Course descriptions are tentative and may be subject to revision; syllabi will be posted later in the year. If you have questions about a particular course, please contact the course instructor or the Graduate Supervisor.

FALL 2017

ENGL 5002F Studies in Theory

The Humanitarian Apparatus: Feeling Good, Between Post-Truth and Other Fictions

S. Murray

This course addresses the rhetorics of humanitarianism, and the ways that humanitarian “feelings”—the feel-good desire to address, redress, or alleviate human suffering—are fostered and mobilized as biopolitical forms of governance, the means by which the biopolitical State increasingly manages and regulates the lives of populations, both at home and abroad. Where should we place literature and literary tropes in the context of humanitarianism and biopolitics? Are the feelings inspired by literature complicit with wider systems of injustice, or might they offer critical tools? How might these feelings be distinguished from a politics of post-truth, and the feel-good “truthiness” of the lie? Situated firmly in our contemporary moment, and reading a selection of literary texts and theory, I hope to explore a distinctly rhetorical understanding of the ways that humanitarian feelings underpin contemporary pol­itics, lending it a moral raison d’être. Can we account rhetorically for what Didier Fassin calls “humanitarian reason,” a sort of onto-logic that has come to be taken for granted, and that organizes political—and sometimes violent—State interventions under the aegis of humanitarianism and in the name of life itself? As Fassin notes, humanitarianism is a biopolitics “in that it takes as its object the saving of individuals, which presupposes not only risking oth­ers but also making a sel­ect­ion of which existences it is possible or legitimate to save.” Human­it­arian feelings, then, are at the very heart of decisions over who will be made to live and who will be allowed to die. Warning: This course might not make you “feel good.”


ENGL 5005F M.A. Seminar

Professing “English”: Disciplinary Debates, Practices, Horizons

J. Murray

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 5303F  Studies in Early Modern Literature

Between Phantasy and Memory: the Image and Its Place in Early Modern Literature

G. Williams

This course will analyze the cultural construction of the image in visual and verbal documents from the early modern period. It will be of interest to students outside, as well as inside, English Renaissance literary studies (1500-1700). Its historical, critical, and theoretical inquiries into imagery will greatly benefit students majoring in other periods and disciplines, such as cultural studies, media studies, art history, book history, and history in general. Students from all fields will also enhance their graduate-level research methods since the course integrates a range of digital resources into seminar discussions and assignments.

Seminars will examine verbal and visual images within a variety of discourses and documents during the period: the art of memory, poetics, collections of woodcuts and commonplaces, dreams and nightmares, emblems, title-pages, meditations, and sermons. Our investigations will pay close attention to the psychology of imagery insofar as images were thought to result from the mind’s engagement with the world and, in their textual and graphic forms, would target the minds of others to achieve their full effects. If modern readers consider the mental dimension to the image at all, they often view it through a romantic filter that over-privileges the artist’s imagination. This was not the case for early modern writers and readers. Various Elizabethan and Jacobean institutions—the state, the church, and education—regarded the 5 outer senses and part of the mind, notably the two inner senses (the common sense and the imagination) with deep suspicion. Images were sites of interior struggle, guilt, and sin that involved the mental faculties, particularly the memory and its subordinate, the phantasy. This course will accordingly tease out the implications that the image’s impact on interiority had for subjectivity, identity, desire, and fantasy.


English 5402F  Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature 

Transatlantic Fictions

P. Whiting

For eighteenth-century English readers, during the first three-quarters of the century, the United States of America was no such thing, but one of several exotic colonies of the British Empire.  For the last quarter, it was an upstart, independent country.  The British public, most of whom never left England, learned about events in the New World through books and periodicals, many of which were written by people who likewise never crossed the Atlantic. This course (still currently under construction) will focus on primarily British literature that is set in both England and America, and will consider historical matters of slavery, indigenous peoples, immigration, piracy, shipwrecks, kidnapping, and indentured servitude, as well as literary matters such as representation, style, and narrative.


