6000 Series Course Descriptions (Aspects of Theory)

Adapting Short Fiction

D. Newman

Course Description

This course explores the intersection of short fiction, intermedial adaptation and narratology. Adapting a story from fiction to film offers filmmakers numerous opportunities to interpret, critique, politicize (or de-politicize) and generally reinvent the source text and, in doing so, to explore the possibilities and limitations of various genres and media. For literary and film critics, moreover, the process and results of adaptation serves as a laboratory in which to test, expand or challenge how we read and analyze texts. What happens to our interpretive frameworks when a story crosses medial boundaries?

To address this and related questions, the course reads a broad range of fiction together with its film adaptations. The focus on short fiction (stories and novellas) will highlight some of the most interesting and contentious aspects of film adaptation, since the feature-film format almost necessitates the filmmaker to expand, extend and articulate what short fiction leaves unsaid or suggested. In addition to analysing a wide range of film adaptations and their source texts, we will read seminal and contemporary theoretical and critical studies of adaptation. Methodologically, the focus of the course will be narratological, though other interpretive frameworks from cinema studies and media studies will be welcome.

Course Texts

Between 8 and 11 fiction / film pairings, such as Seven versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” / Matthew Bright, Freeway Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove” / Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon Sherman Alexie, “This is what it Means to Say Pheonix, Arizona” / Chris Eyre, Smoke Signals Raymond Carver, “So Much Water So Close to Home” / Ray Lawrence, Jindabyne Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life” / Denis Villeneuve, Arrival Henry James, The Turn of the Screw / Alejandro Amenábar, The Others Franz Kafka, “A Report to the Academy” / Michel Gondry, Human Nature Nella Larsen, Passing / Rebecca Hall, Passing Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” / Sarah Polley, Away from Her Jonathan Nolan, “Memento Mori” / Christopher Nolan, Memento Susan Orleans, “Orchid Fever” / Spike Jonze, Adaptation Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” / Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain Jean Rhys, Quartet / James Ivory, Quartet Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie / Ronald Reame, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Theory and Criticism: Various authors including Seymour Chatman, Linda Hutcheon, Brian McFarlane, Robert Stam and Lawrence Venuti

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

Participation: 15%; Five Blog-style posts: 15%; Position paper: 20%; Essay proposal: 10%; Final essay: 40%.

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)
Date/Time: Friday / 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Location: Room Rm. OISE 4420 (252 Bloor St W, Toronto)(CHANGED CLASSROOM)
Delivery: In-Person


Writing a Journal Article

C. Schmitt

Note: This course is intended for English PhD and PhDU students. English MA and (especially) MACRW students as well as PhD/PhDU students in other departments may be considered for admission on an individual basis. If you wish to take the course and fall into one of these latter categories, contact the professor at cannon.schmitt@utoronto.ca.

Course Description

Writing publishable work: without doubt the single most important ability for success in the academy but rarely explicitly taught in graduate school. This course teaches it. Students will choose the best paper (or the paper they judge to have the most potential) from their first-term coursework. Via workshopping and in response to feedback from their peers and the instructor, they will take that paper through a series of expansions and revisions to produce, by term's end, a polished article ready for submission to a scholarly journal of the student's choice. Along the way students will locate fitting venues for their work; identify and emulate successful aspects of recently published articles they consider the best in their field; evaluate academic writing for its style as well as its argument (recognizing that, in the humanities at least, the two are inseparable); and develop habits that enable them regularly to write and revise. Above all, they will come to think of themselves as writers: people for whom writing is not a sporadic activity driven by deadlines but a quotidian part of who they are and what they do.

Course Reading List

Our main guide throughout the term will be Eric Hayot's Elements of Academic Style, which we'll read cover to cover. We'll also scrutinize examples of powerful academic wrifting (including those "recently published articles they consider the best in their field" referred to above). And of course students will read and reread their own and each other's writing, the real centrepiece of the course.

Course Methods of Evaluation and Course Requirements

A series of assignments including participation (10%), a weekly writing accountability log (10%), a (2 parts) journals research assignment (20%), written feedback on classmates' writing (10%), and a final, polished article including abstract (50%).

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)
Date/Time: Thursday / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person


Eating Well

S. Salih

Course Description

In 2019, a report by Oxford University Researchers found that adopting a plant-based diet was the single most significant intervention consumers could make in the face of climate disaster. Others counter that ‘eating meat is one of the things that makes us human.’ Derrida says the moral question isn’t whether one eats or doesn’t eat this or that. Is it possible to eat well in the Anthropocene, an era in which ‘what it means to be human’ is invoked with increasing frequency? Are there ethical omnivores? What do these questions have to do with students of English Literature? During this course, we will study a range of thinkers who have engaged with the issue of eating, eating well, eating others, and (sometimes) ‘what it means to be human.’

