Department of English

University of Toronto

6000 Series Course Descriptions

Bad Feelings: Between Affect Theory and Psychoanalysis
M. Ruti

Course Description:
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, Kathleen Steward's Ordinary Feelings, 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, Chris Kraus's I Love Dick, 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; Kathleen Steward, Ordinary Feelings; 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; Chris Kraus, I Love Dick; Maggie Nelson, Argonauts

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

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time: Tuesdays, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm, 2 hours
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.    

Old and New Materialisms
L. Blake

Course Description:
In this course we will explore how “new” the contemporary philosophies of “new materialism” – currently circulating in literary studies as well as in other disciplines – really are. The thesis of the course is that we can enrich our new materialisms by exploring older materialisms as well. To do so we will first need to tease apart the relationship between these new materialists speculating about the nature of matter, on the one hand, and the (ancient and modern) philosophical tradition of materialism on the other. We will read works of ancient and early modern philosophy about matter and the material world, paired with modern and contemporary works by the self-proclaimed new materialists. The modern and contemporary new materialists turn largely to contemporary philosophy and science; Barad’s Meeting the Universe Halfway partakes of contemporary physics, for example, and Jane Bennett’s Vital Matter draws on twentieth-century ideas of vitalism. But what does it do to our discussions of new materialisms to fold in older philosophies of matter and materialisms as well? We will focus our discussions of these theoretical questions through literary texts, many taken from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (when philosophies of matter abounded).

Course Reading List:
Plato, Timaeus
Aristotle, Physics
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura
Descartes, Meditations
Hobbes, Leviathan
Cavendish, Poems and Fancies
Berkeley, Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists
Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway
Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics
Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Participation (20%); Discussion-leading (15%); Research paper (50%); Final Paper Proposal (5%); Annotated Bibliography (5%); Outline and Presentation (5%)

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Thursdays, 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm, 3 hours
Location:  Room JHB 617 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page 
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.   

The Literature of Protection
P. Downes

Course Description:
This course will draw on work at the borders of literature, philosophy and politics to explore the concepts of security and protection from a range of rhetorical and theoretical angles. We will consider the language of emergency in revolutionary era texts and the idea of crisis in pro- and anti-slavery writings; we will look at Lincoln's appeal to exceptional authority during the U.S. Civil War and at the rhetoric of protection in recent United Nations policy statements on humanitarian intervention. Finally, we will consider the implications of the 9/11 attacks for the discourse of emergency and protection. We will read recent work in critical human rights theory and will perhaps foster dialogue with the University's new centre for the study of Global Security by providing a literary and rhetorical perspective on questions of global defense policy and international crisis management.

Theoretical work will include essays by Agamben, Derrida, Brown, Redfield and Hamacher. Literary examples will be chosen primarily -- though not exclusively -- from the American eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and will include works by Melville, Hawthorne, Douglass, Whitman and Bierce.

Course Reading List:
Reading List (Books available at Bob Miller Bookroom):
The Responsibility to Protect (Ottawa: IDRC 2001)
Melville, Benito Cereno in Billy Budd and Other Stories (Penguin)
Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Zone)
Agamben, State of Exception (Chicago)
Borradori, Philosophy in a Time of Terror (Chicago)
Eggers, Zeitoun (McSweeney’s)
Chandler, The Big Sleep (Vintage)
McCarthy, The Road (Vintage)
Derrida, Rogues (Stanford)
R = Reader (available at U of T Bookstore)
H = Handouts distributed in class
O = Online

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Course Requirements: Weekly responses and end of term essay. Method of Evaluation TBA.

Term: S-Term (Spring or Second Term: January - April 2018)
Date/Time: Wednesdays, 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm, 3 hours
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page 
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.    

Style: Authorial Signature in the Age of Cyber Technology 
U. Esonwanne

Course Description:
Literary scholars agree that criticism attends to how texts say what we say they do. This consensus held until the late 20th c., when preoccupation with the what came to the fore. Lately, alarm over the waning of interest in the how of criticism has prompted apocalyptic warnings that criticism risks extinction like “clog dancing” and the dodo. More importantly, it has also inspired the publication of primers on style. These alarms and primers offer us the opportunity to ask what is actually at stake in expressions of concern about style – the fate of criticism as a discipline or the disposition of texts to the worlds they refract? Why worry about style in an age when “theory” has rendered individuality, its most fundamental premise, suspect? We may agree with St. Augustine that “fine style” does not confer truth on things, but we still wonder what truth style might disclose about criticism in the post-human age. Is style just “the how” by which texts distinguish authors’ responses to life’s imperatives or the opacity by which dissidence interrogates hegemonic verities in behalf of counter-hegemonic alternatives? Such are the kinds of questions this course will address through readings of theoretical and cultural texts.