ENGL 5503 Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature II

Hidden Worlds: Documenting Victorian London

J. Schroeder

In this course we will read Victorian and contemporary examples of urban documentary produced by “embedded” journalist/researchers who were motivated by a mix of curiosity and ethical responsibility towards the urban poor. Victorian London witnessed rapid growth, industrialization, large-scale public works projects, immigration, homelessness, and the building of the first suburbs amid the constant flow of “human capital” in and out of the city. Accompanying these changes was the development of popular genres that documented and often sensationalized the “hidden worlds” of slum neighbourhoods, temporary lodging houses, street markets, homeless shelters, and penny theatres where the poor “congregated.” Precarious forms of employment and ingenious survival tactics fascinated middle-class observers, who ventured into the streets and sometimes right into the homes of the poor in order to collect and publish their stories for readers variously figured as oblivious, curious, and frightened.

Our key text will be a mid-Victorian social survey compiled by Henry Mayhew entitled London Labour and the London Poor, an illustrated, encyclopedic collection of marginalized urban voices, labour practices, and “vanishing” ways of life. Mayhew’s vast and influential collection, from which we will read a representative sample, bears a strong resemblance to the fiction and journalism of Charles Dickens, who was born the same year as Mayhew. We will begin by examining the work of these two writers before moving on to lesser-known works by other Victorian investigators and explorers, some of whom went undercover, disguising themselves as vagrants in order to arrive at a more “authentic” account of the lives of the poor. The course will conclude with a discussion of a recent example of “slum journalism”: Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012).

Tentative Text List: Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (1850-1862); Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz (1833-1836); Charles  Dickens, Oliver Twist (1837-1839); James Greenwood, “A Night in the Workhouse” (1866); Hector Gavin, from Sanitary Ramblings (1848);  George Godwin, from London Shadows (1854); Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012); David Harvey, from Rebel Cities (2013); Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart (eds.), from Restless Cities (2010); Seth Koven, from Slumming (2004); Deborah Epstein Nord, from Walking the Victorian Streets (1995); Ellen Ross, from Love and Toil (1993)


ENGL 5606F Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature

The Politics and Poetics of Time Travel

A. Barrows

This course will explore time travel in twentieth and twenty-first century fiction.  While most recognizably associated with science-fiction narratives and central to H.G. Wells’s foundational novella The Time Machine, time travel has appeared in multiple literary genres, proving a remarkably useful device for writers to provocatively explore questions of historical memory, causality, ethical responsibility, and political agency.


ENGL 5804G Studies in Canadian Literature

Citizenship and Cultural Forms in Twentieth-Century Canada

J. Mason

What is the relation of cultural forms to citizenship in Canada, where a settler state, immigration, and the colonization of Indigenous peoples produce conceptions of citizenship that are under constant negotiation, despite liberal mythmaking (such as Adrienne Clarkson’s) regarding Canada’s citizenship consensus? Have cultural texts been more than passive reflectors of the praxis and philosophy of citizenship in Canada? What role, if any, have such texts played in what Janine Brodie calls Canada’s shift from the “social citizen” to the “entrepreneurial citizen,” in the “diasporic citizenship” theorized by Lily Cho, or in what James Sákéj Youngblood Henderson identifies as the sui generis citizenship of Indigenous peoples? Postcolonial literary scholars Len Findlay and Smaro Kamboureli assert that imaginative literature can and should play an important enabling role in the cultivation of what they call “critical citizenship”––an engaged, critical stance that actively interrogates state-defined citizenship. Yet in what meaningful sense do fiction, poetry, and other cultural forms encourage such alternative citizenship practices? Are cultural forms actually enmeshed in the making of citizenship, alternative or otherwise, as a set of political, cultural, and / or social practices

Although we will be considering representations of citizenship and the ethics of reading in our analyses, this course will also urge students to engage materialist, historical, and sociological methods as a means of analyzing how cultural texts have been instrumentalized in state and community forms of citizenship education.


