Course descriptions may be subject to minor revisions; syllabi will be posted later in the year.
ENGL 5002F Studies in Theory (click here for syllabus)
Neoliberal Biopolitics, Ethics, and “Community”
Ours is the age of neoliberal biopolitics, savage and unsustainable ideology, the evisceration of community and the commons. Casino capitalism, rampant “entrepreneurialism,” “innovation,” hyper-individualism, “self-care,” liquid life: these are the ubiquitous and savage tropes – the modes of existence – that have poisoned public policy, destroyed the university, militarized public culture, defined modern biomedicine, and made our lives nasty, brutish, and interminable.
This course begins with Foucault’s understanding of biopolitics as “the endeavor, begun in the eighteenth century, to rationalize the problems presented to governmental practice by the phenomena characteristic of a group of living human beings constituted as a population: [through] health, sanitation, birthrate, longevity, race….” It proceeds to investigate the ways that “life” circulates discursively today – “life” subject to corporatization, governmental regulation, criminalization, surveillance, segregation, health and welfare schemes, pro-life policies and improvement programmes, through forecasts, education, medicine, securitization, and statistical measures, among others. It surveys a number of critical biopolitical theorists (e.g., Agamben, Arendt, Badiou, Bauman, Butler, Campbell, Deleuze, Derrida, Diedrich, Esposito, Foucault, Haraway, Hardt & Negri, Heidegger, Macey, Mbembe, Montag, Nadesan, Rancière, Rose, Schmitt, Sloterdijk, Thacker, Virno, Žižek) and concludes by asking: what is left of political agency and what ethics – or revolt – will arise from this regime?
Course Texts: Timothy Campbell and Adam Sitze (eds.), Biopolitics: A Reader (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2013). Other texts will be made available in class and a list of supplementary readings will be provided and placed on reserve at the MacOdrum Library.
ENGL 5002G Studies in Theory
Queer Theory: Queer Now, Then, and When?
This course will start by examining some of the foundational texts and thinkers of queer theory, particularly from the “queer” inaugural moment of the 1990s. We will move on to consider recent critical debates in the field—including conversations “now” that draw upon or reconsider ideas from “back then.” We’ll pay particular attention to issues of temporality, including queer theory’s relation to history, historiography, and literary history; queer attachments to the past and debates about futurity; and discussions about queer theory’s own (institutional) history, past aspirations and preoccupations, present conditions, and future relevance.
Theorists may include (but are not limited to) Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Leo Bersani, Lee Edelman, Elizabeth Freeman, Jack Halberstam, José Munoz, Robyn Wiegman, Laura Doan, Michael Warner, Cathy Cohen, David Halperin, Heather Love, Valerie Traub, and others… The course may also include some modern and/or contemporary literature alongside the theory readings.
Coursework will include regular informal written responses to the readings (posted for discussion), a seminar presentation, a final research paper, and hopefully time to present and discuss essay drafts in progress.
ENGL 5004F Studies in Transnational Literatures (click here for syllabus)
Diaspora is an ancient term that has gained new currency in our contemporary moment. Why has diaspora become ubiquitous across the disciplines, emerging as a central category of analysis for scholars in both the humanities and the social sciences? How does diaspora theory intersect with the study of transnationalism, globalization, and postcolonialism? What is the relationship between “classic” diasporas such as the Jewish and Armenian diasporas and other traumatic histories of dislocation that are increasingly being interpreted through the lens of diaspora theory? What do we stand to gain from the broader application of the term? What risks does the proliferation of the term entail?
