Department of English

University of Toronto

5000 Series 2011-2012


This course examines contemporary biomedical and aesthetic representations of what might best be termed pathological modes of forgetting. To a great extent, the theoretical context for this course is provided by philosopher Ian Hacking's observations concerning western culture's ongoing preoccupation with "the sciences of memory." Given current understandings of the modern self as a melding of memory and will the lack of sustained attention to the complex cultural meanings of pathological memory loss and of Alzheimer's, in particular, is a surprising oversight. Drawing on the research of scholars in the sciences and the social sciences, this course turns to literary and aesthetic discourses to analyze their formal structures as well as the political and ethical stakes involved in biomedical and aesthetic discourses that portray memory loss associated with illness. In our close readings of contemporary textual and filmic representations of memory loss-with an emphasis on Canadian works-we will consider the role played by the trope of irony (and, in the case of films based on literary texts, the process of adaptation). As anthropologist Michael Lambek observes, irony is central to representations of illness because irony "centres on the reconfiguration of a fundamental undecidability of agency and intention in (internal) psychological and (external) historico-material contexts" (3). Of concern is the extent to which and the reasons why the texts under consideration recognize or refuse irony.

Reading List:

We will discuss selections from the following primary texts as well as theoretical secondary sources: Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler Barney's Version (film dir. Richard J. Lewis) A History of Forgetting by Caroline Adderson Short Stories by Alice Munro She Went Away (film based on Alice Munro's "The Bear Went over the Mountain" dir. Sarah Polly) Memory Board by Jane Rule The Diviners by Margaret Laurence Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff Soucouyant by David Chariandy Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje The Echo Maker by Richard Powers Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

Course Requirements:
Each week students will be required to be prepared to answer orally a list of questions handed out the previous week (or sent to you via e-mail; students will also be asked to chose one question from the list and to write up a 1-2 page response (double spaced, 12 pt. font) that will be handed in at the end of each class-no late submissions will be accepted without permission of the professor. [One-page responses =5% of grade] 2. Each student is responsible for one seminar report to be presented orally (max. 15 min.). The report should, where appropriate, analyze the intersections between the theory and the fiction under consideration. A written version of the report is due the week following the oral presentation (max. 8 pages). [Oral presentation and response to questions from the class =0% of total grade; written version of seminar which, if necessary, can be revised in the light of questions and/or further research = 30% of final grade.] 3. There is one major research paper, which may develop out of your seminar but should include (theoretical and fiction) material not read on the course (max. 20 pages). [Research paper =5% of final grade].

Date & Time: Friday 1 – 3 pm
Room: JHB 617, Jackman Humanities Building

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Course Description:

This course is an intensive study of two great poets of the twentieth century, each of whom is one of a kind. We will read as much of their poetry as we can, keeping in mind that for an adequate understanding, the breadth with which we stretch ourselves across their oeuvres must be balanced by the depth with which we burrow into particular poems. Prose, in the form of letters, essays, and stories, will also be read for insight and for the sake of variety, but in this course the poems of Bishop and Moore are the main thing. Deep affinities are present between the two poets and these will doubtless present themselves, but their differences are just as crucial. The instructor is particularly interested in the status of place and of foreigness (geographical and existential) in Bishop's poems, and in the case of Moore, the interest is rather in the fine calibrations of value and taste. However, other interests and topics will not be disallowed in discussion, to say the least.


Elizabeth Bishop, Poems (FSG, 2011); Elizabeth Bishop, Prose (FSG, 2011)
Marianne Moore, The Poems of Marianne Moore, ed. Grace Schulman (Penguin, 2003)
Various links to and handouts of poetry and prose.

Course Requirements:

Participation (10%) Essay of 1000 words on a poem by Bishop or Moore (20%) Essay of 1000 words on a scholarly account of Bishop or Moore (20%) Final essay of 15-20 pages on a topic to be determined in consultation with the instructor (50%)

Date & Time: Tuesday 6 – 8* pm (NOTE: TIME CORRECTION) 
Room: JHB617, Jackman Humanities Building


The end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century saw the intertwining of literary realism and efforts to bring about a variety of social, political, and economic reforms in the United States.  We will investigate this intersection, considering the intellectual affinities of the two movements, what representational strategies constitute "realism," and what effects ideas of reform have on theories of represention, literary and political.


Primary texts may include Henry James, The Bostonians; Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives; William Dean Howells, A Hazard of New Fortunes; Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets; Abraham Cahan, Yekl; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition; Zitkala-Sa, American Indian Stories; Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth; Upton Sinclair, The Jungle; James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man; Mary Antin, The Promised Land; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland.

Some familiarity with slave narratives and Haririet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, is desirable.

