Term 1

ENG 801.3:  Introduction to Textual Scholarship

Instructor: Lisa Vargo

Thursday, 10 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

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.

ENG 803.3: Topics in Literary and Cultural History

Literary Modernism and Life Writing

Instructor: Ella Ophir   

Thursday, 1:00 p.m. - 3:20 p.m.

“Everything personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice and salt.” So declared Irish poet W.B. Yeats, in one of the more resonant formulations of the ideal of impersonality so often associated with literary modernism. Recent criticism, however, has begun to remap modernism through its subterranean but extensive relations with autobiography and other forms of life writing. Partly through the lens of contemporary confessional culture and the recent memoir boom, this course aims to look at how some early twentieth century writers began thinking about the relationship between writing lives and writing fictions, and between writing the self and writing others. We will begin with Virginia Woolf, in whose works we find the most extensive and searching early twentieth-century reflections on, and experiments with, the various forms of life writing. Our inquires will be framed by recent theory and scholarship on auto/biography; other modernist writers studied may include Joseph Conrad, Katherine Mansfield, Gertrude Stein, Jean Rhys, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

ENG 811.3: Topics in National and Regional Literature

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

Instructor: Wendy Roy

Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.

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 (1985) and her MaddAddam trilogy: Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009), and MaddAddam (2013). While these are essential texts, many other Canadians have made significant contributions to this body of speculative fiction, including Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring 1998) and Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven 2014), as well as Margaret Laurence (“A Queen in Thebes” 1964), P.K. Page (“Unless the Eye Catch Fire” 1981), Carol Shields (“Words” 1985), and Lee Maracle (“The Void” 2016). This course will consider the above 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.

English 843.3: Topics in Genres and Contexts

Staging Comedy, 1525-1642

Instructor: Joanne Rochester

Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.

The Early Modern theatres produced far more comedies than tragedies, partly because the genre was as popular then as it is now, and partly because it’s enormously diverse: generically, any play that ends happily, or at least doesn’t end tragically, is a comedy. “Comedy” is therefore the term applied to plays and entertainments as diverse as Tudor moral interludes and University plays, Lyly’s court divertissements, Shakespeare’s romantic comedies and romances, Jonson and Marston’s bitter satires, Middleton’s realist comedies of London life, the elegant tragicomedies of Beaumont and Fletcher and the blood and thunder adventures produced by Dekker, Heywood and other writers for the popular theatres.   The huge diversity of the genre will allow us to look at works produced for a variety of audiences and by a wide range of companies, from ‘children’s companies’ to strolling players to the London professionals. We’ll also discuss the discourse around comedy in the period -- what Early Modern people thought  comedy did and what made it valuable (or useless) -- as well as period perspectives on clowns and clowning, laughter and the role of satire. We’ll also look at some of the major 20th and 21st century critical approaches to the genre and its subgenres.

We’ll read a lot and move quite quickly, reading and discussing at least two plays a week, plus related primary sources, with secondary critical sources added to that. We’ll be dealing with a ‘school’, period, or subgenre per week, with an eye to giving you an overview of the development of the drama in the period. Comfort with early modern poetry and prose is useful, but not essential; everyone will be a bit at sea at the beginning but we should all have our hands in by the end of the term.


English 803.3: Topics in Literary and Cultural History

English Political and Social Writing in the Fourteenth Century

Instructor: Peter Robinson

Tuesday, 1:00 p.m. - 3:20 p.m.

This course will focus on the remarkable group of literary works written in English in the fourteenth century: Robert of Brunne’s Handling Sin, The Wycliffite Bible, the poems of the Gawain Manuscript, Piers Plowman, and the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower. These works are of interest for many reasons. Firstly, collectively, they mark the beginning of what we now call “English literature”. Secondly, they represent the decisive establishment of English as the language in which the people of England thought, communicated, prayed, governed and entertained themselves. Thirdly, they were written in a tumultuous century, racked by wars, civil conflict and cataclysmic disease, a century which saw the emergence of key elements of modern society within a decaying feudal framework.  As well as seeking to understand the works themselves and how they were shaped, we will ask other questions: how do we read a work as social and political commentary when (as is so often the case in this century) the work deliberately eschews any appearance of contemporary relevance (e.g. by being set in a mythical past). We will also ask what “reading” actually means, when dealing with works which were composed for performance and encountered by almost all their contemporaries in performance, not in manuscript. 