In How to Live Together, Roland Barthes is concerned with the philosopher’s food, as are Friedrich Nietzsche and Jacques Derrida.  Feminist theorists such as Carol Adams and Susan Fraiman regard not eating other species as a essential to feminist care ethics, while three fictions by J.M. Coetzee represent the problem of eating well, particularly during times of political crisis. Peter Singer and Michael Pollan offer contrasting views of the ethics of eating well and eating others.  We won’t resolve these questions but we may at least, as Nietzsche says, gain some insight into ‘a question on which the “salvation of humanity” depends… the question of nutrition’ (Ecce Homo, ‘Why I am so clever’).

Course Reading List

Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat
Roland Barthes, Mythologies (extracts)
---. How to Live Together
---. The Empire of Signs (extracts)
J.M. Coetzee, Foe (optional)
---. Life & Times of Michael K
---. The Lives of Animals
Jacques Derrida, ‘Eating Well’ (Points.  Interviews 1974-1994)
---. The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)
Susan Fraiman, ‘Susan Fraiman, ‘Pussy Panic vs Liking Animals.  Tracking Gender in Animal Studies.’  Critical Inquiry 2012
Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement.  Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
---. We Are the Weather
Peter Singer, Animal Liberation
---. The Life You Can Save
+ many articles
 (texts subject to change)

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

Participation, including one response to week’s readings: 10+10%
Abstract: 15%
Essay (4000 words): 40%
Conference presentation: 25%

Term: F-TERM (September 2022 to December 2022)
Date/Time: Monday / 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person


History and Structure of the English Language, Post-1500

C. Percy

Course Description

This course surveys the linguistic and cultural history of the English language from the late fifteenth century until the present day. It reviews representative developments in vocabulary, spelling, grammar, pronunciation, and the codification of English in dictionaries and grammars. Themes for seminar discussion and research papers may include such topics as the processes and implications of language change; standardization and prescriptivism; the functions of English, French, and Latin in and beyond Britain; language contact, pidgins and creoles; colonization, empire, and global Englishes; 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.

Research deploying large digital corpora is changing the stories and histories of English, and the course will allow students to experiment with social and cultural microhistories of words and linguistic forms with the aid of available corpora and of digital searching methods. It will engage with theories of language evolution, variation, and change. Students will be encouraged to consider how to bridge historical linguistics and literature and how to bring knowledge of the English language into their literary studies.

There is no prerequisite required for this course. 

Course Reading List

Primary Texts: Literary and non-literary texts (TBA) will illustrate lectures and seminars.
Secondary Texts: For a basic outline, we'll read excerpts from such textbooks as David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 3rd ed. (Cambridge UP, 2019) and Joan C. Beal, English in Modern Times (2004; e-dition Routledge, 2014). For discussion, we'll engage with a gathering of shorter readings, most of them available through the University of Toronto Library online.

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

This is an introductory course. The course requirements are: Short reports (best 3 of 6: 30%), a proposal with bibliography (10%), a presentation introducing your research paper (15%), a final research paper (35%), and participation (10%). Participation will include discussion and written feedback in class, and exercises and tasks online. 

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)
Date/Time: Tuesday / 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person 


Dystopian Fiction and Unsettled Space

S. Radovic

Course Description

This course explores the topographies of contemporary dystopian fiction. Along with the subgenres such as the post-apocalyptic and “the new weird,” dystopian fiction offers alternative narratives of the existing social order, imagines the consequences of environmental degradation, revises the norms of individual and communal identity, and re-situates the categories of race and gender. Despite its profound investment in re-conceptualisations of time and history, dystopian fiction offers critically engaging and deliberately distorted visions of social space and narrative setting. In this course, our primary concern will be with spatial imagination in the context of this genre. Challenging readers’ expectations about the meaning of private property, domestic comfort, and grounded identity, the novels we are reading will propose a radically unsettled vision of present and future worlds.

Course Texts

Fiction: Octavia Butler Kindred; Jeff VanderMeer Veniss Underground; China Miéville Perdido Street Station; Margaret Atwood The Handmade’s Tale; J.G. Ballard The Drought; Ursula K. Le Guin The Dispossessed. Theoretical readings: Fredric Jameson Archeologies of the Future, Darko Suvin Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, Jean Baudrillard Simulacra and Simulation, Paul Virilio The Original Accident, Donna Haraway “A Cyborg Manifesto”; Michel Foucault “Of Other Spaces”; Gil Doron “Heterotopia and the ‘dead zone’”; Sigmund Freud “The Uncanny”; Mike Davis Ecology of Fear

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

Participation (15%), Class facilitation (15%), Essay prospectus (20%), Final Essay (50%).