Course Reading List:
J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (London: Vintage, 2004).
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (New York: Riverhead Books, 2007).
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (New York: Harper and Row, 1984)
Edward W. Said, Out of Place (New York: Vintage Books, 2000).
Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis (New York: Pantheon, 2004).
Mariko Tamaki, Skim (Toronto: Anansi, 2008).
Judd Morrissey, The Jew's Daughter.
Andrew Plotkin, Shade (2000).
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave. The Internet Movie Script Database.

Primary (available at the University of Toronto Bookstore):
J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (London: Vintage, 2004).
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (New York: Harper and Row, 1984)
Edward W. Said, Out of Place (New York: Vintage Books, 2000).
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (New York: Riverhead Books, 2007).

Secondary (access either online at Robarts Library website, or on Blackboard – “Launch Course Reserves”)
Adorno, Theodor W. “Punctuation Marks.” Notes to Literature Vol. 1. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Tr. Shierry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. Pp. 91–7. 307 pp. ISBN: 978–0–231–06333–3
Baetens, Jan, and Hugo Frey. “Drawing and Style, Word and Image.” The Graphic Novel: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. 134–61.
Bal, Mieke. “Time.” Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Pp. 77–9, 214–19. 293 pp. ISBN: 978–0–8020–9631–9
Barthes, Roland. “Style as Craftsmanship.” Writing Degree Zero. Tr. Annette Lavers and Colin Smith. New York: Hill and Wang, 1968. Pp. 62–6. 110 pp. ISBN: 978–0–374–53235–2
Bolens, Guillemette. “The Body in Literature.” The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Pp. 50–65. 247 pp. ISBN: 10–1–4214–0518–0
Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Universes of Stylistic Possibilities.” Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Tr. Richard Nice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1994. Pp. 208–20. 640 pp. ISBN: 0–674–21277–0
Coetzee, J.M. “The Agentless Sentence as a Rhetorical Device.” Language and Style 13.1 (1980): 26–34.
–––. “The Rhetoric of the Passive in English.” Linguistics 18.3/4 (1980): 199–221.
Eagleton, Terry. “Value.” How to Read Literature. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014. Pp. 175–206. 230 pp. ISBN: 978–0–8020–9631–9
Epstein, E.L. “Style as Perceptive Strategy.” Language and Style. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1978. Pp. 1–11. 106 pp. ISBN: 0–416–83270–9
Frye, Northrop. “The Manual of Style.” The Well-Tempered Critic. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963. Pp. 55–93. 160 pp. ISBN: NA.
Hegel, G.W.F. “Manner, Style, and Originality.” Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, Vol. 1. Tr. T.M. Knox. Oxford: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1988. Pp. 291–98. 632 pp. ISBN: 0–19–824371–5
Hutchinson, Ben. “Friedrich Nietzsche and ‘the art of style.” Modernism and Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Pp. 59–80. 312 pp. ISBN: 978–0–230–23097–2
Lang, Berel. “Style as Instrument, Style as Person.” Philosophy and the Art of Writing: Studies in Philosophical and Literary Style. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1983. Pp. 113–38. 246 pp. ISBN: 0–8387–5030–3
Longinus. On Great Writing (On the Sublime). Tr. G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1957. Pp. 10–22. 88 pp. ISBN: 0–87220–080–9
Mason, Jessica. “Narrative.” Eds. Peter Stockwell and Sara Whiteley. The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics. Cambridge: Cambridge  University Press, 2014. Pp. 179–95. 689 pp. ISBN: 978–1–107–02887–6
Mukařovský, Jan. “Between Literature and Visual Arts.” The Word and Verbal Art: Selected Essays. Tr. John Burbank and Peter Steiner. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977. Pp. 205–234. 255 pp. ISBN: 0–300–01573–9
Nichols, Marie Hochmuth. “Rhetoric and Style.” Patterns of Literary Style. Joseph Strelka. Ed. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971. Pp. 130–43. 280 pp. ISBN: 271–00124–0
Said, Edward W. “Timeliness and Lateness.” On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006.
Steen, Gerard. “Metaphor and style.” Ed. Peter Stockwell and Sara Whiteley. The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. 315–328. 689 pp. ISBN: 978–1–107–02887–6
Tartakovsky, Roi. “The Case for Pace.” Style 49.1 (2015): 65–77.
Todorov, Tzvetan. “The Grammar of Narrative.” The poetics of prose. Tr. Richard Howard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977. Pp. 108–119. 272 pp. ISBN: 0–8014–9165–7
Ullmann, Stephen. “Two Approaches to Style.” Patterns of Literary Style. Joseph Strelka. Ed. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971. Pp. 217–25. 280 pp. ISBN: 271–00124–0

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Evaluation Scheme: Seminar (30%); Mini–conference (20%); Research Essay (50%)

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Thursdays, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm,  2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.   