ENGL5804F  Studies in Canadian Literature I

Making Settler Colonial Modernity

J. Henderson

In this course we will read 19th-century prose that participates in the process of constituting the spaces, subjectivities, social and economic logics, and strategies of governance associated with the enterprise of modernity in the settler-colonial context. Our focus is on Canada conceived as a trans-Atlantic and continental space of discourse within which ideas of liberal progress, political economy, civility, proper gender and sexuality, and religious and racial difference circulate, not without contradiction and resistance. Our literary texts include the genres of emigrant’s tale, travel literature, captivity narrative, and sensation fiction. We also read 19th century Indigenous auto-ethnography and short stories. Our last few weeks will introduce current writing reflecting on the inheritances of the 19th century in the present: an experimental novel by the Montreal writer, Gail Scott, and songs and stories by the Nishnaabeg writer and theorist, Leanne Simpson. Literary texts will be supplemented each week by theory and criticism.


  • A central 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.
  • We will be guided by recent settler-colonial studies
  • and Indigenous studies scholarship emphasizing the way that colonial reshapings of Indigenous family and household formation were crucial means of dispossession.
  • The course is structured around the idea that settler colonialism in Canada is a particular version of liberal thought and practice. Hence, we’ll be thinking about the relations between 19th century liberal ideas and the settler project.
  • We’ll try to be attentive to questions of literary genre, thinking wherever possible about relationships between aesthetic or formal conventions and social ones.
  • We’ll try to be self-reflexive about what it means to continue reading the literature of settlement in the context of a commitment to decolonization. What approaches does this require of us? Particular readings will get us thinking about the politics of epistemology or what has been called ‘cognitive imperialism.’
  • The site is a great resource to use for locating yourself, and the territories our texts figure, within Indigenous  geography, language group, and treaty history.

LITERARY TEXTS (Please note that this list is not final): John Galt, Bogle Corbet (1831); Anna Jameson, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada (1838); Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (1827); George Copway, The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation (1850); Theresa Gowanlock & Theresa Delaney, Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear (1885); Isabella Valancy Crawford, Winona (1873); Tompson Highway, Kiss of the Fur Queen (1998); Gail Scott, The Obituary (2010); Rachel Zolf, Janey’s Arcadia (2014); Leanne Simpson, Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back (2011) and Islands of Decolonial Love (2013).


ENGL 6000T Doctoral Seminar

The Production of Literature

J. Mason

This year-long course studies a variety of ways in which scholars have thought about and researched the production of literature. ‘Production’ here is conceived broadly as the cultural and material ways in which literature comes into being, is transmitted and received. The course is also centrally concerned with how the category of the ‘literary’ gets constructed and the kinds of social, political, and cultural work literature is called upon to perform. It provides students with an overview of some of the most influential scholarship in book history, cultural theory, sociology of literature, and media studies. It explores such topics as media transitions from manuscript to print and print to digital; theories of authorship; the politics of canon formation; the philosophical foundations of copyright; the impact of digital media on culture and reading; and the cultural implications of contemporary reading formations such as mass reading events, book clubs, and literary-oriented social media.


ENGL 6002T  Proseminar

Research, Pedagogy, Profession

J. Murray

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.


ENGL 5004W Studies in Transnational Literatures

Holocaust Representation and Global Memory

S. Casteel

Is there such as thing as “global Holocaust memory”? How and why does Holocaust memory circulate across national and cultural borders? How do memories of the Holocaust interact or compete with those of other historical traumas (African slavery, the genocide of Indigenous peoples) and how has Holocaust memory been reanimated in the service of other political projects? Why did the Holocaust serve as a catalyst to the emergence of Memory Studies in the late 20th century and to more recent transnational and transcultural directions in the field?

In this course we will begin by discussing classic theorizations of the Holocaust and its relationship to cultural and aesthetic representation, engaging with canonical works of Holocaust literature, film and art. We will then consider the global circulation or “cosmopolitanization” of Holocaust memory through an analysis of literary and visual texts that bring the Holocaust into conversation with colonial histories of trauma, raising thorny issues about uniqueness, comparison and claims to universality. Over the course of the term, we will examine a variety of forms of memory, including: multidirectional, competitive, visual, prosthetic, postmemory, and countermemory. We will give particular attention to the intersection between media and cultural memory and to the role of text and image in mediating, preserving or erasing memories of atrocity.

