Department of English

University of Toronto

5000 Series Course Descriptions

#BlackLivesMatter: Contemporary Black Canadian Literature
K. Vernon 

Course Description:  
In this course we focus on contemporary black Canadian literature in order to illuminate the current context of black life and political  struggle in Canada. We will read a selection of generically-diverse work by contemporary black Canadian writers, including short stories, poetry, drama, fantasy, historical fiction, and cultural criticism that brings forward a range of histories and contexts that are all too often left out of media representations of black Canadian life. Writing by contemporary authors reveals how histories of slavery, dispossession, erasure and rebellion continue to be alive and part of the present, structuring our social relations still. This work opens up a broad field of inquiry. We will turn our attention to such questions as: how are writers reimagining the place of blackness within and without Canada? How are black writers transforming the meanings of blackness by reframing dominant imaginings of black history, intellectual life and sexuality? What role does art play in black political movements? What political alliances can we form with Indigenous nations in the collective struggle to decolonize? Finally, and most importantly, how do contemporary black Canadian writers imagine worlds that broaden the horizon of black freedom?

Course Reading List:
Primary Texts (subject to change):
Austin Clarke, selected short stories
Dionne Brand, Land to Light On (1997)
Lorena Gale, Angelique (1998)
Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)
George Elliott Clarke, George and Rue (2005)
Lawrence Hill, The Book of Negroes (2007)
NourbeSe Philip, Zong! (2008)
Cecily Nicholson, From The Poplars (2014)
Wayde Compton, The Outer Harbour (2015)

Critical Material (subject to change):
Frontiers: Selected Essays and Writings on Racism and Culture 1984-1992. NourbeSe Philip (1992)
We're Rooted Here & They Can't Pull Us Up. P. Bristow, L. Carty, A. Cooper, S. Hamilton, A. Shadd (1994)
A Map to the Door of No Return. Dionne Brand (2001)
Black Like Who? Rinaldo Walcott (1997)
Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature. George Elliott Clarke (2002)
Black Geographies and the Politics of Place. Katherine McKittrick (Editor), Clyde Woods (2007)
After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing and Region. Wayde Compton (2010)

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Reader Responses (25%); Participation (10%); Conference-Length Presentation (30%); Article-Length Paper (35%).

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time: Wednesdays, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

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The Child at the Social Limit in Contemporary American Fiction 
N. Morgenstern

Course Description:
This course will consider representations of liminal or “wild” childhood in contemporary American fiction , psychoanalysis and philosophy. Is the child merely a proto-adult, temporarily lacking in the requirements of full citizenship and full responsibility, or does childhood name a constitutive and irreducible dimension of human being? What is the relationship among human rights, animal rights, and the rights of the child? How have changing relationships to parenthood and to the ethics of reproduction affected narrative representations of the parent-child relationship? This course will read recent critical writing on the figure of the child and the politics of reproduction as well as novels and films depicting children and their guardians in states of ethical and existential crisis. Topics for consideration will include the history of the figure of the child and childhood in the West, psychoanalysis and the child, queer theory and the child, protective parenting and the ethics of reproduction (reproduction and environmental crisis, the politics of transnational adoption and global surrogacy), the enduring and shifting function of the maternal and the paternal, children’s rights.

Course Reading List:
Readings will include: Rousseau, Émile; Kant, A Treatise on Education; Ruddick, Maternal Thinking; Arendt, “The Crisis in Education,” Winnicott, Playing and Reality; Solomon, Far From The Tree; Edelman, No Future; Stockton, The Queer Child; Bhaba, “The Child –What Sort of Human?”; Guenther, The Gift of the Other; Overall, Why Have Children? The Ethical Debate; Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am; Morrison, A Mercy ; Donoghue, Room; McCarthy, The Road; Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin; Vann, Legend of a Suicide; McAdam, A Beautiful Truth; Roth, American Pastoral; Bechdel, Are You My Mother?; Jonze (dir.), Where the Wild Things Are; Villeneuve (dir.) Prisoners

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Seminar Participation (20%); Oral Presentation (20%); Final Essay (60%).

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time: Thursdays, 9:00 am - 11:00 am, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

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Pathological Forgetting In Canadian Literature
M. Goldman

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Settler Colonialism and U.S. Literary Studies
M. Gniadek 

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Liberalism, Community, and American Literature
N. Dolan

Course Description:
Liberalism is virtually synonymous with modernity. Liberal principles, institutions, economic structures, and especially liberalism’s distinctively individualist conception of human selfhood shape every facet of modern life over a large and ever-increasing portion of the globe. As such, liberalism is an indispensable context for the study of modern literature. This course aims to provide an advanced introduction to the theory and history of liberalism with an eye towards how this bears on literary expression and interpretation.

