FALL 2021

ENGL 5303F/ENGL4301A: Studies in Early Modern Literature I (cross-listed with HUMS 4902)
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.

ENGL 5402F: Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature (cross-listed with ENGL 4115A)
Prof. Hugh Reid

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 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.

ENGL 5610F: Studies in Contemporary Literature I 
Prof. Percy Walton

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.

ENGL 5610G: Studies in Contemporary Literature I (cross-listed with CLMD 6104F)
Prof. Franny Nudelman

Topic: Documentary and Crisis

This course considers crisis documentary from 1945 to the present. We will study documentary filmmakers, photographers, and writers who respond to the unanticipated and often incomprehensible crises of their age and, in the process, create new forms of documentary expression. Taking an expansive view of the field, we will consider documentary texts that deal with war, forced migration, climate emergency, poverty, and a resurgent white supremacy. We will ask: How do documentarians represent what they cannot yet fully understand? What role does literary and visual culture play in making disruptive change real? How have documentarians helped to define an ethics of witnessing? How are the methods and aims of documentarians transformed by new technologies and alternative forms of collectivity? Cases may include: Lee Miller’s photographs from Dachau; Spike Lee’s reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Maggie Nelson’s narrative account serial murder; Richard Mosse’s immersive rendering of contemporary migrations; recent essays that grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout, we will explore the power of documentary to respond to catastrophic events and uncharted social conditions as they unfold.

ENGL 5610H/ENGL 4003A: Studies in Contemporary Lit. I (cross-listed with WGST 4812/WGST 5901)
Prof. Jodie Medd

Topic: Queer Historical Fiction & Temporal Re/Imaginings

This course explores how queer novels engage with historical fiction, historiographic metafiction (*definitions below), and related genres to reflect critically and creatively on history, historiography, memory, and time. We will ask how and why queer novels of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries return to, rework, (re)imagine, revise, and complicate ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling about the past, “history,” and temporality (including the future!). In this context, we will consider how these novels represent and explore queerness in relation to key historical events and personages; subject formation under historical processes of colonialism, slavery, racialization, capitalism, and the biopolitical production, categorization, and regulation of bodies and conceptualizations of “the human”; historical periodization; literary history; historiography; time; biography and memoir; ancestral memory and queer genealogies; and the discursive production, regulation, and proliferation of nonnormative sexualities and genders, “then,” “now,” and yet to come. Theoretical frames will include considerations of literary genre; queer theory considerations of time, history, and historiography; theorizing and feeling the archive; and interactions among feminist, queer, sexuality, (post)colonial and critical race studies. The course will emphasize supportive peer learning and an openness to interdisciplinary exchange. These are engaging, moving novels with a wide affective and stylistic range that I hope will be pleasurable and absorbing for us to read, discuss, and learn about together.

*Queer literature: literature that addresses non-normative sexualities and genders, and/or critically engages with issues of gender and sexuality. In this course, we’ll attend to homoerotic desire and/or cross-gender or transgender identifications, with attention to the racialization, nationalization, and colonization of gender and sexuality.
*Historical fiction: fiction set in the past that often relies on established ideas about a particular moment of history and the types of human subjects in that period.
*Historiographic meta-fiction: fiction that invokes the historical past, while self-consciously questioning how history is written and represented (historiography), and how we “know,” access, and interpret the past.

Our novels also engage in additional relevant genres including the neo-slave narrative, neo-Victorian fiction, speculative fiction, the gothic, historical romance, and more.

ENGL 5900F/ENGL 4600A: Selected Topic in English Studies (cross-listed with EURR 4103)
Prof. Dana Dragunoiu 

Topic: The Great Russian Novel: Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

Vladimir Nabokov coined the term “Tolstoevsky” to refer to Tolstoy’s and Dostoevsky’s outsized influence on world literature and culture. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov are generally considered their greatest achievements. For Virginia Woolf, Tolstoy was “the greatest of all novelists,” and for Nabokov, Anna Karenina was “the supreme masterpiece of nineteenth-century literature.” Sigmund Freud referred to The Brothers Karamazov as “the most magnificent novel ever written” and Albert Einstein confessed that it was “the most wonderful book I have ever laid my hands on.”

