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Spring 2020 Courses

Tue/Thu 1:00-3:45

Instructor: Shaobo Xie

One of the defining features of contemporary critical thought is its infinite openness to the Other. In Foucault’s view, otherness is the hallmark of truth, and, as critics like Frédéric Gros and Barry Smart have pointed out, he never failed to anchor his concept of truth in a certain notion of otherness, ceaselessly formulating otherness without domesticating it into doctrine. At the heart of the legacies left behind by Levinas and Derrida is their infinite respect for otherness as well. Along the same lines, Alain Badiou notes in Philosophy in the Present, “The philosopher is always a stranger, clothed in his new thoughts,” for genuine philosophical commitment is “marked by its internal foreignness” (21).

This course explores such internal foreignness as encountered in a selection of leading critical thinkers and creative writers, situating them as a constellation of figures of radical otherness. Among the critical and theoretical texts are Foucault’s The Courage of Truth, Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Levinas’s Entre Nous: On Thinking-of-the-Other, Deleuze and Guattari’s “The Desiring Machines,” Derrida’s Specters of Marx, Lyotard’s “The Other’s Rights,” Said’s Representations of the Intellectual, Badiou and Žižek’s Philosophy in the Present, Rancière’s Dissensus, Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern, Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” and Agamben’s “What Is the Contemporary?”. Literary texts include works by Samuel Beckett, J. M. Coetzee, Tayeb Salih, Tom McCarthy, and Toni Morrison.

Each student will make a seminar presentation (25%) and write a review essay (25%) and a term paper (40%).

Winter 2020 Courses

Winter Term 2020 | Thursdays 9:30-12:15

Instructor: L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford

The policies and practices that have been both written and under-written to erase and undermine Indigenous, African, Asian, Latinx, LGBTAIQ2S, and other marginalized peoples are at the crux of our examination of law and literature.

This graduate class asks us as a community of scholars to consider how law, policy, treaties, and resistance factor in literary productions by historically marginalized populations (ex: FNMI/Indigenous, Peoples of Color, Gender/LGBAITQ2S etc). The histories of capitalistic white heteronormativity and settler colonialism that have underwritten the legal policymaking practices in Canada and the US continue to disenfranchise, erase, and gate-keep access from peoples based on hierarchical binary constructions of race, religion, culture, sexuality/gender, and economics. Acts of resistance to these policy-making practices have taken forms in literature in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. As a class, we will examine the connections between art as resistance, law making and marginalized communities, and art’s interrogation of the relationship between equality and equity.


Winter Term 2020 | Mondays 12:30-15:15

Instructor: Faye Halpern

In this course, we’ll explore unreliable narration and the ethical relationships that authors using this kind of narration forge with their readers. We will examine a wide range of unreliable narrators from both fiction and film. We’ll both explore different models of unreliability, especially its intersection with sympathy and narrative ethics, and consider these models in relation to particular texts. How does unreliability inhibit or encourage sympathy between narrators and readers in ethically complex ways? What possibilities for political intervention does unreliability afford authors concerned with gender and racial oppression and disability? Does filmic unreliability present different ethical possibilities and challenges than literary unreliability? The class will use critical texts not just as vehicles for particular views but as models of academic writing. Assignments will include blog posts, an analysis of a scholarly journal, a teaching essay, and a seminar paper; working in small groups, everyone will also have the chance to facilitate at least one class discussion.  

Readings will include Remains of the Day; Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child; and Martin Amis’ Zone of Interest as well as the films A Beautiful Mind and The Usual Suspects. We’ll read from critical works that discuss the ethics of fiction, works like Wayne Booth The Rhetoric of Fiction and James Phelan’s Living to Tell About It: A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration. We’ll also read from works about literary empathy, like Suzanne Keen’s Narrative Empathy and Amy Shuman’s Other People's Stories: Entitlement Claims and the Critique of Empathy.

Winter Term 2020 l Wednesdays, 12:30-15:15

Instructor: Aritha van Herk

This course will examine various readings of history as represented within contemporary Canadian fiction. The designation of “historical novel” has proceeded from a moment of narrative transparency to a place that questions its own reading of history’s wounds and master narratives, as well as the nostalgic or revisionist motives of historical erasure. Seeking to question assumptions surrounding particular social, cultural, and historical moments, the course will nevertheless engage with close reading and historical context.  The texts will encompass economic, social, and cultural contingencies, all relevant to the construction of “Canadian” literature within a nation diverse and dispersed in terms of cultural coherence.  This selection of novels focus on history or a particular historical moment as their initiating impulse.