English 811: Topics in Topics in National and Regional Literature

(Post)colonial Ecologies, Decolonial Futures

Instructor: Joanne Leow

Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

How are imperialist projects deeply entwined with the environment and how is this reflected in and refracted through literary and cultural texts? What new decolonial futures are being imagined today by (post)colonial and indigenous writers? To consider these related questions, this course will be divided into two main parts. In the first half of the semester, we will read (post)colonial texts by Amitav Ghosh, Jamaica Kincaid, Joseph Conrad, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, and V.S. Naipaul alongside theorists such as Pablo Mukherjee, Rob Nixon, Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Gayatri Spivak. We will consider how narratives of development, imperialism, conquest, and the “natural” have shaped and challenged views of the environment in (post)colonies. In the second half of the course, we will turn to (post)colonial speculative fictions that offer cautionary and/or revolutionary ways of envisaging decolonial futures. We will pair theory by thinkers like Timothy Morton, Donna Haraway, Walter Mignolo, Natasha Myers, and Aihwa Ong with texts by Wayde Compton, Nuraliah Norasid, N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Ng Yi-Sheng, Nnedi Okorafor, and Thomas King.

English 817: Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory

Literary and Critical Theory: Past, Present, Future

Instructor: Danila Sokolov

Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.

Habitus. Abjection. Trace. Genealogy. Assemblage. Uncanny. Dirty words? Or indispensible tools for critical analysis of literary and cultural artifacts? Join us to find out and decide for yourself. In this wide-ranging introduction to the exciting and challenging field of contemporary literary and critical theory, we will read, dissect, and debate influential theoretical arguments from the XX and early XXI century, from the foundational texts of psychoanalysis, phenomenology, structuralism, and deconstruction to the more recent trends, such as queer theory, biopolitics, speculative realism, and ecocriticism. The reading list will include the often painfully dense but ultimately rewarding writings of Jakobson, Bataille, Derrida, Kristeva, Foucault, Bourdieu, Butler, Agamben, Deleuze and Guattari and many others. We will conclude with a sampling of recent arguments against theoretically informed readings, the so-called postcritical turn. While our focus will be theoretical, we will try our hands at applying various theoretical concepts and insights to select literary and cultural texts as well.

English 843: Topics in Topics in Genres and Contexts

Deadwood, the Western, and American Historical Fiction

Instructor: Bill Bartley

Tuesday, 10:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

The critically acclaimed television series, Deadwood (2004-2007) reflects a now dominant trend in television production that favors 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, Rome, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, The Knick, Boardwalk Empire, and, most recently, The Deuce. Deadwood is specifically and deeply preoccupied with social and cultural change during a significant period in American history marked by the first stirrings of the Black Hills gold rush immediately following the Custer massacre in 1876 and culminating in the final displacement of the Lakota Sioux from the Black Hills as ceded to them by treaty. This course will approach the series as a creative response to one of the most durable and persistent of film genres, the Western, but also to the genre of historical fiction and how that genre is enriched and extended by television narrative itself—and how, indeed, a unique artistic form might be taking shape. We will accordingly examine the series within the context of the complex traditions of the Western film, attending to work of directors such as John Ford (The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), Anthony Mann (Man of the West, The Furies, The Naked Spur), Michael Cimino (Heaven’s Gate) among other possibilities. 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 especially 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 both genres, of the ways they are interlocked, and with regard to the immense impact they have had on American fiction and culture. Reading list available on request: w.bartley@usask.ca

Note: All three seasons of Deadwood are currently available on Crave TV along with a host of other HBO productions. All the films we will study (not including Deadwood) will be screened before they are taken up in class at a time that we can agree upon beforehand. Students will be required to attend these screenings. Although you may have seen any number of the films we take up, we need to see them as a group; we also need to see films on a large screen--there is much to be seen that a computer monitor or TV screen will obscure or distort.