2024-25 Graduate Courses
Instructor: Dr. Pamela Banting
In this course we will analyze transformations and metamorphoses. Climate change or, as Margaret Atwood reframes it, “everything change,” is evident everywhere, but so far even as our forests, cities and dwellings incinerate, things swish away in floods, food crops dwindle, viruses ‘go viral,’ and human beings suffer and die, our vapid response has been in the main to cultivate states of denial, delay and derangement (Amitav Ghosh). Proportional to the rate of global heating, our individual responses and collective actions have been tepid. Humans are terra-forming the planet; we have become agents of geological and atmospheric change. CO2 emissions are causing the global ocean to become so acidic that the shelled creatures who produce half of the oxygen we breathe are having trouble building their shells. Viruses are transforming our bodily organs, and plastic micro-particles, ingested and inhaled, are accumulating in all bodies. Zooplankton sport plastic fibres from our athletic clothing. We are living in the Sixth Great Extinction. And yet we are abdicating on the sociopolitical front because, in a paradox of cosmic proportions, we fear change. Climate change is rapidly outpacing political will: information and awareness do not seem to spark creative response and collective action. Where can we look not only for political solutions and technological fixes but for models of change itself? How can we adopt or adapt them at the beginning of this “long emergency”? In this course, we will read texts about planetary change; crisis / crises; shape-shifting; corporeal porosity, fluidity and multiplicity; gender transformation; birth and death; fire; the most common form of transformation, eating and being eaten; our shifting microbiomes; activism and social transformation; and more. The chrysalis will be our guiding metaphor as we work toward a poetics and a poethics of change and transformation.
Texts may include selected excerpts from Ovid’s Metamorphoses; Emanuele Coccia’s Metamorphoses; Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua, eds., Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility; John Vaillant’s Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast; Richard Powers, The Overstory; and others.
Instructor: Dr. Kit Dobson
How do literatures produced in Canada relate to global crises? How, for instance, do displacement and forced migration shape how stories are told in this place? How do ongoing forms of (neo-)colonialism shape literature? How might literary works in Canada respond to ongoing environmental dislocations? This course is an inquiry into the ways in which what is variously called globalization, transnationalism, or globality impact, shape, and are reworked by literatures produced in the place currently known as Canada. It focuses upon literary works produced in Canada since 2010, while bringing a longer view largely through theoretical and critical engagements. It works across genres (fiction, poetry, and drama) in order to examine texts, writers, and literary movements that respond to global politics. In texts that engage the fraught politics of the contemporary moment, audiences can witness a range of approaches that include dystopic writing, documentary poetics, searing addresses to injustice, and more. This course engages and builds upon what students may already know about Canadian literary traditions and opens up that sensibility, enacting a pedagogy that is no longer invested in notions of “CanLit” and that, instead, how do literatures produced in Canada relate to contemporary global crises? How, for instance, do displacement and forced migration shape the ways in which stories are told in this place? How do ongoing forms of (neo-)colonialism shape literary possibilities? What does the rise of the alt-right mean in the context of literary works that seek to provide justice, solace, or recourse for marginalized bodies? How might literary works in Canada respond to the ongoing environmental and social dislocations of global capitalism? This course is designed as an inquiry into the ongoing ways in which the structures of what is variously called globalization, transnationalism, or globality impact, shape, and are reworked by literatures produced in the place currently known as Canada. Building upon theories of globalization / transnationalism, this course brings students to encounters with literary works produced in Canada mostly written since 2010. It does so in the service of creating a dynamic engagement with the fraught politics of the contemporary moment.
This course works across genres (fiction, poetry, and drama) in order to examine texts, writers, and literary movements that respond to the politics of globality. As writers in the twenty-first century engage the fraught politics of the contemporary moment, audiences can witness a range of possible approaches that include dystopic writing, forms of documentary poetics, searing addresses to historical injustices, and more. This course endeavours to engage and build upon what students may already know about Canadian literary traditions and radically open up that sensibility, enacting a pedagogy that is no longer invested in notions of “CanLit” and that, instead, opens up to the plethora of possibilities embedded within literatures in Canada.
