Department of English

University of Toronto

6000 Series 2009-10

Graduate Courses - 2009 - 2010 Winter Session, 6000 Series


Biography is today arguably the only form of writing in which academic and popular interests coincide, and the branch of it that deals with the lives of writers is its surprising star turn. An inherently conservative genre, literary biography has nevertheless had its share of experiments and controversises. This course aims to introduce the major works in English together with the historical, theoretical, and practical problems that they raise.
Biographies are long and half-courses are short. In order to cover a reasonable range of primary texts, we will engage in sampling: readings will consist of sections or chapters from major biographies together with a small number of critical articles. Each member of the seminar will be responsible for reading one of the biographies unabridged, however, and for reporting on a critical article.

Evaluation is based on informed participation (15%), two seminar presentations (10% + 15%), a proposal and bibliography (10%), and a final essay of conference-paper length (50%).

Primary texts include works by Johnson, Boswell, Godwin, Gaskell, Edel, Schoenbaum, Holmes, Barnes.

Friday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


What is the relationship of a text to its reader, or between an author and the reader? Although this question has been posed since well before the early modern period, in this course we will focus on modernist and poststructuralist theories of the reading subject. We will not favor one theory over another; instead, we will consider the variety of available theoretical approaches to the reading subject as tools appropriate to specific epistemological, hermeneutic, or political operations. Whether we are examining Fish’s notion of the interpretive community, Deleuzian models of the masochistic viewer, or Silverman’s semiotics of the subject, we will bear in mind that the choice of an analytical approach to a text or group of texts—or even the naming of an object as a text—is in itself an argument about the social and material relations that obtain around the act of reading. We will ground this engagement with theory in the reading of cinematic texts, from Lois Weber’s Suspense (1913), to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), to Claire Denis’s Beau Travail (1999), to Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy (2005). In speaking of the cinema, we will necessarily consider whether models of the author/reader, author/discourse, or author/community, etc., apply to film and to the viewing subject, or whether other models of visual or material practice are more appropriate.

One presentation, with accompanying short essay (30%). Class participation [comprised of attendance and active and constructive participation in discussion] (20%). One final paper of approximately 20-30 pp. (50%).

Wednesday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. & Thursday 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Room 223, Innis College


Using the tools of analytical bibliography, this course will study the printed book, from the fifteenth century to today, as a physical object, with the aim of uncovering aspects of its composition and manufacture that impinge upon literary interpretation. The University of Toronto has extensive holdings of rare printed books from all periods and students will be able to base their projects on works from any of them.

Classes will be conducted in the U of T's rare-book libraries. The class will meet once a week as a group, and there will be weekly meetings one on one with the instructor.

Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography

Monday 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Room 330, University College


A survey of diasporic Englishes, with strong emphases on lexicon, morphology, syntactical structure, and pronunciation in their distinctness from "standard English". Attention will be given to the historical and cultural circumstances that have informed these transformations. While we survey specific developments (such as, for instance, Englishes in Scotland, Canada, the Caribbean, India, and on the internet), these varieties will illustrate more general developments and dynamics of language variation in the diaspora. General topics may include concepts and terms for describing language; language contact and language change; pidgins and Creoles; the use of English as a primary language, and official second language, and an international language; globalization; language planning; issues pertaining to the codification and teaching of 'non-standard' Englishes; the dynamics of the Creole continuum and of language-mixing in literary and non-literary texts.

This is an introductory course. Informal lectures will be complemented by brief individual and/or group reports on (30%) and intelligent discussion of (10%) the week's sociolinguistic topics. A proposal and classified/annotated bibliography (10%) and a class taught (20%) on the subject of your final research paper (30%), written on a topic of relevance to your own interests.

Primary Texts: Literary and non-literary texts (TBA) will illustrate lectures and seminars.

Secondary Texts: A course reader will supplement reference works and a textbook such as Edgar W. Schneider’s Postcolonial English: Varieties around the World (Cambridge UP, 2007). Your predecessors’ projects are available online at

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

*Please note: change of room

T.  YU 


What are the implications of pluralistic thinking for both the experience and the expression of identity in the United States? This course considers the way in which ideas of pluralism both shaped and were shaped by a variety of expressive forms at the beginning of the twentieth century. We will investigate the ways in which pluralism was constituted and contested through writing; in the process, we will also consider the ways in which pluralism continues to inform current critical and expressive practices.

Seminar presentation (35%), Paper (50%), Participation (15%).

William James, A Pluralistic Universe; W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk; Henry James, The American Scene; Gertrude Stein, Three Lives; Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton), “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of a Eurasian”; Janes Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House; Mary Antin, The Promised Land; Horace Kallen, “Democracy Versus the Melting Pot”; Randolph Bourne, “Transnational America”; Abraham Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky; Jean Toomer, Cane; Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time; Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop.

