Fall 2022 courses
Instructor: Clara Joseph
Postcolonial Studies is an interdisciplinary approach and a critical theory that examines the history, culture, literature, and discourse of imperial power. By studying a series of theoretical articles and a selection of literary narratives, students will explore how issues of colonial discourse and decolonization create rich and complex interdisciplinary conversations.
Thematically, the course will study travel literature on the search for “India.” These include the travel diary of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the travel writing of Vasco da Gama, the travel notes of Archbishop Alexis de Meneses, and the first modern travelogue of India. The several narratives border on fact and fiction and challenge mainstream conceptions of travel literature and colonialism.
The course will, importantly, provide critical frameworks for rethinking postcolonial studies. Students will approach the theoretical articles as well as the narratives through a framework derived from postcolonial studies. The framework can in turn shape and refine other major upper-level projects, as for example, on Africa, Asia, Canada, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, or South America, in the field of literary and cultural studies.
Instructor: Michael Ullyot
Shakespeare has long been a stalwart of the literary canon. But no amount of historical prestige will earn him our future respect. We can read historical texts in two ways: as historicists, situating their values and methods firmly in the early modern period of their origins; and as presentists, viewing them through the lens of our reception. This course does the latter, asking a question vital of all canonical texts: what value to they offer to readers now? Shakespeare can earn our attention by addressing our urgent projects of decolonization, racial reconciliation, queer equality, and patriarchy’s reckoning — and by reframing contemporary social forces from surveillance capitalism to climate change to political polarization.
This course tests Ben Jonson’s claim in the First Folio that Shakespeare was “not of an age, but for all time.” By reading his texts through the lens of the present, we will test not just his relevance but his worth. We will pair his texts with adaptations and commentary in these fields: selected sonnets with decolonization (L’Abbé); Titus Andronicus with racial justice (Loomba); As You Like It with gender fluidity (Sanchez, Stockton); Hamlet with surveillance (Schalkwyk); The Tempest with imperialism (Singh); The Taming of the Shrew with toxic masculinity (Schwarz). Some primary texts we will read, and others we will watch in performances that address these contemporary resonances — including the 2019 virtual reality adaptation Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit (YouTube VR), and film adaptations (Franco Zeffirelli’s 1967 Taming of the Shrew; Julie Taymor’s 2010 Tempest).
Instructor: Joshua Whitehead
Our class will track 2SQ (Two-Spirit, queer) Indigeneity in ways that allow us to write, think, and read against the colonial and lateral violences that displace their bodies, sexualities, histories, and identities through a variety of cultural texts that are heterogeneous and intersectional. Through such a reading we can begin the necessary work to help rightfully reconcile not only settler C/Kanadians and FNMI (First Nation, Métis, Inuit) peoples, but also do the much needed work of native-to-native reconciliation by historicizing 2SQ Indigeneity and contributing to its survivance in the now amidst waves of intergenerational trauma.
This course will highlight important questions pertaining to Indigenous sexualities, genders, and sexes outside of, beyond, and sometimes aligned with Western conceptions of LGBTQ+ and queer studies. Students will develop a critical and decolonial understanding of queer and trans Indigeneity within its current colonized state as well as build a vocabulary of terminologies, both literary and linguistic, to use as lenses of analyses for the texts we will undertake. This class will take upon a breadth of texts that disrupt borders, time periods, and genres from a variety of peoplehoods such as: the Cree (incl. Plains and Driftpile), Cherokee, Lumbee, Osage, Inuk, Kumeyaay, Métis, Anishinaabe, and non-Indigenous
Instructor: Suzette Mayr
This course is intended to offer the advanced writing student an opportunity to work intensively on prose fiction in a popular genre, although the understanding of “popular genre” will not be considered a fixed or rigid category in this course.
Students at this level must be thoroughly familiar with the various elements and theories of narrative intervention, and should be prepared to work creatively and imaginatively in applying those theories to their own writing, as well as to their colleagues’ writing.
To be considered for a place in this course, students must email an application form to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 1, 2022.
IMPORTANT: Please put "English 694.3 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email.
How to Apply: Download application form
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.