Instructor: Dr. Jim Ellis
Recent schools of theory grouped together under the label of posthumanism, including ecocriticism, animal studies, and actant theories, have challenged the way that Cartesian thinking denies our connection to bodies, animals, plants and things. Scholars of early modern literature have enthusiastically taken up these theories to explore the transitional zones of thinking where competing theories of embodiment, animism and vitality were in play.
This course will explore post-humanist theories in conjunction with Edmund Spenser’s allegorical romance epic, The Faerie Queene, as well as some of his earlier writings. Spenser’s work is full of engagements with obsolete knowledge systems and Spenser’s epic is famous for its hybrid nature: a mix of epic, romance and allegory that makes any straightforward readings of its characters, actors, objects and actants difficult. The poem teaches the reader to deploy multiple strategies to make sense of any particular episode, in its overall project of refashioning the reader. Using contemporary theory and theoretically-informed criticism we will explore the strange terrain of Faery Land and the hybrid beings that inhabit it. We will look at such topics as Lucretian atomism in the Garden of Adonis; human/animal relations; talking plants and the tripartite soul; metal men, vibrant matter, networks, and the kinds of non-Cartesian thinking that allegory demands.
Instructor: Dr. Faye Halpern
This course will introduce you to the theories, approaches, and practices of teaching undergraduate English. Addressing all three domains of English study (literature, creative writing, and composition), the course aims to prepare you to teach, to reflect on teaching, and to speak thoughtfully to this part of the profession. You will be introduced to some of the fundamental research about how students learn, followed by the theories and practices of facilitating English-specific pedagogies, eliciting student interpretations of assigned texts, constructing a syllabus, grading student writing, and navigating the interpersonal dynamics common to the English classroom. The course will include a variety of English Department guests who will share their pedagogical approaches and practices.
Instructor: Dr. Clara A.B. Joseph
This course is designed to introduce students to advanced techniques in writing nonfiction prose for diverse contexts, embracing both creative and academic writing. By engaging in readings, discussions, and writing assignments, students will hone their writing skills and explore the various forms and styles of nonfiction prose. The curriculum will cover essential aspects of research and fact-checking, as well as the principles of narrative structure, style, and voice.
Creative nonfiction seeks to infuse factual or research-based content with literary tools and techniques, resulting in writing that captivates and delights readers aesthetically. It aims to create engaging narratives by adding drama and artistry to nonfiction writing. In the creative writing component of this course, students will explore various forms of creative nonfiction, including personal essays, memoirs, and literary journalism. They will study the works of successful creative nonfiction writers and practice crafting their own pieces in diverse styles.
The academic writing component will teach students how to write research papers and other scholarly documents, emphasizing referencing and argumentation in a way that appeals to a broader readership by incorporating appropriate elements of creative nonfiction prose.
Throughout the course, students will receive valuable feedback from both the instructor and their peers, providing them with the opportunity to revise and refine their work. By the course’s conclusion, students will have gained a solid foundation in the principles and practices of nonfiction prose writing, equipping them for success in various writing contexts.
Instructor: Dr. David Sigler
The British Romantic period is often considered the "Age of Revolution," a time in which established systems of meaning (political, economic, literary, gender, class, race) were openly challenged and up for grabs. Yet a surprising number of the period's writers were also meditating upon rules, sometimes even with a certain zeal. Authors studied may include: Mary Wollstonecraft, Anonymous, Elizabeth Meeke, William Blake, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Felicia Hemans, Hannah More.
Instructor: Dr. Michael Ullyot
Since the Middle Ages, English literary texts have been adapted for other media, from manuscript illustrations to video games. This course addresses the history and theory of literary adaptations into other media, which introduce what Lisa Gitelman (2008) calls alternate protocols — rules and conditions — of use. To establish a prehistorical foundation, we begin with early modern adaptations across formal divisions: historical chronicles and Chaucer’s poems to Shakespeare’s plays. Then we chart the history of adaptation theories from the 16th and 17th centuries (Richard Hooker, John Dryden) to contemporary theories of originality, fidelity, modernization, and novelty (Linda Hutcheon, 2006; Kamilla Elliott, 2020). We’ll address debates about the politics of appropriation and the aesthetics of adaptation in present social, technological, and economic contexts. Case studies will be in three categories: text to screen (e.g. The English Patient; Clueless; The Hollow Crown); text to stage (e.g. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; Wolf Hall; Hamnet); and text to radio (e.g. Orson Welles’ The Mercury Theatre on the Air series). These will provoke questions about the place of fidelity; the bankability of canonical texts and authors; and the protocols (Gitelman) evident from comparing adaptations across media.
