Topic: Ideas into Experience: Milton’s Paradise Lost as an Epic Encyclopedia
The stature of Milton’s great poem needs no special defense; even Dryden acknowledged with admiration and regret that Milton had surpassed them all, without fully realizing that he had also brought to a close the age of the pansophic poem. It is a monumental work in so many ways, not the least of them its dramatic representation of ideas drawn from a lifelong program of reading and study. This course is designed to bring its members into a close encounter with the text and into dialogic exchange with others in the seminar engaged in a mutual discovery of some of the prevailing ideas that find representation in this work. Milton’s epic was created at a moment in cultural and intellectual time, but the ideas themselves have histories going back to ancient, medieval and Renaissance sources. The history of ideas is a critical perspective in its own right, worth knowing about as a discipline, and worth mastering as a vehicle to a fuller understanding of literature in general. Just what those ideas may include will be yours to discover, but among the master concepts, you might find justice, obedience, punishment, angels, hell, salvation, eschatology, creation, reprobation, uxoriousness, the fortunate fall, dreams, memory, prayer, paradise, and honeymoon (I left out hero and predestination). Unfolding this poem in relation to its informing ideas is a rewarding experience, one that from class to class has never come close to repeating itself. The material is so rich, you could take this course over and over!
Topic: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 and practical understanding of subscription lists as we read Hugh Reid’s The Nature and Uses of Eighteenth Century Book Subscription Lists. Further background will provided by Philip Gaskell’s, A New Introduction to Bibliography. After that, I shall gave some 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.
Topic: Disability and Time in Twentieth-Century Fiction
This course examines the literary representation of physical and intellectual disability from the perspective of time and temporality. Writers have often used characters with disabilities as a gateway to conceptualizing alternative forms of temporal being. Exoticizing disability by rendering its time(s) and temporal experience(s) as alien, bewildering, and challenging to the norm, literary disability’s chronotopes often have as much to tell us about how ableist societies construct their temporal others as they have to say about the temporal experience(s) of disability. We will examine the ways in which creative literature has constructed the time of disability not only by looking at the temporality of its disabled characters but also at the ways in which narrative structures comment on and/or participate in the temporal regulation of disabled bodies and minds.
Topic: Documentary and Crisis
In the aftermath of the Second World War, documentary filmmakers, photographers, and writers grappled with violence that was unprecedented in scale; in the decades that followed, they continued to respond to the unanticipated and often incomprehensible crises of their age. In the process, they created new forms of documentary expression. This course examines innovations in the field of documentary culture after 1945, with an emphasis on documentary activism in a US context. Taking an expansive view of the field, we will consider documentary texts that deal with war, forced migration, racial terror, and climate emergency. We will ask: What role does literary and visual culture play in making disruptive change real? How are the methods and aims of documentarians transformed by new technologies and alternative forms of collectivity? How do documentarians remake social realities? Throughout, we will explore the power of documentary to respond to catastrophic events and uncharted social conditions as they unfold.
This course will be synchronous, meeting at a regularly scheduled time.
Topic: Game of Thrones
This course will focus on G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire along with the HBO series, Game of Thrones. Placing the series in conversation with the books raises many questions, such as: who is the author? whose ending will prevail? and, whose version will be remembered? (among others). Tracing questions like these, classes will examine the books and the series, emphasizing their interconnectedness as well as their differences.
Topic: The Future of Literary Culture
This online course studies literary forms, sites, and practices that emerge in conditions where support for cultivation of the traditional literary sphere is waning. Indebted, prolonged austerity governments are busy managing the fallout from decades of economic decline and are disinclined to back the social programs they once did, including higher education and library and other arts and culture funding. For readers, contemporary conditions include rising tuition, stagnant wages, fear of joblessness, underemployment, and insecure work, and a reordering of leisure time and mental energy that shapes how people are inclined to spend shrinking entertainment budgets. The golden age of retail literary fiction – and the traditional English department – may thus be behind us. With the rise of digital platforms, we’ve seen falling book prices and diminishing possibilities for making one’s living by writing. Yet, though making it as a professional writer is becoming more difficult, the ease of digital self-publishing has led to a rapid increase in sheer numbers of published, if seldom read, fiction. With new social conditions come new forms of literary expression and experience. What are these forms? What will they be? There won’t be weekly face-to-face video meetups in the course, though we may agree to meet asynchronously a few times. In the spirit of inquiry there is no lengthy research paper for this course. Assignments will instead be exploratory and experimental writing, think pieces, and optional video/audio podcasts.
