Fall 2019

ENG 803.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural History

Scotland: Text and Nation

Instructor: David Parkinson

It has been noted that Scottish literary culture in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries contains and even elaborates older forms within its current repertoire: historical romance, alliterative verse, dream vision, allegory, fable, de casibus tragedy. While the evidence for retention of several of these individual genres has been collected, the significance of the whole phenomenon remains to be investigated. A dominant explanation has been that the combined effects of the Reformation and the Union of the Crowns resulted in a conservative, retentive, even nostalgic literary culture that was more or less doomed to fade away. In this way, literary history is deemed to run parallel to a still widely accepted narrative of linguistic history of Older Scots. But why did these older vernacular genres survive and adapt as long as they did? This course will involve some debate about whether they ought to be considered instead as a literary canon anchoring the cultural landscape in a time of increased openness to external influence. These old forms also protect some diversity of discourse at exactly the time when central authorities (the Crown, the Kirk) according to their respective lights are demanding increased uniformity of expression. Readings will include longer sections from Barbour’s Bruce, Hary’s Wallace, and the works of Sir David Lyndsay, as well a selection of later poetry and prose.

ENG 819.3 - Topics in Methods and Texts

Mapping Topographies of Satire in 18th-century London

Instructor: Allison Muri 

                         I might discry 
The Quintescence of Grubstreet, well distild
Through Cripplegate in a contagious Map. 

So wrote the water poet John Taylor in “Sir Gregory Nonsence His Newes from No Place,” and certainly his 17th-century readers knew well what such a contagious map might signify – but how might we today understand the “quintessence” of a particular place in early modern London that is today, no place? “Where was Grub Street?” Pat Rogers asked the rhetorical question in his landmark study of “the topography of Dulness” in 18th-century London; he knew well Grub Street was once situated at particular coordinates of the city now occupied by Milton Street. And, as Rogers explained, Grub Street was also everywhere throughout the city, a permeating stink of intellectual turpitude and pedantry.

The world’s largest and wealthiest city, London was the hub of an expanding empire undergoing rapid urbanization and industrialization, and a centre of both high finance and of criminal corruption. This turbulent period witnessed the restoration of the Stuart dynasty to the throne, and then its overthrow in the so-called Glorious Revolution. Theatres that had been closed during the civil war and interregnum reopened, with actresses appearing on the stage for the first time. The emergence of the professional author, along with the rise of new literary forms such as the periodical and the novel, meant the period was also characterized by an upheaval in older notions of genius and learning. As writers reacted to these changes, satire and polemical writings flourished. If we were to map this territory, both imagined and real, what can we discover?

We’ll start with Michel Foucault, who in his “Of Other Spaces” drew our attention to heterotopias, those sites that “have the curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect.” We’ll glance at Franco Moretti, who provocatively theorized abstract models for literary studies including “distant reading” and the mapping of narrative in his Graphs, Maps, Trees. And then we’ll get to mapping the imaginary spaces of London in the long 18th century. It’s not going to be an altogether pretty view: we’ll enter the libertine space of St. James Park with the scandalous Rochester and, along with the Grub Street hack Ned Ward, we’ll listen in on the Scatter-Wit Club at the Rose Tavern in Covent Garden; we’ll witness dead dogs in the open sewer of Fleet Ditch with Jonathan Swift; we’ll watch Alexander Pope’s dunces dive into its filthy depths; we’ll visit Bedlam and Bridewell Prison with William Hogarth. Be assured, however, that this course won’t be all muck and scandal: we will ultimately be concerned with using digital maps, images, and literary representations of 18th-century London to determine the construction and mediation of satire in the city.

ENG 843.3 - Topics in Genres and Contexts

Exploring Reconciliation through Indigenous Literatures

Instructor: Kristina Bidwell

The concept of reconciliation has become ubiquitous in the popular discourse around Indigenous people in Canada. Yet there is a lack of agreement as to what the term means, what symbolic and substantive possibilities it allows, and what its limitations are.  In this course, we will examine and test the concept of reconciliation through its literary representation.  We will begin by placing Canada’s version of reconciliation in an international context, particularly in relation to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Then we will examine how the concept of has been articulated in Canadian public discourse, including politics, media, and popular literary texts. The course will then move to a focus on Indigenous literature, exploring how Indigenous writers such as Richard Van Camp, Louise Erdrich, and Richard Wagamese have envisioned reconciliation in their writing.  Finally, we will examine the limits of reconciliation both conceptually and practically.  We will consider how this term, which has primarily been used to discuss First Nations, may or may not apply to the Métis, drawing on writers such as Katherena Vermette, Cheri Dimaline and Rita Bouvier.  We will also look at recent Indigenous critics who have critiqued reconciliation or suggested alternative ways of envisioning Indigenous futures, including truth-telling, kinship, resurgence, and redress.

Winter 2020

ENG 843.3 - Topics in Genres and Contexts

Seventeenth-Century Utopias

Instructor: Brent Nelson

Taking St. Thomas More's seminal 1516 work as our Ur-text, we will trace the development of utopia/Utopia as both idea and genre and its definitive features through Utopia's early successors, chiefly Francis Bacon's The New Atlantis (1627) and Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World (1666), before branching out to examine various lesser known, rarely studied, and often bizarre early modern adaptations, manipulations, and appropriations of Utopia as a work of fiction and cultural topos. In particular, we will look the ways in which utopia/Utopia was co-opted in political and cultural discourse.

ENG 811.3 - Topics in National and Regional Literature

England in 1818

Instructor: Lisa Vargo

This seminar will look at a selection of poetry and prose fiction published during 1818 and explore the contemporary contexts for each work.  Texts to be considered include

  • Austen, Persuasion
  • Byron, Childe Harold, Canto 4
  • Shelley, Frankenstein
  • Owenson, Florence Macarthy: An Irish Tale
  • Peacock, Nightmare Abbey
  • PB Shelley, “Ozymandias”
  • Keats, Endymion
  • Scott, The Heart of Midlothian


ENG 817.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory

Reading Materials for the 21st Century

Instructor: Joanne Leow

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.” Indeed, large-scale environmental manipulations in urban development 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, New Materialism, and the “materials” that underpin human development: 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 theorists include Rey Chow, Sara Ahmed, Jane Bennett, Timothy Morton, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Elizabeth Grosz. Texts by Rita Wong, Ruth Ozeki, Michael Pollan, T.S. Eliot, Tanya Tagaq, and Warren Cariou, among others.

Spring 2020

ENG 801.3 - Introduction to Textual Scholarship

Instructor: Peter Robinson

Texts do not magically appear for readers. They are the material products of the labour of people working with various technologies at specific moments in history. In this course we will become familiar with the processes, including various theories of textual criticism, by which a text becomes available to an audience. Class members will work with editions and primary source documents, practice editing, and learn how texts are made, all towards gaining a better understanding of the textual objects that make up their own research. This class is offered to graduate students across the disciplines by the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan.