Department of English

University of Toronto

5000 Series 2010-11


This course addresses many of the issues at the centre of modernist studies and theory. Using Anglo-Jewish fiction and poetry as a lens through which to focus the theoretical concerns of modernism, we will interrogate such interests as identity and class; territorialism and community; ethnicity and race; urbanization and pastoral nostalgia; cosmopolitanism and nationalism; migration and diasporism. We will be especially sensitive to formalist and aesthetic structures, and students will be encouraged to develop a relevant theoretical grounding for their work in this area. NO KNOWLEDGE OF JEWISH CULTURE OR RELIGION IS REQUIRED OR ASSUMED. Students will be encouraged to use their seminar presentation as a work-in-progress toward the final paper.

The official calendar description is as follows:
In a recent interview, the young British Jewish novelist Charlotte Mendelson remarked that "England is the least Jewish country in the world." Howard Jacobson recently opined that "Jewishness is not at the heart of English culture. This is one of the things cultured Jews in England feel every time we write or make a play or music." And Jonathan Wilson, the British-born Jewish author who finally turned from the vexations and contradictions of Anglo-Jewish culture and became an American citizen, once observed that "A Jew can never really be English without the abnegation of a certain aspect of your personality." Still, Anglo-Jewish culture has flourished in spite of -some would say because of-these perceptions. This course will question the various assumptions about identity and poetry, and identity and fiction, that have inflected Anglo-Jewish writing in the twentieth century. We will relate questions of form and style to culture and history, and consider the various ways in which Jewish authors negotiate the expressive resources inherited from the British literary tradition. Fiction will be represented by such authors as Israel Zangwill, Emanuel Litvinoff, Bernice Rubens, Clive Sinclair, Elaine Feinstein, and Howard Jacobson. Poetry will be represented by Isaac Rosenberg, Michael Hamburger, Emanuel Litvinoff, Ruth Fainlight, Jon Silkin, Daniel Weissbort, and Anthony Rudolf.


Seminar, orally-delivered book report, class participation, final term paper.

*Wednesday 3:00 – 500 p.m. * NOTE CORRECTED TIME
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


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.


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. 

Wednesday 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


This course will focus on a series of questions to do with how to read works of magical realism in a comparative framework. The course will explore definitions of postcolonialism and postmodernism and the ways in which they are mutually illuminated through the genre of Magical realism.

Questions to be raised will include: what are the relationships between fantasy, storytelling, literature and epistemology? How do different cultures attempt to express these relationships? How does magical realism relate to gothic, science fiction and ther cognate genres? How does magical realism help us to resituate theories of mimesis? What is magical realism and how does it help us re-think notions of the epic, narrative, history, and the relation of all these to a global transnational imaginary? In what ways does bringing Postcolonialism and Postmodernism together enable us to arrive at definitions adequate to the complexities of contemporary literary aesthetics?

The course will be divided into two mutually defining aspects, namely: I) general theoretical explorations in definitions of magical realism, postcolonialism and postmodernism and two II) an exploration of various magical realist texts. The primary objective will be to get students to read magical realism critically and dialogically as well as across several paradigms of interpretation drawn from both Western and non-Western theoretical discourses. As such, a lot of emphasis will be put on detailed engagement with the texts to be studied and students will be encouraged to try and follow their own critical/theoretical intuitions as much as possible as a pre-requisite for dealing with the various intersections to be raised in the class more generally.


Class Presentation of Responses to Texts: 15%. Class Presentation of Research on Particular Theoretical Issues 15%. Annotated Bibliography (40 items): 20%; Final Paper (5,000 words): 50%.

Tuesday 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Room 614,  Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street



In 1966 the English critic Malcolm Bradbury observed: “Writing in Canada, or by Canadians, there is—of high quality. But a Canadian literature?” Over the next decade the answer to this question in Canada became increasingly affirmative. These were the years of Trudeaumania, the October Crisis, the Summit Series, and the Vietnam War. The war galvanized political forces on both sides of the US-Canadian border while spurring unprecedented literal and figurative border-crossings, not least by writers. We will consider the ramifications of these crossings, focusing on Canadian literary responses to America, especially US involvement in the war, and the ways in which authors’ responses influenced the subsequent writing, teaching, and criticism of Canadian literature. Texts will include fiction, poetry, literary criticism, and political writing from the war period as well as from recent years.


