Recent Graduate Courses
Graduate programs in the Department of English are offered regularly throughout the academic year. Some of our recent graduate courses are highlighted below; for more detailed information please contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator.
English 7003: Theory for Our Times
Dr. Fiona Polack
This course examines relationships between evolving contemporary cultural contexts and our work as literary scholars. Drawing on a range of recently published theoretical work (whose historical antecedents we will also trace), our seminar will investigate systemic phenomena including globalization, identity politics, and environmental crisis, as well as the evolution of new textualities and methods of literary circulation. What, we will ask, are the most apposite theories for our times, and how might they be deployed in our reading and research?
English 7035: Arthurian Romance
Dr. William Schipper
Stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table first started becoming popular in the twelfth century. They embody elements of pseudo-history, nationalism, fantasy, romance, love, seduction, betrayal, chivalry, magic, loyalty, and possible and impossible quests. The popularity of these tales continues into the 21st century, and not just in literature (think of Star Wars, for example, or television series such as Merlin).
This course will examine some key texts from a variety of points of view. These texts will include the Alliterative Morte Arthur, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Tale," and Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur, a cycle of stories chronicling the reign of Arthur.
English 7055: The Banality of Magic: Fantasy, Myth, and Humanism
Dr. Christopher Lockett
This course will consider contemporary fantasy's turn away from what J.R.R. Tolkien termed "mythopoeia"—the thematic foundation in myth and magic—and toward a more distinctly humanist, secular world-view. What is the significance of a genre traditionally rooted in Christian thought and theology shifting to a preoccupation with "realistic" historical considerations and dynamic? What role do nostalgia and utopia, so central to such authors as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, play in these contemporary authors' figurations?
Primary texts may include Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass; George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones; Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad or Night Watch; Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains; J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Bernard Cornwell's The Winter King; William Goldman's The Princess Bride; Neil Gaiman's American Gods; Lev Grossman's The Magicians.
Secondary readings may include essays by J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Fredric Jameson, Rosemary Jackson, Tsvetan Todorov, Edward Said, Eric Auerbach, as well as representative early or proto-fantasy texts by William Morris, George McDonald, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Richard Howard, Mervin Peake, and T.H. White. Students are strongly encouraged to have read The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before class begins.
English 7085: Graphic Storytelling
Dr. Nancy Pedri
Graphic Storytelling considers established and emerging storytelling techniques of both multimodal and purely visual graphic narratives. We will pay particular attention to the unique grammar of the medium to ask how graphic narrative responds to the conventions of narrative and genre. To better understand how this form of storytelling structures perception and knowledge, an examination of a variety of graphic narratives—each with a unique storytelling style—will be informed by recent work in literary theory, visual cultural studies, and the growing field of comics studies.
English 7050: Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Society: Thackeray, Gaskell, and Eliot
Dr. Mark Cumming
This course will explore three Victorian masterworks—William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair (1847-48), Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters (1864-66), and George Eliot's Middlemarch (1870-71)—and their fictional reconstructions of early (pre-industrial and pre-Victorian) nineteenth-century British society. The course will examine each novel's refashioning of gender, station, home, and family, and each novel's treatment of social change and disruption.
English 7043: "Pale Fire?": Renaissance England Reflects The Classical Past
Dr. Robert Ormsby
This course examined the ways in which early modern English writers participated in the project of the "Renaissance" by using Ancient Greek and Roman culture as a way of reflecting upon and producing their own contemporary culture. More specifically, we considered how English writers re-worked Classical literature and history in order to address the issues of nationalism, political organization, family, gender, and territorial expansion through conquest. Our primary focus was on drama written between the 1590s and the 1620s, and, consequently, we took up such questions as the place that the new commercial theatre occupied in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, the conditions under which the plays were staged, and the very different dramatic forms of the plays that we studied. Although we spent much time examining early modern drama, we also considered narrative poems like Shakespeare's "The Rape of Lucrece," the place of translations (for instance George Chapman's translation of Homer) in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, and Classical historical and literary sources by such authors as Plutarch, Livy, and Ovid. Works under scrutiny included: Titus Andronicus; Dido, Queen of Carthage; Troilus and Cressida; Julius Caesar; Anthony and Cleopatra; Sejanus; Coriolanus; Timon of Athens; The Roman Actor; The Wonder of Women (Sophonisba); Cymbeline; and "The Rape of Lucrece."