This course traces the emergence of diaspora theory from the early 1990s through to the present. Beginning with seminal articulations by James Clifford, Paul Gilroy and others, the course then surveys a series of new directions in diaspora thought. Taking Jewish and Black historical experiences of displacement as our starting points, we will consider a variety of approaches (comparative diasporas, postcolonial diasporas, queer diasporas) as well as modalities (time and memory, space and place, indigeneity and diaspora). Drawn from a range of disciplines, our readings will illustrate how and why diaspora has become a significant focus within area studies, postcolonial studies, cultural studies and ethnic studies. Alongside the theoretical readings, we will also consider memoirs, poetry, film, and visual art that perform their own theoretical work. Examining tensions between positivistic and cultural approaches as well as between high theory and creative genres, our particular focus will be on the expressive forms and aesthetic modes that have been generated by the lived experience of diaspora.
In the course’s final weeks, students will have the opportunity to explore the implications of diaspora theory for the particular genres, media, and ethnic histories that drive their own research interests.
ENGL 5005F M.A. Seminar
Professing “English”: Disciplinary Debates, Practices, Horizons
What does it mean, these days, to study “English”? What are the stakes involved in teaching it? And what, in fact, are we to study and teach, exactly? How—in practical terms—might graduate students most effectively navigate their own research and teaching at a time when disciplinary boundaries seem more porous than ever, and when the assumptions about what constitutes sound scholarship or even effective pedagogy are by no means self-evident or mutually agreed upon by members of the profession? This course provides MA students with a primer on the tumultuous history of English Studies and a roadmap to the current state of the discipline in several key areas: disciplinary boundaries and interdisciplinarity; methodological debates; and pedagogy. In addition to considering theoretical questions raised by these issues, the course will assist students with a range of practical concerns including: developing graduate research strategies, learning bibliographic tools (print and electronic), grading essays, leading seminars, crafting grant proposals, and understanding employment and academic opportunities available to graduates, both inside and outside the profession. Required Text: David H. Richter’s Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature, 2nd Edition.
ENGL 5609G Studies in American Literature
U.S. Culture in the Age of Experiment, 1945-1979
This course explores the role of experimentation in the culture and politics of the United States during the Cold War. During this period, writers, painters, filmmakers, and musicians cultivated an aesthetic of spontaneity, intensity, and interiority identified first with the “beats” and later the “counterculture.” We will study innovations in the culture of the period–including abstract expressionism, beat poetry, new journalism, and direct cinema–and consider them in relation to institutional experiments in warfare, social policy, and new media. Scholars argue that the advent of atomic weapons produced a generation of conformists, while live television created a generation of radicals: we will consider and test such assertions in relation to the work of intellectuals, activists, artists, and politicians–among them, Jackson Pollock, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, Martin Luther King, Thomas Pynchon, Allen Ginsburg, Charles Mingus, Joan Didion, and Abbie Hoffman.
ENGL 5900F Selected Topic in English Studies
Literature and the Digital Humanities
The advent of the digital humanities has radically altered the methods, objectives and future prospects of scholars in numerous fields. Literary critics in particular can no longer ignore the ways in which digital media have altered our understanding of books, texts, reading, and writing. This seminar will explore the theoretical and practical implications of digital media for the study of literary production and reception. How are the novel modes and unprecedented scale of networked interaction changing our very concept of narrative and its interpretation? What literary genres are evolving, emerging, or re-emerging from the creative interaction with digital interfaces and online environments? What new analytical tools are available to help literary scholars interpret texts? How does one read a million books? Students will explore the impact of the digital humanities on literature and its study through a combination of printed and digital texts, applied and critical research, and both online and face-to-face interaction.
ENGL 5900X Issues in History and Culture
Topic: Historical Representation
This course takes a deliberately broad view of issues of historical representation as they arise in a variety of historically-minded genres, including history “proper,” biography, historical novel, and history painting. Students are encouraged to extend this range still further in their term papers. The focus of our common readings is on narrativity and historical distance as exemplified in the historical thought of the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th. Our starting point will be the idea that history is essentially a mediatory art and therefore that a central issue for historical representation (whatever the genres or media) is the problem of what we call “historical distance.” Drawing on a variety of theoretical discussions as well as primary readings in history, biography, fiction, and art theory we will explore the idea of “distance” as a tool for analyzing structures of historical representation in a number of different kinds of narrative–including historiographical, philosophical, fictional, and visual.