Topic:The Great Russian Novel (in English translation):Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov
Following the Golden Age of poetry associated most intimately with the verse of Pushkin, Russian literature produced a second Golden Age, this time associated with prose. The novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, in particular, were greeted by writers all over the world as the finest in their genre. In Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster declared “No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy—that is to say has given so complete a picture of man’s life, both on its domestic and heroic side. No English novelist has explored man’s soul as deeply as Dostoevsky.” At late as 1925, Virginia Woolf still referred to Tolstoy as “the greatest of all novelists” for having written War and Peace. For Vladimir Nabokov, it was Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina that was “the supreme masterpiece of nineteenth-century literature.” Other twentieth-century figures bestowed even higher praise on Dostoevsky’s final novel, The Brothers Karamazov: Freud referred to it as “the most magnificent novel ever written” and Einstein confessed that it was “the most wonderful book I have ever laid my hands on.” Kafka acknowledged having been influenced by it (he referred to himself and Dostoevsky as “blood relatives”) and Wittgenstein is said to have read it so many times as to have learned entire passages by heart. Nabokov coined the term “Tolstoevsky” to refer to Tolstoy’s and Dostoevsky’s outsized influence on world literature and culture, and Heidegger, generally considered the twentieth century’s most influential philosopher, acknowledged having been influenced by them both.
We will read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov by focusing on the “big questions” (Dostoevsky called them “accursed”) that obsessed nineteenth-century Russian writers: What is the meaning of life? Does God exist? What is the essence of humanity? What is evil? What happens after death? At the same time, we will range deep into the twentieth century in order to examine the reasons behind Tolstoy’s and Dostoevsky’s influence on Freud, Bakhtin, Heidegger, Camus, Sartre, Wittgenstein and others.
In this online course, we will seek to replicate as close as possible a traditional face-to-face classroom experience. Therefore, the course will consist of synchronous lectures and discussions that will take place on the Big Blue Button during the formally scheduled times of the course. These lectures and discussions will be recorded on the course page in CU Learn for students to watch on their own time should they be unable to attend a particular session or sessions. These recordings will remain accessible to students for the duration of the course. Though students will have the option of watching these recordings on their own time, the expectation is that they will make a good-faith effort to be part of the scheduled sessions of the course. The communal nature of this course is intended to serve as an antidote to pandemic loneliness and to reproduce—if only virtually—the camaraderie and intellectual give-and-take of a traditional classroom. Office hours will take place on Big Blue Button on demand by appointment.
Topic: Printed in Canada by Mindless Acid Freaks”: Small-Press Publishing in Canada
In this course, we will be learning about the particular histories of twentieth- and early twenty-first-century small-press publishing in Canada, theorizing small-press activity through questions such as the following: What production practices, literary forms, and genres are distinct to small-press publishing and how do these relate to the practices, forms, and genres of large-scale publishing? If oppositions might seem to inform the relation of small and large publishers, how might the closer examination of small publishers dispel binaries of region and metropolis, margin and centre, traditional and modern? If small-press publishing in Canada has always been connected to networks not contained by the nation, some of its characteristics have nonetheless been shaped by nation-specific contexts. Thus, what forms of state support enabled small-press book publishing to flourish in late twentieth-century Canada, in particular? What was the function of small-press publishing in this period, vis-à-vis national culture, regional cultures, identity politics, etc.? What has been the fate of these forms of support, and how have small-press publishers survived the neoliberal cultural policy environments that have emerged since the late 1970s? How might we theorize the function of the small press in the context of a contemporary global literary field dominated by a handful of media corporations?