Date/Time: Wednesday, 1-3pm.
Room: JHB 617, Jackman Humanities Building


Modernism might be defined by radical formal experimentation in the arts as much as by uncanny new perceptual experiences in everyday life: the severing of voice and body on telephone wires, the crackle of phonograph recordings that made dead voices speak again, the "annihilation of time and space" on high-speed railway journeys. This course offers a reading of major works of literary and theatrical modernism through the crises--and euphoria--surrounding the emergence of new optical and sonic media (primarily film and radio), and the wild array of strategies that artists in established media (fiction and drama) developed to resist, incorporate, and critique the screens, transmitters, and inscription devices of mass culture. While we will focus primarily on questions of mediation and immediacy, other topics will include: theories of absorption and estrangement; machine logic vs. human desire; the purity or impurity of media boundaries; liveness and presence; the modernist crowd; the ethics of mediation; apocalyptic techno-mythologies; the genres (comedy, satire, tragedy) most frequently used to represent media transition; points of contact between primitivist ritual and mechanized man; democratic and anti-democratic attitudes in the arts.

New Course Reading List: The course will comprise three groups of readings. We will examine nineteenth-century treatises on the mediation of perception (Goethe, Helmholtz, Baudelaire, Ruskin, Wagner) as well as scholarly accounts of how new technological developments formed the modernist sensorium (Williams, Kenner, Kittler, Crary, Gunning, Bolter and Grusin, Gitelman, Wollaeger). Most of our time, however, will be dedicated to case studies of modernist novelists and playwrights: Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Eugene O'Neill, Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett.

New Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements: Seminar Presentation (15%); Three Response Papers (30%); Final Paper (45%); Participation (10%)

Time & Date: Thursday, 1 – 4 pm
Room: JHB 616, Jackman Humanities Building


Course Description:

American Pastoral will delve into the American fascination with the natural landscape and re-read canonical (and not so familiar) works of American literature in light of our contemporary environmental crisis. Through poetry, essays, fiction and film, as well as key works of environmental criticism, we will examine how American writers have used the land for literary purposes, and how changing attitudes towards the natural environment have shaped the contours of the American literary tradition.

Reading List:

Primary Texts such as: Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer; Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia; Thoreau, Walden; Emerson, "Nature" and "Self-Reliance;" Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Cather, O Pioneers; Griffith, Child of the Ghetto; Wilder, On the Banks of Plum Creek; Frost, Selected Poems; Roth, "Goodbye, Columbus"; Carson, Silent Spring; Morrison, Beloved; Gore, An Inconvenient Truth; Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma; Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Secondary readings will be drawn from texts such as Marx, Machine in the Garden; Williams, The Country and the City; Glotfelty and Fromm, The Ecocriticism Reader; and Buell, The Environmental Imagination and Writing for an Endangered World.

Course Requirements:

Seminar Presentation (30%), Weekly Discussion Board responses and in-class discussion (20%), Final Essay (50%).

Date & Time: Tuesday 2 – 4 pm
Room: JHB 617, Jackman Humanities Building


Course Description:

As the election-year proposal for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage makes clear, these are charged times for the politics of conjugality. But what is the pre-history of this current debate? How does the marriage contract relate to the social contract? Is the contractual relation a democratic ideal? What is the fantasy of contractualism and what continues to trouble this fantasy? This course will look at selected moments in American literary history from the American Revolution to the present. The emphasis of our inquiry will be theoretical rather than historical, as we will attempt to articulate a political philosophy of marriage. We will read Charles Brockden Brown with selections from William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, Nathaniel Hawthorne with Charles Fourier, Edith Wharton with Frederick Engels, and Carson McCullers with Charles Mills’ The Racial Contract. Topics for discussion will include marriage and the state, radicalism in relationship to marriage and anti-marriage, the sovereignty of the individual and anthropological and deconstructive considerations of the contract and the gift.

Course Requirements:

Seminar participation (20%); presentation(s) (20%); abstract (10%); research paper (50%).

Readings may include: Charles Brockden Brown, Alcuin and Ormond; Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance; Edith Wharton, Summer; Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café; Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Charles Fourier, Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction; Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and The State; John F. McLennan, Primitive Marriage; Charles Mills, The Racial Contract.

No pre-requisites, but some familiarity with American literature and literary theory preferred.

Time & Date: Tuesday 4 – 6 pm
Room: JHB 718, Jackman Humanities Building



Course Description:

The objective of this course is to examine the specific challenges of constructing a literary history for South Asian writing in English. The absence of literary histories that relate to individual nations within the region will serve as a starting point to discuss the ostensible disconnect between socio-political histories and literary representation in English that impedes the construction of a coherent literary history. Using several texts from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, this course will argue that in addition to writing national literary histories, there is a need to explore the possibility of a literary history that embraces the region as a whole. We will undertake a close reading of several texts and critical essays in order to suggest the possibility of understanding South Asian literature within the broad framework of a literary history that positions literature as both artifice and socio-political narrative.

