A Young Man Reading Book And Listening Music On Smartphone At Coffee Shop

Past graduate courses

English graduate courses 2021-2022

Fall 2021 courses

Instructor: Faye Halpern


This course will begin by introducing an approach to literary texts called “narrative ethics.” We’ll spend the rest of the course focusing on a kind of narrative that presents a particularly rich field for this approach: unreliable narration. We’ll explore how unreliability works both in general and in particular texts. What kind of ethical relationships do these unreliable narratives establish between authors, narrators, characters, and readers? How does unreliability enable or limit an author’s ability to engage its audience in thinking about issues like class, gender, race, historical trauma, and disability? Does filmic unreliability present different ethical possibilities and challenges than literary unreliability? Along with the primary texts, we’ll read both literary theory and critical articles that analyze the particular texts we’ll be reading. We’ll use this theory and criticism not just as vehicles for particular views but as models for our own academic writing. Assignments will include blog posts, an analysis of a scholarly journal or a teaching essay, and a conference paper; everyone will also have the chance to lead the class in an active learning activity.

Instructor: Morgan Vanek


In 1720, London witnessed its first major financial crash. The South Sea Bubble burst, the stock market plummeted, and the public sphere exploded with new writing – from periodical essays and plays to legislation – that aimed to expose and curtail the corruption, self-interest, and stock-jobbing many blamed for the crash. In this course, we’ll examine both the new literary genres and the many forms of economic and financial writing that flourished in the years just before and after this crash (1710-1725), with a focus on how these genres – from satire to the realistic novel to, as Mary Poovey has argued, money itself – taught their readers to think about the nature of the risks associated with credit, debt, and speculation. Keeping an eye on what the precarious economic conditions of the present have inherited from this moment when finance was new, we’ll trace both these forms and the wide range of metaphors for risk that the South Sea Bubble generated from its expansion through its collapse and afterlife – and then we’ll look forward, taking up the central questions of an emerging body of writing about the relationship between the Anthropocene and the logic of capital. If, as Jason Moore argues, the present climate crisis represents an “epochal…breakdown of the strategies and relations that have sustained capital accumulation through the past five centuries,” the forms of writing that produced and were produced by the South Sea Bubble represent a newly important archive, not just for what they reveal of the structures of thought underpinning the “strategies and relations” Moore describes here, but for the alternatives they represent. Of all the threats that this literature of the South Sea Bubble sought to expose and contain, we’ll ask, are there any we might want to awaken now?


Instructor: Rain Prud'homme Cranford


In the age of social media, where racial, sexual, ecological, and economic social justice is often denoted through hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter, #ThisIsIndianLand, #SexualSovereignty, #EffYourBeautyStandards etc, the legacy of rhetorical agency as it manifests in creative production connects social media expressions with a history of on the ground  grassroots movements. From early colonial writers such as Phyllis Wheatly and Samson Occom, to musicians such as Buffy Saint Marie and Lizzo to modern writers such as Jesmyn Ward and Taté Walker, traditions of Red, Black, and Red/Black (or Blindian) rhetorics exist both in relation and contention to one another. Like the many peoples who result of survivals and alliances of Red and Black bodies, whose existences are historically in alliance and in contestation, so we must recognize that these relationships and resistances share histories of subjugation, complexities of oppressions, and borrowed resistance tactics from oppressors in efforts to subvert dominant discourses while blending with both Red/Black inherently rhetorical communal strategies, forging rich histories of resistance rhetorics that are decidedly Black, Native, Afro-Indian or Red/Black. This graduate course is designed to introduce students to themes, forms, histories, epistemologies, rhetorical strategies, and content in works by Black, Indigenous, and Blindian (African-Native), cultural perspectives from the colonial period to the common era. Students will be introduced to concepts, histories, authors, and major themes around race/racism, gender/sexuality, ecology/environmentalism, and body (aesthetics, health, disAbility) at the intersections of Black, Indigenous, and Blindian peoples towards social justice and equity in Canada, the US, and Latinidad/Caribbean

Instructor: 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: 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. While 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: stories of experience, loss, coincidence, accident, and yes, events. 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 examine several 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 of a work of creative non-fiction. 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.

The students will be expected to produce, by the end of the course, a 75 page work of Creative Nonfiction.

Application Requirements:

By August 1st, 2021, prospective students should submit a proposal of the long project they wish to undertake, and 20 pages of writing relevant to that project to vanherk@ucalgary.ca.  Admission to this course is determined by portfolio and is granted by departmental permission.

How to apply: Download application form

Winter 2022 courses

Instructor: Aruna Srivastava


The course will examine theoretical work in critical studies in illness, dis/ability and health, focussing particularly on debates about how intersectionalities--especially race, gender, sexuality, indigeneity, and especially in Canada--function in and through individual, systemic, and ideological perceptions and expressions of illness. Students will select from a range of literary, digital, film and other "primary" texts of their own choosing and from theoretical and expressive work assigned. In particular, our emphasis will be on how academic, literary and cultural studies function institutionally both to erase and celebrate the chronically-ill body (for example, UofC's mental health strategy, and various policies, including legislation, pertaining to the "body chronic" will be examined, along with the differential ways that illness is perceived medically, institutionally, culturally, through the confusing intersections of race, gender, age, sexualities, and other identity formations). We will also engage with the pedaogical, curricular, community and ethical implications of this work, including those of disclosure and (dis)belief, discourses of accommodation, ethics, competition, secrecy, wellness, health, shame and pride. 

