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Winter 2023 courses

Instructor: Faye Halpern


This class will follow critic Amy Kaplan’s lead in seeing American literary realism not as a reflection of social reality but as a means of constructing new ideas about such historical developments as the rise of the New Woman and the widespread violence against Black people in the Post-Reconstruction period. We will explore how realist texts depict these developments, how it arose as a response to antebellum sentimentality, and how it constructs its intended readers. To what extent does it invite its readers to adopt a stance of critical distance? Assignments are aimed at introducing students to the different genres of academic life and will include blog posts, a teaching essay or analysis of a scholarly journal, and a conference paper and abstract. In this course, we’ll read works of fiction by Rebecca Harding David, Stephen Crane, Henry James, Charles Chesnutt, and Kate Chopin as well as a range of critical works: works that illuminate literary realism as a genre, works that theorize author-character-reader relationships, and works that expose current literary critical practices.

Instructor: Shaobo Xie


This course explores the idea of minoritarian writing as variously named and practiced in contemporary theory and literature. A minor literature, according to Deleuze and Guattari, is not literature written in a minor language; “it is rather that which a minority constructs within a major language.”

Its three defining characteristics are:

  • the deterritorialization of language
  • the connection of the individual to a political immediacy
  • the collective assemblage of enunciation

The seminar discussions will center around the following questions:

  • What are the central concerns shared among various forms of contemporary minoritarian writing?
  • In what sense is minoritarian writing a revolutionary force?
  • Why is it that a minor literature always opens up a new way of imagining or experiencing aesthetic, cultural, and epistemological otherness?
  • To what extent might a minor literature deterritorialize dominant language and social imaginaries in a way that is really heterogeneous or external to the rule of neoliberal capitalism?
  • What role can minoritarian writing play in transforming the English classroom into a vibrant space of production of creative energies and ideas?

Instructor: Morgan Vanek


In a 2016 interview with Dissent, feminist philosopher Nancy Fraser declares that the “current, financialized form of capitalism is systematically consuming our capacities to sustain social bonds,” producing a “crisis of care every bit as serious and systemic as the current ecological crisis, with which it is…intertwined.” For Wendy Brown, this crisis is one of the defining features of neoliberalism, the consequence of the “the relentless and ubiquitous economization of all features of life” – and, as economic historians from Silvia Federici and Marilyn Waring to Thomas Piketty have now observed, it has its origins in the gendered separation of social reproduction from economic production, and thus in the protocols of dispossession that helped to define and institutionalize these separate spheres over the course of the eighteenth century.

In this course, reading across a series of eighteenth-century debates about the value of women’s work (and lives) under this emerging capitalist order, we will examine how this notion of gendered difference was developed in order to hold these spheres apart. What, in the eighteenth-century imagination, was a ‘woman’ supposed to do? What economic conditions, institutions, and consequences could compel this work? What can we learn about the category of gender from what these writers imagined as existential threats to the emerging capitalist order? Insisting,  that the domestic policies of enclosure, dispossession, and accumulation that produced these gendered spheres of work and value cannot themselves be separated from the projects of British colonial settlement and mercantile expansion unfolding around the world during this period, and working to resist the separation of the archives that makes the relationship between these projects so difficult to see, most of our research in this course will be collaborative.

Instructor: Kit Dobson


This course is designed as an inquiry into the poetics of posthumanism in the place currently known as Canada. Working through theories of post-humanism, and especially post-human ecologies, this course brings students to encounters with the environment in contemporary poetry produced in Canada. It does so in the service of creating a dynamic textual encounter with the flows between the human and the more-than-human worlds that students and poets alike inhabit.

Students will seeks to engage the scholarship of research-creation in order to enable an expanded range for both scholarship and assessment: students in this course will have the capacity not merely to engage with poetic and artistic texts that challenge and blur the (post)human, but they will also have the opportunity to begin to take on the task of research-creation efforts in their own assessments for the course.

Contemporary texts by poets in Canada who take seriously questions of environment, land, and the unstable boundary between the human and the non-human will be studied 

Instructor: Michael Clarke


A wave of pro-democracy movements has swept the world in recent decades, including the Arab Spring, Tajamuka in Zimbabwe, Movimiento 15-M in Spain, the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, Occupy Wall Street in the US, and campaigns in Burma, Sudan, and Belarus, to name a few, and these movements join longstanding campaigns like the pro-democracy movement in China. Meanwhile, we have seen the renewal of far-right activism, fascism, and totalitarianism in various parts of the world. Powerful global economic institutions operating outside the control of democratic governments are also putting pressure on democratic governance, and the widespread political prioritization of security and terrorism within ostensibly democratic nations often curtails both citizens’ and non-citizens’ rights, undermining the individual liberty that has long been an integral component of democratic politics. Finally, feminist, anti-colonial, and race studies scholarship continues to challenge many of the supposedly liberatory premises of Western democratic theory.

This context has encouraged a new wave of art and theory on the possibilities, challenges, and contradictions of democracy. This course situates the current outpouring of theoretical reflection in the long history of democratic theory and reads a range of literary texts in relation to such work and as theory in its own right.