Course Reading List:
Course Texts will all be available at Bob Miller Book Room, 180 Bloor St. W.

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
One presentation (25%) and one term paper of 25pp. (75%) will be required.  For the presentation the student will be asked to read a significant secondary work on liberalism not included in the course reading and make a brief, informative contribution to our collective body of reference.   For the term paper the student will be asked to discuss a literary work or works of his/her own choosing in relation to liberal theory and/or history.  Alternatively, students may choose to analyze a work of liberal theory as a literary text. 

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time: Wednesdays, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street) (NB: the class on Wednesday, November 15, 2017, from 1-3pm is relocated to room JHB 718 for the day)

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Energy and Economy in the American Renaissance
A. Ackerman

Course Description
The development of a carbon-based economy in the nineteenth century radically changed both society and the physical world. Energy was at the center of these changes, literally and figuratively. In this historical context, the words "economy" and "energy" are centrally and inextricably interrelated, but what values do they connote, and where did those values come from? This seminar focuses on major American writers of the mid-nineteenth century. Each reflects on the meanings of these core concepts at a hinge moment in history, between 1845 and 1865. "Life," Emerson wrote, "is a search after power." Whitman sings the body electric. Melville's Moby-Dick centers on the American whaling industry, shortly before whale oil was displaced by petroleum as a power source. Thoreau reconceptualises the meaning of "Economy," the title of the first chapter of Walden. We will read these authors and others in relation to ecological and economic thinking of their period and ours. Drawing on the field of ecocritism, the course adapts F. O. Matthiessen's term American Renaissance to the context of ecopoetics and the new interdisciplinary subfield of "Energy Humanities."  

Course Reading List
Texts available at The Bob Miller Book Room, 180 Bloor St. W.:
• Thoreau, Walden (Dover)
• Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855) (Penguin)
• Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (Penguin)
• Melville, Moby-Dick (Penguin)
All other required texts are available on Blackboard, Course Reserves at Robarts Library, and/or through & (excellent site for low-cost used books)

Books on Course Reserve:
1. F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman
2. Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things
3. Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden : Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America
4. Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination : Thoreau, nature writing, and the formation of American culture
5. Lawrence Buell, Writing for an endangered world: literature, culture, and environment in the U.S. and beyond (also electronic resource)
6. Paul Outka, Race and Nature from Transcendentalism to the Harlem Renaissance
7. Andrew Delbanco, Melville: His World and Work
8. Paul Gilmore, Aesthetic Materialism: Electricity and American Romanticism
9. Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origin of Capitalism : a longer view
10. Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Walden
11. Laura Dassow Walls, Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science
12. David Robinson, Emerson and the Conduct of Life
13. Neal Dolan, Emerson's Liberalism (also electronic resource)
14. Angus Fletcher, A New Theory for American Poetry
15. Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:
• Informed participation (20%):
• In-class discussion is a vital aspect of the seminar and will be evaluated on basis of quality and quantity.
• On-line discussion: Each week, topics or questions will be posted on Blackboard to serve as a springboard for discussion. Half the class will begin the discussion by posting short (500-word max.) responses to the readings on the Monday prior to that Wednesday's seminar. The other half of the class will respond to a point of interest in the first set of posts no later than 5:00 PM on the Tuesday preceding class. Students will alternate roles each week.
• Book Reports (15%): Each student will be responsible for reading in full one of the books listed on the syllabus and giving a 10-minute summary of the material for the class. Book reports will be accompanied by at least two pages of key quotations from the text to be circulated in hard copy in class and on Blackboard.
• Presentations (25%): Each student will make one presentation on a significant historical occurrence or aspect of material culture (e.g., fuel source, economic news, scientific discovery, invention, technological advance, public debate) contemporary with that week's reading and explain how it enables us to read the primary texts in important new ways. Presentation summaries should be posted on Blackboard twenty-four hours before the presentation. This posting may form part of the on-line discussion for the week. Signup for presentations will take place on Blackboard in the first week of class.
• Research Essay (40%): The research essay should be of potentially publishable quality, advancing a clear and original thesis, regarding texts studied in this course, and manifesting critical awareness of relevant work in the field. The essay should be around twenty pages in length, formatted according to the MLA Handbook or Chicago Manual of Style, and including a bibliography.