Conference-style abstract and paper presentation (25%); final essay (60%); class participation (15%).

Grant, Lament for a Nation; Ondaatje, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid; Atwood, Surfacing; Wiebe, The Temptations of Big Bear; Oates, Border Crossings; Fetherling, Travels by Night; Robertson, Moody Food; Bergen, The Time in Between; McQuaig, Holding the Bully’s Coat; Clarke, Trudeau

**DATE CHANGE:  Wednesday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
**LOCATION CHANGE: Room 614, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

5318HF ("Methods" Course: enrolment priority to students in the M.A. and M.A. in Creative Writing programs, although doctoral students will also be able to register)

The Great Depression, the Empire State Building, the rise of Hitler, FDR's New Deal, Stalin's "Great Terror," Josephine Baker, spectacular labor activism, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, Shirley Temple, King Kong, the infrastructure projects of the Civilian Conservation Corp, The Wizard of Oz, and Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds (among many other things) loom in the imaginings of the 1930s. And so do some artists, photographers, writers, and filmmakers: John Steinbeck, W.H. Auden, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, James Agee, Walker Evans, William Faulkner, Nathanael West, Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, Djuna Barnes, Leni Riefenstahl, among others. This course will consider major historical events, celebrities, buildings, icons, trends, movements, politics, architectures, technologies, and fantasies of this decade by reading, hearing, and watching some of the work of its crucial writers, artists, actors, architects, singers, photographers, and filmmakers. Although bound by a very provocative and productive historical context, this course will not march along the track of historicism. Instead, we'll use the decade to think about the dynamics, legacies, methods, problems and possibilities of so-called "Cultural Studies." We'll organize our seminar under the rubric of some cultural studies keywords that name so much work done in the professional literary academy today—"catastrophe, "community," "commodity," and "control." And we'll do as much so we can mine a decade of aesthetic models that still have enormous, often underdeveloped, potential to help us formulate, augment, and challenge current ways of reading and theorization, whatever our fields of specialty.


Seminar Presentation (25%), Paper (50%), Participation (25%).

Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents; William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!; Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts; Djuana Barnes, Nightwood; Walter Benjamin, selections from The Arcades Project; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Walker Evans and James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath; Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; Auden, select poems; Raymond Williams, Culture and Materialism. Select movies, clips and songs, including Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will; Cooper and Schoedsack's King Kong; and Fleming et al's The Wizard of Oz.

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

5519HS ("Methods" Course: enrolment priority to students in the M.A. and M.A. in Creative Writing programs, although doctoral students will also be able to register)

A study of selected fiction and writings about narrative from the modernist period, in conjunction with the some of the most significant and most innovative work in narrative theory today. The modernist period is noted for its radical revolutions in narrative form and for the emergence of narrative theory; at the same time, traditional elements remained popular and helped to shape new fictional modes. This course will present tools for analysing all narrative, while focusing on modernist narrative for a fresh look. We will survey and assess current terminology, and question the relation between form and meaning, particularly with regard to ethics, to perception and cognition, and to theories of knowledge. Possible topics: classical and post-classical narratology; rhetorical approaches; focalization and free indirect discourse; reliable and unreliable narration; narrators, narratees, and readers; voices and discourse; linear and episodic narratives (and selves); beginnings and endings; multi-plots, counterstories, and backstories; affect and emotion; narrative ethics; cognitive narratology.

Course Requirements

Participation, including discussion postings and assigned leadership-catalyst roles (20%); 2 short textual analyses (20%); short paper on a narrative approach (15%); major paper (45%).

