2024 - 25 Proposed Graduate Seminars

  • ENG 801.3 | Introduction to Textual Scholarship | TBD

An introduction to textual authority, including the study of bibliographic description, editorial technique, textual transmission, database searches, and the history of modes of publication.

  • ENG 819.3 | Digital Methods and Medieval Texts | Instructor: Peter Robinson

In the last decades, the development of digital tools has begun to transform how we access texts, how we think about them, and what we do with them. This course will review these digital tools and how they have changed our approach to texts. The course will focus on two areas: on the making of digital editions and on medieval texts (particularly Chaucer and Dante). In the last few years, advances in hand-written text recognition tools and in the application of Artificial Intelligence methods, such as ChatGPT, are opening new perspectives. We are entering a period where the mass of digital texts of historic source materials (including manuscripts) may increase dramatically, and where new tools to address these texts are emerging. The course will include hands-on use of digital tools and the opportunity to develop a mini project using digital tools and texts, which can be submitted as the course long paper.

  • ENG 803.3 | English Literature and the Culture of Curiosity 1580-1700 | Instructor: Brent Nelson

Notions of curiosity were complicated and often conflicted in the age of scientific and geographical discovery. In this course, we will track changing notions of and attitudes toward curiosity and its various points of application. To do so, we will examine representations of curiosity through its many senses and significations in early modern literature relating to aesthetics, religion, rhetoric, voyages of discovery, and collections of rarities and curiosities (precursors of modern museums). Our literary interests will be grounded in readings of historical works reflecting these diverse interests, chiefly travel narratives, satire, drama, scientific, and devotional writing. These readings will include such literary texts as Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Richard Bröme’s The Antipodes, Sir Thomas Browne’s Hyrdriotaphia [Urne Buriall], as well as lesser known texts by Elizabeth I, Mary Astell, Margaret Cavendish, Sir Walter Ralegh, Robert Boyle, and others.

  • ENG 843.3 | Lewd Books: Reading Pornography, Eroticism, and Obscenity, 1660–1760 | Instructor: Allison Muri

What distinguishes pornography from eroticism from obscenity? What is their relationship to “literature”? We start with 1668, when Samuel Pepys found in a bookshop a “French book … called “L’escholle des filles” … when I come to look in it, it is the most bawdy, lewd book that ever I saw, rather worse than “Putana errante,” so that I was ashamed of reading in it.” We will examine the role of pornography in Rochester’s satires, circulated in manuscript in the 1670s and so scandalous that they were not published under his name after his death in 1680. One of the eighteenth century’s most prolific writers, Eliza Haywood rose to fame with the publication of the three-volume fiction Love in Excess (1719–20) and raises questions concerning distinctions between light porn for the ladies, and important works of literature. Earlier seen as merely an ephemeral bodice-ripper, the book now takes its place in the history of the novel. As Pat Rogers comments, “The vein of romance she developed is clearly not one of realism, as that term came to be understood, but it does permit more open and psychologically believable treatment of human urges—sex, in particular—than had been usual in what came before” (The Oxford History of the Novel in English, ed. Thomas Keymer). We will examine the prosecution of the shady bookseller Edmund Curll by Attorney General Sir Philip Yorke, for having published two lewd texts: Venus in the Cloister (1724) and A Treatise of the Use of Flogging in Venereal Affairs (1718). In addition, John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1749) will no doubt inspire debate about representations of sexual deviance, consequence, and redemption. Readings will be augmented by prints and paintings of the period.

  • ENG 843.3 | Canadian Speculative Fiction and the Historical Imagination | Instructor: Wendy Roy

This course will address how Canadian speculative fiction, especially dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, engages with the history of Canada and the larger world. Building on ideas articulated in 1988 by Canadian literary critic Linda Hutcheon about how historiographic metafiction emphasizes the fragmented, biased, and constructed nature of historical narratives, Herb Wyile argued in 2002 that historical fiction in Canada is always speculative. This course will turn this correlation around, considering instead how speculative fiction is in some ways always historical. We will examine how works such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Wade Compton’s The Outer Harbour, Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, and Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle explore events, developments, literatures, and policies in the past that could be recreated in or help to shape an apocalyptic or dystopian future. Some of these novels address how patriarchal and colonialist policies and institutions might be revised and reinstituted to oppress women, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour; how environmental policies of the past might create a dystopian future; and even how texts from the past such as the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays might shape future cultural and social reconstruction after an apocalyptic event. We will place this discussion of Canadian fiction within the larger context of theories about speculative writing by critics such as Darko Suvin, Susan Watkins, Raffaella Baccolini, and Tom Moylan that argue that such fiction always in some ways is grounded in and comments on the present and past.