ENGL 6002T: Proseminar (doctoral; fall/winter)
Prof. Travis DeCook

The general goal of this year-long course for second-year PhD candidates is to foster 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 largely focused on comprehensive examination study strategies. In the Winter Term, while students are working on their dissertation proposal, the course will focus on the scholarly practices integral to writing a proposal, as well as on other matters; these 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 dissertation proposal itself, 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.

ENGL 6003F: Theories and Foundations in the Production of Literature
Prof. Grant Williams

We might say of the “Death of the Author” what Mark Twain said of himself after reading the newspaper: “the report of [his] death is an exaggeration.” This course studies issues of authorship by surveying foundational theoretical texts from an array of fields, including book history, manuscript and print cultural studies, media studies, digital humanities, philosophy, sociology, and especially cultural and literary theory. 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.


ENGL 5002W: Studies in Theory
(cross-listed with CLMD 6904W)
Prof. Stuart Murray

Topic: Biopolitics and the Cultures of Life and Death

How might we read the (non)representational practices that surround death today? Aesthetic or anaesthetic, ours is a time when death is quietly cultivated and calculated by neoliberal biopolitics – deaths dismissed (or justified) as collateral damage, opportunity costs, negative externalities. 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, silenced. Whether it is “slow death” (Berlant) wrought by austerity, fast death in the digital mediascape, or more coordinated ways of “letting die,” including war, systemic ethnic/racialized violence, or pandemic policies, these deaths nevertheless speak to belie our “culture of life.”

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 popular culture – an eclectic selection from philosophy, political theory, black studies, and cultural studies, among others, alongside select works of literature, a graphic narrative (a “comic” with no comedy), social media metastases, etc. 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 “human rights” 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 rational choice? Moreover, to what extent do they foster profound complicity with the differential violence that “makes live and lets die”?

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, 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 idol, our political theology: identity?

ENGL 5004W: Studies in Transnational Literatures (cross-listed with MGDS 5002B and CLMD 6102W)
Aaron Kreuter

Diaspora literature is an incredibly wide genre of texts. Even within the smaller confines of diaspora fiction—the focus of this course—the range of styles, subject matters, forms, and politics is enormous. What makes a novel or a short story collection “diasporic”? How does a fictional account of immigration, ethnic cleansing, home and host territories, tensions between belonging and not belonging, the possibility of return, impact the conditions of twenty-first century life? Do authors of diasporic fiction write in order to celebrate their diasporic communities, to critique them, or some mixture of both?

In order to attempt to answer these questions, in this course we will look at novels from a wide range of diasporic communities (Jewish, Black, Indian, Palestinian, Chinese, Japanese) living in diverse locales (Canada, America, Pakistan, Kuwait), read in tandem with cutting-edge theory; of particular interest will be the ways the novels under study fictionalize the relationship between diasporic, Indigenous, and national forms of collective belonging. In this course, we will unpack the radical potential of diasporic community and belonging, and map out how the fiction represents diasporic relationships to the home country and host countries.

ENGL 5007W: Studies in Indigenous Literatures (cross-listed with ENGL 4961A)
Prof. Brenda Vellino

Topic: Restorying Resurgence in Indigenous Popular Genres

Contemporary Indigenous artists from territories across Turtle Island have increasingly taken up popular forms such as speculative fiction, graphic novels, the horror film, stop motion animation film shorts, television situation comedy, and spoken word poetry. These 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 Daniel Heath Justice, Lindsey Nixon, Grace Dillon, and Leanne Simpson, as well as selected settler ally critics. This course will enable us to consider the politics and ethics of Indigenous 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 Métis 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.

Experiential learning in the form of attending Indigenous cultural events or teachings outside of class will also be a priority.

