Fall 2022

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

Topic: The Alt-Left Politics of Pleasure:  Identity, Consent, and Cancel Culture

This course explores the perils and possibilities of “pleasure” in a social climate where bodies and pleasures are increasingly sites of suspicion and subject to new normative constraints, regulatory measures, and moral approbation. Our study of pleasure will comprise a sustained critique of identity politics—both alt-right and alt-left—as well as the ways that liberal political commitments to “free expression” have become so highly contested across our contemporary culture wars. Through a reading of key theoretical, literary, and cultural texts, it seeks to better theorize the stakes of identity and informed consent at a time when neoliberalism and hyperindividualism have proven to be morally bankrupt as paradigms of ethical responsibility and free speech/acts.

Specifically, this course hopes to reflect critically on (1) informed sexual consent on campus and in the workplace, (2) the effects of social media and meme culture on identity, (3) cancel culture, and (4) the liberal political investment in “free speech” on campus and in the press. While there has been no shortage of liberal outrage and moral indignation from the Left (it is sometimes ostentatiously “woke”), these made-for-social-media sentiments of fleeting solidarity often conceal the many ways that the Left remains complicit in wider structural inequalities, including racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. If liberal individualism continues to be our basis for understanding pleasure, what might this mean for political action beyond our scripted expressions of outrage or injury? Might we begin to reconceive a politics of pleasure that does not abandon responsibility or consent, but that re-thinks them, first and foremost, as necessarily social and collective endeavours?

ENGL 5207F/4105A: Studies in Old English (cross-listed with LING 4805A)
Prof. Robin Norris

Topic: Introduction to Old English

Wilhelm Viëtor, The front panel of the Franks Casket, 1901
Wilhelm Viëtor, The front panel of the Franks Casket, 1901

The oldest form of the English language is known as Old English. After 1000 years of language change, 76% of the most common Old English words are still in use today, and 83% of our most common words are from Old English. In this class, we will explore manuscripts and magic, riddles and runes, as well as the afterlives of the early Middle Ages.

ENGL 5303F/4301A: 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.

Katherine Parr (1512-1548) was the final wife of Henry VIII. Although she is often depicted in popular culture as the woman who nursed Henry in his old age, she was actually a literary powerhouse and one of the most influential religious activists of the 1540s. We will examine her three published literary texts, her narrow escape from being arrested and executed, and her scandalous marriage to Thomas Seymour after Henry’s death.

Mary Tudor (1516-1558) was the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. After acceding to the throne in 1553 as queen regnant, she restored England to Catholicism and became famous for overseeing the burning of three hundred Protestants. For centuries she has been vilified as “bloody Mary” and as an incompetent ruler, but current scholars are offering new accounts of her political skills and successes.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was Parr’s step-daughter and is one of the most famous British monarchs. As a queen regnant, Elizabeth obviously wielded extraordinary agency and yet her status as an unmarried woman was an on-going concern throughout her reign. Through an examination of her public speeches, private letters, portraits, proclamations, poems and prayers we will consider how she managed her image and how she contributed to important political, social, and literary developments. Recent movies will be addressed.

Mary Stuart (1542-1587) acceded to the Scottish throne when she was only six days old and lived a life plagued by assassinations, political rebellion, and political intrigue. During her sixteen years of house arrest in England, Mary used poems and tapestries to attempt to negotiate with her cousin, Elizabeth I. We will consider Mary’s political strategizing and the afterlife of her execution. We will consider her depiction in Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Josie Rourke (2018).

ENGL 5402F/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.

ENGL 5610F: Studies in Contemporary Literature I (cross-listed with CLMD 6903F)
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, gendered violence. 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? Throughout, we will explore the power of documentary to respond to catastrophic events and uncharted social conditions as they unfold.

ENGL 6003: Theories and Foundations
Prof. Grant Williams

Topic: Shakespeare’s Sonnets

This course will survey a range of theoretical frameworks (from book history and formalism to gender and the cultural) by applying them to Shakespeare’s sonnets—the course’s foundational literary text. The sonnets will allow us to digest and internalize abstract concepts and methods, while its criticism, theoretically diverse and innovative, will give us some models of how to put into practice these concepts and methods.

Winter 2023

ENGL 5004W: Studies in Transnational Literatures (cross-listed with CLMD 6102W and MGDS 5002D)
Prof. Sarah Casteel

Topic: Memory and Migration

This class explores the relationship between memory, migration, and aesthetic representation. We will consider the role of particular literary and artistic genres in producing, preserving, shaping, and circulating transnational and diasporic memories. How do writers and artists recover memories that have been disrupted or lost as a result of forced or voluntary migration? How do they negotiate between personal or familial memory and official, state memory? Among the genres we will address are memoir, graphic memoir, historical fiction, photographic portraiture, and landscape art.