English 7053: Posthumanism and the Gothic: Animals, Monsters and Machines
Dr. Jennifer Lokash
This course attempted to uncover the roots of contemporary cultural representations of posthumanism in a selection of iconic Gothic texts, which are obsessed with what we might call the "ontological hygiene" of the human body (Elaine Graham). Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Gothic writing and art is characterized by its dark response to the anthropocentric discourses of the Enlightenment and Romantic humanism. These discourses rely on binary categories such as alive/dead, natural/artificial, born/made, inside/outside, human/nonhuman, self/other, etc., categories that early Gothic texts problematize by representing the stable and normative human body as under threat in various ways. The course posed the following central questions: To what extent do the contemporary texts that we read—situated as they are in contexts such as bioengineering, cloning, plastic surgery, and digital technology—suggest that the human body as a category is always shifting or even disappearing? How is this end prefigured in Gothic representations of the body and embodiment? What is becoming of the human body?
English 7072: "A Touch of the Basic Brimstone": Canadian Humour and Satire
Dr. Faith Balisch
Since the late twentieth century Canadians have been well-known for their humour, particularly as a result of the export of humour to the United States through the writing and acting skills of such people as Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Michael J. Fox, Eugene Levy, Lorne Michaels, Catherine O'Hara, Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas, et alia. Canadians have been laughing for years over the antics on televisions shows such as SCTV, This Hour has 22 Minutes, and, more recently, Little Mosque on the Prairie and The Rick Mercer Show. Writers such as Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, and Carol Shields have national and international reputations for their fresh, sharply ironic and/or satiric fiction. Comic-strip cartoonist Lynn Johnston is recognized world-wide for her humorous comic strip, For Better or For Worse. Across Canada, in newspapers from St. John's to Victoria, readers enjoy a humorous and/or satiric column each week, and our political cartoonists are renowned. Yet there is, to date, no full-length study of Canadian humour and/or satire. The myth that there is no significant Canadian humour persists. In this course, we confronted this myth by examining the humour and/or satire in a selection of works by twentieth-century Canadian writers.
English 7075: The Poetry of Newfoundland: From Colonial Trope to Vernacular Expression
Prof. Mary Dalton
The course was designed to trace the path of poetry in and of Newfoundland from the time of the seventeenth-century colonizers to our own period. It concentrated on the burgeoning of the island's poetry in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first century. It explored the authors' preoccupations and technical strategies as the poetry develops into a distinctive body of writing. Some of the authors we considered are: E. J. Pratt, Irving Fogwill, Tom Dawe, John Steffler, Al Pittman, Agnes Walsh, Carmelita McGrath, Michael Crummey, James Langer, and Mark Callanan. The course involved some assignments which allowed students to engage in original research, e.g. major interviews with authors based on The Paris Review model.
English 7003: Contemporary Literary Theory and Practice
Dr. Danine Farquharson
This course introduced and engaged graduate students in current questions of literary theory and practice. Broad topics covered included: speech vs. writing and the audience of literary scholarship, translations, digital humanities and research methods, literary history, ethics inside and outside the classroom, emerging paradigms of ecocriticism and identity politics. The class was a combination of student seminars and guest speakers from the English faculty.
English 7037: Spectacles and Rituals of Power in Early Modern English Literature
Dr. Agnes Juhasz-Ormsby
This course explored the functions of civic and court ceremonies and entertainments of the Tudor and Jacobean era with particular attention paid to royal entries, coronations, Lord Mayor's shows, and court masques. These spectacular rituals of power staged by the court and by the City of London epitomize the period's rapidly shifting political and religious situation and provide a cross-section of the cultural and social history of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England from the reign of Henry VIII to that of James I. We focused on art, politics, and performance at such festivals through the reading of non-dramatic and dramatic texts composed specifically for these events by well-known authors like Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Anthony Munday, Thomas Middleton, Nicholas Udall, and John Webster. We explored why these entertainments were written and read and how they circulated in manuscript and print either as records of courtly pageantry or as literary works through the complex mediation of authors, hosts, courtiers, and publishers. We also examined how civic and court spectacles are represented in Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, particularly in the dramas of William Shakespeare. We contextualized these ceremonies by means of extant visual records, contemporary illustrations, eyewitness accounts, news pamphlets, and festival books. In addition to a consideration of non-dramatic material, a series of critical readings situated our topic within current theoretical discourses.