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Tuesdays, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm,  2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

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Simply Divine! The Novels of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene
R. Greene

Course Description:
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.

Course Reading List:
Evelyn Waugh:
Vile Bodies (1930)
A Handful of Dust (1934)
Brideshead Revisited (1945)
The Loved One (1948)
Officers and Gentlemen (1955).

Graham Greene:
Brighton Rock (1938)
The Power and the Glory (1940)
The Heart of the Matter (1948)
The End of the Affair (1951)
Our Man in Havana (1958)
The Comedians (1966)

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Grading Scheme:
Seminar presentation 20%
Class participation 10%
Term paper (5000 words) 70%

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time: Thursdays, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 614 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

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Poets & Playwrights: Eliot, Stein, Auden
L. Switzky

Course Description:
Poet and playwright mark two poles in the modernist imagination: the artist and the craftsman, the lyricist and the rhetorician, the votary of beauty and the lackey of commerce. This seminar asks why T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and W. H. Auden, three titans of twentieth-century poetry who are often thought of as “anti-theatrical” in their refusal of mass culture and the conflation of art and entertainment, turned to both hieratic and popular forms of drama. Rather than reading their plays, libretti, and dramatic verse as supplements to their poetry, we will consider their writing for performance as a major contribution to—and, in many cases, rebellion against—developments in modern theatre as well as a continuation of their formal and political concerns by other means. In 1921, T. S. Eliot looked back at Elizabethan drama with apparent envy: “To have, given into one’s hands, a crude form, capable of indefinite refinement, and to be the person to see the possibilities—Shakespeare was very fortunate.” But in the “crude forms” of modern verse drama, music hall, and the revival of religious pageants, Eliot saw his own possibilities for indefinite refinement—much as Stein harvested nineteenth-century spectacular theatre and baroque tragedy and Auden took up cabaret, the social problem play, and opera. 

Course Reading List:
Eliot Plays: Murder in the Cathedral; Sweeney Agonistes; The Family Reunion; The Cocktail Party; The Confidential Clerk
Poems: TBD but will include “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”; “The Portrait of a Lady”; “Gerontion”; The Waste Land; “Coriolan”
Essays: “Hamlet and His Problems”; “’Rhetoric’ and Poetic Drama”; “The Possibility of a Poetic Drama”; “A Dialogue on Dramatic Poesy”; “The Three Voices of Poetry”
Plays, Poems and Libretti: Geography and Plays; “Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights”; Four Saints in Three Acts; The Mother of Us All
Essays: TBD but will include “Plays” and “Composition as Explanation”
Plays and Libretti: The Dog Beneath the Skin and The Ascent of F6 (with Christopher Isherwood); The Dance of Death; Paul Bunyan; The Rake’s Progress (with Chester Kallman)
Poems: TBD, but will include “Venus Will Now Say a Few Words,” “Musee des Beaux Arts,” “The Unknown Citizen,” “Funeral Blues,” The Age of Anxiety, and “The Sea and the Mirror”
Essays: “The Joker in the Pack”; “Notes on the Comic”
Critical Essays TBD

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Seminar presentation (15%); Three short response papers (30%); Participation (15%); Final Paper (40%)

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time: Thursdays, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

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Amorous Americans: Sexuality and the United States Novel
M. Cobb

Course Description:
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the American novel  spills  over  with sexual  diversity: one cannot forget characters such  as  Hawthorne’s Hester, Melville’s Queequeg and Ishmael, Norris’ McTeague, Crane’s Maggie, James’s Beast in the Jungle, Cather’s men on the mesa, Larsen’s Clare and Irene, Faulkner’s Quentin, Baldwin’s queer, Christian men, Ralph Morrison’s Sula and Nel. Of course sexuality’s omnipotent presence would make it into any national literature—so much depends on sexual relations.  Yet, we’ll ask a set of less obvious questions: in what ways does the drama of human sexuality—the drama of its feelings, its ideologies, its fragilities, its technologies, and its traditions—influence the development of a literature that is defined as “American?”  In what ways is the relation of sexuality also a relation of American prose literature, of self-conscious linguistic form, which captures and communicates a host of values, aesthetics, pleasures, concerns, utopias, and possibilities?  In what ways does that novel form putatively belong to the United States and its anxious sense of character and culture?  Taking our cues from the explosive cultural work pursued over the past thirty years, we’ll investigate canonical literary and canonical theoretical texts with all kinds of sex on the mind.

