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 Tegenkamp 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, 2020. 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

402.3 (01) Topics in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Literature: Medieval Women

T1  Remotely delivered  R  10:30 (David Parkinson/Lucy Hinnie) – Category 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.

404.3 (01) Topics in 16th Century Literature in English

T1  Remotely delivered  F 1:30 (Joanne Rochester) – Category 2

The drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries was born from the broad performance practices of the 16th century. The commercial public theatres of London and the literary marketplace they generated weren’t constructed until the 1570s, but actors and authors had been producing scripts from the beginning of the century and before, working for diverse audiences, playing spaces and theatrical contexts. This seminar will examine a wide range of texts, from the biblical pageants of late-medieval Cycle drama to the bare-bones scripts of strolling companies. We will look at allegorical morality plays, humanist plays written for political debate, plays produced as rhetorical exercises by universities and schools, plays written for children’s companies to perform at court, and elaborate entertainments and masques performed for the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.  We will cover some broader European influences — performances by Italian Commedia del Arte troupes and French performers — as well as the non-dramatic literary traditions, from sonnet sequences to prose romances, that playwrights pillaged for material. Styles and topics range from elevated debates on the nature of rule or the works of faith to cheerful obscenity, often in the same play! We’ll be covering a century’s worth of drama, starting with works from the 1490s — the short pageants of the York and Wakefield Cycles and Medwall’s Fulgens and Lucrece — and ending with plays from the 1590s by Kyd, Marlowe and Shakespeare.                  

414.5 (01) Topics in 19th Century British Literature: Romantic Era Sonnet

T1  Remotely delivered  W  12:30 (Lisa Vargo) – Category 3

Wordsworth wrote,
     Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
     Mindless of its just honours; with this key
     Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
     Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch’s wound.

The Romantic era sonnet is a source of some of the best-known poems of the period. We will consider how Romantic writers are in dialogue with a rich literary tradition, while also desiring to innovate form and subject during an era when the notion of poet and the subject of poetry are under transformation. Writers to be considered will likely include Charlotte Smith, William Bowles, Ann Radcliffe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Robinson, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Percy Shelley, John Clare, Agnes Strickland, Hartley Coleridge, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. These 14-line poems are beautiful, inspiring, and fun to read. The class text will be A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, ed. Paula Feldman and Daniel Robinson (Oxford UP), available as an online text on the U of S library web site. Inexpensive used copies are available at www.abebooks.com or via www.amazon.ca.

 416.3 (01) Topics in 19th Century American Literature: Emily Dickinson

T1  Remotely delivered  T  9:30 (William Bartley) – Category 3

We will read the poems of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) who, in her lifetime, was an unknown, small-town poet with a fiercely subversive sense of vocation, and whose greatness is as undeniable as her strangeness. We will try to accommodate the latter and to account for the former. To that end we will examine her intellectual preoccupations as we learn to find our way through the inseparable complexities and idiosyncrasies of her style—a passage illuminated by attending to her appropriations and modifications of literary tradition, to the distinctive features of her poetic personae, to her techniques of composition, and to the textual issues raised in recent scholarship. We will also examine the ways in which Dickinson was shaped by and engaged the legacies of Puritanism, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism in New England culture. In the end, we will discover (among other possibly congruent qualities) a ruthlessly precise, rebellious, and profoundly incisive intelligence in critical, passionate engagement with the problems of religious belief, personal identity, and love. Required texts: R.W. Franklin, ed. The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (Belknap Press, 1999), Rachel Wetzsteon, ed. The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Barnes and Noble, 2003), Helen Vendler, Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries (Belknap Press, 2012). Supplemental texts: Alfred Habegger, My Wars are Laid Away in Books (Modern Library, 2001), Lyndall Gordon, Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family’s Feuds. Recommended film/TV: A Quiet Passion (2017): Dickinson (Apple TV 2019)

444.3 (02) Topics in Decolonizing and Transnational Literatures:
Counter-Empires: Decolonizing Speculative Fiction