ENGL 6000T Doctoral Seminar
The Production of Literature
This year-long course studies a variety of ways in which scholars have thought about and researched the production of literature. It includes research that can be categorized as book history, as cultural studies, as the sociology of literature, and as media studies, as well as a number of pieces that combine disciplines and methodologies.
ENGL 5004W Studies in Transnational Literatures (click here for syllabus)
Postcolonial Life Writing from Africa: Self, Memory, Nation, Vulnerability
This seminar will explore the genres of African life-writing (autobiography, memoir, life narrative) against the background of some historical moments and contexts which informed the emergence of Africa into modernity (slavery, empire, colonialism and after). What perspectives do postcolonial narratives of the self offer on the production of the present in Africa? How do these perspectives differ from the “truths” and “truth claims” of African fiction? With these and many more pertinent questions in mind, we shall approach our primary autobiographical texts, drawing theoretical insights from the postcolonial, theories of subjectivity and ethnicity, globalization, gender, and race. Required Texts (provisional): Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (excerpts); Wole Soyinka, You Must Set Forth at Dawn; Chinua Achebe, There was a Country; Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone; Maathai Wangari, Unbowed; Rian Malan: My Traitor’s Heart.
ENGL 5207W Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature (click here for syllabus)
Heard is min tunge / My tongue is hard: An Introduction to Old English
The horn of the Exeter Book riddle describes his harsh sound by boasting that his tongue is hard. He also claims that the ladies can’t keep their hands off him, and this isn’t even one of the “dirty” riddles of the collection. Why were Anglo-Saxon monks so interested in the artifacts of secular life, like a horn used for drinking or riding into battle? And if it was monks doing all of the writing, where do we hear the voices of Anglo-Saxon women, fair-haired and ladylike or not? These are some of the questions we’ll encounter as you learn to read Old English, a language 1000 years old. Yet 76% of the most common Old English words are still in use today, and 83% of the most common words in use today are from Old English, which means that this tongue isn’t so hard after all. We will approach the language through literary texts in prose and verse from a variety of genres, including history, dream visions, elegies, and riddles. Medieval studies is an inherently interdisciplinary enterprise, so throughout the course, students will also be introduced to topics such as the making of manuscripts and Anglo-Saxon art and archaeology. By the end of the term, students will be able to translate a passage from Beowulf, the most famous Old English text, and to compare their work to published versions of the poem, including the translation by Seamus Heaney, whose poetry reminds us of the relevance of ancient literature to the twenty-first century.
ENGL 5303W Studies in Early Modern Literature (click here for syllabus)
Inventing Fiction in Prose: 1560-1640
English fiction in prose had its origins in the Renaissance as something of a new idea. The novel hasn’t always been there and fiction hasn’t always been in the form of novels and short stories. In fact, early story tellers had to rely on other models to cobble their earliest enterprises together: epic, romance, novella, broadsides, travel literature, pastoral, tricks and beffe, spectacular news, and folktales. By degrees they found their working formulae and settled down to imitating each other through the opportunities provided by the earliest age of commercial publishing in the absence of patronage, and during an age of rising mercantile classes and rising literacy, particularly among women. New kinds of writers came to the fore, soldiers, renegade recusants, failed dramatists and university men, many futilely seeking high civil service positions in times of downsizing and hardship. They brought not only their humanist learning, but their cynicism, subversiveness, and devil-may-care attitudes, along with views from the underworld, and from the world abroad. In the process, those wily Elizabethans wrote fiction for readers “as they liked it” we must presume, given that their livelihoods depended upon success through the presses and re-editions. The hack factor was decided there in generating the wish-fulfillment stories of love, travel, pastoral retreat, cross-dressing, abduction and error, hardship and suffering, parlour games, jealousy, revenge, and melancholy which were likely to appeal. This seminar will make a survey of six or seven contrasting but representative works by, arguably, the better writers—at least those who can be had in affordable and available editions! This fiction is, after all, the subject of scholarly attention only in the last 20 years, and scholarly editions are only now coming off the presses: Brusanus Prince of Hungaria only a few weeks ago. The course will also look at the critical status of this fiction today in an emerging critical environment. Finally, be it said: these are great stories, written in the age that produced Shakespeare and the King James Bible.
