.  

Mad Men
 and American Historical Fiction 

T2 M 1:30 (William Bartley) – Category 4

“I started off writing the show as a scathing analysis of what happened to the United States. But the more I got into Don, the more I realized this is an amazing place. Something really did change in those years.”“I wanted to show what it was like to have the world change around you.” — Matthew Weiner

The critically acclaimed television series Mad Men (2007-2015), created, written, and produced by Matthew Weiner, reflects a current trend in television production that favours the so-called “long form” television serial—that is, a serialized, multi-season novelistic narrative, which, moreover, often deals with historically-based thematic material. It keeps company, then, with such “long form” productions as The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Boardwalk Empire, Masters of Sex, The Knick, and Halt and Catch FireMad Men is specifically and deeply preoccupied with social and cultural change during the 1960s, beginning with the election of John F. Kennedy and extending to include the emerging social and political turbulence of the late 1960s. This course will approach Mad Men as a creative response to the genre of historical fiction and will examine how the genre is enriched and extended by television narrative itself—how, indeed, a new artistic form might be taking shape, and how it is challenging the cultural authority of the novel and the cinema. Along the way, we will explore and defend the idea that fiction generally is an efficacious mode of ethical and political inquiry. Historical fiction is significant not only because it is the staple genre of American fiction, but also because ethical and political issues are most deeply understood within a generic concern for the problems of social and cultural change and for the relationship between such change and individual agency. We’ll begin the year with a discussion of the genre itself and the immense impact it has had on American culture. The bottom line is this: this course is an extended discussion of why we should be watching more TV. Readings include texts by Mikhail Bakhtin, George EliotBetty Friedan, Lauren M.E. Goodlad, Jason Mittell, Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson, and Matt Zeitz.

Indigenous Social Justice Films

T2 T 1:00 Lab R 4:00 (Tasha Hubbard) – Category 5

Beginning with the work of the Indian Film Crew at the National Film Board, this course will explore Indigenous filmmaking that accomplishes, or attempts to accomplish, meaningful social change. From issues such as land rights, child welfare, access to water, and policing, this course will discuss documentaries and dramas that push for justice in varying contexts. Possible films include This is Indian LandCry From a Diary of a Metis ChildRed Girl’s ReasoningRhymes for Young Ghouls, and Angry Inuk. Please note that the course includes a mandatory viewing lab.


T2 R 3:30-5:00 (Kathleen James-Cavan) – Non-category

“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. James-Cavan 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. Kathleen James-Cavan (kathleen.james-cavan@usask.ca) in Arts 321 or Diana Pitoulis in Arts 319 for further information about how to apply for an internship position.


T2 (Ann Martin)

The Department of English Honours Colloquium is a compulsory part of the Honours program and consists of an oral presentation of a short scholarly paper at a conference of Honours students. The paper is normally based on a paper already prepared, or in preparation, for a 300- or 400-level course. This will be a one-day event in early February. In preparing the paper for this event, students should seek the advice of a faculty member. Note that this course is required for all Honours and Double Honours students, but has no credit unit value. Students will receive informal feedback, but no formal evaluation.