Instructor: Jim Ellis


Why does allegory seem so alien to our contemporary mindset? There have been no major allegories written in English since the seventeenth century, and this may have something to do with the emergence of forms of subjectivity associated with Cartesian individualism, and the attendant rise of psychological realism in literature. We can no longer accept that we are not fully autonomous beings, and that our meaning might come from elsewhere. Recent schools of theory grouped together under the label of posthumanism, including most centrally versions of ecocriticism, 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 notions of embodiment, animism and vitality were in play. In this course, we will explore posthumanist theories in conjunction with Edmund Spenser’s allegorical romance epic, The Faerie Queene. Spenser’s epic is famous for its hybrid nature, a mix of epic, romance and allegory that make 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 the 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, human/animal relations, talking plants, metal beings, vibrant matter, agent networks, and at the kinds of non-Cartesian thinking that allegory demands.

Instructor: 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. 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 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. 

Instructor: Larissa Lai


This is an advanced course in creative writing, designed to offer student with strong and longstanding poetry writing practice the opportunity to work on a book length project. Students are expected to already have a regular writing practice. This course will help deepen that practice. Students will receive instruction in the various ways that a coherent and cohesive poetry book can be assembled. Early in the course we will discuss both thematic and formal possibilities in relation to project you have proposed in your application. You will be given advice and guidance to refine these, and then you will produce the book you have mapped out— with plenty of room for deviation and reinvention, but with the goal of a complete manuscript by the end of the course. Since the course is for just one semester, students may bring a project-in-progress or a selection of  5-15 finished/well-drafted poems to use as the basis for their book if they wish. Project thematics are wide open. Form is also wide open: narrative poetry, lyric poetry, sound poetry, concrete poetry, interventionist poetry, language-based poetry, conceptual poetry or digital writing. Students are also invited to invent forms and will be given guidance in how to do so.

Application Requirements: To be considered for a place in this course, students must email an application form to larissa.lai@ucalgary.ca   by December 1, 2021.

IMPORTANT: Please put "English 593/693 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email. I receive a lot of email, and this is the only way I can be sure I'll be able to find your application when I'm looking for it.

How to Apply: Download application form

Spring 2022 courses

Instructor: Stefania Forlini


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.
Our work entails both reading current digital design critically and imagining new ways of redesigning reading (close, distant, and otherwise) in digital environments that attend to the specific needs of humanistic inquiry. Working with the Bob Gibson anthologies of speculative fiction and other case studies, we will explore ways to combine content-related metadata and physical artifactual characteristics, in order to engage multiple sensory modalities and provoke critical and aesthetic engagement with digitized print collections. To assist in this work, students will visit Special Collections, TFDL’s Digitization Unit, and participate in an information visualization workshop led by an information visualization researcher. Assignments include a seminar presentation, a data design project of what one data designer calls "outsider data", and a final essay. Readings and experiential course components will also help us explore how the critical work of reading design and redesigning reading can participate in recent calls to
#transformDH (pushing the boundaries of the Digital Humanities toward scholarship that emphasizes “social justice, accessibility, and inclusion”) and to promote the humanities through the Digital Humanities (4Humanities.org).  

English graduate courses 2020-2021

Fall 2020 courses

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.

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: Aritha van Herk

This Graduate Creative Writing course seeks to enable students to work from interest, experience, and research toward the writing of an effective and compelling narrative. Creative Non-fiction’s impetus is to use the techniques of literary craft within a factual or research-based framework to write in a compelling, dramatic, and aesthetically interesting manner. While the focus is on post-academic writing (unhampered by references or theoretical framing, although not exclusive of that background and influence), the research and revision required contributes to writerly acumen and eloquence.

Application Requirements:

In order to be considered for a place in this course, potential students must submit the following via e-mail by August 10, 2020 to vanherk@ucalgary.ca .Download application form.

Winter 2021 courses

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. 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. 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).

Spring 2021 courses

Instructor: Dr. Larissa Lai

This course will address Canadian and Turtle Island anti-racist cultural events, movements and debates of the 1980s and 1990s their contributions and impact on Canadian/ Turtle Island literary communities. Events addressed will likely include: Telling It, International Dub Poetry Festival and Conference, Writing Thru Race, It's a Cultural Thing/Minquon Panchayat, and the Appropriate Voice. We will track the progress of key debates including cultural appropriation, the use of the term "people of colour", the problematics of equity, the concept of revolution, and more. Texts will likely include: Carol Tator's Challenging Racism in the Arts, Monika Kin Gagnon's Other ConundrumsTelling It: Women Across Languages and Cultures as well as articles and essays from community-based arts magazines and journals. We will also discuss texts produced by writers and artists involved in the events. Since the events we are studying are documented largely in ephemeral sources, this course will have a strong archival component. Course requirements will include presentations, weekly discussion contributions in the form of prepared questions, and a final project with both a critical and a creative option.