Readings may include: novellas by James and Conrad; novels by Woolf and Faulkner, short fiction by Mansfield, Joyce, Lawrence, Hemingway, Greene and others; selections from modernist narrative theory by James, D. Richardson, Lawrence, Woolf, Lukács, Lubbock, Bakhtin, Auerbach; selections from fundamental studies such as Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961; 1983); Genette, Narrative Discourse (1972. Trans. 1980); Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (1983); Chatman, Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film (1990); readings in recent narrative theory such as Phelan, Narrative as Rhetoric (1996); Herman, Story Logic (2002); Kafalenos, Narrative Causalities (2006); Keen, Empathy and the Novel (2007); Richardson, ed., Narrative Beginnings (2008); Hale, “Aesthetics and the New Ethics” (2009); Cuddy-Keane, “Narrative and the Thinking Body” (2010). We will also use an overview such as Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (2002).

Thursday 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


What kind of social memory do cities produce? This interdisciplinary course explores the relationship between urban space, collective memory, and writing, with a particular focus on memories of raced, gendered and sexual histories in the postindustrial Canadian city. We begin with an investigation of how cities remember, and how the phenomenon of collective memory gets produced. From there we move on to an exploration of the impact of modernist urban “renewal” and postmodernist urban gentrification projects on Canadian cities. We consider the erasures of particular raced, classed and gendered presences and their histories from Canadian city-spaces, from the repression of Indigenous geography to the deracination of inner-city black neighbourhoods, to the peripheralization of working class communities and the marginalization of women in the sex trade. We consider the effects of these erasures on social memory, and explore the archival work that contemporary Canadian writers perform in recovering the city’s lost memories.

Class Presentation 10%, Second Class Presentation 25%, First Paper 25%, Term Research Paper 30%, Participation 10%.
Allen, Lillian. "Rub a dub style inna Regent Park"; Revolutionary Tea Party; Audiocassette. Toronto: Verse to Vinyl, 1986; Boyd, George, Consecrated Ground. Winnipeg: Blizzard, 1999; Cooper, Afua. "Remembering Africville." Unpublished paper, 2007; Compton, Wayde, Performance Bond. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp, 2004; deVries, Maggie. Missing Sarah: A Vancouver Woman Remembers Her Vanished Sister. Toronto: Penguin, 2003; Maracle, Lee. “Goodbye Snauq.” Our Stories: Aboriginal Voices on Canada’s Past, ed. Tantoo Cardinal, et. al. Toronto: Doubleday, 2004; Murakami, Sachiko. The Invisibility Exhibit. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2008; Scofield, Gregory. Singing Home the Bones. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2005; Stone, Anne and Amber Dean, eds. Special Issue of West Coast Line 53: Representations of Murdered and Missing Women. Burnaby: West Coast Review Publishing Society, 2007; Vidaver, Aaron, ed. Special Issue of West Coast Line 41: Woodsquat. Burnaby: West Coast Review Publishing Society, 2004. Select readings from: Bowen, Anna. Urban Spaces of Racialization: White Ethnicity and Gentrification in Toronto. Toronto: U of T Press, 2007; Crinson, Mark. Urban Memory: History and Amnesia in the Modern City. New York: Routledge, 2005; Halbwachs, Maurice. The Collective Memory, trans. Francis J. Ditter Jr., and Vida Yazdi Ditter. New York: Harper and Row, 1980; Huyssen, Andreas. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2003; Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1993; Lay, David. Gentrification in Canadian Inner Cities: Patterns, Analysis, Impact, and Policy. Vancouver: UBC Department of Geography, 1985; Nora, Pierre. Les Lieux de mémoire. Paris: Gallimard, 1984; Rose, Albert. Regent Park: A Study in Slum Clearance. Toronto: U of T Press, 1958; Rossi, Aldo. Architecture. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 1991; Smith, Neil, and Peter Williams, eds. Gentrification of the City. Boston: Allen & Urwin, 1984; Wilcox, Alana and Jason McBride, eds. uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2005.

Wednesday 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street 



This new course will focus on an old subject: the relation of art and violence. But the seminar will concentrate on the changing textures of that relationship from the end of the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. In particular, we will examine how the weapon of irony and the recourse to modified pastoral resolutions of political conflict—both weapon and recourse virtually patented by Conrad—give way under the stress of twentieth-century mass movements and ideologies to narratives about messianism and the social effectiveness of literature. As the novelist Bill Gray, drawn out of self-floating reclusiveness into the turmoils of the Middle East, puts it in DeLillo’s Mao II, “novelists and terrorists are playing a zero-sum game . . . What terrorists gain, novelists lose . . . The danger they represent equals our own failure to be dangerous.” How selected novels represent and gauge this (im)balance will occupy our discussions.


