Department of English


English Language and Literature

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Tentative Graduate Courses 2018-2019

(Please note: actual roster will be posted in the spring of 2018 and may differ from what is listed here.)

ENGL 803 and 903 Research Forum I and II
Instructor: Various Speakers
Offered: Fall and Winter Terms
Description: A required presentation and discussion course in which first-year MA and PhD students, along with the Department as a whole, will be presented with a number of model research problems and methodologies by members of the English Department faculty and visiting scholars. The aim of the course is to provide and discuss a range of contemporary research models in literary and cultural studies drawn from different fields and supported by different methodologies. There will be twelve scheduled meetings of the forum throughout Fall and Winter terms. The course is graded on Pass/Fail based on attendance and the completion of required assignments.
ENGL 800 and 900 Introduction to Professional and Pedagogical Skills I and II
Instructor: Graduate Co-ordinator
Offered: Fall Term 2018
Description: This course is designed to train beginning graduate students in the skills they will need as Teaching Assistants and to help them make the transition to advanced literary study. Areas to be covered include essay-marking, academic counselling of undergraduate students, writing research papers, time management, academic and non-academic careers, and applying for grants. The course consists of a series of seminars and workshops involving faculty members and it is graded as Pass/Fail based on attendance and the completion of required assignments.
Topics in Postcolonial Literatures: Creole Dreams, Syncretic Visions - A. Varadharajan
Instructor: Asha Varadharajan
Description: This course delineates African and Caribbean responses to the postcolonial condition.  We will analyze verbal, visual, aural/oral, and digital art and performance in order to examine themes, tropes, and concepts that illuminate the power and fragility of a near universal colonial legacy.  Some of the themes under consideration will be: psychic trauma/healing; linguistic innovation/imprisonment; cultural sclerosis/mutation; economic deprivation/growth; political dependence/freedom; violence and the postcolony.  Critical concepts such as  negritude, creolization, hybridity, orientalism, apartheid, syncretism, and so on will also merit scrutiny and definition. Every effort will be made to represent multiple genres and a range of historical periods.  Musicians, filmmakers, artists, and activists will be introduced at opportune moments. Multi-media assignments will be encouraged.  Two short assignments (to be determined), one major research paper. Authors under consideration might include selections from “canonical” figures such as Derek Walcott, E.R. Braithwaite, V.S. Naipaul, Michelle Cliff, Taiyeb Salih, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Zoe Wicomb, Jamaica Kincaid, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o as well as from newer writers such as Ivan Vladislavic, Zakes Mda, Ingrid de Kok, Imraan Coovadia, Binyawanga Wainaina, Yvonne Vera, Uzodinma Iweala, and so on. One major research paper and two short assignments.
Topics in Contemporary Fiction II: From Metafiction to Real Fiction - Y. Schlick
Instructor: Yaël Schlick
Description: In a recent interview, novelist Rachel Cusk said she found fiction “fake and embarrassing” and referred to the creation of plot and character (“making up John and Jane and having them do things together”) as “utterly ridiculous.” Karl Ove Knausgaard went even further, perhaps, when he stated that “just the thought of a fabricated character in a fabricated plot” made him “feel nauseous.”  This course on metafiction and on what I have called “real fiction” will explore the trend in recent writing to dispense with the ‘pretenses’ of plot and characters to create ‘novels’ that problematize further or even erase the difference between fiction and non-fiction.  We will begin with a consideration of contemporary metafiction before moving on to these recent permutations of the blurring between fiction and reality.  The initial section on contemporary metafiction will likely include works by J. L. Borges, John Barth, Julio Cortàzar, Grace Paley, Javier Cercas, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Jonathan Safran Foer; the second section on “real fiction” will include works by W. G. Sebald, Lydia Davis, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Geoff Dyer, Teju Cole, John Haskell, and Rachel Cusk.
Topics in Medieval Literature II: Medieval and Tudor Morality Plays: Allegories of the Self - R. Wehlau
Instructor: Ruth Wehlau
Description: Morality Plays of the late medieval and Tudor periods are among the most ribald and entertaining material of their day. Major influences on early modern drama, including Marlowe’s Faustus and Shakespeare’s Tempest, the plays focus on the construction of the self, the monarch, and the body politic. In doing so, they demonstrate the movement from religious to political allegory in the context of the Reformation and the beginning of the early modern state.
The class will read a selection of morality plays from 15th and 16th century England and Scotland, including Mankind, Everyman, The Castle of Perseverance, John Skelton’s Magnificence. and selections from A Satire of the Three Estates, as well as an additional four plays chosen by the class. All plays will be read in the original Middle English (or Middle Scots), but students will receive help and instruction in acquiring the skills needed to read and pronounce the language. As the plays were written for performance, the class will also contain a performance component, largely in order to experiment with staging. When possible we will view videos of performances in modern day stagings.
Topics in Canadian Literature II: Incarcerating Indigenous Peoples: Cultural and Political Perspectives - A. G. Ruffo
Instructor: Armand Garnet Ruffo
Description: This seminar will examine the concepts and reality of incarceration for Indigenous people in Canada and the role of writing. According to a 2016 investigative report by Maclean’s magazine, the asymmetrical jailing of the Indigenous population in Canada now exceeds the jailing of African-Americans in the USA. In fact, there are now more Indigenous people incarcerated across the country than there were Blacks jailed at the height of the apartheid in South Africa. While statistics may surprise the majority of Canadians, incarceration for Indigenous peoples comes as no surprise and extends back to European contact. How is incarceration then connected to the history and colonization of Indigenous peoples, and what insight can literature give us into this experience? We will consider a variety of literary strategies that Indigenous authors have adopted to tell their stories of incarceration with the end goal of confronting and destroying colonialism; this focus will connect to related themes of diaspora, racism, violence, gender, self-determination, residential schools, etc. The texts for the seminar include a variety of literary genres, such as memoir, fiction and poetry, as well as critical work that serves to open the literature to analysis.