  • ENG 803.3 | Land Relations and Privatization in Indigenous Literatures |Instructor: Jenna Hunnef

In this seminar, students will read and consider Indigenous peoples’ literary and creative responses to settler-colonial policies designed to erode Indigenous land bases and, by extension, compromise the integrity of kinship ties and the autonomy of Indigenous nations. Taking three different land-based policies as our focus—allotment, road allowances, and the California mission system—we will assess the influence that these policies have had on Indigenous communities throughout Turtle Island while prioritizing the literary perspectives of those who were (and are) directly affected by them and witnessing the ways Indigenous peoples sustain themselves and their communities despite the devastation wrought by these policies. Drawing our readings from a selection of short stories, novels, and life writing from the last 125 years, we will examine literary representations of these historical policies, their immediate consequences in the past, lingering effects on the present, and future-oriented alternatives. Primary readings may include works by John M. Oskison, Alexander Posey, Mourning Dove, Louise Erdrich, Maria Campbell, Craig Womack, Deborah Miranda, and Cherie Dimaline.

  • ENG 811.3 | Movement, Migration, Creolization | Instructor: Jay Rajiva
What does it mean to move and migrate between spaces as a Caribbean subject? How do ideas of crossing borders emerge, and how we can interrogate these ways of knowing and being in the world? Throughout the semester, we will keep this tension in mind as we read a selection of literature from Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, and other areas of the Caribbean, situating theories of diaspora alongside the hybridity (or creolization) of lived experience. In imagining all movement as wounded and traumatic, do we close ourselves off from different ways of understanding change in the world? Conversely, if we imagine that same movement to be utopian, are we overlooking the ways in which mobility privileges certain subjects and contributes to material and discursive inequalities? In this course, we will circle these questions, with a view toward unearthing and tracking productive complexity in our ongoing attempts to do justice to the depth and range of Caribbean literature. Studied authors will include Edwidge Danticat, Edouard Glissant, and Marlon James.

FALL 2023

ENG 811 | Victorian DisabilitiesInstructor: Kylee-Anne Hingston

Thursdays, 1:00pm to 3:50pm

During the nineteenth century, the concept of the human body—how it connects to one’s identity or soul, what it represents socially and culturally—was continually being negotiated in response to rapid changes in industry, technology, medicine, in social and economic class structures, and in religious doctrine and practice. As a result, “disability is everywhere in Victorian literature and culture,” Martha Stoddard Holmes notes. Focusing on mid-Victorian novels published during the governmentalization of health, marked by the 1848 Public Health Act, and the professionalization of medicine, marked by the 1858 Medical Registration act, students will examine disability and illness in both canonical and under-studied Victorian fiction, paying particular attention to narrative form and genre to uncover the ways certain bodies, minds, and behaviours were invested with meaning. To ground our analyses in the methodology of literary disability studies, we will place texts such as Jane Eyre and The Woman in White in dialogue with the foundational theories of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Lennard Davis, and David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, and with the current critical conversations in Victorian disability studies.

ENG 819 | Mapping the Satire of London, 1660-1745| Instructor: Allison Muri

Fridays, 1:30pm to 4:20pm

                                    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. Mapping the territories of satire, both imagined and real, will provide insights into the historical and cultural contexts of both the objects and purveyors of satire.

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 witness Alexander Pope’s dunces dive into its filthy depths; we’ll visit Bedlam Hospital and Bridewell Prison, among other places, with William Hogarth. Be assured 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 investigate the construction and mediation of satire in the city. We’ll also read works by Aphra Behn, John Dryden, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, John Gay, and Henry Fielding.

ENG 843 | Modernism and Life WritingInstructor: Ella Ophir

Tuesdays, 1:30pm to 4:20pm

“Everything personal soon rots,” declared W.B. Yeats, in one of the more resonant formulations of the ideal of impersonality long associated with literary modernism. Recent criticism, however, has begun to remap literary modernism through its indirect but extensive relations with autobiography, biography, and other forms of life writing. We will look at how some early twentieth-century writers began playing with the distinction between writing lives and writing fictions, and between writing the self and writing others. Through their investigations and experiments, we will inquire into the very premises of writing a life, either as fiction or as auto/biography: Where does one self leave off and others begin? To what extent is an individual life a useful framework through which to approach social formations and broader histories? Primary readings will include works by James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, and others. We may also trace lines of modernist experimentation into the contemporary scene, looking at works by Alison Bechdel or Rachel Cusk.