The course will be conducted as a seminar. Students will be responsible for at least one presentation that will be re-worked and submitted (together 20%). Regular participation (20% of the grade) is expected. A final research paper (25 pages and 60%) is due about three weeks before the end of term.

Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes; Doris Lessing, The Good Terrorist; Paul Theroux, The Family Arsenal; Don DeLillo, Mao II and Falling Man; J.M. Coetzee, The Master of Petersburg; Nicholas Shakespeare, The Dancer Upstairs; Robert Stone, Damascus Gate.

Thursday 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


For many years, Canada was renowned for its supposed lack of ghosts. In 1833, Catherine Parr Traill proclaimed: “As to ghosts or spirits they appear totally banished from Canada. This is too matter-of-fact country for such supernaturals to visit.” Over a hundred years later, Canadian poet and critic Early Birney echoed her sentiments stating that “it’s only by our lack of ghosts we’re haunted.” These assertions, however, need to be revisited because contemporary Canadian literature is obsessed with ghosts and haunting. A host of writers, including Margaret Atwood, Anne Marie MacDonald, Jane Urquhart, Timothy Findley, Michael Ondaatje, Daphne Marlatt, Kerri Sakamoto, Joy Kowgawa, Eden Robinson, and Dionne Brand have taken pains to map the intricacies of haunting. This course will focus on the spectral effects in contemporary Canadian fiction. Questions to be considered include: how does living with ghosts entails a politics of memory, of inheritance, and of mourning that continues to shape Canadian literature? As well, if ghosts signal the return of a secret, something repressed, then what types of secrets (ranging from familial to national) are encrypted in the texts under consideration? What is the impact of haunting on textual production; for instance, to what extent is abjection (understood textually as an impulse toward decomposition, disintegration and the breaking-up of language) the structuring principle of haunting? To address these questions, the course will draw on psychoanalytic, feminist, post-colonial, and post-structuralist theory.


Seminar. Each student is responsible for at least one seminar report based on the reading for the week (frequency dependent on class size), a weekly response paper (2 pages), and one long research paper (20 pages). Regular participation is expected.

Works by S. Watson, G. Anderson-Dargaatz, J. Steffler, Urquhart, M. Atwood, D. Brand, T. King, among others.

Some background in Canadian literature.

Friday 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Room 617, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street


African-Canadian literature unsettles the classical tropes of Canada--the idea of 'two solitudes' and the symbol of the 'Great White North'--because it is an upstart assembly of multitudinous 'solitudes,' of disparate folks who are also citoyens de couleur (whether they say so or not). But African-Canadian literature also upsets the iconic notions of the African Diaspora--'double-consciousness' and Afrocentrism—for it espouses a polyphonous consciousness that voices disparate shadings and timbres of 'blackness.' African-Canadian authors highlight issues around identity, migration, 'national' belonging, 'ethnicity,' 'accent,' multiculturalism, gender, sexual orientation, and (racial) hybridity. We will examine early texts, mid-20th-Century texts, as well as contemporary creativity in literature, music, and film, to determine the ways, if any, in which African-Canadian literature adds distinctive tones and resonance to Diasporic African culture. Is it CanLit in African mask? Is it a 'chilled' or 'bleached' extract of African, African-American, or Caribbean literature? Or is it its own 'ting' or 'thang', requiring original, critical lenses?


We will meet in seminars that utilize student presentations. Students will also write one major paper each term.

Seminar: 30%; Essay: 50%; Participation: 20%.

Texts MAY include anthologies edited by G.E. Clarke, Wayde Compton, and Djanet Sears; plus critical or creative writings (or both) by Andre Alexis, Ho Che Anderson, Dionne Brand, Austin Clarke, G.E. Clarke, Wayde Compton, Afua Cooper, Malcolm Gladwell, Lawrence Hill, Dany Laferriere, Suzette Mayr, Motion, M. NourbeSe Philip, Djanet Sears, and Rinaldo Walcott. We will also 'audition' films and music.

Tuesday 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Room 148, University College

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