Requirements: These include regular attendance and participation, an oral presentation, and a longer essay.

Topics in Modernism I: The Naked Truth:  Modernism, Sexuality, and Sex - G. Willmott
Instructor: Glenn Willmott
Description: This course looks at the provocative imagination and meaning of sex and sexuality in modernism, from avant-garde to popular literature, and dallying with film.  We will study early twentieth-century sexual theories as well as obscenity laws and censorship in contexts of ideas of gender and race, and of critiques of consumer and image culture.  A provisional list of authors includes Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Bruce Nugent, D. H. Lawrence, Djuna Barnes, C. L. Moore, Raymond Chandler, and Nathanael West.  Other figures of interest, fictional and nonfictional, will include Betty Boop, King Kong, Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker.  Evaluation is based on weekly critical reviews, a seminar presentation with discussion, and a research essay.
Topics in Canadian Literature III: Reconfigurations of Vancouver’s Urban Imaginary - P. Fachinger
Instructor: Petra Fachinger
Description: This seminar will explore the representation of Vancouver in contemporary literature (and film) in Canada. Vancouver, situated on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Sto:lo, and Tsleil-Waututh territory, has been ranked among the world’s most liveable cities. In this seminar we will focus on representations of Vancouver that contest this assessment by rewriting the historical master narratives, challenging continuing colonization and gentrification, and presenting alternative communities and new forms of solidarity. We will include texts concerned with the theft of Indigenous lands and its consequences, Vancouver’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the history of Chinatown,  the incident of the Komagata Maru, the forced evacuation of Japantown, the demolition of Hogan’s Alley, and contemporary life in the Downtown Eastside. The seminar will be informed by critical race theory, Indigenous literary and cultural criticism, theories of decolonization, human rights literary studies, and urban theories.
Topics in Contemporary Literature I: Forging “Democratic Readers”: Ideology and Identity in the Works of Philip Pullman - S. King
Instructor: Shelley King
Description: With the publication in October 2017 of The Book of Dust Philip Pullman returned once more to the fantastic world of His Dark Materials. Visionary Romantic poet William Blake refers to writing as 'the wond'rous art': perhaps in deference to Blake’s vital influence on his own work, contemporary British author Philip Pullman describes reading, its counterpart, as "a subtle art." Pullman's fascination with reading is evident in all aspects of his work: from the intertextual nod to his own wide-ranging literary experience given by the complex epigraphs scattered throughout his oeuvre, to representations of the interpretive act such as that figured in Lyra's ability to read the alethiometer in The Golden Compass, to the concept of a "democracy of reading" used by Pullman to articulate his sense of reading as an ideological act, the works of this award-winning author present reading from multiple perspectives to an audience ranging from neophytes to seasoned academics. Beginning from the premise that Pullman treats reading not as a simple means of accessing ideological content, but rather as a sophisticated ideological act, this course explores the function of narrative, genre and intertextuality in the works of Philip Pullman through examining their role in his award-winning trilogy, His Dark Materials (1995, 1997, 2000) and its associated short fiction Lyra’s Oxford (2003) and Once Upon a Time in the North (2008), as well as in his works for younger readers: Spring-Heeled Jack (1989), Count Karlstein (1991,1998), The Firework-Maker’s Daughter  (1995), Clockwork (1996, 1998), I Was a Rat! (1999, 2000), The Scarecrow and His Servant (2004), the recent Tales from the Brothers Grimm (2012), and of course, The Book of Dust.
Topics in Postcolonial Literatures: Caribbean Modernisms - C. Bongie
Instructor: Chris Bongie
Description: In this seminar we will situate Caribbean literature from the 1930s to the 1960s in the broader context of transatlantic modernisms, with a specific focus on the novel as a genre. Engaging with the fields of Caribbean, postcolonial, and modernist studies, the course will be divided into four units. The first unit, “Rewriting Modernism,” examines how Caribbean writers appropriated and reworked aspects of Euro-American modernism, focusing on two “revisionist” texts from the non-Anglophone Caribbean, Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps (Cuba, 1953), which parodies the racialized primitivism of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Édouard Glissant’s The Fourth Century (Martinique, 1964), which interrogates the afterlife of slavery as represented in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! In the second unit, “Post/Colonial Canons,” we turn to the Anglophone Caribbean, and (following critics like Alison Donnell, Belinda Edmondson, and Leah Rosenberg) trace how the tenets of “hegemonic modernism” have shaped our understanding of the emerging Caribbean canon, looking