Diasporic Englishes 
C. Percy

Course Description:
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.

Course Reading List:
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

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
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.

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

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.    

The Postcritical Turn
T. Dancer

Course Description:
This course examines the key writers and texts of the postcritical turn (aka postcritique). Within literary studies, the question of the postcritical has been the subject of much discussion, debate, excitement, and repudiation. Despite the attention paid to the subject, it remains a frustratingly vague concept that all too often remains poorly understood by both its detractors and proponents. This course aims to get a better handle on the postcritical by situating its key arguments and texts within the broader history of literary criticism and theory. Questions we will ask include: Is the postcritical a practice, an ethos, a disposition, or something else? What is the relationship between postcritical thought and contemporary politics, ethics, and aesthetics? What is at stake for the humanities, the university, and the arts within this internal debate about the nature of literary studies?

Course Reading List:
Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique
Mitchum Huehls, After Critique
Timothy Bewes, The Event of Postcolonial Shame
---. “Reading with the Grain”
Caroline Levin, Forms
William James, A Pluralistic Universe
Bruno Latour, Modes of Existence
---. “Why has critique run out of steam?”
---. “An Attempt at a ‘Compositionalist Manifesto’”
Michael Warner, “Uncritical Reading”
Eve Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading”
Stephen Best & Sharon Marcus, “Surface Reading”
Amanda Anderson, “Ethos”
R. Castronovo & D. Glimp, “After Critique”
E. Freedgood & C. Schmitt, “Denotatively, Technically, Literally”
Heather Love, “Close But Not Deep”
C. Bartolovich, “Humanities of Scale: Marxism, Surface Reading--And Milton”
Frances Ferguson, “Now Its Personal”
Bruce Holsinger, “‘Historical Context’”
Dora Zhang, “Naming the Indescribable”
S. Marcus, H. Love, S. Best, “Building a Better Description”
Zadie Smith, “Read Better”
 (This reading list is subject to revision).

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Participation (20%); Presentation (15%); Response papers (15%); Term paper (50%)

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Tuesdays, 9:00 am - 11:00 am,  2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 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 select 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), “Heterotopia” (Michel Foucault), “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), High-rise (J.G. Ballard), Kindred (Octavia Butler), Shining (Stephen King)

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

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Fridays, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm, 2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.  

Life, Death, and American Fiction
D. Seitler

Course Description:
How have the concepts of living and dying impressed themselves on the literary imagination? What specific aesthetic, narrative, and political forms and questions have informed and negotiated these concerns? Foucault, in “Right of Death and Power over Life,” discusses a perceptible shift in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to an “anatamo-politics of the human body” and a “biopolitics of the population” through which understandings of life and death in relation to state control came to the fore. But there are also a whole host of other instantiations of narratives of life and death that this course means to take up. With a focus on suicide plots in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century American fiction, we will address psychoanalytic questions about the relationality of pleasure and pain, Foucaultian questions concerning the regulation of “life itself,” phenomenological questions about becoming and unbecoming, and narrative questions about the availability and unavailability of aesthetic forms through which habitable conditions of being can be represented.

Course Reading List:
Fictional texts will likely include those by Edith Wharton, Rebecca Harding Davis, Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather, Henry James, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others; theoretical material will likely include those by Foucault, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Lacan, Freud, Cazdyn, Berlant, Cvetcovich, Holland, Derrida, Holloway, Bersani, Edelman, and others.

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Seminar presentation (15%), abstract (15%), participation (20%) and final research paper (50%).

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

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.    

Critical Animal Studies
S. Salih

Course Description:
During this course we will make some approaches towards what Derrida has called ‘the philosophical problematic of the animal.’ Through close readings of contemporary texts (theory, fiction, documentary, auto/biography), we will address questions such as the following: How is ‘life’ divided into ‘animal’ and ‘human,’ and what are the ethico-philosophical effects of such acts of measurement and separation? What are the consequences of adding ‘species’ to race, class, gender and sexuality as an equivalent identity category? Are all these categories founded on the distinction between ‘human’ and ‘animal’? 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 in terms of ‘animal genocide’ as Derrida does? What does it mean if human freedom has as its material condition of possibility the absolute control over the lives of nonhuman others (Wolfe)? If the word ‘animal’ is an interpretive decision that carries metaphysical, ethical, juridical and political consequences, how is it possible to name, or even to think, ‘the animal’ (e.g. Derrida’s ‘l’animot’)? What would be the possible 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?

