ENGL 5005F: MA Seminar
Prof. Sarah Brouillette
Topic: Professing English: Disciplinary Debates and Horizons
What does it mean to study “English” today? 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, grading essays, leading seminars, crafting grant proposals, and understanding employment and academic opportunities available to graduates, both inside and outside the university.
Topic: 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]; Coach House Press [Toronto]; Sister Vision Press [Toronto]; Gaspereau Press [Kentville, NS]; and Kegedonce Press.
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.
Topic: Rereading ‘Women’s Liberation’
This course takes a materialist and intersectional approach to the ‘Women’s Liberation’ movement of the 1970s, as we look at recent scholarship on the rhetorics and affects of the movement as well as dig into its Canadian archive. Recent scholarship has been revising settled views of experience, organizing, and expression in this moment of eruption. Working with concepts of eventfulness, articulation, and ghostly trace, we question a progressivist view of history that would assume either our own relative advancement or the finishedness of this past. Grounding ourselves through discussion of the relationship between feminism and neoliberalism in the present, we then turn to archival materials and media representations from the 1970s. We ask how this historical 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.
Topic: Language, Place and the North
An investigation of language, places, spaces, and environment, focusing on Indigenous peoples and the Arctic and subarctic regions of Canada. Topics include critical understandings of language use, northern environments, Indigenous homelands, and the role of Indigenous languages in defining and transforming cultural and geographic space.
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’ (‘LCH’). 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 the movement’s Eurocentrism, the tendency of scholars working in the field to reference only an attenuated corpus of literary and cultural materials, and its indebtedness, 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, as well as the tendencies of its purview, we will move to consider: (1) the critical traditions of cultural materialism and Marxist cultural studies, the major thinkers of which are conspicuous by their absence – or extreme scarcity – within Law and Literature scholarship, and (2) recent debates within world literary studies which have sought to elaborate world literature’s relation to the modern capitalist world-system. In opposition to the predominant approaches, we will consider the potential usefulness of these alternative approaches 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, poetry, films, statute law, and case law) drawn from both ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ global locations in an effort to develop a materialist and worldly approach to ‘Law and Literature’ / LCH. The 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’.
Topic: What is a Book?
This course takes as its focus both the book as a material object and the field that has emerged around its study: the history of the book. The immediate context for our explorations will be the near certainty, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, that the printed book was rapidly becoming obsolete. Not only has that reality not come to pass, but in the words of two recent scholars, “[i]nstead of heralding [its] demise, the twenty-first century offers new reasons to reckon with the physical book.” We will begin with a case study: eighteenth-century novelist Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a novel that is famously – and extravagantly — attentive to the materiality of the printed book. Our engagement with Sterne’s novel will include a couple of sessions in the MacOdrum Library’s Book Arts Lab. We will then survey developments in book culture and media from the late-eighteenth century to the present day, by reading a selection of foundational essays outlining these shifts.
ENGL 5208W: Studies in Middle English Literature
Prof. Siobhain Calkin
Topic: Manuscripts and Mayhem: Re-reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
No English author can match the uninterrupted reading history that connects Chaucer to the present, and this course will explore why Chaucer has proven so engaging from the Middle Ages through to today. Despite having died 600 years ago, Chaucer still attracts a great deal of attention in text, scholarship, and film. New editions of his texts are still being produced, and scholarly debates erupt over how best to teach his work to modern audiences. In the past twenty years he and his texts have been lightning rods for discussions in medieval studies about issues as varied as manuscripts, race, religion, gender identity, feminism, and rape culture. Why do we care today about the writings and life of this fourteenth-century bureaucrat? How do his texts challenge our familiar ways of reading and of thinking about authorship? What issues do his texts raise about sex, class, gender, and power relations? What do his texts tell us about constructs of masculinity and femininity then and now? How, and to what effect, does Chaucer, a medieval Christian, depict other Christians, Jews, and Muslims in his Tales? How do we, and how did medieval readers, reconcile Chaucer’s bawdy humor and criticism of the Church with his more straightforwardly “moral” tales? ENGL 5208 explores these questions and more as it works through the entirety (or as close as we can manage!) of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and positions the Tales in relation to some of the heated scholarly debates they have occasioned recently. Come and find out what 600 years of hype are all about.
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 5610W: Studies in Contemporary Literature I (cross-listed with DIGH 5902A)
Prof. Brian Greenspan
Fictional discourse continues to grow in prominence in our “post-truth” era, due in part to the social media, deep fakes, AIs, and conspiracy theories that threaten to alter our consensus reality. As the public sphere grows ever more hyperreal, it isn’t surprising that writers and scholars alike should shy away from the parody, relativism, and textual play that marked literature of the last century, while embracing rumours of an emergent “metamodern” affect or post-postmodern “New Sincerity.” At the same time, revitalized critical debates over the status of fictional discourse offer growing evidence that truth and authenticity are not opposed to fictionality, but dependent on it.
This seminar will survey narrative fictions in various media and genres (such as alt-history, science fiction, urban fantasy, comics, games, transmedia, Virtual and Augmented Reality, autofiction, metafiction, and hyperfiction), alongside recent theories of fictionality and new media. We will also explore new digital tools and methods for creating or detecting fakes and fictions. Our approach will be purely exploratory, experimental, and collaborative; no prior programming or special computer skills are required, though you might pick up a few along the way.
Topic: Epic Theatre for the 21st Century
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” – Bertolt Brecht
In the early to mid-20th Century, dramatist, and playwright, Bertolt Brecht developed a style of theatre he called Epic Theatre. Emerging from the staging strategies of German Expressionism, Brecht was influenced by Marx in perfecting his craft. He saw a need for theatre to shake off the complacency of bourgeois spectatorship and become something that could entertain but also provoke thought about the world and the nature of human relationships in a politically charged landscape. In this course we will examine Brecht’s theories, alongside some of his well-known plays with an eye to understanding the influence of his work in our contemporary moment, which it can be argued is equally as fraught as the world Brecht navigated in exile in the 1940s. Do we still see manifestations of Epic Theatre in new works? Is there a place for didacticism in the theatre? We will delve deeply into Brecht’s work to see how and where his legacy continues to be felt in contemporary theatre.
ENGL 5900X: Selected Topic in English Studies I (cross-listed with CLMD 6903W and HIST 5906A)
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 cowriting 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/4115A: Selected Topic in English Studies I (cross-listed with WGST 5901D/4812B)
Prof. Jodie Medd
Topic: Queer/ Feminist/ Life/ Writing
This course will take queer/feminist/life/writing as a broad and suggestive constellation for exploring a range of written texts, including biofiction, autobiography, memoir, creative nonfiction, the personal essay, and autotheory. Reading twentieth- and twenty-first-century texts, we’ll consider how authors have engaged with and innovated upon forms and genres for narrating feminist and queer lives; how they have blended personal writing with political, theoretical, philosophical and academic discourse; how their texts mattered to the moment of their composition; and how and why they matter now. Students will have leeway to research, write, and present on areas of interest to them, from literary form and style to socio-cultural-political content and connections. Content may include (but is not limited to) childhood, parenthood, loss and grief, illness and disability, Black life and the afterlife of slavery, racial capitalism, trans narratives, queer Indigeneity, subjectivity, representation and the writing “I,” community and care, art, academia and activism . . . and more.
ENGL 6004W: Approaches
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: defenses 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.