Department of English

University of Toronto

6000 Series Graduate Course Descriptions


Bad Feelings: Between Affect Theory and Psychoanalysis
M. Ruti

During the last decade, in part because of the rapid rise of affect theory, bad feelings - such as mourning, depression, anxiety, disenchantment, loneliness, remorse, and anger - have become one of the central themes of contemporary theory. This course cuts a path through this complex critical terrain in three steps. First, we read three groundbreaking texts in affect theory: Sianne Ngai's Ugly Feelings, Heather Love's Feeling Backward, and Sara Ahmed's Willful Subjects. Second, we explore recent psychoanalytic accounts of nonsovereignty, cruel optimism, trauma, and the general malaise generated by neoliberal capitalism: Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman's Sex, or the Unbearable, Margaret Crastnopol's Micro-Trauma, and Todd McGowan's Capitalism and Desire. The course concludes with three works of "autotheory" that explore negative affects: Roland Barthes's The Neutral, Ann Cvetkovich's Depression, and Maggie Nelson's Argonauts. Our focus throughout will be on bad feelings as an everyday experience, the aesthetic potential of negative affects, and the relationship between the personal and the theoretical.

Course Reading List
Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings; Heather Love, Feeling Backward; Sara Ahmed, Willful Subjects; Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, Sex, or the Unbearable; Margaret Crastnopol, Micro-Trauma; Todd McGowan, Capitalism and Desire; Roland Barthes, The Neutral; Ann Cvetkovich, Depression; Maggie Nelson, Argonauts

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements
Seminar participation, 20%; paper proposal, 20%; final 20-page paper, 60%

2 hours 

Embodiment in a Virtual Age

Course Description:  
This course examines contemporary theories of embodiment with an emphasis on Affect Theory and recent studies of Embodied Cognition to analyze the significance of bodily sensation, experience and cognition in a selection of Canadian literary and filmic texts.

Course Reading List:
1. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth, eds. The Affect Theory Reader. Duke UP, 2010 2. Gershen Kaufman. Shame: The Power of Caring. Cambridge, Mass., 1980 3. Lawrence Shapiro. Embodied Cognition. London: Routledge, 2011. 4. Selected stories by Alice Munro 5. Madeleine Thien. Simple Recipes: Stories. Toronto: M&S, 2001. 6. M. Atwood. Bodily Harm. Toronto: M&S, 1981. 7. K. Connelly. Burmese Lessons. Toronto: Random House, 2009.

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:  
1. 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 choose 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 = 15% 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 = 10% 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 = 45% of final grade].

Term: F -Term (Fall Term: September - December 2016)
Date/Time:  Friday,  9:00 am - 11:00am,  2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2016-2017 Graduate Course Timetable

Reading Walter Benjamin
S. Salih

Course Description
Interest in Walter Benjamin has continued to grow during the last few decades or so. His most recent biographers call him “one of the most important witnesses to European modernity,” and they acknowledge the “thousands who have studied and drawn inspiration from his life and thought over the last sixty years” (Eiland and Jennings, 2014, 11). The massive Arcades Project appeared in English in 1999, and it was preceded by Susan Buck-Morss’ The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, a self-styled “picture-book of philosophy” that draws from Benjamin’s Arcades fragments. During this course, we will engage with Benjaminian thought and method through careful close-readings of his essays and fragments. We will also engage with readings of and responses to Benjamin’s ideas (e.g. Agamben, Arendt, Adorno, Habermas) in order to get a sense of the reach and influence of this key twentieth-century thinker.

Course Reading List
Theodor Adorno et al., Aesthetics and Politics; Giorgio Agamben,”The Question of Method in Adorno and Benjamin”; Hannah Arendt, “Walter Benjamin”; Walter Benjamin, Illuminations; Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings; Selected Writings (4 vols.); The Arcades Project; Jurgen Habermas, “Walter Benjamin: Consciousness-raising or Rescuing Critique”. 

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements
In-class presentation, abstract, essay, conference paper.

Term: F-Term (Fall Term:  September - December 2016)
Date/Time: Monday, 12:00pm- 2:00pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2016-2017 Graduate Course Timetable

D. Seitler 

Course Description
This course sets out to query collectivity.  We will read theories of collectivity, community, and sociality, and we will explore literature from the perspective of its collective forms and formations.  The project of the seminar is to think both historically and theoretically about the ontology of social forms and how literature can act as site, mediator, and antagonism of these forms. We will consider literature particular to these kinds of formations (the manifesto, the pamphlet, the ‘zine, the collective novel, the short story collection) and we will engage debates about the relations between aesthetics and politics.  From Walt Whitman, whose cruising and shape-shifting activities are metonymic for democracy, to the complaint that erotics are what gives the lie to sociability, as is the case with Nathaniel Hawthorne in texts like Blithedale Romance or with the “anti-social” politics attributed to Leo Bersani or Lee Edelman, this class will grapple with how, why, and where we might locate and think through the problems of the collective. Students will read poetry and fiction by Whitman, Hawthorne, Jewett, Barnes, James, Stein, and others, and read theory by Michael Warner, Miranda Joseph, Jean Luc Nancy, Leo Bersani, Melanie Klein, Jose Muñoz, Karen Barad, and others.

