Department of English

University of Toronto

T - Z Bookshelf

 Faculty Bookshelf - Alphabetical by Author's Surname
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Walter of Châtillon, The Alexandreis: A Twelfth Century EpicDavid Townsend, trans. and ed.
Walter of Châtillon, The Alexandreis: A Twelfth Century Epic
Broadview Press, 2006

Walter of Châtillon’s Latin epic on the life of Alexander the Great was a twelfth- and thirteenth-century best-seller: scribes produced over two hundred manuscripts. The poem follows Alexander from his first successes in Asia Minor, through his conquest of Persia and India, to his progressive moral degeneration and his poisoning by a disaffected lieutenant. The Alexandreis exemplifies twelfth-century discourses of world domination and the exoticism of the East. But at the same time it calls such dreams of mastery into question, repeatedly undercutting as it does Alexander’s claims to heroism and virtue—and by extension, similar claims by the great men of Walter’s own generation. This extraordinarily layered and subtle poem stands as a high-water mark of the medieval tradition of Latin narrative literature.

Daniel Scott TysdalWriting Moment
The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creative Poems
Oxford University Press, 2014

This practical guide to composing original, evocative poetry explores all aspects of the writing process-including finding inspiration, organizing ideas on paper, revising first drafts, and sharing poems with others. Accessible and encouraging throughout, this invaluable resource helps beginner poets find their voice and master the tools of the trade.

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Germaine Warkentin
Pierre-Esprit Radisson: The Collected Writings, Volume 1: The Voyages, Volume 2: The Port Nelson Relations, Miscellaneous Writings, and Related Documents.
McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012, 2014.


Pierre-Esprit Radisson was many men: a teenager captured, tortured, and adopted by the Mohawk, a youth relishing the freedom of the wilderness, the French-born servant of an ambitious English trading company, a hapless petitioner at the court of Louis XIV, a central figure in the tug of war between France and England over Hudson Bay, a pretender to aristocratic status defending his actions before James II, a retired “sea captain” trying to provide for his children, and despite the pension he had fought for, the “decay’d Gentleman” described in his burial record. Radisson’s writings provoke many questions. Was he a semi-literate woodsman? Are his accounts of Native life ethnographically reliable? Can he be trusted to tell the truth about himself? How important were his explorations? 

All these questions are raised in this new edition of the explorer’s writings in English and French – Voyages, Relations, letters and petitions – plus two previously unknown documents, all edited to a high scholarly standard. Radisson is a Canadian icon, his signature in lights on a great hotel chain, central figure of a French comic-book series, his name on a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, a vast converter station on the Nelson River, a territory on James Bay, a suburb of Syracuse, New York, a town in Saskatchewan, and a walking trail in rural Minnesota. Who in fact was Radisson? This richly annotated new edition brings us closer to knowing this “mercurial genius.”

Edited by Germaine Warkentin, Joseph L. Black and William R. Bowen
The Library of the Sidneys of Penshurst Place circa 1665
University of Toronto Press, 2013


For two centuries (1540-1740) the Sidney family of Penshurt Place, Kent, produced poets, courtiers, collectors, and at least one revolutionary. Increasingly aware of the cultural ideal of the learned nobleman and of libraries as representations of that ideal, the Sidneys amassed one of the largest gentry libraries in England of their period. This edition of their library catalogue provides a vivid portrait of the birth, growth, and eventual demise of the distinguished family’s library collection.

Comprised of nearly 5000 entries, the catalogue is presented with a full introduction describing the Sidneys’ intellectual world and life, their reading and collecting, the women collectors of the family, and the dispersal of the library in 1743. The editors employ all the resources of contemporary bibliography, print and digital, to identify the titles in the catalogue, and where possible to locate the Sidneys’ own copies still extant, as well as architectural analysis to identify and describe the library room at Penshurst, now lost to nineteenth-century renovations.  

Decentring the RenaissanceGermaine Warkentin
Decentring the Renaissance
University of Toronto Press, 2001

Much has been written about the effect early European discoverers and explorers had on Canada, but little on the effect Canada and its Native peoples had on the discoverers and explorers. Decentring the Renaissance contemplates that reversal of perspective from north of the border, where Spanish influence was thin and Britain and France contended for hegemony. It brings together essays by Natalie Zemon Davis, Selma Barkham, Denys Delage, Réal Ouellet, Anne Lake Prescott, Olive Dickason and others, from a ground-breaking 1996 conference organized by Germaine Warkentin.

Christopher Warley
Reading Class through Shakespeare, Donne and Milton

Cambridge University Press, 2014Reading Class through Shakespeare (Forthcoming)

Why study Renaissance literature? Reading Class through Shakespeare, Donne, and Milton examines six canonical Renaissance works to show that reading literature also means reading class. Warley demonstrates that careful reading offers the best way to understand social relations and in doing so he offers a detailed historical argument about what class means in the seventeenth century. Drawing on a wide range of critics, from Erich Auerbach to Jacques Rancière, from Cleanth Brooks to Theodor Adorno, from Raymond Williams to Jacques Derrida, the book implicitly defends literary criticism. It reaffirms six Renaissance poems and plays, including poems by Donne, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Milton's Paradise Lost, as the sophisticated and moving works of art that generations of readers have loved. These accessible interpretations also offer exciting new directions for the roles of art and criticism in the contemporary, post-industrial world.

