Department of English

University of Toronto

4000 Series 2009-10

Graduate Courses - 2009 - 2010 Winter Session, 4000 Series


This course will study elegy and elegiac poetry of the Romantic period, giving special attention to the cultural, social and ideological implications of poetic experimentation in form and genre. For many writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century, elegy establishes a forum for exploring the conditions of subjectivity. It also complicates such exploration, however, and so many such efforts become negotiations of the reciprocal relationship between the forms of expression and self-identity. Study of the Romantic elegy naturally opens also onto questions about the limits of lyric and the function of the aesthetic. Students will thus have opportunity to study the minutiae of poetic structure within broader cultural and conceptual frameworks. Some prior knowledge of (or willingness to acquire knowledge of) poetic form is highly recommended.

Seminar/discussion. Seminar paper, term paper, oral book report.

Poets studied will include (but will not be limited to) the following: William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, S.T. Coleridge, Anna Barbauld, John Keats, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Letitia Landon.

Wednesday 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Room 326, University College


Building on the recent field of “thing theory” (the subject of a special issue of Critical Inquiry in 2001), this course will consider “the social life of things,” to borrow Arjun Appadurai’s phrase, in Romantic poetry and prose. When Wordsworth discovered the ability to “see into the life of things” in “Tintern Abbey,” or when Coleridge defined the imagination in the Biographia Literaria as “essentially vital” whereas “all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead,” they were writing in the context of a culture that had distinct conceptions of materiality, which it will be our purpose to explore. If subject-object relations became the great theme of the Romantic “visionary company,” in a sense our goal will be to historicize these relations in the following contexts: landscape, the city, and the empire (especially India). Our close readings will be focused by an intense engagement with theory, from Marx, Freud, and Heidegger to Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, and Giorgio Agamben, to Bill Brown, Susan Stewart, and W.J.T. Mitchell.

Research paper (50%, 20 pp.), research proposal and bibliography (15%), in-class research presentation (20%, 15 minutes followed by q & a), class participation (15%).

Readily available editions supplemented by coursepacks of primary and secondary readings.

Thursday 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Room 614, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street.


During the nineteenth century, when the novel is generally assumed to have reached its ascendancy, its rival generic form, the romance, was equally thriving under the influence of expanding literacy and opportunities for publishing, and in many cases romances received equal measures of popularity and critical success. In this course, students will read historical and Gothic romances, verse romances, novels that thematize generic romance, allegorical romance, adventure fiction, and science fiction. Collectively, these works will provide a picture of a romance culture, in which preoccupation with gender roles, vision and perception, faith and imagination, and the historical inheritance find expression in this dominant literary form.

Primary readings: Scott, Ivanhoe; Landon, "The Bride of Lindorf"; Tennyson, selected poetry; Brontë, Wuthering Heights; Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel; MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin/The Princess and Curdie; Hardy, A Laodicean; Stevenson, Treasure Island; Haggard, King Solomon's Mines; Morris, The Wood Beyond the World; Wells, The Time Machine; Conrad, Lord Jim.

Excerpts: medieval and Renaissance prose and verse romances.

Secondary readings: Stevenson, Wilde, Ker, Tolkien, Frye, Chase, Todorov, Prickett, Bolus-Reichert, and others.

Thursday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


The title draws on two pertinences of “at sea”: literally “on the ocean,” figuratively “perplexed, bewildered.” At the end of the nineteenth century, the Victorian novel was at sea in both senses--or so goes the claim that makes this course possible and that we will, in turn, subject to interrogation. Long a staple of the most formulaic sort of popular fiction, maritime adventure in the hands of certain writers suddenly provides the occasion, from about 1880 on, for proto-modernist experimentation. In determining the causes and consequences of this phenomenon our focus will be on Stevenson and Conrad, but the trajectory of the course moves from the century’s most widely read boys’ tale, R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island (1858), to Virginia Woolf’s decidedly post-Victorian first novel, The Voyage Out (1915). Note that among the challenges posed by this material is the necessity of developing a methodology for reading rigorously fiction often seen as resistant to literary analysis--as well as of cultivating a willingness to question distinctions (or refine narratives of relations) between “low” and “high” culture, “popular” fiction and “serious” fiction.

Assignments: participation (20%), seminar presentation and report (20%), formal final paper proposal (10%), and final research paper (50%).

