Graduate courses 2023-2024

This is a current list of graduate courses on offer in 2023-2024. Full list to be finalized.

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.

Winter 2024 courses

Instructor: Professor 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 also focus in the final classes on 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 ( and In the Medieval Middle (

There will be a pre-session assignment; information will be circulated to registered students at least one month before the class begins.

Proposed Texts: At this point I imagine using the following texts; however, given the evolving scholarship in this field, I will adjust as necessary if more current, or more accessible, readings become available. Please wait until the final information circulates in December 2023 before purchasing textbooks. As of the time of posting this description, Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, Whitaker’s Black Metaphors, and The Intolerant Middle Ages are all available online through the TFDL. Other readings will be assigned for each module and either made available on D2L or through online holdings.

  • The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Geraldine Heng. Cambridge UP, 2018.
  • Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking. Cord J.
  • Whose Middle Ages? Teachable Moments for an Ill-Used Past. Eds. A. Albin, M. Erler, T. O’Donnell, N. Paul, N. Rowe. Fordham UP, 2019.
  • The Devil’s Historians: How Modern Extremists Abuse the Medieval Past. Amy S. Kaufman and Paul B. Surtevant. U Toronto P, 2020.
  • The Intolerant Middle Ages: A Reader. Ed. Eugene Smelyansky. U Toronto Press, 2020.

Proposed Assignments and Evaluation:

  • Response Paper (pre-session requirement)                      20%
  • Pedagogical assignment                                                    15%
  • Research project                                                                35%

(eg. traditional essay, podcast, poster presentation, creative work)

Public-oriented writing project                                              30%                            


Instructor: Professor Rain Prud’Homme-Cranford


Living within the settler constructed confines of Calgary, many of us have heard and learned the traditional names for this land relative where the “Bow meets the Elbow river” : Mohkínsstsisi (Sisika / Blackfoot) and Wîchîspa Oyade or Wenchi Ispase, (Stoney / Nakoda). For an overwhelming majority of us living and working at U of C–we are, in truth, “uninvited guests” (a problematic phrase) on Treaty 7 homelands. To be non objective-we are squatters. As scholars, educators, academics, even activist– we have become familiar with the landbase acknowledgement. But what does this acknowledgement do? How might this problematic practice invite us to interrogate the very system that offers language up as performance to “acknowledge” (not act/react to) the physicality of racism and genocide and the legacy of living racism and genocide through written / intellectual legal and political policies of inaction? From #LandBack to #NoBansOnStolenLands– what role do the stories FNMI communities create about place / space / land relation do to erase and challenge settler sociopolitical lines of dominance, while insisting that land has agency and can be heard rising up, speaking back, to assert an autonomy and relationality? What does it mean to declare an ecological / environmental PLACE sovereign?  

As a class we will travel from pre-contact to the colonial period from 19th to 21stcenturies and from Treaty 7 to Oklahoma and Louisiana, from the Pacific Islands to Sámpi, and from Caribbean to Latin America and Australia to ask in what ways has privatization, eco-colonialism and extractivism, and legal / political policies of settler governments sought to maintain arbitrary boundaries while simultaneously seeking to silence the very stories that these lands themselves speak? From Mohkínsstsisi (Sisika / Blackfoot) and Wîchîspa Oyade to the Choctaw in Missippii and Louisiana traditional towns: Okla Hannali (Six Towns), Ahi Apet Okla (Potato Eating People) and Okla Falaya (Long River People); to the Sámi  in Sámpi:  The Coastal / Sea Sámi and Mountain / Fell Sámi. Indigenous peoples have located and inscribed relation to land through naming and claiming and in return being claimed by the land itself. This graduate class asked us to intervene in conversations around Indigenization and decolonization, specifically as it intersects landbase, ecological kinship, sovereignty, autonomy and agency, and creative, critical, and political praxis by and with Indigenous peoples locally and globally. How do the stories, media, literatures, and arts that Indigenous bodies and communities create foster conversations and reciprocity with their landbases. How do this thinker-artist-activists chart, map, uncover, and reclaim a geographic narrative of place as active, sovereign, and sentient? Moreover, how do stories, theories, and our artistic practises challenge settler constructed geographic and cartographic praxis that has long sought to sever active and holistic relationships embodied through the Indigenous corpus and extending to the embodiment of landbase? 

We will read, listen, and view multimodal texts from a variety of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholar-creative-thinker-artist-activists such as and/or  including (but not limited to)Leroy Little Bear, Mishuana Goeman, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Rosalyn R. LaPierDeondre Smiles, Vivian Faith Prescott, Katherena Vermette, Leanne Howe, Joshua Whitehead, Craig Perez, Chadwick Allen, Dylan Robinson, Shari M. Huhndorf, Hi'iaka, kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui, Margery Fee, Natchee Blu Barnd. 

Instructor: Professor Uchechukwu Umezurike


The graduate seminar pivots around two main questions: Where is home? What does it mean to be at home or even away from home? It focuses on how Black Canadian writers and filmmakers construct or even contest notions of home in their works and what these constructions or contestations reflect about the complexities of identity, belonging, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and nationality in Canada. In this course, we will examine how literature and film “invent” home while highlighting the processes and factors that shape the “invention” of home, namely, (settler) colonialism, (forced) migration, war, and globalization. We will also discuss questions about diasporic and transnational connections, alienation, displacement, relocation, migration, mobility, and border-crossing. After taking this course, students will appreciate the variety of Black aesthetics in Canada and how such literary and cultural productions extend understanding of what it means to be rooted, rootless, uprooted, emplaced, or displaced in society.  