In order to further develop our discussion of the comparative and global dimensions of Holocaust memory, in the final two weeks of the course, students will present case studies that explore the relevance of the theorizations of memory we have studied to the particular genres, media, and cultural histories that drive their own research interests.


ENGL 5008W Studies in African Literature

Black Internationalism

P. Adesanmi

This seminar will examine the rise of 20th and 21st-century black internationalism as a theoretical proposition on the one hand and a political and cultural praxis of identity on the other hand. From being initially equated with and reduced to the geography of “black Africa,” the 20th century (and after) witnessed the mobilization of blackness across global borders and spaces and its ideological deployment as resistance to and engagement with certain structures of power: Eurocentrism, modernity, colonialism, the postcolonial, globalization. In literature, theory, and other areas of political and cultural expression, discourses such as pan-Africanism, the Black Atlantic, Negritude, and the latest on the block, Afropolitanism, emerged as transnational modes of interrogating power, culture, and identity from the standpoint of constantly shifting accounts and understandings of blackness. We shall examine these discourses using texts from multiple genres.


ENGL 5208W Studies in Middle English Literature

2018 Topic: A Christian, A Jew, and a Muslim Walked into a Book: Imagining Religions and Their Differences in Late Medieval English Texts

[Preliminary Course Description; please check in December for a final syllabus and schedule of class meetings and readings, which may differ in some details]

S. Bly Calkin

Although it may seem surprising today, in the later Middle Ages writings about religion and religious difference were some of the most innovative and revolutionary literary texts produced. These texts unflinchingly examine debates about race, group identity, political corruption, gender relations and constructs, war, censorship, cross-cultural connections and conflicts, and the force of institutional structures. This course introduces students to a range of texts from late medieval England and explores the ways in which writings about various religions and religious issues engage some of the hot-button topics of their, and our, day. Specifically, we will study the depictions of Christians, Jews and Muslims in these texts as we seek to understand the ways in which religious identity and cross-cultural interactions were envisioned by medieval authors as they worked to imagine new social structures and new world orders while offering some thought- (and action-) provoking reflections on the status quo. We will also study the ways in which constructs of masculinity and femininity, and of race and religion, are held up for examination and used for social reflection and reform in these texts.

Course Objectives:

  • Read a variety of texts and genres from medieval England (romances, dream visions, saints’ lives, (auto)biography, polemical treatise, sermons, blood libel tales)
  • Develop an appreciation and understanding of the Middle English language as well as a facility with reading and quoting it
  • Explore some of the ways in which medieval English texts engage questions of religion, race, gender, violence, history, otherness, and community formation
  • Develop a historical and historicized understanding of the depictions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews in late medieval England and some of the ends to which these representations were put
  • Become familiar with current critical discussion about medieval western depictions of religions and their differences

Tentative Reading List:

  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed. Jill Mann. Penguin Classics. Toronto: Penguin Books, 2005. (Paperback)
  • Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Lynn Staley. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University—TEAMS, 1996.
  • King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte   Arthure. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Rev. Edward E. Foster. TEAMS Middle English Text Series. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications Western Michigan University, 1994.
  • The King of Tars, ed. John H. Chandler. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University––TEAMS, 2015
  • William Langland, Piers Plowman, ed. Elizabeth Robertson and Stephen H.A. Shepherd. Trans. E. Talbot Donaldson. Norton Critical Editions. New York: W.W. Norton 2006.
  • Middle English Legends of Women Saints, ed. Sherry L. Reames. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University—TEAMS, 2003.

Books will be available at Haven Books, 43 Seneca Street, tel: 613-730-9888 /e-mail:;

Some supplementary readings will be put on reserve at the library to help with specific assignments.


5305W Studies in Early Modern Literature II

Ideas into Experience: Milton’s Paradise Lost as an Epic Encyclopedia

D. Beecher

This course will deal with Milton’s Paradise Lost as a work conceived after a lifetime of reading which prepared the author for his great task. The work is grounded not only in biblical culture, both Judeo as well as Christian, but in the Church fathers, the writers of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as in Renaissance works ranging through all the received topics of that age. Our goal will be to identify as many of those sources and traditions as possible in working systematically through the text. Milton calls upon these multiple traditions both as a poet and as an apologist for the Christian world order, making Paradise Lost a contribution to the history of ideas by drawing upon a vast legacy. Our collective concern, then, is a hermeneutical one in relation to this encyclopedic tradition.