T2  Remotely delivered  T  9:30 (Joanne Leow) – Category 4

“Space: the final frontier” — so begins the famous opening monologue of the popular television series Star Trek. Why does colonial discourse permeate so many conventional fantasy, science fiction, and counterfactual historical narratives? Why do so many Euro-American speculative fictions re-create hierarchies and structures of Empire? In this course, we will read decolonial and postcolonial speculative fictions that challenge and critique imperialism, and its ongoing cultural and discursive legacies. We will examine counterfactual/alternate histories, narratives of space and time travel, horror film, dystopian and apocalyptic stories, and magical realist texts that centre minority and postcolonial subjects. Can the expansive genre of speculative fiction resist the impulse to uncritically depict minority peoples as aliens, monsters, ghosts, automatons, and zombies? What kinds of new worlds might we imagine then? Expect an eclectic selection of readings and films by Asian, African, Caribbean, and Latin American writers. Possible readings include works by N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Sonny Liew, Charles Yu, Vandana Singh, Lysley Tenorio, Kojo Laing, Nnedi Okorafor, Karen Tei Yamashita, Salman Rushdie, Jordan Peele, and Carmen Maria Machado.

466.3 (02) Topics in 20th Century Canadian Literature: Michael Ondaatje

T2  Remotely delivered  W  10:30 (Kevin Flynn) – Category 4

Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Michael Ondaatje emigrated to Canada by way of England and settled in Montreal in 1962. He was awarded his first Governor General’s Award for literature just eight years later. Since that time, he has become renowned for the stylistic beauty of his work and the sensuality of its imagery. But Ondaatje is no mere literary stylist: his works engage with sociopolitical issues such as immigration, terrorism, and the construction of history; personal experiences such as addiction, separation, and grief; and aesthetic categories such as jazz, collage, and the grotesque. In this course we will read Ondaatje’s major works of poetry and prose and think about the balance in his work between aestheticism and political engagement, and whether that balance disappears at times in potentially dangerous ways.

WGST 490.3 (01) Gender, Representation, and Cultural Studies: Telling Our Stories

Remotely delivered (Marie Lovrod/Josh Morrison) – Non-category

Note: English majors may apply this course toward their requirements for the English degree.

This course will explore intersections among feminist theory, cultural studies and a diverse range of cultural texts and contexts. In particular, the course presents culture as a dynamic arena of social struggle and possibility, and examines how meaning is generated and mediated through cultural “texts” and practices. We begin with the premise that a great deal of contemporary scholarly and artistic work utilizes autobiographical and collective archives of personal/cultural experiences because the personal and social situations we experience necessitate struggle, analysis, and change. At the heart of many academic texts, feminist theories, contemporary films, visual artworks, music and drama performances, literary novels, and activist gestures is a desire to tell a story, to communicate with a broader audience, and to find forums for translating the personal, private and our contextual realms—the everyday situations we inherit and occupy—into politically and socially relevant public platforms. This course will involve contributions from guest speakers who can expand our understandings of the ways cultural texts function as sites of representation, analysis, agency, and inspiration. Together, we will explore the politics and power of contemporary Indigenous music and performance; spoken word poetry as a form of political activism; notions of community, embodiment, gender, and identity in visual artwork and film; feminist possibilities for self-representation in popular music; and literary novels as sites of agency and activism.


T2  Remotely delivered  M  2:30 (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 areas such as:

  • research
  • public relations
  • writing for publication
  • grant-writing
  • editing
  • teaching writing
  • promoting literacy

Interns provide approximately 80 hours to the organization they are placed with, over a twelve-week period, and 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 every second week throughout the term. One short incident analysis, two brief journal entries, and one substantial term paper are required. There is no final examination. Internships are available with a range of organisations in the wider Saskatoon community and units within the University. In the past, interns have been placed with Sage Hill Writing Experience, 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, Sherbrooke Community Centre, and the Department of English / MFA in Writing. Interested students should contact Prof. James Cavan (kathleen.james-cavan@usask.ca) and Prof. Ella Ophir (e.ophir@usask.ca).


T1/T2 Remotely delivered (Ann Martin / Ella Ophir) – Non-category

The Department of English Honours Colloquium is a required (and really great) part of the Honours program. Graduating Honours and Double Honours students prepare short scholarly papers for conference-style presentation at the Colloquium, a day-long event held in the first week of February. Presentations are normally adapted from graded (or about to be graded) essays written for 300- or 400-level courses, after consultation with the course professor or the Undergraduate Chair. Three development sessions, starting in Term 1, will provide information on the form and function of the colloquium, establish working groups, guide the process of adaptation, and review best practices for presentations as well as professional conference etiquette. Note that while this course is required for Honours and Double Honours students, it has no credit unit value. Students will receive informal feedback, but there will be no formal evaluation. Students entering the final year of the Honours program should contact the Undergraduate Chair to confirm enrolment in ENG 497.