ENGL 5101W: Historical Linguistics: English (cross-listed with LING 5802/LING 4802)
Prof. Daniel Siddiqi

This course applies the techniques of Historical Linguistics to examine the development of a particular well-studied language:  English.  This class will study the origins of English starting with Proto-Indo-European, progressing through Common Germanic, and then ultimately the stages of English itself.  This course is a theory-intensive course and will focus on historical linguistic topics such as the development of English from a scrambling language to a V2 language to a strict SVO language.  There will also be a focus on the change of English from being a morphologically fusional language to a morphologically isolating language and the resulting drastic changes in inflectional system of the language.  Another major topic is the phonological sound changes and the resulting phonemic inventories at different stages.  This course also has a significant sociolinguistic component, focusing on the sociological forces that drive language change, especially with regard to language contact.

ENGL 5120W: Book Arts Workshop
Prof. Jody Mason and Larry Thompson (Master Printer)

Topic: “Printed in Canada by Mindless Acid Freaks”: Small-Press Publishing in Canada

This course takes twentieth- and early twenty-first-century small-press publishing in Canada as its focus. A book arts workshop that will be conducted in the Book Arts Lab in MacOdrum Library and co-taught with Master Printer Larry Thompson, the course brings together the history and theory of small-press activity in Canada with experiential learning activities that will help us to think in material terms about small-press objects and their production processes.

Our experiential work will include encounters with small-press publishers; interaction with small-press texts from the university’s Archives and Special Collections; and book arts demonstrations / activities, culminating in a letterpress printing project.

The history/theory component of the course will unfold in relation to a series of small-press case studies (e.g., First Statement Press [Montreal]; tish / tishbooks [Vancouver]; Coach House Press [Toronto]; Sister Vision Press [Toronto]; Gaspereau Press [Kentville, NS]; and Kegedonce Press [Neyaashiinigmiing, ON]. We’ll be 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?
  • What are the gender and race politics of Canada’s small-press cultures? Why has the modernist, masculinist (and very white) concept of the small press been so influential on small-press activity in Canada? How have publishers and writers of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries contested and revised this concept?
  • 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? If English-Canadian nationalism was a motivating force for some of the Toronto-based small presses that formed a key part of the late-twentieth-century small-press movement, in what ways was this nationalism contested or ignored by other presses?
  • 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?
  • What is the relation of small-press culture to digital texts?

ENGL 5303W: Studies in Early Modern Literature I
Prof. Grant Williams

Topic: Shakespeare’s Sonnets Between Memory and the Phantasy

This course is devoted to the study of one of the most famous texts in all of English literature—a sonnet sequence that in many ways needs no introduction. What sets this course apart from other Shakespeare courses is that it has been designed with two particular objectives in mind—the first being methodological and the second being conceptual and thematic.

First, it will introduce students to research materials and research activities integral for studying Shakespeare’s poetry but also transferable to other fields in English literature and the humanities disciplines. Because Shakespeare’s corpus has been edited, annotated, commented upon, and contextualized for centuries, the extraordinary number of scholarly tools, reference works, and critical materials devoted to it and its period allows students the opportunity to foster and sharpen their scholarly practices at the graduate level. Thanks to our cyber age, many exciting digital resources will also help us to explore the Sonnets, enabling us to drill down into their historical, political, and ethical assumptions and back-stories. Thus the course will demystify graduate-level research methods and strive to assist students in developing and enhancing their own skills of critical inquiry and investigation.

The course’s second objective will be to study the ways in which Shakespeare’s sonnets contribute to and are informed by the cultural, philosophical, and psychological construction of the image during the early modern period. Mental images were sites of interior struggle, guilt, and sin that could involve all the cognitive faculties, particularly the memory and its subordinate, the imagination. This course will accordingly tease out the implications that the Shakespearean image of the lover and the beloved has for interiority and the related issues of identity, desire, fantasizing, and recollection. As such the course’s thematic objective will introduce students to the vibrant and growing field of Renaissance memory studies as well as to questions relevant to cognitive philosophy and cultural studies.