ENGL 5608 Studies in Modernism

Reading Virginia Woolf: Then and Now

J. Medd

We will read the major works from Woolf’s mature and later career, to examine her preoccupations as a novelist, critic, and political thinker in relation to both her contemporary moment and milieu and the later literary-critical preoccupations that have shaped ongoing critical understandings of Woolf, particularly within the fields of modernist studies and feminist/gender studies. How might we read the evolving debates and discussions of these (inter)disciplinary fields through their engagement with Woolf? We may also consider contemporary re-writings or other fictional engagements with Woolf’s work and legacy. Primary texts by Woolf will be drawn from: Jacob’s Room, Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own, Orlando, The Waves, Three Guineas, Between the Acts, and essays and journal/letters. Contemporary fictional engagements with Woolf may include Michael Cunningham’s The Hours and Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and her Sister.


ENGL 5900W Selected Topic in English Studies

Literature and the Digital Humanities

B. Greenspan

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 investigate 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 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?

We 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 Selected Topic in English Studies

Reading Comic-Con

B. Johnson

Comic conventions and festivals have become ubiquitous in contemporary urban North American culture. As temporary annual hubs for the convergence of a variety of media industries, cultural producers, retailers, consumers, and fan communities, events like the San Diego Comic-Con International or the Toronto Comic Arts Festival play a critical role in the circulation and promotion of a geek culture that is not only consumable, but participatory, collective, and internally differentiated. At the same time, however, and like geek culture itself, Comic-cons have also become objects of popular representation that magnetize an often stereotyped constellation of values and meanings. Our goal in this class will be to describe and analyze the cultural semantics of the comic-con sector in North America in order to better understand the symbolic roles these nodal events play within our contemporary cultural imaginaries. Our analysis will move along a dual track. On the one hand, we will examine representations of actual conventions, taking account of how organizers, attendees, and the press market, participate in, report, and reflect upon this genre of media event. On the other hand, we will concern ourselves with how comic-cons have been represented in fictional contexts across a variety of media including film, television, and prose fiction. As part of a larger SSHRC-funded project that investigates the internal and external factors that shape the production of comic-cons and festivals, the ultimate aim of the class will be to develop as rich and detailed a picture of the symbolic space that comic-cons occupy in contemporary culture as possible in order to better understand the potential impacts of this symbolic space on these events and their publics. Students can expect to engage in close reading, discourse analysis, autoethnography, and/or webnography, as well as to participate in an end-of-term mini-symposium on their findings.


ENGL 5900Y Selected Topic in English Studies

Law, Culture, and Dissent

Philip Kaisary

To dissent is to disagree and be at variance: to refuse an established order, to diverge from orthodoxy, to oppose, critique, quarrel or resist. Contiguous with dissent is the demand for revolutionary transformation. Drawing on a diverse corpus of legal-political and literary-cultural materials including film, this course will examine how dissent has been facilitated and energized, suppressed and silenced, and represented and understood from Ancient Greece to Che Guevara to our contemporary moment. Our methodological approach will be comparative, contextual, and interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from multiple sub-fields including critical theory and critical legal studies, postcolonial studies, and the law, culture, and humanities movement.


ENGL 5806/ENGL 4961: Studies in Canadian Literature II/Indigenous Literatures II (pdf)
Prof. Brenda Vellino