Spring 2023 Courses

Instructor: Anthony Camara


In the fields of critical theory and disciplinary philosophy, the past decade saw a profusion of interest in speculative modes of thought. This new turn in theory reached its crescendo with the movement known as “Speculative Realism,” which has since dissipated as a coherent school in philosophy but arguably left an indelible mark on contemporary thought that extends into the worlds of literary criticism—especially work on popular genres such as horror and science fiction—film scholarship, and video game studies.

The objective of this class is to familiarize students with these resurgent speculative philosophies and to interrogate how they inform, and are informed by, contemporary popular genre literature. While these objectives require that students engage with the key thinkers of Speculative Realism, the class will trace the speculative impulse more widely through the return to metaphysics and ontology seen in Feminist New Materialisms, and through literary fictions by authors such as Nnedi Okorafor, Peter Watts, Caitlín Kiernan, and Annalee Newitz, to name a few.


Fall 2023 courses



Instructor: Professor Rebecca Sullivan


This course explores the history and contemporary contexts of romance fiction, with particular attention on mid-twentieth-century romance comics and paperback publishers including Harlequin, Arval, Derby, and Export. It also examines the popular revival of the genre amongst 2LGBTQIA+ readers, which has helped catapult sales by over 700% in the past five years, while experiencing unparalleled censorship and political interference. The rigid, compulsive heteronormativity of mid-century romance is the fulcrum upon which the contemporary genre pivots toward queer subversions. Students will be introduced to archival research, digital humanities techniques, as well as intersectional and gender and sexuality frameworks for conducting close reading, literary audience studies, publishing and book studies. Experiential learning opportunities with the University of Calgary’s Canadian Paperback Collection will be incorporated into the course assessment scheme. Students in both the 500- and 600- section of this course will engage with the same readings and textual examples. Assessments will be similar but with differing criteria to meet students at their level.

Instructor: Professor Karen Bourrier


This course will focus on a single novel, George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871). A 2015 poll of book critics conducted by the BBC named Middlemarch the greatest British novel of all time by a landslide. The novel continues to speak to a twenty-first century audience through timely themes ranging from epidemics and extraction ecologies to the rise of the middle class and women’s ambitions in a patriarchal society. 

Middlemarch was originally published in eight parts of around 110 pages each; the University of Calgary’s Archives and Special Collections holds the original eight parts, both bound and unbound, and the first edition of Middlemarch in volume form. Students in this course will pursue a close reading of Eliot’s novel alongside the earliest printed editions of this work. We will consider primary sources ranging from the original paper publication in parts, the contemporary scientific and poetic archives that influenced Eliot’s work, and digital archives that enable new readings and new access to this classic text. 

Assignments will combine historical work in the university’s special collections and digitization /digital reading. Students will complete one short research paper and a larger digital project, as well as a seminar presentation.

Instructor: Professor Jason Wiens


Students will read Munro's stories alongside their drafts and other related materials in the Alice Munro papers in the Taylor Family Digital Library. The course will introduce students to genetic critical approaches, and involve experiential and digital humanities activities, including the digitization of select manuscripts.

Instructor: Professor Stefania Forlini


This course is designed to offer students new to graduate studies or new to the Department of English at the University of Calgary an introduction to a variety of scholarly and professional skills. The aim is to ensure that you have the training to help you succeed academically and professionally, particularly in your program here. To this end, guests with a range of expertise will meet with us most weeks to present their area of research or their research methodologies, to help you develop specific skills (grant writing for example, or advanced library research), or guide you through useful practices (such as proposal writing, conference presenting, career preparation, etc.). This course is required for all MA and PhD students.

Instructor: Professor Aritha van Herk


The Creative Nonfiction genre has gained considerable traction as a form investigating substantial intellectual questions in contemporary times. Although focused on narrative, it is less a genre in and of itself than a text instigated by voice and research, strong description, evocative images, and powerful revelations. Although it relies on the author’s ability to recount or to springboard from actual events, it relies also on imagination and craft to relay important ideas: narratives of experience, loss, coincidence, accident, and achievement. Most of all, the successful work of nonfiction incites reflection on a crucial moment of recognition that the writer can offer the reader.   

This course will look to selected contemporary works of creative non-fiction, including examples of autobiography, memoir, travel narrative, literary journalism, and ficto-criticism as models to inspire and inform students’ own writing. The aim of the course is to enable students to research and develop a powerful piece of writing that is both creative and critical, whether a lyric essay, a meditation, or a well-researched dive into an historical or place-based subject. 

This course will seek to inspire students to stretch their notions of writing as a persuasive or informative incentive to create a narrative that will stretch beyond an expository essay. It will be equally valuable to students focussed on either the Creative Writing or Critical stream.

The class will function as a workshop of the whole and students’ work will be workshopped at least twice in the term.  

Students will be expected to produce, by the end of the course, a 75-page work of Creative Non-fiction.

By August 1st, 2023, prospective students should submit a proposal of the project they wish to undertake, and 20 pages of writing relevant to that project to Professor van Herk’s e-mail address below. Admission to this course is determined by portfolio and is granted by departmental permission.

Graduate program contacts

Contact us for any questions you may have about the programs we offer in the Department of English.

Graduate Program Advisor

Ask me about graduate program advising

Lori Somner

Associate Head (Graduate Program)

Ask me about graduate degree requirements

Dr. Stefania Forlini

Creative Writing Coordinator

Ask me about the Creative Writing Program

Clara A.B. Joseph