ENGL 5606W/4607B: Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature (cross-listed with WGST 4812A/5901W)
Prof. Jodie Medd

Topic: A GOAT in Woolf’s clothing: Reading Virginia Woolf

The actor Jonah Hill recently referred to his co-star, Meryl Streep, as the “The GOAT.” Streep took it as a teasing pet name, but Hill clarified it was an acronym for “The Greatest of All Time.”

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), in fact, earned the pet name “the Goat” as a child, for her mischievous antics. As an adult, she continued to sign letters to her intimates as “the Goat” or even “Billy.”  This course wagers that Woolf qualifies as a GOAT among English novelists (in Hill’s sense) for her rich, complex and spectacularly experimental literary oeuvre. Indeed, the sharp juxtaposition between her high literary achievements (as The GOAT) and her irreverent humour and life writing (as the Goat) signals the range I hope we will study and enjoy together in this course.

A white, British, upper-middle class, woman, Woolf pushed against the limits of her time and place in ways that made for richly productive paradoxes and a powerful legacy: married, not only were her most passionate relationships with women, but she was also a key member of the “Bloomsbury group” infamous for its queer configurations of desire; an admitted highbrow literary “snob,” Woolf also taught at the Working Men’s College and was strongly aware of economic disparities, social inequities, and the contortions of colonial-capitalism; a sharp critic of British imperialism, she also dressed in blackface, masquerading with her friends as Abyssinian Royals to prank British Navy officials; now revered as a ‘canonical’ writer, her experimentalism was only possible because she and her husband started their own press so she would not be beholden to editors; neuroatypical and subject to the psychiatric treatments of her day, Woolf was an informed critic of medical approaches to mental trauma; a passionate lover of life’s beauty and richness, she died by suicide before the age of 60. Precisely because Woolf was born in 1882 to an upper-middle class household—which she hotly critiqued for its stifling heteropatriarchal Victorianism, not to mention its cover for sexual abuse—she became one of the most eloquent feminist thinkers and experimental writers of the 20th century.

Indeed, Woolf remains disarmingly relevant today: Woolf as pandemic reading; Woolf as a feminist (first, second, third, next wave?) and gender theorist; Woolf and #MeToo; queer studies; crip studies; imperialism; white privilege; ecocriticism; slow time; anti-militarism; new materialism; affect studies; the end times….Chances are virtually any pressing contemporary cultural or intellectual interest can be related to Virginia Woolf. Interested in artistic, literary, and/or historical contexts? Our course invites you to explore Woolf and genre (biography, autobiography, memoir, elegy, the novel, etc.); twentieth-century modernity; modernist style; formations and definitions of modernism and the literary canon; visual art and aesthetics; Bloomsbury and Woolf’s contemporaries; the Hogarth Press and the publishing market; the world wars and the rise of fascism; the history of feminism; history of science; political critique and philosophical inquiry; psychoanalysis and other psychological approaches (then and now)…and more. You will also have the opportunity to explore Woolf’s afterlife and legacies, such as the work of Alice Walker, Kabe Wilson, Maggie Humm, and Michael Cunningham, among other literary, film, and artistic adaptations and reworkings of Woolf’s work and life.

Seminar members will have the freedom to choose the focus of their research seminar, final paper, and informal written reflections over the term. Our course emphasizes peer exchange and the pleasures of intellectual community; cross-listed between English and Women’s and Gender Studies, this course welcomes enlivening conversations across disciplines and research interests.

ENGL 5900W/4401B: Selected Topic in English Studies I
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?

ENGL 5900X: Selected Topic in English Studies I (cross-listed with CLMD 6903W)
Prof. Barbara Leckie

Topic: Co-writing the Climate Crisis

This course offers an interdisciplinary approach to the climate crisis through the lens of co-writing. The idea of co-writing will be treated capaciously: writing through and with other voices, conversations, people, places, and things. It will envision writing as a kind of craft or making in which we think out loud together. With respect to the climate crisis, humans write on and with land and climate; this course will, accordingly, ask if co-writing can broaden our sense of what writing means.The course will approach questions of co-writing via three interconnected categories: conversation; correspondence; and cohabitation. While each of these terms have a bearing on the larger questions of climate and the planetary that the course will address, they will also be approached, more narrowly, in relation to talking, writing, and teaching, respectively. Our discussions will be underpinned by the ways in which ideas of the co-, in general, help us to rethink the individual, the nation, and the land. Overall, we will read the work of Judith Butler, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Achille Mbembe, Anna Tsing, and Sylvia Wynter, among others, to consider more closely how disciplines in the humanities can contribute to climate action.

