803.3 (01): Topics in Literary and Cultural History

Indigenous Literary History and the Politics of Form

Instructor: Jenna Hunnef

Fall 2020 (Term 1)

In his preface to Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (2017), Cherokee scholar and critic Daniel Heath Justice argues that “relationship is the driving impetus behind the vast majority of texts by Indigenous writers.” Taking its cue from Justice, this course develops “meaningful connections” between the literary activism and resistance of Indigenous North American writers working in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the activist practices and resurgent methodologies expressed by later generations of Indigenous authors and critics. Students will expand their understanding of Indigenous literary history in their reading of selected creative and critical works from across Turtle Island that mobilize the politics of literary form and genre to express anti-colonial resistance and reaffirm community commitments and relationships. Class readings and discussions will be organized by the discussion of four formal categories (polemic, historical revisionism, detective fiction, and speculative fiction) in order to trace a web of intergenerational influences across time and space, all within an explicitly politicized literary context. Class discussions will also draw upon and engage with the history of the field’s theoretical and critical development, with particular focus on the central debates and methodologies of current scholarship, including Indigenous literary nationalism, cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, resurgence theory, Indigenous and intersectional feminisms, and queer/LGBT2SI studies.

Primary text readings for this class may include: essays and speeches by William Apess (“An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man,” “Eulogy on King Philip”); poems and stories by Emily Pauline Johnson (“A Cry From an Indian Wife,” “A Red Girl’s Reasoning”); novels by D’Arcy McNickle (Runner in the Sun), Cherie Dimaline (The Marrow Thieves), Todd Downing (Murder on Tour), and Carole laFavor (Along the Journey River); and plays and criticism by R. Lynn Riggs (The Cherokee Night, “The Vine”).

Selected secondary works of criticism may be drawn from Kirby Brown, Daniel Heath Justice, Leanne Simpson, James H. Cox, Shari Huhndorf, Lisa Brooks, Kristina Bidwell, LeAnne Howe, and Chadwick Allen, among others.

803.3 (03): Topics in Literary and Cultural History

Medieval Women

Instructor: David Parkinson / Lucy Hinnie

Fall 2020 (Term 1)

‘A woman is an imperfect creature excited by a thousand foul passions, abominable even to remember, let alone to speak of.’ (Boccaccio, Il Corbaccio, c. 1355)

‘Grab ‘em by the p***y.’ (Donald Trump, 2005)

As we proceed in our twenty-first century lives, still preoccupied with the behaviour and transgressions of women, it is ever pertinent to examine the roots of this fascination, and to interrogate it. This course casts its eye back into the medieval period, considering a variety of texts dated from the 13th to 16th centuries, both authored by, and written about, women. Pivotal works by Christine di Pizan, Birgitta of Sweden, Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich will be studied through a lens of feminist and historicist criticism, alongside a plenitude of other texts offering a three-dimensional and human study of what it was to be a medieval woman. The inherent understanding of women only in their roles relative to men and marriage (as daughters, sisters, wives and widows) is a paradigm that will be addressed directly, alongside the way in which we characterise and understand victimhood, from the nebulous ideas about appropriate behaviour to the politics of a woman’s appearance. This course offers a new pathway into understanding changing roles of women, and the misogynist anxieties of the medieval era, in a literary context. Further contextual reading may include, but not be limited to, works by Joan Kelly, Lindy West, Sara Ahmed and Carissa M. Harris.

817.3: Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory

The Function of Satire: Instability and Aggression in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature

Instructor: Allison Muri

Fall 2020 (Term 1)

The function of satire might be supposed to be exposing, challenging, and critiquing misuses of power, maybe even pricking the consciences of the corrupt. But when we also consider the question about the morality of satire, we might conclude it is a mistake to think of it only as the indignant lash seeking moral correction. The satirists of the Restoration and 18th-century British scene—one of the Golden Ages of Satire—may target bad people with bad thinking but they also register a complex aggression of their own, a destructive impulse, and sometimes even a need for disorder. Does satire’s lash point to an aloof ground of higher principle, or does it sometimes try to destroy the whole house? Moreover, do readers like watching satirists abusing other people? Is one of satire’s appeals our own taste for blood?