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)
Date/Time: Wednesday / 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person 


Creative Nonfiction

M. Cobb

Course Description

This course will be preoccupied with the dynamics and implications of nonfiction writing that uses literary stylistics to advance compelling arguments. We'll ask why creative prose can be so effective in reaching large audiences. We'll wonder how the affective qualities of more literary-minded pose provide provoking contrasts to the established conventions of academic argumentation. We'll wonder if creative nonfiction is less "rigorous" than scholarly "rigor." We'll also consider why those who write on race, gender, class, and/or sexuality have often found the literary register more useful, inviting, and necessary.

Reading List

Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
Gloria Anzaldúa, Boderlands/La Frontera
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
Maggie Nelson,
The Argonauts
Hilton Als, White Girls

Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

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%).

Term: F-TERM (September 2022 to December 2022)
Date/Time: Monday 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person 


Queer, Trans, and Feminist Historiographies

D. Seitler 

Course Description

This is not a course in queer, feminist, or trans history.  It is a course that will explore queer, trans, and feminist approaches and methods in historiography—that is, the techniques, sources, archives, practices, and theoretical approaches one might take to generate specifically queer, trans, and/or feminist understandings of and engagements with the past. In other words, we will concern ourselves not with recovering those sexual and gender identities at the margins of history but with exploring the methods, practices, and politics of how and why such histories get (re)told.  We will be particularly concerned with the fictional, visual, and aesthetic shape of contemporary desires for relation to and/or use of the past.  Speculation, imagination, attachment, potential history, counter-archive, and fabulation will all be key terms. We will read theoretical work by Azoulay, Freeman, Hartman, Nyong’o, Luciano, Ramirez, and others and literary texts by Dickinson, Hopkins, Hurston, de Waal, Carmack, Acker, and others.

Course Reading List

Azoulay, Freeman, Hartman, Nyong’o, Luciano, Ramirez, and others and literary texts by Dickinson, Hopkins, Hurston, de Waal, Carmack, Acker, and others.

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

Seminar presentation/ Experimental Analysis (20%), 3 short précis (15%), conference reflection (5%), participation (20%), final research paper (40%)

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)
Date/Time: Wednesday / 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person 


Law and Literature

S. Stern

Course Description

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.”

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.

Course Texts

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:

How does literature use or respond to legal structures, themes, and analytical techniques, and vice versa?
How does literature portray legal institutions and processes?
What can literature bring to the performance of legal tasks, including legal narrative?
To what extent can literary critical accounts of narrative structure and coherence explain the role of narrative in law, and where do these accounts fall short?
What is achieved and what is missed by positing literature as law’s “other” (e.g., as the imaginative and ethical alternative to legal rules and constraints)?

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

The course requirements will include a final paper (80%), a 2-3 page response paper for presentation in class (10%) and regular class participation (10%).

Term: F-TERM (September 2022 to December 2022)
Date/Time: Wednesday 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Location: FA2 (FH 103) Faculty of Law (Falconer House Building, 84 Queen's Park)
Delivery: In-Person


ENG6560HS  CANCELLED 9 Dec. 2022
Visual Media and Human Rights Work

C. Suzack 

Social Robots in the Cultural Imagination

M. Goldman 

Course Description

This course will explore the production and portrayal of social robots in the cultural imagination in conjunction with literary and religious myths of creation. While the course looks back to the history of AI and early literary accounts of robots in the 1960s, it concentrates on modes of production and on works written in or after the 1990s when western society experienced "the development of a fully networked life." The course will explore the ethical and aesthetic questions raised by the intersection between the production and the imaginative portrayals of transhuman relationships. Questions to be considered in interpreting developments in AI and in reading literature about social robots in light of the religious and classical myths-include: how is creation figured? What or who is created and why? Who plays God? Who serves as Eve/Adam? Who is cast as Satan? What is the locus of the Garden? What constitutes power/knowledge? And, finally, how does a particular treatment of the social robot potentially alter our understanding of the foundational imaginative intertexts and, by extension, notions of divinity, humanity, gender, animality, and relations of kinship and care.

