Graduate Course Offerings

2021 Courses (Fall TBA)

Note: English 6999 (Master's Research Essay) is available every semester, though students are encouraged to take this course in the Spring semester.


English 7356: Northern Noir, Genre and Gender (D. Farquharson, time TBA)

A noir sensibility is frequently associated with subversion and disturbance. Further, crime fiction and thrillers from Scandanavian countries – Nordic Noir – have a long history of being engaged in social and political criticism. This course will focus on fiction from Northern regions (such as Scotland, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Wasauksing First Nation) that both disturb conventions (such as genre and gender) and offer critiques of both local and transnational relevance. Texts include: Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out, Val McDermid’s The Place of Execution, Claire McGowan’s The Lost, Stieg Larrson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Peter Høeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow, The Valhalla Murders, and Waubgeshig Rice’s Moon of the Crusted Snow.

WINTER 2021 

REQUIRED: English 7003: Trends in Contemporary Critical Theory (N. Pedri, Wednesdays 2-5 pm)

This course explores trends in contemporary literary theory as they have developed over the past three or so decades. A critical overview of major schools of thought will guide discussions about the role of theory in critical reading practices. Significant attention will be given to how the work of contemporary theorists can inform and enrich the reading of literature, making the practical application of theory central to the course.

Required texts:
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York, London: Norton, 2010.
Borges, Jorge Luis. Collected Fictions. Trans. Andrew Hurley. New York, Penguin, 1998.
Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Florida: Harcourt, 1974.

ENGL 7355: The Spectre of Catastrophe: 21st-Century Post-Apocalyptic Narratives (C. Lockett, Mondays 10 am - 1 pm)

This course will consider the tendency of recent apocalyptic imaginings to focus on the aftermath of catastrophe as opposed to the catastrophe itself. We will consider a host of social and cultural preoccupations that have shifted what Susan Sontag called “the imagination of disaster”—in which catastrophe tended to function as a disruption of the social order, but was resolved with the re-establishment of that order—to narratives in which the catastrophe is spectral, a memory haunting the post-apocalyptic landscape. We will look at such novels as Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk; World War Z by Max Brooks; Zone One by Colson Whitehead; Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice; The Road by Cormac McCarthy; Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor; as well as such film and television as The Walking Dead, A Quiet Place, and Zombieland, among others.

ENGL 7551: Brexit, Borders, and Irish Identity (D. Farquharson, Thursday 11 am - 2 pm)

With the increasingly viable possibility of a United Ireland, we will look at literary and visual texts that address, question, critique, and satirize the “soft border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (from 1921 to the present). Foundational readings in national identities, colonial histories, and regional politics will inform and shape our consideration of a variety of texts likely including but not limited to: McGilloway’s Bleed A River Deep, @BorderIrish, Tóibín’s Bad Blood, White’s “Raving Autumn” BBC One’s Soft Border Patrol, The Field Day Theatre Company, and Woods’ At the Black Pig’s Dyke.

ENGL 7103: Sir Thomas Malory and his Predecessors (W. Schipper, Tuesdays 1 - 4 pm)

One of the most popular sets of stories from the Middle Ages is the enormous collection of legends surrounding King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The story probably originated in the early 12th century, in the History of the Kings of Britain by a Welsh writer named Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wanted to produce a history that would demonstrate to the world that the Welsh had a noble and long history that surpassed that of the English and the French. His History is also the source of King Cole and King Lear, to name just two.

Because of the pandemic and the restrictions this places on library resources, we will be focusing on one of the central narrative elements, namely the story of Arthur and Guinevere, and what the French did with the story (adding Lancelot as a love interest, for example). The image above shows Lancelot and Guinevere very gingerly touch hands. The rubric above the image (really a chapter heading) says: “Ensi que la Royne requeroit Lancelot de ses amours.” (Thus the Queen accuses Lancelot about his amours). This is of course just one aspect of a complicated relationship that addresses loyalty, disloyalty, love, passion, fidelity, infidelity, and so on, just the sorts of things that produce good stories.