ENGL 5402W Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature (click here for syllabus)
The Nature and Uses of 18th Century Book Subscription Lists
This course aims to provide students with the context and nature of subscription lists and give students the opportunity for original research in this field. Initially students will be given a theoretical background to subscription lists and lessons on how the 18th century book trade worked: how was paper made, how was type set, how were books printed and bound, what was the role of bookseller, of publishing congers, etc. The hope is that they will then have an understanding of the trade sufficient to deal with book subscriptions. Then each shall pick a subscription list to work on. This kind of work could not have been done at Carleton in the past because the library’s holdings in antiquarian books was inadequate. Now, however, we can access almost all the books published in the 18th century by subscription (some 3,000). Students may choose any list. For example, if they are interested in female poets they might chose Mary Leapor whose work was published posthumously by subscription. In the seminar, they will report on what they have learned and what has evaded them. As each student reports we will discuss how each may progress. There are so many things which we can learn from subscription lists and very little has been done in this field in the past. Some of the topics which may be examined might include the number of female subscribers, the number of people from the mercantile class, the number of members of the aristocracy, or from academia, or the clergy, or other sub groups. How did this subscription list fit into the publishing industry in the eighteenth century? By the end of the course, the hope is that each student will have done sufficient research (and learned how to do it) to produce a paper worthy of presentation at a conference or as an article in a journal. Text: Hugh Reid, The Nature and Uses of Eighteenth Century Book Subscription Lists. Sources: Janine Barchas’s book Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel provides a model of ways to integrate material and literary scholarship; Roger Chartier’s Forms and Meanings: Texts, Performances, and Audiences from Dodex to Computer; John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors; Phillip Gaskell’s A New Introduction to Bibliography; David Pearson’s Books as History: The Importance of Books beyond Their Texts, English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800, and Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook.
ENGL 5606W Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature (click here for syllabus)
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire
Tolstoy famously declared that War and Peace (1869) “is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in the form in which it is expressed.” Nabokov’s Pale Fire (1962) is also a hybrid text that defies categorization; poetry, history, and scholarly commentary are made to clash in a work widely considered a model example of the postmodernist sensibility. As calculated challenges to genre and responses to cataclysmic historical events (Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in War and Peace and the October Revolution in Pale Fire), these two works provide a rare opportunity to examine how history gets sublimated in fiction. The seminar will pursue questions such as the following: where lie the formal boundaries of “the novel”? Can fiction accommodate history? How do we measure the distance between the golden age of Russian realism and postmodernism? To help answer these questions, we will read selections from very recent texts such as Kathryn B. Feuer’s Tolstoy and the Genesis of War and Peace and Andrea Pitzer’s The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov alongside classic scholarship by Gary Saul Morson, Caryl Emerson, Donna Tussing Orwin, Liza Knapp, Michael Wachtel, Brian Boyd, Michael Wood, David Rampton, and others.
ENGL 5804G Studies in Canadian Literature (click here for syllabus)
Reading Old Age in Contemporary Canadian Fiction
As Canada’s population ages, Canadian fiction writers have increasingly turned their attention to representing the social, psychological, and political dimensions of later life. This course will examine a selection of novels, short stories, and films that explore the complexities of growing old in Canada in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The course will focus in detail on fictional representations of the politics of caregiving within the family and also within the various kinds of institutional environments that have been built, destroyed, adapted, and re-built in order to house older people in need of care. It will also, more broadly, introduce students to the full range of theoretical and methodological issues current in the growing field of literary age studies, inviting them to add age to the forms of difference such as gender, sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity, that animate the field of Canadian literary and cultural studies.