Case studies will include publishers such as First Statement Press (Montreal); Coach House Press (Toronto); tish / tishbooks (Vancouver); Sister Vision Press (Toronto); Gaspereau Press (Kentville, NS); and Kegedonce Press (Neyaashiinigmiing, ON). The course will include one or more guest speakers from the world of small-press publishing, in addition to virtual book arts demonstrations / activities and interaction with digital objects from the university’s Archives and Special Collections.
This is a blended virtual course: we will mix pre-recorded lecture capsules with weekly discussion seminars.
This online synchronous course is a survey of theoretical and critical texts from the field of book history, as it intersects with manuscript and print culture studies, sociology of literature, media studies, and cultural theory. The course’s goal is to acquaint students with the important issues and questions that have impacted and continue to influence this fundamental field for Carleton’s PhD program in English, not to mention the discipline of English studies. The seminar’s main textbook will be The Broadview Reader in Book History. Every attempt will be made to customize the readings and assignments to the students’ research strengths and interests. We will be holding seminar online through Zoom.
Topic: Pandemic Persuasions, Passions, Politics
This course aims to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through critical readings of theoretical and cultural texts. How might we read the (non)representational practices that surround death in the context of COVID-19? Aesthetic or anaesthetic, ours is a time when death is quietly cultivated and calculated by sacrificial economies and the rhetorics of war: there is a certain threshold of death that would seem to be socially and politically tolerable in the re-opening of global economies. This differential power is summed up by Foucault as the power to “make live and let die.” Crucially, those we “let die” stand in relation to the lives that we “make live”; dying is the bloody secret of life, even as “letting die” is disavowed, refused, or quietly refigured as the collateral damage of an “invisible enemy.” Whether it is “slow death” (Berlant) wrought by racism and austerity, fast death in the digital mediascape and lonely I.C.U., or more coordinated ways of “letting die,” including war and ethnic/racialized violence, these deaths nevertheless speak to and belie what Pope Francis has recently called our “throwaway culture.” Will COVID-19 change this?
This is not a course on memory studies or memorialization or trauma and witnessing. And this is for two reasons. First, and practically, our texts are more diverse and less disciplinary. We will read from high theory and literature to YouTube – an eclectic selection from philosophy, political theory, black studies, and cultural studies, among others, alongside select works of literature, social media metastases, and not least, the “joke” of the pandemic and our responses to it, from public health initiatives and state violence to a protest culture that is critical of lockdowns and seems driven by a ragtag group of anti-vaxxers, Trumpian conservatives, radicalized libertarians, and Traditionalists (to use Steve Bannon’s term). Second, and more ideologically, this course will argue that the study of (non)representational practices in the relationship between death and speech/writing will permit an oblique but trenchant critique of identity politics, liberalism (including its “humanitarian” guises), and the hypostatizations of possessive individualism, ego, self, interiority. To what extent are these forms of subjectivity false idols and tools of subordination, all the while packaged as freedom and “life itself”?
A more speculative question emerges: what is the possibility for community that is not tied to identity categories and to its rituals of representation, be they memory, memorialization, witnessing, or confession? Is there community post-identity or post-COVID? Or, said another way, is there a form of speech/writing that is not tethered to – sanctioned, policed, and in some cases prohibited by – our great idols: identity and “life”?
Method of delivery: Depending on public health orders and the progression of COVID-19, students should be prepared for this course to be delivered synchronously online via Zoom – at the scheduled times. A reliable high-speed Internet connection will be required.
Topic: Holocaust Representation and Global Memory
How does Holocaust memory circulate across national and cultural borders? How do memories of the Holocaust interact with 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?
This course is situated at the intersection of the interdisciplinary fields of Holocaust Studies and Memory Studies. 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 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 remediating, preserving or erasing memories of atrocity. Students will also be encouraged to explore other media relating to their research interests (music, film, digital platforms etc.) as vehicles of traumatic memory.