Reading List:

Raja Rao, Kanthapura Anita Desai, Clear Light of Day Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide Rushdie, Shame Michael Ondaatje, Anil's Ghost A selection of poems and critical essays Please check with the Bob Miller Book Room before purchasing texts

Date & Time: Wednesday 3 – 5 pm
Room: Larkin 340


One of the world's most vibrant diasporic literatures, 'black' writing from Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States stands at the crux of issues of slavery versus liberty, modernity versus 'primitivism,' political consciousness versus 'art-for-art's-sake,' and the matter of orality (music) versus text. We will explore these questions via readings of critics like Du Bois, Fanon, Gates, and Gilroy and readings of writers like Morrison, A. Clarke, X, Obama, and Walcott.

Date & Time: Tuesday, 11 am – 1 pm
Room: UC 248,  University College


Joyce's biographer, Richard Ellmann, once remarked "we are still learning to be Joyce's contemporaries." It's an observation Joyce might well have been pleased to hear if we judge from this note he sent to his publisher in an effort to get his first work, Dubliners, published: "I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by, preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass." A character in Ulysses remarks, "Shakespeare is the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance". In a similar manner, Joyce's fiction has been the happy hunting ground of literary critics and theorists seeking to maintain their balance. No literary theory of the past 50 years has failed to touch down at some point on Joyce's work. As a result it is sometimes difficult to approach the fiction as something other than a paradigm of any number of methodologies. This seminar will not entirely avoid that fate, and student seminar presentations/discussions will be designed to interrogate the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches, and yet our primary question will be what did Joyce think he was doing in writing these stories and novels, and what does he appear to have accomplished in doing so? Orienting one's reading of a text through authorial intention has always been a problematic approach to say the least, and yet Joyce went out of his way, time and time again, to present himself as someone on a mission, someone who must not be stopped unless we seek "to retard the course of civilisation". His character Stephen Dedalus is no less messianic: "I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race." Youthful hubris? Probably. But, given what Joyce accomplished, also pretty much on the mark. Accordingly, while we will encounter and review all the major approaches in this seminar, we will also maintain an interest throughout in "the reality of experience" Stephen set out to encounter, especially as it pertains to the formation of an aesthetic that would become modernism --an aesthetic forged, in large part, in the "smithy" of what we now call modernity. More specifically, this "smithy" included the rise of advertising and commodity culture, the birth of a new Art form (cinema), and the corresponding explosion of form and content in futurism, dadaism surrealism, and impressionism.
The texts for Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a young Man and Ulysses will be ordered at the Bob Miller bookstore. A packet will be prepared with selections gleaned from the bibliography below.

Reading List:
BIBLIOGRAPHY I. MODERNITY Berman, Marshall. All that is solid melts into air: the experience of modernity. 1987. Charney, Leo. Cinema and the invention of modern life. Felski, Rita. The gender of modernity Fornäs , Johan. Consuming media: communication, shopping and everyday life. 2007. Gillespie, Michael Allen. The theological origins of modernity. Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, 1995. Jameson, Fredric. A singular modernity: essay on the ontology of the present. 2002. Misa, Thomas J. Modernity and Technology. Smart, Barry. ¬Facing modernity: ambivalence, reflexivity and morality, 1999 ---------------- II. JAMES JOYCE Attridge, Derek. The Cambridge companion to James Joyce Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959) Herr, Cheryl. Joyce's Anatomy of Culture Joyce, Stanislaus. My Brother's Keeper: James Joyce's Early Years Kershner, R.B. Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature: Chronicles of Disorder Leonard, Garry. Advertising and commodity culture in Joyce. ------------------. Reading Dubliners again: a Lacanian perspective North, Michael. Reading 1922: A Return to the Scene of the Modern III. MODERNISM: Armstrong, Tim. Modernism: a cultural history Caws, Mary Ann. Manifesto: a century of isms Caughie, Pamela L. Disciplining Modernism. Kolocoroni, Vassiliki. Modernism: an anthology of sources and documents Levenson, Michael Harry. The Cambridge companion to modernism Nicholls, Peter. Modernisms: a literary guide Whitworth, Michael H. Modernism.

Course Requirements:
10 % Participation (weekly two page position papers) 20% Twenty Minute Presentations followed by student-led discussion 70% Final essay. 20 pages.

Date & Time: Friday 9 am – 12 pm
Room: JHB 718, Jackman Humanities Building

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