Instructor: Professor Derritt Mason


The Bildungsroman, a centuries-old genre that recounts the moral and physical development of young protagonists, spawned themes and conventions that persist in a number of contemporary forms. Today, we tend to translate Bildungsroman as the “coming-of-age” story, which is itself typically associated with a wildly popular contemporary genre: young adult literature (YA). As YA explodes in popularity, quintessential Bildungsroman themes and characters have continued to surface in a range of media, including—and most recently—video games. In a 2015 New Yorker essay entitled “Coming of Age with Video Games,” Simon Parkin suggests that “kids who grew up playing early computer games are now old enough to consider, from middle age, how the medium shaped their lives.” A consequence, it appears, is that we are witnessing not only a burgeoning proliferation of criticism, fiction, and memoir that use video games to narrate coming-of-age, but also video games that are themselves interested in revisiting adolescence.

As game scholar Bernard Perron points out, however, video game studies has been generally (and surprisingly) uninterested in questions of genre, preferring instead to focus its inquiries on what Ian Bogost calls “procedural rhetoric”—how games signify through interactive processes. As coming-of-age games and YA novels about coming-of-age alongside video games continue to surface, however, literary studies might offer useful tools for assessing how and to what end Bildungsroman conventions shape these texts and produce meaning. Compellingly, video games as interactive texts offer audiences opportunities to play with conventional coming-of-age themes: identity, death, trauma, sexuality, power, morality, and agency, among others. Moreover, as Katherine Isbister and Jesper Juul argue, video games operate in a different affective register than print literature; can games also make us feel differently as we engage with these enduring themes?

This class puts contemporary scholarship on the Bildungsroman into conversation with video game theory, history, and literature—as well as games themselves—to determine what, in this context, video game studies might learn from literary studies and vice versa. The latter portion of this block week class will be structured as a “game jam,” during which students will work on combining the tools of literary analysis and storytelling with game design in order to create a short game (individually, in pairs, or in small groups) using free, user-friendly game-maker software (e.g. Twine, Bitsy). Throughout the week, thanks to developing partnerships with Edmonton’s Inflexion Software and the University of Calgary’s Video Game Development program (housed in Computer Science), students will have the opportunity to interact with game design specialists from both the university and the game industry itself.

Instructor: Professor Suzette Mayr


English 694 is a graduate course in Creative Writing, intended to offer the advanced writing student an opportunity to work intensively on a long prose piece. Students at this level must be thoroughly familiar with the various elements and theories of narrative intervention or the development of a sustained investigation, and should be prepared to work creatively and imaginatively in applying those theories to their own writing, as well as to their colleagues’ writing.

Participants are also expected to read widely as part of their background work, and to engage with literary events. This course requires students to work toward completion of a polished prose manuscript of approximately 100 pages. Students who have been given permission to register in this class will already have a clear sense of the project they wish to undertake; and they will bring to the class a description of their project. This project might consist of a series of unconnected stories, a novella, a series of interconnected tales, a prose-poem, or a work of prose non-fiction. Genre is not a rigid consideration, but the object of this course is to enable each student to realize that project in its greatest possible configuration within the limit of the term. This course requires critical acumen, editorial focus, and steady writing and reading.

The class will be conducted primarily as a manuscript workshop. Each week, students will come to class prepared to discuss either the published creative writing text or critical essay or chapter assigned, and the student writing to be workshopped that class. Workshopping at this advanced level is intensive and complicated, and students must become good editors as well as writers to complete this course. We accomplish this, in part, by critiquing others’ writing as we would published material, giving the text critical attention that will place it within a context of writing and genres. As well, these workshops should help the author to determine the text’s inherent direction, possibilities, and flaws, by providing advantageous editorial commentary.

By November 1st, 2023, prospective students should submit a 250 word proposal of the project they wish to undertake and 8 - 10 pages of writing relevant to that project to Suzette Mayr at Admission to this course is determined by portfolio and is granted by departmental permission.

Spring 2024 courses

Instructor: Professor Maria Zytaruk


This course will integrate lab sessions on the fundamentals of papermaking, letterpress printing, and bookbinding during the hand-press period with an exploration of Samuel Richardson's epistolary novel, Pamela and other selected literary works. An experimental work of fiction, Pamela is particularly concerned with the processes of writing, reading, and book-making. This seminar will use an experiential approach to investigate Pamela and broader questions about the materiality of the book including the production and availability of hand-made paper, the making of ink, the printing of letters, the sewing structures of pamphlets, the typographic features of title-pages, and the use of intaglio illustrations. By attending to the material features of hand-press books, key discourses of gender, politics, economics, and the environment come into sharper focus. Secondary readings may include scholarship by Thomas Keymer, Sarah Werner, Tara Bynum, S. Blair Hedges, Joshua Calhoun, Kate Ozment, Lisa Maruca, and Whitney Trettien.