Department of English
Fall 2020 Courses
Instructor: Dr. Pamela Banting
Climate change presents a profound historical rupture and threatens our very presumption of our own survival as individuals and possibly our continuation as a species. In this course we will analyze how the Anthropocene is represented in contemporary texts. How might studying such representations advance our thinking about how to live on in this rapidly unfolding epoch? Should we call it the Anthropocene, Capitalocene (Moore, Klein), Chthulucene (Haraway), Plasticene, the Great Derangement (Ghosh), the Long Emergency (Kunstler), climate change or “everything change” (Atwood)? What role can those of us in the Arts play in helping our fellow citizens comprehend it, forestall widespread misery and catastrophe and envision non-fossil-fueled social formations? When, collectively, humans – especially those of First World, capitalist nations – become agents of geological change, what happens to notions of agency and subjectivity? What does human agency mean in light of the fact that we owe every second breath we take to plankton, tiny creatures that are having difficulty forming their shells in the acidified ocean? Will the future be settled or nomadic? Will we be vaulted into extreme precarity, a semblance of the homestead era or dystopias of the kind we read about in speculative fiction?
Theoretical readings will pertain to terminology (as above); survival; connections between decarbonization and decolonization; concepts of matter and materiality; bodies, corporeality, life; subjects, objects and agency; energy; food security; extirpation / extinction; systems and infrastructure; pollution and toxicity; plastic; social and environmental justice; elemental ecocriticism; resilience, action and activism.
Literary texts will include (but not be restricted to) Richard Powers, The Overstory (novel) and Adam Dickinson, Anatomic (poetry).
Instructor: Dr. David Sigler
In this seminar, we will see how a number of important women writers in the British Romantic period—historians, cultural critics, novelists, and poets—began to describe themselves as “future historians,” an oxymoron that suggests a strange relationship between gender and temporality. As male cultural commentators were predicting calamity in the face of permanent war and likely revolution, these women, including Britain’s first openly female historian Catherine Macaulay, the feminists Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Hays, the poets Hannah Cowley, Anna Barbauld, and Charlotte Smith, and the science fiction pioneer Mary Shelley, were writing in fractured temporalities as if they were benevolent visitors from the future, able already to offer the benefit of hindsight. By describing current events from outrageously impossible perspectives, these women were challenging the very meaning of being contemporary, developing a line of argument that put women and gender at the forefront of history. As writing from the future became an available discourse to Romantic-era women writers, it enabled those who would otherwise have been marginalized in political debates to challenge many of Great Britain’s most hegemonic institutions, such as imperialism, capitalism, the slave trade, the monarchy, and conjugal heterosexuality.
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.
Instructor: Vivek Shraya
In this course, we will examine several contemporary popular prose texts including science fiction, fantasy, YA/children's lit, graphic novel, romance and horror to inspire and inform students' own writing in this field, which will also be discussed. We will not only analyze what is popular and the conventions of popular genre, but also what is unpopular and why. Students will be expected to experiment with stretching notions of the popular (and the limits of particular popular genres) in their own writing to create narratives that push beyond what is expected.
In order to be considered for a place in this course, potential students must submit a portfolio of creative work by August 1, 2020. Download application form.
Instructor: Dr. Clara Joseph
This course will provide an in-depth study of seminal texts in poststructuralism and postcolonialism. Both poststructuralism and postcolonialism have been shaped by each other and preceding movements, for instance, Formalism and Marxism. Poststructuralism and postcolonialism have also, in turn, influenced several other related fields and theories, such as Ecocriticism, Gender studies, and Digital Humanities. Students will, therefore, read primary sources to understand, interpret, and discern premises and problems in literary and cultural theory and, importantly, learn how to derive theoretical methodologies for writing about literary and cultural texts.
Readings would cover some of the well-known theorists (Barthes, Derrida, Spivak, Said, etc.) but also interdisciplinary sources that adopt poststructuralism and postcolonialism to make sense of processes outside literary studies. A literary anthology will accompany the theoretical readings to allow students to easily apply theories and practice formulating methods of reading and interpreting.
The instructor sees this as a fundamental course that can help shape and refine MA and PhD theses in the Humanities and the Social Sciences.