Topic: Storying Resurgence through Indigenous Popular Genres

Description: Contemporary Indigenous artists from Turtle Island (the territory also known as Canada) have increasingly taken up popular forms such as genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy), graphic novels, documentary and feature films, stop motion animation film shorts, and spoken word poetry. These new media and popular genres claim Indigenous spaces to decolonize cultural forms, represent complex contemporary social realities, stake political claims, and assert Indigenous cultural sovereignty and resurgence.  Whenever possible, our discussion will be informed by Indigenous literary/cultural critics such as Niigaanwewidem James Sinclair, Daniel Heath Justice, Margaret Kovach, Grace Dillon, and Kateri Akwenzi-Damm, as well as selected settler ally critics. This course will enable us to consider the politics and ethics of cultural production and reception within the intersecting conditions of settler colonialism and decolonisation.  Our work will be highly context specific, situated by careful attention to specific Indigenous, Inuit, and Metis cultural contexts, social realities, and priorities. Topics may include contemporary Rez life, contemporary urban realities, Indigenous cultural sovereignty, Indigenous relational ethics, Indigenous rebalancing, revitalization and resurgence movements, and the politics of embodiment and Indigenous self-representation, particularly in texts informed by questions of gender and sexuality.

ENGL 5900S – Selected Topic in English Studies I
Prof. Franny Nudelman

Topic: Cutlure in Crisis: War, Migration, Climate

Description: In this course, we will consider writers, photographers, and filmmakers who have responded to the urgent and interrelated contemporary crises of war, poverty, forced migration, and climate change. What role does literary and visual culture play in making disruptive change real, and helping us to comprehend conditions that are still in the process of unfolding? How do artists address the political and ethical dimensions of new social realities? The figures that we will study innovate, developing immersive creative practices in an effort to capture the extreme experiences of their subjects. At the same time, they often question and subvert the very rhetoric of emergency that characterizes our mediascape as well as a great deal of scholarship on socially-engaged contemporary culture.

Texts may include:

– Literary

Lynsey Addario, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (2015)

Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012)

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things (2016)

Ben Lerner, 10:04 (2014)

Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003)

– Visual (film, video, photography)

Tim Hetherington, Sleeping Soldiers (2008) and Diary (2010)

Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts (Act I, 2006)

Richard Mosse, The Enclave (2013)

Renzo Martens, Enjoy Poverty (2009)

Jehane Noujaim, Control Room (2004)

Jeff Wall, “Dead Troops Talk” (1992)

– Secondary

Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2004)

James Dawes, That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity (2007)

Susie Linfield, The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence (2012)

Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003)

Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011)

T.J. Demos, The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (2013)

ENGL 5900T – Selected Topic in English Studies I (pdf)
Prof. Patricia Whiting

: Culture and the Text: History, Oppression, and the Literary Imagination

Description: In this course, we will read novels written between 1900 and 1950, each dealing with historical situations of oppression, specifically, worker exploitation, revolution, imperialism, racism, and political imprisonment. Because all were authored by someone personally involved in these events and situations, the novels present an insider perspective that is ideologically inflected. Nevertheless (and this is the interesting part), the yset out a view of history that is in some ways extraordinarily balanced, rejecting the reductive tendency to situate people and events on either one side or the other of an assumed binary situation. Though the settings and contexts differ widely in time and place, the novels all conclude that oppression is bad for everyone. They are unanimous in teasing out the implications of terms such as “dehumanization,” and they are consistent in relentlessly interrogating the implications of being human, for better and worse. The governing questions of the course focus broadly on the contribution literature makes to the study of history. More specifically, what advantages does the novel offer those who want to chronicle historical events based on personal experience? What happens when the literary imagination meets historical truths? Why, when each of these authors is known to have a distinct political agenda, are they so uniform in highlighting contradiction and complicity in ways that deny readers the easy answers we desire from troubling books and situations? Finally, can we postulate a unique and important role for the novel in current discourses of human rights, one not limited to bearing witness, truth-telling, or confessing guilt? In keeping with the aims of each author, we will undertake to understand as fully as is possible in a seminar the historical and political contexts of each novel, the author’s relationship to events, and the author’s aims in writing the novel, and to examine the books within these contexts. Research will involve arguments primarily based on grounds other than theory and literary criticism, using evidence from not only history, but law, biography, letters, newspapers, and other contemporary sources.

Texts may include:

Azuela, Mariano.  The Underdogs: A Novel of the Mexican Revolution (Penguin Classics)

Kogawa, Joy. Obasan (Penguin Canada)

Sembène,  Ousmane. God’s Bits of Wood (Longman)

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle  (Penguin Classics)

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Signet Classics)

Thursday, October 17, 2019  |  Categories: Graduate Outlines