in particular at intersections of race and gender in Claude McKay’s Banana Bottom (Jamaica, 1933) and Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark (Dominica, 1934). The third unit, “Queer Migrations,” carries the story of Anglophone Caribbean literature forward to the post-war Windrush Generation, attending (in the wake of critics like J. Dillon Brown, Peter Kalliney, and Malachi McIntosh) to the “migrant modernism” of Sam Selvon’s Lonely Londoners (Trinidad, 1956) and George Lamming’s the Emigrants (Barbados, 1955), paying special attention to their conflicted representations of black masculinity. The course concludes with a final, theory-oriented unit, “Remembering Haiti,” that engages with the problematic of modernity, which (as the title of the field-defining journal Modernism/Modernity suggests) is inseparable from any critical engagement with modernism(s), Caribbean or otherwise: our focus here will be on David Scott’s Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (2004), an influential reading of C.L.R. James’s pioneering account of the Haitian Revolution in The Black Jacobins (1938/1963, Trinidad) that should allow us to step back and reflect on the central disciplinary concerns (Caribbean, postcolonial, modernist) of this seminar as a whole.
Provisional requirements: one oral presentation (on a recent book-length critical intervention in Caribbean studies), one short paper (3-4 pages, based on close reading a passage from an assigned novel), one term paper (12-15 pages, based on a course-related topic of the student’s choice), strong participation and attendance.
Topics in Eighteenth-Century Literature: The First Information Age: ‘Intelligence’ in the Eighteenth Century - L. Ritchie
Instructor: Leslie Ritchie
Description: Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) defines intelligence as the “commerce of information; notice; mutual communication” and the “account of things distant or secret.” This course will query Johnson’s equation of information and intelligence by taking a good look at eighteenth-century Britain’s cultural explosion of newspapers, magazines, periodical essays, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and prints. It will consider public experimentation; theatrical, musical, and book reviewing; the growth of the museum; the influence of circulating libraries; and other modes of producing and disseminating information in the period. Readings will include selections from the Spectator, the Idler, the Gentleman’s Magazine, the Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, the annals of the Royal Society, and papers plucked from other assorted corners of the virtual coffeehouse. Participants will be expected to contribute to class discussion (20%) concerning the weekly readings; to complete a research presentation on a particular media environment or production process (30%); and to design and complete a major research project or paper on a topic of their own devising, in consultation with the instructor (50%).
Topics in Romanticism I: The Emergence of the Romantic Sublime - J. Pierce
Instructor: John Pierce
Description: Emerging from theoretical discussions of the 18th century, the sublime takes its most fully developed form in the poetry and fiction of the Romantic Period. The works of Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats will be read through Longinus's conceptualization of the sublime as an aesthetic experience that depicts the "genius" or "inward greatness of soul" in the author, the vastness of the natural world, and the  power of writing to transport the reader outside the rational self. In addition, Gothic works by Radcliffe and Monk coupled with the parody Gothic of Austen's Northanger Abbey will round out the course as examples of the transformations of sublime aesthetics into fictional forms. These literary works will be supplemented through background readings on the theory of the sublime as developed in John Dennis, Joseph Addison, and Edmund Burke.
Topics in Early Modern Literature and Culture - E. Hanson
Instructor: Elizabeth Hanson
Description: When Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare began their careers as playwrights in the late 1580s and early 1590s the commercial theatre was a new cultural form and the type of play it would traffic in, the secular, five-act drama in English, with its highly developed plots and subplots and psychologically compelling character effects was only beginning to be imagined.  Shakespeare and the other playwrights who developed this form did so by borrowing and blending features from both the popular, vernacular religious drama of the late Middle Ages and the classical Latin drama that they encountered at grammar school but which very few people in their audience would have been able to read.  These traditions carried very different ideas about representation, theatrical space and cognition.  Put another way, they carried different assumptions about the ontological and epistemological implications of acting and theatrical mimesis generally. The course is founded on the proposition that the power and conceptual open-endedness of Renaissance drama stems from the conversation, clashes and slippages between these traditions we can detect in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