ENGL 5402W/ENGL 4401A: Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature
Prof. Julie Murray

Topic: Being Human in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture

Does literature “make us human”?  Since the eighteenth century, such a sentiment has grounded justifications of literature’s exceptional status, and its distinction from other kinds of writing. In this course we will explore how eighteenth-century readers and writers understood their relationship to books and to reading, and how the act of reading a book made readers feel something, or made them “feel human.” We will also consider how eighteenth-century writers explored the question of the “human” or “humanity” precisely by paying close attention to the non-human: to animals and inanimate objects. From gothic fiction, to the harrowing spectacle of London after the Great Plague of 1665, to “it-narratives” in which bank notes figure as central characters in a society transformed by commercial modernity, to horses that speak, to dogs that narrate their heroic adventures, to “monsters” that learn to read, we will examine the fluid boundaries between literary animals, literary humans, and eighteenth-century readers. We will also consider the cultures of feeling and affect, sentiment and sympathy, by and through which they are formed and unformed.

Tentative List of Texts:

Aphra Behn. Oroonoko
Jonathan Swift. Gulliver’s Travels
Daniel Defoe.  Journal of the Plague Year
Francis Coventry. The History of Pompey the Little
Horace Walpole. The Castle of Otranto
Henry Mackenzie. The Man of Feeling
Thomas Bridges. The Adventures of a Banknote
Olaudah Equiano.  The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Anon.  The Woman of Colour
Mary Shelley. Frankenstein

ENGL 5804W: Studies in Canadian Literature I (cross-listed with WGST 5902A & CDNS 5201W)
Prof. Jennifer Henderson

Topic: Rereading ‘Women’s Liberation’

This course takes a materialist and intersectional approach to the “women’s liberation” movement of the 1970s, looking at the ways recent scholarship is revising settled views of women’s experience, organizing, and expression in that moment of eruption. Working with concepts of eventfulness and the ghostly remainder, we reject a progressivist view of history that would assume either our own relative advancement or the finishedness of this past. Grounding ourselves through discussion of feminism and neoliberalism in the present, we then turn to archival materials and media representations from the 1970s. We ask how this feminism was heterogeneous in its rhetorics and positionalities, and was made public in selective, uneven ways. Our primary materials include print ephemera—newsletters, magazines, and flyers, as well as film, autobiography, anthologies, art activism, and journalism. We read for style and emotion as well as for the arguments and analyses presented. A central preoccupation is the moment’s framing of ‘social reproduction’ as a terrain of struggle and the pertinence of that struggle today. Throughout the course, we ask how feminist discourse and organizing occurs within and against regimes of race, heteronormativity, binary gender, state governance, and global capitalism. We approach ‘Canada’ as a settler-colonial, racialized space, a space of Indigenous homelands and transnational flows in which ‘woman’ and ‘women’ are unstable and contested subjects. The course will be an inclusive, 2SLGBTQ-positive space.

ENGL 5900W: Selected Topic in English Studies I (cross-listed with WGST 5902C)
Prof. Brian Johnson

Topic: Writing/Reading Desire: The Pleasures, Politics, and Poetics of Contemporary Popular Romance

This seminar introduces students to the study of popular genres through a focus on contemporary popular romance. The course begins with an introduction to the formal features of popular romance in its most easily recognized forms–the Harlequin romance and the historical (medieval, Regency, Victorian) romance–and thinks about how the narrative structures and conventions of these books register, organize, and engage contemporary ideologies of gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, religion, and other topics of social concern. At the same time, we will theorize about the pleasures, meanings, and uses of fantasy that these often transgressive narratives celebrate. Subsequently, the course examines how the romance genre has been transformed by the activity of fan communities whose fan fiction and slash writing queered the genre and inaugurated the emergence of new forms like the extremely popular m/m romances of the last twenty years. Finally, the course examines the way romance subgenres continue to proliferate through genre-mixing and experimentation. Paranormal romance, shifter romance, pirate romance, science fiction romance, police procedural romance, romantic suspense, and the rom-com are all among the likely subgenres for consideration. Our approach throughout will be informed by recent scholarship on genre and audience, as well as by theoretical writings on gender and sexuality, with a particular emphasis on queer theory.