Topic: Migrancy, Hybridity, and Transnationalism in Postcolonial Literature
This seminar focuses on the literature that has arisen out of colonial experience and decolonization, specifically concentrating on forms of dislocation and displacement as experienced by and expressed in the writings of the postcolonial authors belonging to the South Asian diaspora. The course explores texts that record the experiences of transnational mobility including exile and forced migration. We shall study a variety of genres including poetry, fiction, and graphic narratives, and the texts would include Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake, as well as works by the younger generation of contemporary authors like Rupi Kaur and Vivek Shraya. This course also intends to introduce the students to the theoretical debates within postcolonial studies that address the questions of the home and the nation, the politics of identity, and the affective dimensions of migration and diaspora.
Topic: “For ther is so grete diversite”: Translation and Multilingualism in Late Medieval England
Translation and multilingualism loom large in contemporary discussions of global literatures and of transnationalism. These issues, however, also lie at the very heart of medieval English literature. What language do writers use at what point in their texts? Do they use a different language to speak to women or to men? How does translating a text change it, and in what ways? How might writers change texts to reflect the perspectives of their culture(s)? These are all questions that confronted writers working in the multilingual world of late medieval England as they made choices to write, or not to write, in English, French, Welsh, and Latin. This course offers students the opportunity to consider how various writers navigated these linguistic choices and the occasionally fierce, sometimes life-threatening, repercussions of the choices made. The course will explore the deployment of multiple languages within texts and within manuscripts as well as the ways in which texts migrate from one language to another through translation and re-translation. It will also consider the ways in which authors make use of different languages to advance distinctive authorial visions, and to retell the same narrative in intriguing and potentially inflammatory ways.
The course will begin by considering some of the theoretical pronouncements on multilingualism and translation by modern and medieval writers. It will then proceed to consider each week a set of late medieval texts that navigate multilingualism in interesting ways. We will study some Arthurian narratives and the forms they take in French, Welsh, and Middle English versions. We will also examine some macaronic poems (lyric poems written in multiple languages) and the ways they use different languages simultaneously to exclude or include certain audiences or evoke certain cultural associations. We will also study the writings of some of the renowned, canonical writers of late medieval England (Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, and William Langland) to study their engagement of the multilingual culture they inhabited. The course will then turn to translations of holy texts and saintly bodies, considering the ways in which the movements of such texts and bodies across borders are controlled and challenged. We will study in particular the ways in which women and heretics writing in English challenged the pervasive Latinity associated with masculine clerical culture during the Middle Ages as they translated or retold the Bible, and consequently found themselves involved in vehement and deadly cultural debates. In all cases, we will strive to answer the questions: What are the distinctive registers and resonances of different languages, how do different medieval writers deploy them, and to what effect?
ENGL 5303W/ENGL 4301B: Studies in Modern Literature I (cross-listed with HUMS 4902A)
Prof. Micheline White
Topic: Tudor Queens: Sex, Power, and Writing in the Lives of Katherine Parr, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots
Renaissance queens have long fascinated the reading public, but their political power and literary writings have only recently become the objects of academic study. In this seminar, students will develop an in-depth understanding of four Renaissance queens who made the most of their unusual social status and made lasting contributions to English culture. In this course, we will explore early modern attitudes towards the concepts of a “queen consort,” a “queen regent,” a “queen regnant” and a “dowager queen,” and we will focus on the four queens’ textual and visual productions including speeches, published prose works, diplomatic letters, poetry, translations, and portraits. Students will be introduced to early modern paleography and book history. Those who wish can also explore digital versions of manuscript writing. We will also consider the depictions of these queens in recent films and TV programs.