Reading List:
Hawthorne, The Scarlett Letter
Melville, "Bartleby, The Scrivener"
Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”
Norris, McTeague
Cather, The Professor’s House
Larsen, Passing
Nabokov, Lolita
Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
Eugenides, Middlesex

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Active, lively seminar participation, with the hope of learning skills geared toward contributing to an intellectual community and conversation beyond the seminar room (20%). One conference paper-style class presentation at the end of the class (35%). One fifteen to twenty-page research paper, clearly demonstrating the following: a) knowledge of a field of primary and secondary sources; b) the intellectual questions that make the writing of the paper necessary; c) writing and argumentation that has publishable promise (45%).  Lateness penalty:  one letter grade per one week of lateness.

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Mondays, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm,  2 hours
Location:  UC 255 (University College)

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The CanLit Boom of the 1960s 
N. Mount

Course Description
Canada saw a literary explosion in the 1960s unlike anything this country has ever experienced before or will again. The long decade between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s saw the emergence of the best known, most respected names in Canadian literature, names that continue to dominate Canadian classrooms, anthologies, and prize lists. These are the names most people still think of when they think of Canadian writing, names like Margaret Atwood, Marie-Claire Blais, George Bowering, Leonard Cohen, Mavis Gallant, Margaret Laurence, Dennis Lee, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Al Purdy, Mordecai Richler, and Michel Tremblay, among others. An outgrowth of my forthcoming book The Rise and Fall of CanLit (Anansi, 2017), this seminar explores the principal causes, products, and legacies of the CanLit Boom of the 1960s. 

Course Reading List
Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, 1949-1951, Sheila Watson, The Double Hook (1959), John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (1958), George Grant, Lament for a Nation (1965), Hubert Aquin, “The Cultural Fatigue of French Canada” (1962), Hugh MacLennan, The Watch That Ends the Night (1959), Hubert Aquin, Next Episode, trans. Sheila Fischman (1965), Leonard Cohen, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956), Austin Clarke, The Meeting Point (1967), Dennis Lee, Civil Elegies (1972), Alice Munro, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Mavis Gallant, Home Truths (1981), Alistair MacLeod, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976). All books will be available at the Bob Miller Book Room, 180 Bloor St. West. 

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements
Course marks will be determined by seminar participation, including short written weekly responses (40%), and a 5,000-word research paper (60%).

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time: Wednesdays, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

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Postcolonial Tragedies: Theory, Literature, Criticism
A. Quayson

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Naming the World: Realism Travels the Globe
N. ten Kortenaar

Course Description:
When they first encountered novelistic realism, writers all over the world felt it constituted an invitation to include in their writing distinctly non-literary elements of their own world in the form of descriptions and names of things and places. Realism encouraged a new kind of vision: writing about things that had never been written about in order to make people see those things for the first time. We will examine the meaning realism acquired as it made its way around the world by looking at three Western texts to suggest the history of realism—a novel by Balzac, another by Zola, and a third by Updike—and then at six more realist novels from other traditions, that is, from Africa, India, China, and Latin America. We will also look at representative theory of realism by Auerbach, Lukacs, Barthes, Ermarth, Jameson, etc.

New Course Reading List:
We will look at three Western texts to suggest the history of realism: a novel by Balzac, another by Zola, and a third by John Updike. Then we will consider six more novels from other novel traditions: for example, From India: Mulk Raj Anand, Anita Desai, and Amit Chaudhuri From Africa: Bernardo Honwana, Nadine Gordimer, Sembène Ousmane, Alex LaGuma From China: Shen Congwen From Latin America: Roberto Bolano We will also look at representative theory of realism by Auerbach, Lukacs, Barthes, Ermarth, Jameson, etc.

Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:
Class Participation: 20% (including weekly preparation); Seminar: 10%; Essays: 70%
Option 1:
First Essay (3000 words: due Mar): 35%
Second Essay on different topic (3000 words: due April): 35%
Option 2:
 First Essay (3000 words: due Mar): 20%
Second Essay building on first (6000 words: due April): 50%
Option 3:
Essay (6000 words: due April): 70%

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time:  Wednesdays, 9:00 am - 11:00 am,  2 hours
Location:  BT 319
 (Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. West, Victoria College)

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