English 7051: "What the Dickens" Is It All About: Charles Dickens, A Bicentennial Retrospective
Dr. Annette Staveley
Generally regarded as one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian period, Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in 1812. This year, bicentenary celebrations took place across the globe, including international symposia in London and New York, new publications of his novels and new film productions of his iconic novels Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Through a selection of his writings, this course examined his celebrity, influence, and legacy. The following topics were addressed: his life and literary context; gender, family, and domestic ideology; urban society; the form of the novel and film adaptations of the written texts. A wide variety of critical approaches were considered: feminist, new historicist, psychoanalytic, deconstructionist, as well as the traditional historical and formalist perspectives. Given the range of his career as a journalist, novelist, magazine editor, philanthropist, social reformer and actor, and given the extensive nature of his writing, this course concentrated on a selection of his novels written between 1850 and 1870. These included Bleak House (1852), Little Dorrit (1855), Great Expectations (1860), Our Mutual Friend (1864), and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870).
English 7058: Games of City Life: Urban America, 1825-1915
Dr. Andrew Loman
The number of city-dwelling Americans increased at a dizzying pace in the nineteenth century. In the case of New York City, for instance, the US Census Bureau recorded a population in 1790 of 33,131 and a population in 1900 of 3,437,202. American culture in its many forms grappled with this rapid urbanization; in this course we explored the record of the resultant tensions and conflicts by submitting some of the century's cultural artefacts to scrutiny. Our focus was on literary artefacts, though we defined what is literary broadly, so that in addition to novels, short fiction, and poetry, we also studied travel narratives, journalism, criminological discourses, popular plays, and the emergent forms of film and graphic narrative. Readings included works by Horatio Alger, Lydia Maria Child, Charles Dickens, Theodore Dreiser, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Richard Outcault, and Edgar Allan Poe.
English 7041: "Our Scene is London": Urban Drama in the Early Seventeenth Century
English 7061: HBO's America: Television, History, Culture
English 7079: Post-Colonial Studies 1: Imagining Islands
English 7082: Show 'n' Tell: Photography in 20th-Century Literature
English 7073: Contemporary Newfoundland Fiction
English 7003: Identity Politics and Contemporary Literary Theory
This course will tackle many of the thorny issues around identity politics in the twenty-first century and track some of the predominant questions back through historical debates. While the obvious categories of identity remain class, gender, and ethnicity, this course will focus on the ways in which literary theory both entrenches such categories and challenges some of their underlying assumptions. Readings for the course will begin with the "Doxa of Difference" debate as it played out in the journal Signs (Autumn 1997–available from JSTOR), in particular Ien Ang's essay on incommensurability, and Kwame Anthony Appiah's Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Norton, 2006).
English 7050: George Eliot
Dr. Mark Cumming
In this course we will study the fiction of George Eliot (Marian Evans) and explore Eliot's central recurrent concerns: the growth and disintegration of human character; moral striving, duty, and practical religion; sympathy, passion, and love; the plight of single and vulnerable women; problematic marriages; the relation of self and society; the value and limitations of "provincial life"; the moral and literary implications of realism; the complexity of the human soul.
The course will centre on a close and attentive reading of four crucial texts: Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda. Supplementary material will be provided on Eliot's other works of fiction (Scenes of Clerical Life, Silas Marner, Romola, and Felix Holt) and on nineteenth-century British literature and culture.
English 7070: Canadian Drama: Looking Back
Dr. Denyse Lynde
English 7070 will introduce topics in Canadian drama written between the sixties and the nineties. Topics which will be explored include "regional/isms," "alternative," "collective," "female voices," "realism," and "expanding parameters," among others. Since drama cannot be considered outside of its theatrical context, we will also consider Canadian theatre or cultural forces, both national and provincial, that surround each topic. Generally the areas to be studied will include analysis and evaluation of plays, consideration of drama critics and criticism, and acknowledgement of the varied theatrical movements at work.
English 7066: Colonial Fantasies & Nationalist Fairytales
Dr. Valerie Legge
Early Canadian critics suggested that our national narratives, stories about the country's 'becoming', were shaped largely by a series of dualities or 'solitudes': French and English, hinterland and metropolis, North and South, wilderness and garden. With new developments in the field of contemporary critical theory and cultural studies, we have started to question certain assumptions about our country and our literature. Ajay Heble writes, "the new contexts of Canadian criticism have forced Canadians to expand their repertoire of contradictory experiences to include, for example, a consideration of the tensions between some of the following: race, class, ethnicity, and gender." Using ReCalling Early Canada: Reading the Political in Literary and Cultural Production as a critical guide, we will "reread" our early literature by focussing on canonical and non-canonical texts. Course evaluation will be based mainly on a Student Reading Journal and a Major Research Project related to the Journal.