Topic: Critical Perspectives on Canadian Feminism
This course looks at the ways current scholarship is revising views of women’s experience, organizing, and expression in the “women’s liberation” movement of the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Rejecting a progressivist view of history that would assume our own relative advancement, in this course we ask what was explosive as well as heterogeneous and contingent about the feminism in this period. We turn to archival materials, without an agenda to recover or rehabilitate. Instead we think about their discourses and strategies, the distances across which we are reading them today, as well as what may be oddly anticipatory, recurrent, or unfinished in their visions. We approach ‘Canada’ as a settler-colonial and racialized space, and the late 1960s and 1970s as the period of the welfare state. We look at the variety of ways feminists worked the new analytic lens of ‘social reproduction’ to talk about abortion, labour, violence, subjectivity, sexuality, and experiences of settler-colonialism and racial capitalism. Our materials include film, theory, literature, art activism, journalism, historiography, and various kinds of feminist print ephemera—newsletters, magazines, flyers. We experiment with ways of analyzing these materials, especially for what they may say about what, after Victoria Hesford, we call feeling feminist in these decades. Throughout the course, we ask how feminist discourse and organizing occurs within and against regimes of race, heteronormativity, binary gender, state governance, and capitalism. The course will be an inclusive, 2SLGBTQ-positive space.
Topic: Eighteenth Century Texts: Materiality and Content
This course is designed to examine the materiality (the physical nature of a book) of texts in the eighteenth century and how that materiality affects the nature of how one would read the content of the book. That is, the physical nature of a book affects how we read it and how we interpret it. A modern example to illustrate this would be that the title and cover illustration of the first Harry Potter book was different in the UK than it was in the USA. Why would this be so and how does it shape the reader’s approach to the novel? You are going to examine an 18th century text with this in mind and, in all likelihood, no one will have ever done this before, so you are really doing original research. In your essay and seminar, you will consider the relationship between material form and content, and propose what this text, as object, contributes to an understanding of that particular genre in the eighteenth century, and to our understanding of the ever growing reading public. Incidentally, many of the techniques developed in the eighteenth century to engage readers are still in use today. I refer back to the Harry Potter example.
Topic: The Politics of Enjoyment: Activist Desire and Erotic Fantasy in Contemporary Romances
The seminar will focus on how private pleasure and political concerns with race, class, gender, sexuality, age, and ability figure in the many subgenres and tropes of popular romance. The reading list will be varied and will aim to give a sense of the extraordinary diversity, quality, and complexity of this billion-dollar creative industry whose books account for roughly one-third of the fiction market. We will study works from major publishers and authors, as well as independently published works. Historical romance (esp. Regency romances) will feature heavily, as will mixed-genre romances that combine romance with science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc. About half the readings will be queer romances.
Topic: Modernity and Its Discontents
This course considers theorizations and aesthetic reconfigurations of repression and emancipation under modernity. Vectors of repression to be considered may include law, institutions, race, gender, technology, and industrial and post-industrial capitalism. Drawing on a diverse corpus of materials, including literature, film, television, and critical theory (Frankfurt School), our methodological approach will be comparative, contextual, and interdisciplinary.
Topic: Culture and the Text: Book Arts Workshop
This course will be a hands-on introduction to book history and the book arts. Students will engage in a range of activities representative of the five pillars of the book arts, including bookbinding, calligraphy, decoration, paper making, and typesetting. Activities might include paper marbling, typesetting a broadside, creating prints from linocuts or wood carvings, transcription of a medieval text in a period book hand, or hand sewing of paper gatherings to create pamphlets and multiple section books. The class will be held in the MacOdrum Library Book Arts Lab, where students will work with both Prof. Norris and Carleton’s Master Printer. We will also survey manuscripts and early printed books from from Carleton’s rare books collection.
Topic: Approaches to Authorship
This synchronous course is a survey of theoretical and critical texts that deal with issues around authorship. The readings will be grouped according to historical periods and thematic clusters. The course’s goal will be to acquaint students with the important questions and debates that have impacted and continue to influence how writers, scholars, philosophers, and historians conceptualize what it means to author a text and be an author. Our modus operandi from week to week will leverage comparative analysis and so the recurrent question we will ask ourselves concerns the way in which one writer’s views on authorship differ from another writer’s. We will be holding seminar online through Zoom.