Initial text list

  • Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace
  • George Elliot Clarke, George and Rue
  • Timothy Findley, Famous Last Words
  • Lawrence Hill, Book of Negroes
  • Wayne Johnston, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
  • Joy Kogawa, Obasan
  • Robert Kroetsch, Man from the Creeks
  • Sky Lee, Disappearing Moon Cafe
  • Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion
  • Fred Stenson, The Trade
  • Kim Thúy, Ru
  • Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse
  • Thomas Wharton, Icefields


  1. In-class presentation + written paper (20%)
  2. a short research essay (conference length) early in the term (15%)
  3. a long research essay (at the end of the term) (50%)
  4. Contributions to Critical Bibliography (15%)

Winter 2020 Term l BLOCK WEEK

Instructor: Murray McGillivray

This course is a practical introduction to using lead type, printer's ink, and the mechanical printing press to produce printed pages, and to assembling those printed pages into small publications such as chapbooks, along with the the economics and other practicalities of operating a small press to produce such printed works for sale.

The Department of English has a working press room, with printing presses ranging from a small table-top Kelsey Excelsior to a very large R. Hoe iron hand press. During January block week, students will learn to operate each of these presses. They will also learn about the practicalities of running a literary small press

During the few weeks following, the students in the course will collaborate on producing and selling a joint chapbook to apply the learning acquired during block week.

FALL 2019 Courses

Fall Term 2019 l Tuesdays 12:30- 15:15

Instructor: Michael Clarke

This course offers a general survey of American modernism and the historical, political, and cultural contexts out of which it arose. It will acquaint students with some of the key modernist literary texts, some less canonical work, and some of the corresponding artistic developments in painting, cinema and photography. Although we will focus on the period of high modernism (roughly 1913 to 1930), we will consider the ambivalent responses to modernism in Depression-era texts and postmodern literature. The course will also offer an overview of recent developments and enduring debates in modernist studies through selected excerpts from scholarship in the field. Assignments will likely include a research paper, a book review, a presentation, and contributions to online discussion forums.

Primary Texts

Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons
Selected poems by T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound
William Carlos Williams, Spring and All
Jean Toomer, Cane
Excerpts from The New Negro, ed. Alain Locke
Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
Muriel Rukeyser, U.S. 1
N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain
John Barth, “Lost in the Funhouse”

Fall Term 2019 | Wednesdays 9:30 - 12:15

Instructor: Stefania Forlini

People who are drawn to print books often find that digital versions "lack feeling" (Piper), and that processes of digitization obscure important information embedded in the materiality of print artifacts. This is due in large part to the shift in materiality from print to digital media and the limitations imposed by common modes of digital display. And yet, as many critics acknowledge, while digitization may mean we lose access to meaningful physical features (size, weight, paper texture, bindings, etc.) that contain valuable historical traces of print technologies, markets, and readerly interactions (Stauffer), we gain opportunities for broader accessibility, large-scale analyses of large corpora, and alternative modes of display and interactive play.

In this course, we examine what is at stake in current practices of mass-digitization and digital display of literary collections, and the roles of literary scholars in ensuring more responsible remediation of print-based collections. In particular, we will focus on the implicit (and often problematic) assumptions embedded in practices of digitization and digital display, and how these necessarily affect the kinds of research questions and approaches we develop as literary scholars. Exploring perspectives from book history, reception studies, literary studies, humanistic interface design, feminist data visualization, and human computer interaction (HCI), we will focus on how literary scholars can participate in decisions about—and design processes involved in—remediating print-based collections by drawing on a rich tradition of humanistic theory.

Fall Term 2019 | Mondays 9:30-12:15

Instructor: Derritt Mason

It would be an understatement to say that we are currently witnessing an explosion of young adult (YA) title featuring LGBTQ2S+ characters. YA author Malinda Lo reports that the number of such books released annually by mainstream publishers has quadrupled over the last fifteen years, surging from fewer than 20 titles per year in the early 2000s to nearly 80 in 2016.