ENGL 6004W: Approaches to the Production of Literature
Prof. Julie Murray

Topic: The Production of Literary Criticism at the Present Time

This course focuses on the current state of literary criticism as a bellwether of the discipline of literary studies more broadly. We will explore critiques of the discipline from a range of perspectives, including but not limited to: defences of disciplinary specificity in the various returns to form, formalism, and form-as-politics versus the “salvaging” of the discipline seen in recent years in the surging popularity of creative writing programs and the digital humanities; the flight from criticism/critique on view in the form of Latourian “post-critique”; and the current work of “undisciplining” visible in many fields/periods/areas of literary studies in response to the ongoing reckoning with racism, anti-blackness, and the anti-black foundations of the profession as such. Finally, we will examine the resurgence of literary study beyond the discipline altogether, taking business programs and medical schools as key examples. Readings will include, tentatively, work by: Merve Emre, Rita Felski, Jonathan Kramnick, Caroline Levine, Annie McClanahan, Anahid Nersessian, and Joseph North, among others.


ENGL 5606S/4609A: Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature
Prof. Brenda Vellino

Topic: Bordercrossings on the Contemporary Stage: Conflict Transformation, Environmental Justice, and Refugee Theatre

In this seminar, we will consider how contemporary theatre engages bordercrossing encounters between diverse historical and contemporary contexts, cultures, and audiences, and performance contexts.   We will explore interconnections between communities, nations, hemispheres, and continents from the perspective of multiple forms of transnational bordercrossing.  Organized into three thematic clusters—eco- justice, conflict transformation, and migrant theatre—this course seeks to engage theatrical responses to historical and contemporary moments of crisis and transition across multiple global contexts.  The course is informed by decolonial, Indigenous, diaspora, gender, environmental humanities, and human rights humanities theories and methodologies.  We will engage playwrights from Indigenous, African-American, South African, Lebanese, Syrian, British, and Canadian contexts. Along with reading one play per week, we will also engage supporting theoretical, critical, or performance focused essays to contextualize the discussion.

ENGL 5708S/4709A: Studies in American Literature II
Prof. Franny Nudelman

Topic: United States Culture, 1945-1989

This course explores the culture and politics of the US during the Cold War era. The decades following World War Two witnessed the development of new kinds of warfare; transformative movements for gender and racial equality; the advent of live television; the widespread use of hallucinogenic drugs and other techniques for altering consciousness. In the realm of culture, innovation was afoot as writers, painters, filmmakers, and musicians explored an aesthetic of spontaneity, intensity, and interiority that might adequately represent the strange conditions of modern life. We will consider significant trends in the culture of the era—including abstract expressionism, new journalism, and direct cinema—as well as the social conditions that generated these new forms of cultural expression.

ENGL 5900S/4115B: Selected Topic in English Studies I
Prof. Sarah Brouillette

Topic: The Future of Literary Culture

The purpose of this seminar is to study 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?

ENGL 5901S/4115A: Selected Topic in English Studies II
Prof. Robin Norris

Topic: Leaves of Leaves: Plant Literacy and Literature

Plants have been important throughout human history for both reasons of survival and culture. Plants have been fundamental to mythologies around the globe, but today plant literacy is at an all-time low. This class has multiple intersecting goals: to explore plants in literature; to increase students’ plant literacy; to explore the concept of literacy; and to re-evaluate how plants, literacy, and plant literacy influence our understanding of literary texts. An abiding question will be the distinction between nature and the garden. Students will conduct group and individual field work to develop plant literacy. COVID permitting, examples of excursions may include the Dominion Arboretum across the canal from campus; Archives and Special Collections at MacOdrum Library, which has a number of herbals; and the Canadian Museum of Nature. Assignments will be designed to bolster the experiential learning aspects of the course and may include a personal literacy narrative, a photo journal, and reflections on the course texts. Students will have both opportunities for conversations about core texts and options to conduct focused reading on their interests. Course texts may include Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, the video series Onkwanónhkwa ‘Our Medicines’ by Ra’nikonhrí:io Lazare and Katsenhaién:ton Lazare, the work of Alexis Nikole Nelson @blackforager, Days by Moonlight by Andre Alexis, Catherine Parr Traill’s Studies of Plant Life in Canada, the Garden of Eden in Paradise Lost, Old English runestaves, and Circe by Madeline Miller, as well as a range of poetry and articles/chapters from the sciences.