At a minimum, R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island; R. L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island, “The Beach of Falesá,” and “The Ebb-Tide”; Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, “Typhoon,” and “The Secret Sharer”; Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out. Critical and theoretical reading to include selections from Cesare Casarino’s Modernity at Sea, Bernhard Klein’s collection Fictions of the Sea, Klein’s and Gesa Mackenthum’s collection Sea Changes: Historicizing the Ocean, and John Peck’s Maritime Fiction.

Monday 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Room 248, University College


This class will consider Victorian realist novels in relation to the critical and ideological debates that have developed around them, considering, for instance, theoretical differences between critics chiefly interested in representation–-“the world as image,” in Nancy Armstrong’s words–-and those who seek to uncover and recover something of the material reality of Victorian life, including Victorian ways of reading. Topics to be discussed may include: issues of ideology and epistemology; realist narrative and gender; the material world and the object; visuality and visual culture; money and finance; temporality, seriality, and the everyday; the sensational and the journalistic; manners and bad behavior. There will be room for interdisciplinary exploration of particular topics, such as Victorian painting, photography and other optical media; medicine; the law.

Seminar paper; presentation; active participation. Grade will be based on final essay (60%) and quality of participation, including presentation (40%).

Tentative list of novels includes: George Eliot, Adam Bede and Middlemarch; Charlotte Bronte, Villette; Charles Dickens, Hard Times; Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure; Gissing, New Grub Street. For the final list, check at Bob Miller Book Room and/or on blackboard a few weeks before classes start. Theoretical works by Armstrong, D.A. Miller, Catherine Belsey, Jonathan Crary, and many others.

Tuesday 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Room 313, Innis College


This course takes as its focus the intersection between print culture and political culture starting with the Rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada, until the closing years of the Depression. More specifically, the goal of this course is to try to find some answers to the questions that cultural historians and book historians are now beginning to ask: how do political changes lead to changes in the production, distribution, and reception of texts; and, conversely, how do new modes of book and periodical authorship, publication, circulation, and access, allow for new forms of political and social thought? Selected areas for study include the broadside, journalistic, and lyrical production of the Rebellion years; the use of holographic and coterie publication in political circles; the development of the literature, journalism, and reading societies of the Black Fugitives of the mid-1850s; the rise of “social reform” literature in the 1880s and 1890s and its relationship to new methods of monograph production; the attempts by educational democrats to reform orthography and typography; the development of new cultural and literary organizations and their relationship to “first wave” feminism; varieties of “left” and socialist writing in the 1920s and 1930s in relation to populist forms of publishing and performance.

Authors/orators/groups studied could include: Joseph Howe, William Lyon Mackenzie; the Children of Peace, Samuel Ringgold Ward, the Knights of Labor (sic) , Agnes Maule Machar, E. Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake, Nellie McClung, Dorothy Livesay, Margaret Fairley. The works of some more “canonical” English-Canadian authors will also be placed in this framework.

Thursday 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Room 20, Birge-Carnegie Library, Victoria College


This course examines the intersection of property, personhood, and narrative in American literature before the Civil War. At a time when legal documents from wills to copyrights registered the importance of books as a form of property, literary self-expression (and autobiography in particular) was emerging as an important means of articulating, even inventing, individual personhood. Indeed, many of those who were considered property under American slave laws turned to personal narrative in order to reject their chattel status and assert their personhood – even as hearings under the nation’s fugitive slave laws were eliciting personal narrative to transform people back into property. Reading fiction and non-fiction explorations of property and personhood in the context of the rise of liberal political theory and slave law, this course will draw on theoretical and methodological insights from legal cultural studies, book history, and historicist literary criticism.

Participation: 20%; Colloquium (Abstracts & Presentations): 30%; Research Papers: 50%.

PRIMARY:  John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”. Mary Rowlandson, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God; The Life, and Dying Speech of Arthur, a Negro Man; Who Was Executed at Worcester, October 10, 1768. For a Rape Committed on the Body of One Deborah Metcalfe; A Brief Account of the Life and Abominable Thefts of the Notorious Isaac Frasier. Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography. Richard Montgomery Bird, Sheppard Lee. Edgar Allan Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. James W. C. Pennington, The Fugitive Blacksmith. Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener” & “Benito Cereno”.

SECONDARY:  C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, Hobbes to Locke. Cheryl I. Harris, “Whiteness as Property,” Harvard Law Review 106.8 (June 1993): 1707-91. Stephen M. Best, The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession. Arthur Riss, Race, Slavery and Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature.

Wednesday 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

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