Primary texts may include: Flee, Fly, Flown by Janet Hepburn, Away From Her dir. Sarah Polley, Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot, Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler, Sunset Manor by Richard Wright, King Leary by Paul Quarrington, The Other Sister by Lola Lemire Tostevin, The Widows by Suzette Mayr, A Sleep Full of Dreams by Edna Alford, The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence. Secondary source materials will be placed on reserve at MacOdrum Library.
ENGL 5804W Studies in Canadian Literature (click here for syllabus)
Making Settler-Colonial Modernities
In this course we will read 19th-century Anglo-American prose that reflects on and participates in the process of constituting the spaces, values, subjectivities, social and economic logics, and forms of governance associated with ideas of modernity in the settler-colonial context. Our focus is on Canada but a Canada conceived discursively as a transnational, trans-Atlantic space within which ideas of liberal progress, civility, proper gender, and religious and racial difference circulate. The literary texts on our reading list include the genres of the captivity narrative, gothic fiction, sensation fiction, and realism. Through an attentiveness to questions of genre, we will think about relationships between aesthetic conventions and social ones. Another key concern of the course will be to make connections between two levels of analysis, biopolitics and geopolitics, or subjectivities and sexualities on the one hand and questions of territorial and political sovereignty on the other. In tracing these discursive and institutional connections we will be guided by recent postcolonial and Indigenous studies scholarship emphasizing the way that colonial interventions into Indigenous family formation were crucial means of Indigenous dispossession and settler-state nation-building.
Primary texts will include some of the following: John Galt, Bogle Corbet (1831); Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (1827); Anna Jameson, excerpts from Winter Studies and Summer Rambles (1838); Harriet Martineau, excerpts from Society in America (1837); Lord Durham, excerpt from Report on the Affairs of British North America (1840); Monk, Maria, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk (1836); Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney, Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear (1885); Isabella Valancy Crawford, Winona (1873); Susan Frances Harrison, Crowded Out and Other Stories (1886); stories by Pauline Johnson and Nellie McClung; Martha Ostenso, Wild Geese (1925). Secondary texts will include work by: Antoinette Burton, Ann Laura Stoler, Mark Rifkin, Andrea Smith, Jennifer Blair, Sarah Carter, Julia Emberley, Jean Barman, Katie Trumpener, Daniel Coleman, Jennifer Henderson, Cecily Devereux.
ENGL 6001W Proseminar
Research, Pedagogy, Profession
The general goal of this year-long course for second-year PhD candidates is to hone the pragmatic skills and knowledge necessary for succeeding as a teacher and researcher at the doctoral level. In the Fall Term, while students are preparing for their comprehensive exams, the seminar schedule will be divided into four broad areas of concern: applying for scholarly grants and fellowships, doctoral and post-doctoral; comprehensive examination study strategies; the development of advanced bibliographical techniques, including an examination of the functionality of bibliographic software; philosophies of education, teaching dossiers, and the practical challenges relating to university teaching in lecture and seminar environments. In the Winter Term, while students are working on their doctoral research project, the course will focus on the scholarly practices integral to writing a doctoral research project and a dissertation; this will include discussions of how to write an article geared for publication in a scholarly journal, how to write a conference paper, and how to submit and present papers to these scholarly venues. As we explore these and other practical matters related to conducting and disseminating research, the Winter Term will operate as a fortnightly workshop for the doctoral research project, providing a space where students will share and provide feedback on each other’s work-in-progress. Throughout both terms, under the broad category of professional matters, an examination of the history of the university English department will be a springboard to an investigation of current issues and trends within academia. Required Texts: Donald E. Hall’s The Academic Self and The Academic Community, Wendy Laura Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. Meets fortnightly.
Additional Graduate Seminars for the Spring and Summer sessions may be found here.