ENGL 5900Y: Selected Topic in English Studies (cross-listed with LAWS 5903 and CLMD 6xxx)
Prof. Phil Kaisary

Topic: Directions and Dead Ends in the ‘Law & Literature’ Movement

This course critically analyzes themes, approaches, and debates in the ‘Law and Literature’ movement and the related field of ‘Law, Culture, and the Humanities.’ The first half of the course begins by tracing the formation of the ‘Law and Literature’ movement from c. 1965 to the present day, paying particular attention to its goals, situation, theoretical investments, and ideological thrust. Observing that the movement is especially indebted, on the one hand, to liberal humanism, and, on the other, to post-structuralism, we will assess the productive capacities and critical limitations of the field as it is presently constituted. Having established a working knowledge of the field in theoretical and historical terms, we will move to consider the materialist critical traditions of cultural materialism and cultural Marxism, the major thinkers of which are conspicuous by their absence – or extreme scarcity – within Law and Literature scholarship. In opposition to the predominant approaches, we will consider the potential usefulness of cultural materialism and cultural Marxism to a reconstructed and reoriented ‘Law and Literature’ movement. In the second half of the course, we will undertake a series of experimental readings of primary materials (novels, films, legal texts) in an effort to develop a materialist approach to ‘Law and Literature’. The materialist interpretations that we will collectively strive to generate will draw on a variety of secondary readings and will be considered in relation to other approaches that have gained currency in ‘Law and Literature’. The course is open to graduate students in the Department of English Language and Literature and the Department of Law and Legal Studies. No prior knowledge of the field is required.

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.

Summer 2023

ENGL 5900S/ENGL 4609A: Selected Topic in English Studies I
Prof. Janne Cleveland

Topic: Performing Activism on Social Media

This seminar course will examine how social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok become spaces of performance within the context of activism and protest. We will consider how these platforms take on a theatrical dimension, and what the implications are for both the actors and spectators of these activist actions.

ENGL 5900T/ENGL 4301A: Selected Topic in English Studies I (cross-listed with HIST 4101A)
Prof. Paul Nelles

Topic: Travel & Mobility in the Early Modern World

This seminar explores the experience of travel and mobility circa 1500–1750. The early modern period experienced an unprecedented level of mobility, both within Europe and globally. People moved across space and across distance for all sorts of reasons: the faithful pilgrimaged to holy sites; merchants journeyed to buy and sell material goods; the sick moved for health; diplomats travelled to spy and negotiate; missionaries crossed oceans to save souls; non-Europeans experienced coerced migration in the form of African slavery and the colonial enclosure of indigenous peoples. The seminar considers the social and cultural context of early modern mobility at the local, transnational, and global levels. We also explore the technologies of travel – how did people move from place to place?  where did they stay? what did they eat and drink? what mechanisms, practices, and sites facilitated movement in the early modern period?

The seminar seeks to re-create the material and cultural world of early modern travel. We explore how linguistic and cultural difference were experienced, how travellers made sense of unfamiliar places, social customs, and cultural practices, and the ‘things’ that also moved on journeys. The class pays close attention to the sources that constitute early modern ‘travel writing:’ travel journals, letters, diaries, ship’s logs, missionary reports, and the like.

ENGL 5901S/ENGL 4115A: Culture and the Text
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. Although plants have been fundamental to mythologies around the globe, today plant literacy is at an all-time low. This class has multiple intersecting goals: to explore plants in literature and culture; to increase students’ plant literacy; to explore the concept of literacy; and to re-evaluate how plant literacy influences our experience of literary texts. One abiding question will be the distinction between nature and the garden. This is an experiential learning course that requires field work to develop plant literacy, and assignments will be designed to bolster the experiential learning aspects of the course.

ENGL 5120S/ENGL 4115B: Book Arts Workshop
Prof. Robin Norris

This experiential learning course immerses students in the practical arts and histories of book production, with its roots in the early Middle Ages. Students will engage in a range of activities representative of the pillars of the book arts, including bookbinding, calligraphy, decoration, and typesetting/printing. Activities may include transcription of manuscript and inscribed texts, reproduction of early medieval bookhand, creating and printing woodcuts and/or linocuts, typesetting and letterpress printing, hand sewing of paper gatherings to create pamphlets or multiple section books, and exploration of manuscripts and early printed books from Carleton’s Archives and Special Collections. The class will be held in the MacOdrum Library Book Arts Lab, where students will work collaboratively with Master Printer Larry Thompson, Professor Norris, and their classmates.