Course Reading List

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements
Seminar presentation (20%), abstract (15%), participation (20%), final research paper (45%).

Term: S -Term (Spring Term: January - April 2017)
Date/Time:  Thursday,  1:00am - 3:00pm,  2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2016-2017 Graduate Course Timetable.

History and Structure of the English Language, post-1500
C. Percy

Course Description
No prerequisite is required for this course, which surveys the linguistic and cultural history of the English language from the late fifteenth century until the present day. In lectures and brief reports, we will identify representative developments in vocabulary, spelling, grammar, pronunciation, and the codification of English in dictionaries and grammars. Themes for research papers and seminar discussion can include the processes and implications of the standardization and codification of English; the functions of English, French, and Latin in and beyond Britain; pidgins and creoles; language and imperialism; the literary use of English (standard and non-standard varieties) by native and non-native speakers; the linguistic effects of printing, news media, the internet, and technology generally.

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements
• (40%) Best 4 of 7 reports (due the day before class)
• 10%, A proposal and bibliography (‘classified’ by subtopic but not ‘annotated’ – see some of the final projects)
• 15%, second half of term) A 20 minute presentation and 10 minute discussion in class
• (30%) The final article, composed as if for web presentation
• Class participation grade (5%)

Term: S-Term (Spring Term: January - April 2017)
Date/Time: Tuesday, 11:00am - 1:00pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2016-2017 Graduate Course Timetable

Psychogeography and the Mapping of Literary Space
S. Radović

Course Description
First proposed by Guy Debord in his 1955 essay “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” the term “psychogeography” is defined as “the study of the specific effects (and affects) of the built environment (intended or not) on the emotions and actions of individuals” (Buchanan, Oxford Dictionary of Critical Theory, 2010, pp. 390-91). As an impulse to experience urban spaces in radically new and imaginative ways, the concept “psychogeography” will guide our inquiry into the ways contemporary literature seeks to diagnose and re-imagine actual space. We will focus on selected 20th and 21st century fiction and non-fiction that explore the effects of spatial perception on the individual and communal psyche. Our aim is to examine the way imagined and, in some cases, even hallucinated spaces reflect the contemporary problems of spatial surveillance, control and dispossession while at the same time revealing the need and strategies of ordinary users to overcome their spatial alienation and reclaim their environment.

Course Reading List
“Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography” (Guy Debord), “Formulary for a New Urbanism” (Ivan Chtcheglov), “Of Other Spaces” (Michel Foucault), The Production of Space (Henri Lefebvre), “Terrain Vague” (Ignacio de Sola-Morales), The Politics of Public Space (Setha Low and Neil Smith, eds.), The Architectural Uncanny (Anthony Vidler), Metropolis on the Styx (David L. Pike), The Poetics of Space (Gaston Bachelard), Non-Places (Marc Augé), Explore Everything (Bradley L. Garrett), King Rat (China Mieville), The New York Trilogy (Paul Auster), Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), The House of Sand and Fog (Andre Dubus III), Kindred (Octavia Butler), Shining (Stephen King)

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements
Seminar discussions, reading responses, oral presentations, written assignment (final essay)

Term: F-Term (Fall Term:  September - December 2016)
Date/Time: Friday, 11:00am- 1:00pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2016-2017 Graduate Course Timetable.  

Law and Literature
S. Stern

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.”

Course Description
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.

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:

Two or three one- to two-page comment papers on assigned readings (to be used in class discussions of those readings) (cumulatively 20%); class participation (measured by regular attendance and contribution to class discussion) (20%); and a term paper of about 15 pages, on a topic to be approved in advance (60%).

Term: F-Term (Fall Term:  September - December 2016)
Date/Time: Monday, 4:00pm- 6:00pm, 2 hours
Location: Room J230 (New Faculty of Law Bldg., 78 Queen's Park)

Top of Page
Return to 2016-2017 Graduate Course Timetable

Return to Graduate Courses main page.

Site Information:

Site Tools:

Click below for directions to the University of Toronto!

University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Map of St. George Campus
Map of Mississauga Campus
Map of Scarborough Campus