We will be reading extracts from a number of texts (in English, of course), including:
• Geoffrey of Monmouth
• John Harding’s Chronicle
• The Alliterative Morte Arthur
• Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
• Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur

ENGL 7214: Creative Writing: Nature Writing (R. Finley, Thursdays 7 - 10 pm, dress warmly!)

"To walk attentively through a forest, even a damaged one, is to be caught by the abundance of life: ancient and new; underfoot and reaching into the light. But how does one tell the life of the forest? We might begin by looking for drama and adventure beyond the activities of humans. Yet we are not used to reading stories without human heroes… Can I show landscape as the protagonist of an adventure in which humans are only one kind of participant?”
(Anna Tsing)

In English 7214 we will be taking up Anna Tsing’s challenge by helping students establish an attentive nature writing practice through a combination of extended periods of time outdoors collecting field notes and finding points of contact; an intense writing schedule (daily lyric, and fortnightly nonfiction/essay pieces); peer critiques; and readings (including contemporary models of the genre and theoretical work). Work done during the semester will be collected into a final portfolio of writing, ideally in the form of a “story map” This final portfolio of creative work, a presentation on at least one of the course readings, participation in peer critiques and group work will form the basis for evaluation in the course.

By the end of the course, students should have a better understanding of this wide ranging genre and the possibilities for listening to the world which it affords. They will also have a document in hand which records an extended and conscious period of attention to the non-human world.

Want to get started on some related reading? Here are a few suggestions for holiday reading:

J.A. Baker’s breathtaking The Peregrine; Angela Rockell’s Rogue Intensities; Anna Tsing’s Mushroom at the End of the World; David Hinton’s Hunger Mountain; Tim Morton’s Humankind; Gregory Bateson’s Steps Toward an Ecology of Mind; work by Donna Haraway; Bruno Latour; Hugh Raffles; Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain; Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think; Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks; Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees; Jacob Uexküll’s “A stroll through the worlds of animals and men” ( ; Marcia Bjornerud’s Timefulness….

FALL 2020

7755: Narrative and Play
(S. Thorne, Mondays 2-5)

This course engages with theories of narrative and play to critically examine how games and new media tell stories. Classes will not only explore what happens when a print text is remade for a digital medium, but will also address the influence of emerging technologies and trends in game development on storytelling. The works examined in this course will consist of a selection of video games and electronic literature that reflect on topics such as agency, authorship, avatars, immersion, interactivity, critical play, and digital narratology. Although we will be playing games in this course, a gaming PC or console is not required for participation.

7700: Contemporary Theatre and Circus
(J. Skidmore, Tuesdays 10-1)

An exploration of the great theatre and circus directors, designers, and theorists of the 20th and 21st centuries, Contemporary Theatre and Circus will examine how to read and interpret the performance text both kinaesthetically and semiotically. Focussing largely on the director as auteur, the class will trace theatrical movements over the last 100 years, and how they inform the theories of avant-garde Western directors such as Ariane Mnouchkine, Anne Bogart, Jillian Keiley, Bertolt Brecht, Julie Taymor, Peter Brook, Robert LePage, and more. During the course of the semester, students will read plays and theoretical texts, view online performances, and attend online lectures.

English 7354: Petrofictions (same as the former ENGL 7087)

(F. Polack, Thursdays 10-1)

Informed by the rapidly emerging fields of the Energy and Environmental Humanities, this course examines literary figurations of the most important energy source of the twentieth and (so far) twenty-first centuries: petroleum. Students will consider writing from Canada and around the world in which oil and its industries are an explicit concern: work, for instance, like Arab writer Abdul Rahmin Munif’s Cities of Salt, Nigerian Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, American Upton Sinclair’s Oil and Canadian Lindsay Bird’s Boom Time.

Thinking about oil also necessitates looking beyond just the more visible (often intensely contested and violent) aspects of its production. As Imre Szeman notes, “petrocarbons structure contemporary social life...oil is ontology, the structuring ‘Real’ or our contemporary sociopolitical imaginary.” Thus, we will also consider how entrenched petroleum is within our life worlds more generally and why, in this era of climate crisis, transition to renewable sources of energy is proving so difficult.

Past graduate courses


Department of English

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Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000