Students in this seminar will be asked to formulate their own conclusions about the function of satire by the end of the course. We’ll read works by William Wycherley, Aphra Behn, Jonathan Swift, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Henry Fielding and others, learning about the historical contexts of the objects of satire as well as the technical aspects of its application (perspective, tone, object, context, mode of attack, and so on).

819.3: Topics in Methods and Texts

Material Modernisms: Modernity, Subjectivity, and the Object

Instructor: Ann Martin

Fall 2020 (Term 1)

New Materialist approaches to texts from the early 20th C. have illuminated the influence of object culture on artistic responses to the period. Encounters with the everyday world and “so-called trivia” (Beja 21) anchor modernist explorations not just of the subjective movement of the mind, but also the construction of the self. That reciprocal dynamic of Modernism and modernity is the focus for this course, which engages with an historicized sense of the modern material world as enunciated in texts by authors such as Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Jean Rhys. The underlying research questions: how do these authors depict machines and technology, resources and raw materials, and mass-produced commodities to engage with the socio-economic structures and political frameworks of interwar Britain? How can textual representations of such objects be read through writers’ and characters’ tactical engagements with consumerism and the material world? Literary and theoretical perspectives, such as those of Louis Althusser, Walter Benjamin, Jane Bennett, Pierre Bourdieu, Bill Brown, and David Trotter, will inform discussions and course projects, where key objects or materials in the texts will offer us a way into an historicized literary analysis.

801.3: Introduction to Textual Scholarship

Instructor: Lisa Vargo

Winter 2021 (Term 2)

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.

811.3: Topics in National and Regional Literatures

Women of the Apocalypse: Writing the End of the World in Canada

Instructor: Wendy Roy

Winter 2021 (Term 2)

Dystopian and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction is a commentary on the present. It asks readers to consider environmental, technological, and political events, developments, and policies in the world today, and the impact that these might have on the world of the future. However, dystopian and apocalyptic fiction by Canadian women writers often connects these discussions with other important topics, including the nature of understanding and of expressing humanity through the spoken and written word. Much of the current analysis of literary examples of such fiction in Canada has focused on the writings of Margaret Atwood, especially The Handmaid’s Tale and her MaddAddam trilogy. While these are essential texts, many other Canadians have made significant contributions to this body of speculative fiction, including Nalo Hopkinson, Emily St. John Mandel, and Cherie Dimaline, as well as writers who have contributed short stories, including Margaret Laurence, P.K. Page, Carol Shields, Lee Maracle, and Eden Robinson. This course will consider these novels and short stories to interrogate the way that, rather than writing about interstellar travel or alien life forms, literary speculative fiction by diverse women in Canada instead explores the importance of language to being human or questions whether the end of humanity could in fact be full of beauty and increased communication and understanding.

843.3: Topics in Genres and Contexts

American Film and Historical Fiction

Instructor: Bill Bartley

Winter 2021 (Term 2)

“The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”

William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun 

This course will examine the creative responses to the genre of historical fiction by American filmmakers and how the genre is enriched and extended by the cinema itself. Along the way, we will explore and defend the idea that fiction 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. Other collateral topics will include the concept of the auteur, the relationship between the cinematic and the literary, the problem of adaptation, and the scope and range of the concepts of “historical” and of “genre". A preliminary list of films and auteurs: John Ford, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; Martin Scorsese, Casino; John Sayles, Lone Star; Michael Cimino, Heaven’s Gate; Barry Levinson, Tin Men, Avalon, and Liberty Heights; Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing; Roman Polanski, Chinatown. There will be some television too: certainly Amy Sheridan-Palladino’s The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, and possibly Terence Winter’s Boardwalk Empire or David Milch’s Deadwood. And two films that are deeply relevant to any discussion of historical fiction: Jean Renoir, La Grande Illusion, Yasujiro Ozu, Late Spring.

Note: All the films will be screened before class on a day and time we can agree upon. Students will be required to attend these screenings.

Recommended reading in advance:

Mikhail Bakhtin, “The Bildungsroman and Its Significance in the History of Realism” in Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, pp. 19-54; Morson and Emerson, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics (Chapter 9: “The Chronotope”) Georg Lucács, The Historical Novel