Course Reading List:
Our reading is likely to include a number of the following texts, subject to availability:

Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat. A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory
Andre Bazin, ‘Death every afternoon’
J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals
Jacques Derrida, ‘The animal that therefore I am (more to follow)’
Matthew Calarco, The Question of the Animal
Peter Singer, Animal Liberation
Cass R. Sunstein and Martha C. Nussbaum (eds.), Animal Rights. Current Debates and New Directions
Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites. American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory
---. (ed.), Zoontologies. The Question of the Animal

Fictional :
J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace

Sue Coe, Dead Meat
Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
In-class review 10%
Abstract 10%
Conference presentation 20%
Final research paper 40%
Participation 20%

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Mondays, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm, 2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.  

The Victorian Novel, Literally
C. Schmitt

Course Description:
This is a course with two foci, one theoretical and the other literary-historical. Theoretically: we will canvas recent work on the surface, the literal, and the denotative. In what might be called the literal turn, long-dominant reading practices that seek to articulate a text’s political unconscious, ideology, or non-dit are being abandoned or postponed in favour of interpretative strategies that attempt to grasp and construct meaning out of textual surfaces, givens, or denotations. Literary-historically: we will read a number of Victorian novels and novellas that, in their different ways, foreground the denotative aspects of fictionality; these texts will serve as case studies in the possibility or impossibility, productivity or lack thereof, of critical approaches that refuse or defer the moment of "deep" (paranoid, figural, ideological) reading in hopes of dwelling in the superficial or the literal.

Course Reading list:
Criticism/theory (for a start): Elaine Freedgood, from The Ideas in Things; Margaret Cohen, from The Novel and the Sea; Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Reparative Reading"; Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, "Surface Reading: An Introduction"; Sharon Marcus, from Between Women; Elaine Freedgood and Cannon Schmitt, "Denotatively, Literally, Technically”; Roland Barthes, from The Preparation of the Novel.
Fiction: by Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Gissing, Robert Louis Stevenson, and others.

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Informed participation (10%), presentation (10%), short close reading (15%), final paper proposal (15%), seminar paper (50%).

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Tuesdays, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm,  2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 718 (NB: ROOM CHANGE)  (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.  

Law as Literature: Story and Style in a Culture of Argument
G. Henderson

Course Description:
Focusing on an array of judgments, this course mobilizes insights furnished by literary and rhetorical theory to explore the function of figuration and narrative in judicial discourse. Topics to be considered include narrative theory and the rhetoric of judgment; judicial styles; the relationship between law and literature; narrative as argument; the avoidance of narrative; the anatomy of a Supreme Court of Canada decision; the self-subverting rhetoric of causality and intention in homicide cases; narrative, violence, and the law; troubling confessions and excludable stories; cultural analysis, cultural studies and the law.

This course is about legal world-making and judicial self-fashioning, about how judges create normative universes for us to live in and fashion ethical images of themselves as judges every time they decide a case.  Its enabling assumptions are that judicial writing is a form of narrative and rhetoric, that storytelling in law is narrative within a culture of argument, and that narrative is an integral element of legal argument, not something simply tacked on to humanize the law or authenticate the parties.  Especially in the context of cases dealing with liability and homicide,  two areas of law in which the concept of causation plays a pivotal role, the rhetorical power of hypothetical and factual narratives ends up carrying as much argumentative weight as the logical force of  legal distinctions. 

Narrative is crucial to legal decision-making because the primary task of the judge is to make a plausible and coherent story out of the sometimes conflicting and contradictory particulars of a given case.  Thus the angle of vision from which the story is told (narrative perspective) and the language and style in which it is couched (narrative voice) have an impact on the decision arrived at.  The agents a judge empowers to see and say are often the agents whose arguments prevail.  All writing involves the making of choices, and the rhetorical, narratological, and stylistic choices that a judge makes, whether consciously or unconsciously, create a legal world for others to inhabit and embody the moral character of its creator.  Nomos, perspective, voice, and ethos matter in law just as they matter in literature.  And narrative is the cement that binds these two disciplines together.  

Topics to be explored include the illuminative power of concepts drawn from narratology and dialogism; the function of style in the rhetoric of judgment; the rhetoric of causality, intention, confession, and voluntariness in the language of the law; and the ways in which judges express and repress issues surrounding violence, sexual assault, and sexual behaviour. 

Course Reading List:
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem
Guyora Binder and Robert Weisberg, Literary Criticisms of Law
Peter Brooks and Paul Gewirtz (editors), Law's Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law
Various judgments and articles uploaded on Blackboard.      

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:
Seminar, with occasional lecturing.  Students will present and submit one seminar paper (40%) and will submit a final paper (60%).
This course deals with aspects of theory, in particular the application of narrative and rhetorical theory to judicial discourse.

Term: F-Term (Fall or First Term: September - December 2017)
Date/Time:  Mondays, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm, 2 hours
Location:  Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)

Top of Page
Return to 2017-2018 Graduate Course Timetable.    

Return to main Graduate Courses 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