ENG 803 | The Invention of AdventureInstructor: Yin Liu

Tuesdays, 9:30am to 12:20pm

he wolde neuer ete

            vpon such a dere day er hym deuised were

            of sum auenturus þyng an vncouþe tale    (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 91-93)

The word adventure entered the English lexicon around the same time that the genre of medieval romance entered English literary history. It was, arguably, the late Middle Ages that institutionalised the genre of adventure fiction, although elements of “adventure” narrative certainly preceded and informed medieval romance. This course focusses on the Middle English romances as literary paradigms for the concept of adventure. We will explore antecedents in Old English, European folktale, and medieval French; consider the elements, audiences, and ethics of medieval English adventure stories; and investigate the interactions of Middle English romances with other genres and types of discourse. We will also discuss ways in which late medieval English romance created the conventions of later adventure fiction and set precedents for enacting the concept of adventure beyond literature: role-playing games, thrillers, narratives of conquest and exploration, modern speculative fiction, adventure tourism, and possibly more. We will investigate adventure as a literary topos, but also as an idea with a social history that is often dark, inevitably conflicted, disturbingly attractive: an idea that was invented in particular historical circumstances and perpetuated by repeated acts of imagination, themselves entangled with their own histories and complexities of desire and motivation.

A comfortable reading knowledge of Middle English is strongly recommended – or at least willingness to attain a level of comfort and competence in Middle English. Texts in Old English and medieval French will be offered in translation, although you will be encouraged to consider them in the original languages.

ENG 819 | Collaboration in Indigenous Literatures and Literary StudyInstructor: Kristina Bidwell

Mondays, 1:30pm to 4:20pm

In Elements of Indigenous Style, Cree author and editor Gregory Younging writes that, in writing about Indigenous people, “The key to working in a culturally appropriate way is to collaborate with the Indigenous Peoples at the centre of a work.” Indeed, collaboration is increasingly seen as essential in scholarly work involving Indigenous people.  And yet, while there is a large body of work on Indigenous community-engaged research in the social sciences, there is little guidance for how to collaborate in Indigenous literary studies.  With a focus on Indigenous literatures and their study, we will ask: What are the reasons to collaborate?  What are some of the forms that collaboration can take?  What are the characteristics of positive collaborations?  And what are the influences of cultural, institutional, and societal frameworks on collaborative relationships? We will look at these questions from a number of angles, first by considering Indigenous literary works that were written collaboratively, such as My Indian by Mi’sel Joe and Sheila O’Neill, Rehearsals for Living by Leanne Simpson and Robyn Maynard, and Cold Case North by Michael Nest, Deanna Reder, and Eric Bell.  We will then consider editing as collaborative work, looking at the editorial history of texts by Indigenous authors such as Maria Campbell, Edward Ahenakew, and Abraham Ulrikab.  We will also explore examples of collaborative Indigenous literary scholarship, such as the work of Daniel Coleman, Elizabeth Yeoman, and Warren Cariou.  And finally, we will explore the possibilities for doing collaboration ourselves by experimenting with methods of thinking, writing, and editing together in the classroom.

ENG 843 | Postcolonial Women’s WritingInstructor: Cynthia Wallace

Thursdays, 1:00pm to 3:50pm

The Caribbean-American feminist writer and activist Audre Lorde famously proclaimed in 1983, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In this seminar we will seek to understand how various women writers in postcolonial locations echo, extend, or challenge Lorde’s provocative claim. In other words, how do women writers use and conceptualize the English language, the Western literary canon, the project of nation building, the Christian religion, and the political aims of democracy, independence, and power? Can the goods and goals of oppressors be appropriated in the name of freedom, or are they inescapably tainted—and if so, what are the literary and political alternatives to using the master’s tools? We will alternate readings of key texts in literary and theoretical texts by women, likely including Toni Morrison, Jean Rhys, Buchi Emecheta, Louise Erdrich, Kiran Desai, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gayatri Spivak, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Rey Chow, and others.


ENG 801 | Introduction to Textual ScholarshipInstructor: TBA

This class will give an introduction to the theory, history and practice of textual scholarship. It will cover the following questions:  What is textual scholarship and why is it important?  The key concepts: texts, documents and works; the history of texts from 3000 BC to the digital age; key events in the history of textual scholarship over that period; fundamental vocabulary: the words, phrases and ideas needed to navigate scholarship relating to texts; fundamental people and organizations: the most significant people and organizations in textual scholarship over the last two hundred years; how texts, their study, use and editing are changing in the digital age.