Department of English

University of Toronto

5000 Series 2009-10

Graduate Courses - 2009 - 2010 Winter Session, 5000 Series


This course will explore how Canadian literature has contributed to and challenged the interpretation and construction of cultural and medical models of the mind, mental health, and mental illness. While the work of close reading is integral to this course, the analysis of literature works will take into account the social, political, scientific, and cultural context that support diverse speculations about the conscious and unconscious mind, emotions, trauma, memory, suggestibility, and the will. We will consider of range of works in light of nineteenth- and twentieth-century theories of dissociation, hysteria, and trauma. In essence, this course will trace literature’s interventions in interpreting medical, psychological, and anthropological formulations of mental illness. Taken together the texts examined will shed light on some of the following questions: How do notions of the mind and of mental pathology interact with societal attitudes toward shifting conceptions of gender, race, class, and the nation? How do literary, medical, and cultural models of the mind engage with and reconfigure the terrain occupied by religious discourses? How do historical and contemporary accounts of altered states and/or mental pathology reflect and respond to national and transnational concerns about production, travel, and the flow of capital? What do specific diagnoses such as hysteria, PTSD, and, more recently bipolar disorder and ADHAD reveal about societal investments in consciousness, memory, and attention?

M. Atwood, Alias Grace; J. Urquhart, Away; D. Brand, “Blossom” and selected short stories from Sans Souci; S. Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night; M. Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost; E. Robinson, Monkey Beach.

Note: You will also need the theoretical readings, some of which can be found in the course reader (CR). Books are available at the Women’s Bookstore (south side of Harbord St. just west of Spadina); the Course Reader is available at the Three Cent Copy Centre, 732 Spadina Avenue.

Friday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 2006, Wilson Hall, New College




Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of dialogism as a general framework alongside ideas from Aristotle, Fanon, Nussbaum, Soyinka and others, this course will set up a dialogue between different ideas of Tragedy, reading these predominantly through the African and African American literary traditions. Referring to a wide range of texts the course will be essentially comparative and will regularly set texts alongside each other to highlight overlaps as well as differences. The definition of Tragedy will be cumulatively elaborated as the course progresses. The emphasis will be on the various ways in which African and African American literature allow us to raise serious philosophical questions about determinism and freewill, the relations between the individual and society, and the various processes of history that have impacted on the black world.

Reference will also be made to films that the students are likely to be familiar with such as My Name is Joe, American Beauty, Apocalypse, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Piano, Se7ven and Crash, among various others.

Students will be required to get a firm grounding in philosophical, religious, and literary concepts to do with Tragedy as essential background to the course. Each student will be required to submit the following:
• a response paper on the critical essays for each week (10%) (2-4 pages maximum)
• a class presentation on one or two literary and/or critical texts (15%)
• a 2-page thesis proposal (10%) after the division of term
• an annotated bibliography of 40 items (25%).
• a 5000-word semester paper (40%).

The annotated bibliography and the paper will be expected at the end of the course, but drafts of the semester paper will be discussed before final submission.

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


Today we use “Achebe” to refer to the individual who, in Things Fall Apart, inaugurated an African literary modernism, and to identify a postcolonial African cultural nationalism. These ways of using Achebe’s name suggest that African fiction traces its genealogy to a solitary work or figure. But Achebe and After contests this. Through readings of works by Achebe, his peers, and emergent writers such as Adichie, Marechera, and Vladislavic, the course argues that no name could do for African fiction what “Achebe” is often called upon to do: to authorize a reading practice predicated on the assumption that it comprises a set of literary works that are thematically and aesthetically coherent. On the contrary, Achebe and After proposes that “Achebe” designates the crises of decolonization and legitimation of the postcolonial state, neither of which is as central to contemporary African fiction as, perhaps, it once was.

Seminar Presentations 30%; Mini–Conference 20%; Research Paper 50%.

Achebe, Arrow of God; Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Aswani, The Yacoubian Building; Atta, Everything Good Will Come; Dangor, Bitter Fruit; Krog, Country of My Skull; Marechera, Black Sunlight; Mezlekia, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly; Okri, The Famished Road; Slovo, Red Dust; Vassanji; Vera, Without a Name; and Vladislavic, The Restless Supermarket.

Monday 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


The objective of this is course is to focus specifically on Indian literature that deals with South India in order to examine the ways in which authors have attempted to project a different (sometimes Dravidian) ontology. The historical context of South India reiterates a need for us to move beyond a monolithic pan-Indian model of evolution. In addition, South India’s response to colonial and postcolonial conditions has often been very different from the North. All these factors have led to a body of literature that, in addition to its overt subject matter, often gestures towards a distinctive poetics. By looking at both poetry and fiction from the South, we will examine the validity of creating an alternative poetics for this corpus.

R.K. Narayan – The Guide, Raja Rao – Kanthapura; Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things; David Davidar – The House of Mangoes; Shashi Tharoor – Riot; Padma Viswanathan – The Toss of a Lemon.  Collection of Poems by Kamala Das, Parthasarathy etc. (Please check with the Bob Miller Book Room before purchasing texts).