Instructor: Dr. Uchechukwu Umezurike
In this course, students will examine the composite novel, otherwise known as the novel-in-stories or the short story cycle. We will examine the techniques of this genre while exploring how theme, place, or characters serve as a unifying structure for this novel. At the end of the course, students will have developed a work-in-progress between 50 and 60 pages or 15,000 words. The class will be structured as follows: 1) focus on studying certain elements of fiction (i.e., narrative structure, characters, point of view, setting/place) in the four texts; 2) workshop presentations; and 3) in-class or at-home writing aimed at producing the draft of the work-in-progress.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Read texts with creative and critical discernment;
- Acquire a concrete understanding of elements of style work in different genres;
- Engage in meaningful critique about writing with their peers;
- Make use of critiques received and witnessed to improve their own work;
- Write original prose and develop a work-in-progress.
Required texts and reading:
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Enchanted Night by Steven Milhauser
This House is not for Sale by EC Osondu
An Aroma of Coffee by Dany Laferrriere
Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley
Assessments and Evaluation:
- Class participation;
- Writing workshopped during the term;
- Draft presentation 1;
- Draft Presentation 2;
- Final portfolio (work-in-progress).
Instructor: Dr. Anna Veprinska
The Belarussian-American poet Valzhyna Mort, among others, argues that a poet’s role is to witness. Interrogating this notion, our course considers how we might engage with poetry as an act of witnessing. Reading widely across contemporary poetry of witness, including poetry in response to genocide, war, violence, oppression, personal and communal pain, and ecological crisis, we will write our own way into witnessing, probing what it means to not avert one’s eyes.
Our questions will include the following: What are the ethics and responsibilities of witnessing through poetry? How might we use language to approach the “unspeakable”? And what are the roles and possibilities of form and content in poetic witnessing?
Our focus will be on reading the work of published poets, discussing poetry of witness, and writing and workshopping poems. This course will also include a guest speaker. The cumulative assignment will be the production of a chapbook.
Instructor: Dr. Joshua Whitehead
This course will focus on the colonial imperatives inherent within Western forms of publishing. We will ask: if we are to be decolonial on the land and not recognize the colonial borders of nation, province, and territories in lieu of Indigenous sovereign nationhoods--how do we simultaneously enact this methodology on the "page" as well. How do we become good guests to oratory? Often, Indigenous literatures are registered in two tenors: as fantastical parables or as anthropoligic trauma narratives. The Western paradigms of categorizing literatures are debilitating to Indigenous forms of storytelling as they teach us to autopsy narrative for the sake of identification and ask us to apply ideologies of "literary realism" in ways that disfigure Indigenous stories. This course will explore how genre and form (if we may even call them that) are recontextualized through Indigenous epistemologies that consider the non-human (and non-corporeal) as "real". Do we call stories of star people speculative fiction? Are stories of wendigo really horror? How does autofiction contribute to literary voyeurism into community? Is the frontier of the west yet "wild" without characters? How have residential school narratives made for a gluttonous reading public? This course will survey Indigenous writers from across temporal zones, peoplehoods (including global Indigenous narratives from Gadigal/Dharug of Australia and the Maori of Aotearoa), and intersectional Indigenous identities that center Indigenous women and Two-Spirit, queer, and/or trans Indigenous writers. Though Indigenous stories may have instances of pain, they are wildly engendered with genre, form, experimentation, and radical politics of not just reconciliation, but emancipation. From the publication of Maria Campbell's Half-Breed as fiction (instead of its original account of non-fiction) in 1973 through to the rise of Indigenous futurisms, perhaps most popularized by Daniel Heath Justice's notion of "wonderworks," we will consider how Indigenous stories are all genre and no-genre simultaneously.