Winter 2021 Courses
Instructor: Dr. Jacqueline Jenkins
In this course, students will encounter the English Middle Ages from a transcultural perspective. With a focus on globalism, the course seeks to de-centre medieval England by bringing western medieval studies, specifically the study of medieval English literature and culture, into conversation with critical work in the fields of globalization and global literature, postmodernity, and race and ethnicity studies, among others. Beginning with a focus on medieval map-making, the histories of travel and pilgrimage, and even the ubiquity and movement of the plague known as the Black Death, we will consider the ways medieval English literature represents encounters with the world outside its national and social boundaries. We will also consider the transcultural movement of literature itself through consideration of select texts, specifically romances, whose analogues and ‘afterlives’ speak to the permeability of linguistic, national and cultural borders. Readings will include literary and non-literary texts, and though the focus will be on Middle English texts, students will also read works from languages other than English (in Modern English translations) as well as a wide range of contemporary critical work. The course will end with a consideration of the ways notions of the ‘medieval’ continue to pervade national discourses and have been leveraged, for instance, to support the formation of white nationalist identities. Readings for this concluding section will be drawn from ongoing scholarly discussions, for instance in online forums such as The Public Medievalist (https://www.publicmedievalist.com/) and In the Medieval Middle (http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/).
Instructor: Dr. Shaobo Xie
This course explores the idea of minority writing as variously named and practised in
contemporary theory and literature. A minor literature, according to Deleuze and Guattari, is not literature written in a minor language, but a minor, intensive, or subversive use of the major language. It implies four negations or rejections as Foucault would insist, or, to borrow terms from Nietzsche, it is an “untimely” style of writing, which “act[s] counter to our time and thereby act[s] on our time . . . for the benefit of a time to come.” The seminar discussions will center around the following questions: What are the central concerns shared among various forms of contemporary minority writing? In what sense is minority 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 minority writing play in transforming the English classroom into a vibrant space of production of creative energies and ideas?
Instructor: Dr. Donna Coates
Over the years, numerous people, including the memorable JFK, have labelled war a “dirty business,” and insisted at the end of the Second World War that he wanted to leave it “far behind.” Kennedy, one of the lucky ones, returned a war hero, but many other veterans were not so lucky, having returned home angry, depressed, suicidal, struggling to isolate themselves from the world, and hoping to avoid triggers that instantly forced them to relieve their experience. Although varieties of these afflictions have been recorded since Homer, there was, nevertheless, little help for these damaged victims—many suffering invisible wounds—until 1980, when the American Psychological Association (APA) finally recognized that veterans having experienced or witnessed the horrors and terror of war could be traumatized. But while considerable attention has been paid in recent years to helping members of the armed forces cope with post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), only recently have numerous British, Australian, and Canadian women writers begun to produce novels that make evident that war is a “dirtier business” than we knew: they document that the consequences of dramatic events are not limited to combat service, but often affect others such as wives and children in the victims’ environments. These recent texts, which range from the Colonial Wars (in Australia), the Second World War, and the Vietnam War, document how trauma moves from one body to another and across time, and how it may be shaped and altered by the actions of the living.
Instructor: Dr. Michael Clarke
Pro-democracy movements have swept the world in recent decades, including the Arab Spring, Tajamuka in Zimbabwe, Movimiento 15-M in Spain, the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, and campaigns in Myanmar and Sudan, to name a few, and these movements join longstanding crusades 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.
This context has encouraged a new wave of art and theory on the possibilities and challenges 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.
Course readings will be selected from among such works as Crèvecœur’s Letters from an American Farmer (1782), Balzac’s The Chouans (1829), Whitman’s Song of Myself (1855 edition), Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869), Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952), Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008), Xiaolu Guo’s I Am China (2014), Hardt and Negri’s Assembly (2017) and Multitude (2005), essays by Agamben, Badiou, Bourdieu, Butler, Žižek and others in What Is a People? (2016) and Democracy in What State? (2012), Brown’s Undoing the Demos (2015), Nancy’s The Truth of Democracy (2010), Rancière’s Hatred of Democracy (2009), Derrida’s Rogues (2005), Mouffe’s The Democratic Paradox (2000), Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985), Mill’s On Liberty (1859), de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835/1840), and Rousseau’s The Social Contract (1762).
Graduate program contacts
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Graduate Program Administrator
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Associate Head (Graduate Program)
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Dr. Suzette Mayr
Creative Writing Coordinator
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