Book Review; Presentation; Short Essay and a Research Essay.

Tuesday 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Room 340, Larkin Building, Trinity College


Graham Greene (1904-1991) and Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) are generally regarded as the outstanding British novelists of the mid-twentieth century. They were contemporaries at Oxford, and both became Catholics. As the years passed, however, Waugh’s outlook could best be described as conservative and orthodox, while Greene inclined to the political left and spoke of himself as believing in God intermittently. Both authors are deeply concerned with the problems of belief, but they are also social satirists who share stylistic ideals and fundamental convictions about the uses of the novel form. Both achieve a marriage of theological concern and political or social commentary through the complex use of allegorical figures, such as the pilgrim and the questing knight. Both refuse to sever ethical concerns from the task of entertaining and amusing and are, in this sense, resistant to the influence of high Modernists. Moreover, by refusing to examine sensibility in isolation from external action, they explicitly repudiate the influences of Joyce, Woolf and Forster.

Two seminar presentations worth 10% each; class participation, 10%; 5,000-word term paper worth 70%.

Graham Greene: The Power and the Glory (1940); The Heart of the Matter (1948); The End of the Affair (1951); Our Man in Havana (1958); A Burnt-Out Case (1961); The Comedians (1966). Evelyn Waugh: Decline and Fall (1928); Vile Bodies (1930); A Handful of Dust (1934); Brideshead Revisited (1945); The Loved One (1948); Officers and Gentlemen (1955).

Tuesday 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Room 222, Faculty of Social Work, 246 Bloor Street West


This course investigates tragic and melodramatic attitudes that characterize much cultural-production of the Cold War period. We will read some of the numerous essays on tragedy, melodrama, and literary form produced during this period by authors such as Murray Krieger, Kenneth Burke, Sidney Hook, Northrop Frye, Arthur Miller, Robert Heilman, Raymond Williams, Mary McCarthy, and Susan Sontag. What are the defining features of tragedy? How does it differ from melodrama? What is the ideological significance of form and medium? To consider these questions we will also draw upon work by more recent scholars including Cynthia Ozick, Terry Eagleton, James Livingston, Rita Felski, Alan Nadel and others.

Seminar discussion: Informed participation (20%); One-page response papers (20%); Presentations (20%); Research Essay (40%).

Fiction may include J. D. Salinger’s stories (e.g., “Perfect Day for Bananafish”), Nabokov’s Lolita, Plath’s The Bell Jar, and Morrison’s Bluest Eye. Films may include All that Heaven Allows, Diary of Anne Frank, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Place in the Sun, The Heiress, From Here to Eternity, West Side Story, Death of a Salesman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Wednesday 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Room 614, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


This course imagines American poetry as following two paths, exemplified by Whitman and Dickinson respectively: the one, a path of encyclopedic impulse, formal expansion, rhetorical excess, heroic aspiration, prophetic claims, political designs, and epic intent; the other, a minimalism. For our purposes this latter path will take precedence, although how the two paths constantly cross and finally depend upon each other will be as much at issue as how they are different. In discussion we will place special emphasis on the following topics: 1) how the minimal/maximal binary is manifest in form; 2) how the small and the big have an analogous relationship to the one and the many, and thus how the terms have allowed American lyric to contribute to the democratic project or to imagine itself as having done so. Furthermore, we will consider the paradox of discussing lyric in terms of the maximal or America in terms of the minimal. The relevance of gender will also be treated. In addition to reading poems by the poets listed below, we will consider minimalism in music and the visual arts, paying special attention to the work of John Cage, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Richard Serra.

Components: 750-word close reading exercise (20%); Presentation (20%); Class Participation (10%); 16-20 page Research Essay (50%).

John Ashbery, "The New Spirit" and "The Skaters"; John Cage, Selections from Silence and Year From Monday; Robert Creeley, Selected Poems; Emily Dickinson, selections; Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish; H.D., selections; Langston Hughes, "Montage of a Dream Deferred"; Marianne Moore, Complete Poems; Charles Olson, selections from The Maximus Poems; George Oppen, Collected Poems; Ezra Pound, selections from The Cantos; Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World; Melvin Tolson, "Harlem Gallery"; Walt Whitman, selections from Leaves of Grass; William Carlos Williams, Spring and All. (Note: Some of these texts are subject to change.)

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


Seeking a term to describe J. M. Coetzee’s fiction, Derek Attridge chooses “neomodernism” over “late modernism” to signal a future rich in potentialities rather than a belated tail end. Using “neomodernism” thus to address the recent engagement of numerous contemporary novelists with the modernist era, this course will examine recent texts that draw upon, adapt, extend, or indeed recreate modernist narrative. Aspects to be investigated might include: non-boundaried and non-essentialist constructions of the self that nevertheless posit agency and responsibility; engagement of the “human” without a totalizing universalism; inclusion of emotion as a contact point; links between narrative and cognitive processes; self-reflexive reading practices; a fertile relation to the past; a challenging but non-coercive approach to ethical responsibility; a belief in the meaningfulness of art allied with a confrontation of failure. We will question to what extent recent novels establish a new modernism and offer as well a new reading of the old.