Readers are now able to select from a rapidly growing, intersectional body of titles that depart from the gay problem novels of the twentieth century—which largely featured white, middle-class, male protagonists—and engage thoughtfully with race, class, religion, dis/ability, mental health, and Indigeneity. Moreover, queer YA titles span form and genre, and now include graphic narrative, fantasy, science fiction, memoir, and poetry. 

This class aims to equip students with an array of theoretical and methodological strategies for critically reading, interpreting, and writing about queer YA literature and culture, a toolkit that accounts for the ever-expanding formal and thematic diversity of queer YA as well as the development in recent years of queer childhood and adolescent theory. This class takes a theoretically broad and principally contemporary approach to its topic, aiming to help students become thoughtful readers of YA who are conversant in how the genre intersects with other popular media (video games, television) at the intersection of adolescence and queerness.

Fall Term 2019 | Wednesdays 12:30-15:15

Instructor: Anthony Camara

Considering that the Nineties was a period of tremendous social and political upheaval in Britain—take, for instance, the debates around “The Woman Question”; the provocations of Aestheticism and Decadence; and imperial anxieties about tumult in the colonies—it should hardly be a surprise that the Fin de Siècle saw a profusion of innovative writings in popular literary genres. To name just a few landmarks, the 1890s saw the revival of the gothic; the maturation of the detective story; the elaboration of the scientific romance; and the birth of so-called “slum” and “New Woman” novels.

This course familiarizes students with these genres, distinguishing them within the larger field of late Victorian literary production while also charting the historical forces that interrelate them. Cartography plays a crucial role in this endeavour, as all the primary texts on the syllabus function as literary cartographies, demonstrating a pronounced interest in mapping a specific geographic territory which is a region of—or apart from, but nevertheless intimately tied to—Britain. By examining texts that map abject, exceptional, or uncertain realms of Britain (think: newly constructed suburbs, reviled slums, and the empire’s colonies), this class enables students to discover how the politics inherent to place, space, geography, and representation reflect the tumultuously changing notions of British identity at the Fin de Siècle. Primary texts include works by Vernon Lee, Arthur Machen, L. T. Meade, H. G. Wells, Richard Marsh, Amy Levy, and Ella Hepworth Dixon.

Fall Term 2019 | Mondays 13:00-15:50

Instructor: Suzette Mayr

This course is designed to offer students new to graduate studies or new to the University of Calgary an introduction to a variety of scholarly and professional skills. The aim is to ensure you have the training to help you succeed academically and professionally. To this end, guest with a range of expertise will meet with us each week to present their areas 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 and conference presentation).

This is a half-year, pass/fail course, not included in GPA.

Fall Term 2019 | Thursdays 12:30-15:15

Instructor: Larissa Lai 

This is a graduate level class in poetry writing. This class will be structured primarily through a workshop format. Depending on the numbers, between two and four students will submit a small selection of poems each week for critique the following week. In this way, I will train you both in poetry-writing and constructive criticism. Through constructive criticism, you will also train each other, and the class will grow into a small community of active and supportive poet/practitioners.

In addition to workshop, a portion of the class will be devoted to the discussion of contemporary issues in poetry and/or the close examination and discussion of a practicing poet's work. Possible topics for discussion include: cultural appropriation, the biotext, conceptual poetry, spoken word, dub, the lyric and the speaking self, Indigenization, #metoo, Black Lives Matter, Asian formations, call out culture/nurturance culture, the long poem, social media.

Poets whose work we may read and discuss include: Jordan Abel, Liz Howard, Billy Ray Bellcourt, Joshua Whitehead, Canisia Lubrin, Dionne Brand, Nourbese Phillip, Sina Queyras, Erin Moure, Shannon Maguire, Rachel Zolf, Kai Cheng Thom, Shazia Rafiq, Phinder Dulai, Renee Saklikar, Audre Lorde, Lyn Hejinian, Fred Wah, Adrienne Rich, Roy Miki, Rita Wong, Gwen Benaway, Smokii Sumac, Vivek Shraya, Lillian Allen, d'bi young, Marie Annharte Baker, Sharanpal Ruprai, Marilyn Dumont.

Fall 2019 ENGL 693.01 Portfolio Application

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Dr. Aruna Srivastava

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Vivek Shraya