Christopher Warley
Sonnet Sequences and Social Distinction in Renaissance England, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 49
Cambridge University Press, 2005sonnetseq

Why were sonnet sequences popular in Renaissance England? In this study, Christopher Warley suggests that sonneteers created a vocabulary to describe, and to invent, new forms of social distinction before an explicit language of social class existed. The tensions inherent in the genre - between lyric and narrative, between sonnet and sequence - offered writers a means of reconceptualizing the relation between individuals and society, a way to try to come to grips with the broad social transformations taking place at the end of the sixteenth century. By stressing the struggle over social classification, the book revises studies that have tied the influence of sonnet sequences to either courtly love or to Renaissance individualism. Drawing on Marxist aesthetic theory, it offers detailed examinations of sequences by Lok, Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton. It will be valuable to readers interested in Renaissance and genre studies, and post-Marxist theories of class.

Imageless TruthsKaren A. Weisman
Imageless Truths: Shelley's Poetic Fictions
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994

In Imageless Truths Karen Weisman offers a new reading of Shelley's work in the context of the poet's changing constructions of poetic fictions. Shelley's understanding of language in general, and of fictions and their rhetorical tropes in particular, evolved throughout his career, and Weisman argues that it is in his self-consciousness over these transformations that we can find the primary motivating factor in the poet's philosophical and literary development. Weisman discerns in Shelley an ongoing quest for a mode of fiction-making that can accommodate both the poet's belief in a metaphysical ultimate and his anxiety over the implications of grounding poetic fictions too firmly in the details of quotidian existence. If Shelley's awareness of fictionality is a major element in the poetry, it is an awareness that comes with the troubled sense of the limits of fiction.


Ira WellsIra Wells
Fighting Words:  Polemics and Social Change in Literary Naturalism
The University of Alabama Press, 2013

Ira Wells, countering the standard narrative of literary naturalism’s much-touted concern with environmental and philosophical determinism, draws attention to the polemical essence of the genre and demonstrates how literary naturalists engaged instead with explosive political and cultural issues that remain fervently debated today. Naturalist writers, Wells argues in Fighting Words, are united less by a coherent philosophy than by an attitude, a posture of aggressive controversy, which happens to cluster loosely around particular social issues. To an extent not yet appreciated, literary naturalists took controversial—and frequently contrarian—positions on a wide range of literary, political, and social issues.

Frank Norris, for instance, famously declared the innate inferiority of female novelists and frequently wrote about literature in tones suggestive of racial warfare. Theodore Dreiser once advocated, with deadly earnestness, a program of state-run infanticide for disabled or unwanted children. Richard Wright praised the Stalin-Hitler agreement of 1939 as “a great step toward peace.” While many of their arguments were irascible, attention-seeking, and self-consciously inflammatory, the combative spirit that fueled these outbursts remains central to the canonical texts of the movement.

Dan White
From Little London to Little Bengal: Religion, Print, and Modernity in Early British India, 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013londonbengal

From Little London to Little Bengal traces the traffic in culture between Britain and India during the Romantic period. To some, Calcutta appeared to be a "Little London," while in London itself an Indianized community of returned expatriates was emerging as "Little Bengal." Circling between the two, this study reads British and Indian literary, religious, and historical sources alongside newspapers, panoramas, religious festivals, idols, and museum exhibitions. Together and apart, Britons and Bengalis waged a transcultural agon under the dynamic conditions of early nineteenth-century imperialism, struggling to claim cosmopolitan perspectives and, in the process, to define modernity.

Daniel E. White shows how an ambivalent Protestant contact with Hindu devotion shaped understandings of the imperial mission for Britons and Indians during the period. Investigating global metaphors of circulation and mobility, communication and exchange, commerce and conquest, he follows the movements of people, ideas, books, art, and artifacts initiated by writers, publishers, educators, missionaries, travelers, and reformers. Along the way, he places luminaries like Romantic poet Robert Southey and Hindu reformer Rammohun Roy in dialogue with a fascinating array of lesser-known figures, from the Baptist missionaries of Serampore and the radical English journalist James Silk Buckingham to the mixed-race prodigy Henry Louis Vivian Derozio.

In concert and in conflict, these cultural emissaries and activists articulated national and cosmopolitan perspectives that were more than reactions on the part of marginal groups to the metropolitan center of power and culture. The British Empire in India involved recursive transactions between the global East and West, channeling cultural, political, and religious formations that were simultaneously distinct and shared, local, national, and transnational.

Early Romanticism and Religious DissentDan White
Early Romanticism and Religious Dissent
Cambridge University Press, 2007

Religious diversity and ferment characterize the period that gave rise to Romanticism in England. It is generally known that many individuals who contributed to the new literatures of the late eighteenth century came from Dissenting backgrounds, but we nonetheless often underestimate the full significance of nonconformist beliefs and practices during this period. Daniel White provides a clear and useful introduction to Dissenting communities, focusing on Anna Barbauld and her familial network of heterodox "liberal" Dissenters whose religious, literary, educational, political, and economic activities shaped the public culture of early Romanticism in England. He goes on to analyze the roles of nonconformity within the lives and writings of William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey, offering a Dissenting genealogy of the Romantic movement.

  Daniel Wright D. Wright
Bad Logic: Reasoning about Desire in the Victorian Novel 
Johns Hopkins University Press, Forthcoming March 2018

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