Research paper on history or theory (20%), seminar presentation and contributions (oral and on-line) to discussion (30%), major paper, including proposal and abstract (50%).

Some specific pairings: e.g. Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1915) with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1989); E. M. Forster’s Howards End (1910) with Zadie Smith’s On Beauty: A Novel (2005); Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) with Ian McEwan’s Saturday (2005). Other works that draw upon multiple modernist narratives /modernist rhetorical form and/or the modernist era: e.g. Susan Sellers's Vanessa and Virginia (2008); Colm Tóibín’s The Master (2004); Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001); a novel by J. M. Coetzee; Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home (2006). Secondary readings will include writings on narrative theory, and essays by current novelists on modernist works. While we will be reading at least three novels from the modernist period in the course, some prior knowledge of a few modernist novels most commonly taught at the undergraduate level (by writers such as James, Conrad, Forster, Joyce, Woolf, and Lawrence) would be helpful.

Wednesday 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


When asked about the recurrence of adultery and “sex without guilt” in her stories, Munro—without a trace of disingenuousness—explained that she found these subjects “interesting.” This seminar will explore her work because it is “interesting” in the deep manner in which Shakespeare and Joyce are interesting. An implication of this word is that our discussions will have no set ideological or methodological prism. They will centre on close readings of entire volumes (supplemented by other stories from the body of her work) with a view to the possibilities she creates in the short story form, among them the layering of stories within stories, transformed “epiphanies,” narrative pauses, and mortal and epistemological parentheses, Where possible, the seminar will also focus on the narrative ties between Munro’s fiction and stories by Hawthorne, Joyce, Beckett, and Trevor. Readings: Lives of Girls and Women, The Moons of Jupiter, The Progress of Love, Open Secrets, The Love of a Good Woman, and Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.

Monday 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


This course enters the debate about the nature, origins, and generic and cultural boundaries of Canadian modernist fiction. We will read a diverse selection of modern(ist) Canadian works, including several that have only recently been rediscovered. Our discussions will be informed by important critical statements on modernism in Canada and abroad, and we will consider and challenge some prominent readings and configurations of modern writing in Canada. We will also ask some important theoretical and canonical questions: Why have some of Canada’s most experimental modernist works been neglected by critics and readers? How have conceptions of Canadian modernism been shaped by various “schools” of Canadian literary criticism? Does Canada’s modernism differ significantly from European and American modernisms? Is modernism a useful concept in the Canadian context, or does our early twentieth-century fiction require a new theoretical paradigm?

Seminar / discussion format. Research paper (50%, 20 pp.), Critical Introduction (15%, 3-5 pp.), Seminar Presentation (25%), Participation (10%).

Hugh MacLennan, Two Solitudes; Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept; Sinclair Ross, As For Me and My House; Raymond Knister, Group Portrait (unpublished); Irene Baird, Waste Heritage (out of print); Jessie Georgina Sime, Our Little Life (out of print); Hugh MacLennan, So All Their Praises (unpublished); Bertram Brooker, Think of the Earth; a course package containing works of short fiction and critical readings selected by the professor.

Some previous study of Canadian and modernist fiction is recommended but not required.

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

G.  Clarke

This course will examine crucial, post-colonial dilemmas respecting the definition(s) and construction(s) of African Diasporic—or New World African—Literature, a body of texts foregrounding issues of orality, racial-gender-national identity formation, critical reception, ‘influence anxiety’, political ideologies, (non-) canonicity, ‘aesthetics’ vs. sociology, and ‘official’ vs. unofficial languages. Reading ‘classic’ texts as well as key critical essays, drawn from Canada, the US, and the Caribbean, we will examine the liberal/internationalist vs. black nationalist/Pan-Africanist conflicts constantly present within this literature.

The format will consist of seminar discussions. In addition, each student will present at least one short research paper for class discussion; a second research paper will be expected by the conclusion of the course. Class participation will account for 20% of the final grade.

We will address theoretical writings by Aimé, Césaire, Barbara Christian, G.E. Clarke, W.E.B. DuBois, Frantz Fanon, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Paul Gilroy, Edouard Glissant, C.L.R. James, Hortense Spillers, and Rinaldo Walcott; poetry by Dionne Brande, Aimé, Césaire, G.E. Clarke, Wayde Compton, Kwame Dawes, Rita Dove, M. Nourbese Philip, and Derek Walcott; fiction by Jan Carew, Maryse Condé, Darius James, Gayl Jones, Dany Laferriére, and Toni Morrison; essays by James Baldwin and M. NourbeSe Philip; drama by Aimé, Césaire, Lorraine Hansberry, and Djanet Sears; and a screenplay by James Baldwin. We will also eye films by Julie Dash, Sylvia Hamilton, Perry Henzell, Spike Lee, Stephen Spielberg, and Clement Virgo, and listen to samples of spirituals, blues, jazz, rap, reggae, calypso, and soca.

Tuesday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 257, University College

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