In this course we will read examples from these dramatic traditions that Elizabethan dramatists inherited.  Then we will read some of the greatest and possibly most familiar plays these dramatists went on to write, looking at the ways in which they borrowed from, transformed and derived meaning from these earlier traditions.  Because the vernacular religious drama, the Latin drama of the schoolroom and the commercial theatre were all known to audiences and playwrights through performance, we will approach all the plays in the course as performance texts, analyzing the way they use space and embodiment as well as language and train ourselves to think diachronically about the artisanal practices of playwrights and the competencies of their audiences.  Our goal will be to recognize where elements of Renaissance drama came from and how their meaning persists or alters in new representational contexts, and thereby cultivate an awareness of the diverse forms virtual experience can take.

Topics in Medieval Literature III: Medieval Travel Literature and Ethnography - M. Pappano
Instructor: Margaret Pappano
Description: This course explores the representations produced by medieval travelers—pilgrims, crusaders, missionaries, merchants, and emissaries, among others—in the high and later Middle Ages, largely focused on medieval Europeans but with some reference to other traditions. As medieval people traveled to distant lands, they encountered peoples and customs different from their own.  We will analyze how medieval people wrote about ethnic differences and, in doing so, consider the discourses available to the medieval person to frame their experience of difference.  While medieval travel writing was bound up with the system of auctoritas and thus heavily indebted to preceding traditions, travelers could and did produce alternative ways of seeing the world.  We will explore the tensions between the universalizing discourses of Christendom and the individual experience of the traveler, charting the evolving patterns of ethnographic and geographic thought in relation to changes wrought by centuries of contact and exchange of information between Europe and its “others.” We will also investigate some notable Jewish and Muslim travelers and their visions of globalism.
ENGL 892 Literary Internship
Instructor: Various
Offered: Fall Term 2018
Description: This course is a pass/fail credit course which offers MA students placements in research, literacy, language, and arts-related community organizations, with the aim of providing those students with job experience that is directly related to literary studies. Sample placements may include such organizations as Kingston WritersFest, or the Strathy Language Unit at Queen’s University. To achieve a pass in ENGL 892, the student shall submit to the Graduate Chair a time sheet (signed by his/her placement supervisor) stating that 50 hours of work have been completed satisfactorily, and hand in a brief written summary report (1200 words) on the experience to the Graduate Chair.