Tuesday 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


This course considers what it means to theorize subjective singularity – what was more traditionally called “personality” or “character” – from a specifically phenomenological and psychoanalytic perspective. The course begins from the premise that the human subject is not born into the world with a fully formed self, but must, to the best of its ability, fashion a distinctive identity and mode of inhabiting the world. It goes on to ask how we might talk about this process of self-constitution in the contemporary context, in the aftermath of poststructuralist challenges to subjectivity and agency? Themes include subjective idiosyncrasy; the quest for authenticity; the relationship between signification and singularity; the body; creativity; self-narrativization; psychic trauma; the attempt to ethically relate to the other as a separate, autonomous subject; and the possibility that what is most singular about human beings is often also what is most unknowable and indecipherable about them

Seminar participation 15%; Paper proposal 15%; In-class presentation 20%; 20-page final paper 50%.

Authors studied include Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, Irigaray, Zizek, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, Eric Santner, and Alenka Zupancic. Specific selections to be determined.

Tuesday 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Room 255, University College


What would be the effects within cultural studies, critical theory, and literary studies of theorizing the nonhuman animal as a subject category that is not separated from other subject categories by speciesist distinctions? What are the consequences of adding ‘species’ to race, class, gender and sexuality as an equivalent identity category? Is the preoccupation with the mobile species boundary ‘human’/‘animal,’ a principally Euro-Western one? What are the ethico-discursive consequences of drawing parallels between the subjection of nonhuman animals and that of particular groups of human animals? Indeed, should we talk of ‘animal genocide’ as Derrida does? If the ‘animal’ is an interpretive decision that has metaphysical, ethical, juridical and political consequences, how is it possible to name, or even to think, ‘the animal’ (e.g. Derrida’s ‘l’animot’)?

We will tackle these and other questions through close readings of contemporary texts (theory, fiction, documentary, autobiography), in order to approach what Derrida has called ‘the philosophical problematic of the animal.’

In-class review, conference presentation, research paper, participation.

Reading: Theoretical: Giorgio Agamben, The Open. Man and Animal; J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals; Jacques Derrida, ‘The animal that therefore I am (more to follow)’; Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women. The Reinvention of Nature.

Fictional: J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace; Yann Martel, Life of Pi.

Documentary/Autobiographical: Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man; Timothy Treadwell, Among Grizzlies.

Wednesday 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Room 248, University College


O.W. Holmes:  “The life of the law has not been logic but experience.”
O.Wilde:  “Experience is the name we give to our past mistakes.”

Each week we will read several articles, along with several short stories and novels during the term. We will begin with a consideration of some of the questions and criticisms that scholars have recently raised as they have sought to justify or reorient the field. We will then look at some of the specific problems connecting law and literature at various points since the Renaissance. After a more intensive look at current theoretical debates, we will take up various problems at the intersection of law and literature: legal fictions, forms of legal writing and explanation, and the regulation of literature through copyright law. Next we will focus on two legal problems that have also occupied literary thinkers: the problem of criminal responsibility and literature’s ability to document human thought and motives, and the question of privacy in criminal law, tort law, and fiction. We will end by considering possible future directions for law and literature. The course requirements will include a final paper and two or three response papers for presentation in class.

Two or three one to two page comments on issues or works of fiction discussed in class (cumulatively 20%), class participation (20%), and a term paper roughly 15 pages in length (60%). Students may fulfil both the Supervised Upper Year Research Paper and Perspective paper requirements in this course.

Each unit includes some required readings and a number of suggested sources for students who are interested in doing further research in a particular area.

Some of the questions we will discuss include: How does literature use or respond to legal structures, themes, and analytical techniques, and vice versa? How does literature portray legal institutions and processes? What can literature bring to the performance of legal tasks, including legal narrative? To what extent can literary critical accounts of narrative structure and coherence explain the role of narrative in law, and where do these accounts fall short? What is achieved and what is missed by positing literature as law’s “other” (e.g., as the imaginative and ethical alternative to legal rules and constraints)?

Date and Time:  M4:10 pm - 6pm
Room FA2,  Flavelle House


In The Politics of the Aesthetic Jacques Rancière defines the aesthetic as “a delimitation of spaces and times, of the visible and the invisible, of speech and noise, that simultaneously determines the place and the stakes of politics as a form of experience,” by which he means that artistic practices, at their given moment of emergence, carve out the places and forms of political participation, and that they do so by bringing into being the modes of perception through which these places and forms can be understood. Taking up claims such as Rancière’s, this course will engage the much-debated relation of aesthetics to politics and ask how aesthetic production and political action might, or might not, inhere within one another. Such an inquiry will involve reading through some foundational arguments about aesthetics from the 18th and 19th centuries (by Burke, Kant, and Hegel for example). We will then proceed to established versions of the critique of the aesthetic within Marxist and poststructuralist schools of thought. Finally, we will discuss recent accounts of aesthetics and politics within feminist theory, queer theory, and the “new formalism.”

Seminar participation (25%), presentation (15%), abstract (15%), final research paper (45%).

Kant, Hegel, Burke, Marx, Eagleton, De Man, Lukács, Brecht, Benjamin, Kracauer, Adorno, Jameson, Wolff, Rancière, Cvetkovich, Dinshaw, Jagose, Brown, Irigary, Felski, Grosz, and more.

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

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