Course Reading List

1. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (1967) 2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968) 3. Speak by Louisa Hall (2015)
Films and TV series: 1. Ex Machina 2. West World 3. Robot and Frank 4. Her
1. Half Life by John Mighton 2. Marjorie Prime by Jordan Harrison

Secondary Sources and Human Resources:
1. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle
2. Analyses of real-world development of social robots: a. ElliQ: robot companion https://www.intuitionrobotics.com/elliq/ b. Sophia et. al.: http://www.hansonrobotics.com/robot/sophia/ c. Erika: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87heidlFqG4 d. Geminoid DK: a) test https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZlLNVmaPbM b) in action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSLe7xrP4jQ e. Kismet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KRZX5KL4fA
3. Teresa Heffernan's SSHRC-funded project: "Where Science Meets Fiction: Social Robots and the Ethical Imagination" (see: http://socialrobotfutures.com/)
4. Amelia DeFalco's research and writing on social robots, aging, and care work. Her research project, Curious Kin: Fictions of Posthuman Care, investigates non-human care, both actual and imagined. This work examines representations of companion animals and robots in literature, film, television, and advertising to explore how posthuman dependencies might transform our understanding of "humane" care and the human.
5. U of T is home to the newly created Vector Institute, The Vector Institute (VI), whose mandate entails driving "excellence and leadership in Canada's knowledge, creation," and using "artificial intelligence (AI) to foster economic growth and improve the lives of Canadians." I have spoken to Richard Zimmel and he is interested in fostering connections among the VI and the Humanities.

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 (September 2022 to December 2022)
Date/Time: Friday / 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person


The Novel of Sexual Ideas

D. Wright

Course Description

In this seminar, we’ll map out a provisional novelistic subgenre: the novel of sexual ideas, in which plots of sexuality develop through or alongside philosophical speculation and argument about ethics, identity, pleasure, the will, the body and its sensations, instinct and impulse, subjects and objects. Combining the abstraction of the novel of ideas with the immediacy of the novel of sex, the novel of sexual ideas represents but also formalizes and philosophizes erotic life. The tradition of the novel of sexual ideas overlaps but is not identical with such traditions as the critique of the marriage plot, the novel of adultery, sex comedy, and the queer and trans novel. Unlike the novel of ideas, which often breaks away from narration into extended passages of philosophical argument, the novel of sexual ideas is more concrete in its philosophizing; it thinks through and with the particularities of bodies and intimacies. Unlike the pornographic novel, the novel of sexual ideas turns sex into a theoretical object, an ethical and political problem, an occasion for thought. The paradoxes that come from merging these two seemingly opposed genres will fuel our discussion.

Course Reading List

Novels TBD but may include: Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure; D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover; Virginia Woolf, Orlando; James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room; Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty; Dionne Brand, Theory; Jordy Rosenberg, Confessions of the Fox; Garth Greenwell, Cleanness; Brandon Taylor, Real Life; Torrey Peters, Detransition, Baby.

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

Presentation and/or seminar facilitation, 30%; seminar paper 15-20pp, 50%; participation, 20%

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)
Date/Time: Thursday / 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person


Critical Theory and Science and Technology Studies

A. Slater

Course Description

Scholars in the humanities are increasingly drawn into debates concerning the social impact of science and technology. These interdisciplinary conversations often balance the rigors of scientific method alongside the interpretive power of the humanities. How has critical theory combined with science and technology studies (STS) to interpret and challenge scientific discourse across the years? This course will introduce important intersections between critical theory and STS. With an eye to the latest developments in these overlapping fields, we will investigate the nature of these interdisciplinary formations. This course will provide a grounding in the methods and arguments that shape how literary and humanistic inquiry intervene in the world of science and technology.

Course Texts

Readings may include:
Stacey Alaimo, Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self
Ruha Benjamin, excerpts from Race After Technology
Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, excerpts from Objectivity
Kim TallBear, “An Indigenous, Feminist Approach to DNA Politics”
Paul Edwards, excerpts from A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming
Alexander Galloway, excerpts from Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization
Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs”
Evelyn Fox Keller, excerpts from Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-Century Biology
Bruno Latour, excerpts from Science in Action
Luciana Parisi, excerpts from Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics, and Space
N. Katherine Hayles, excerpts from How We Became Posthuman

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

--Student Presentation with discussion questions: 10%
--Short Paper based on student presentation (3-4 pages, due one week after presentation): 15%
--Active Engagement during session: 10%
--Discussion Posts (posted within one week of class session): 10%
--Class conference Presentation (Final two sessions): 5%
--Final paper (10-12 double-spaced pages, due December 16 noon EST on Quercus) 50%

Term: F-TERM (September 2022 to December 2022)
Date/Time: Wednesday / 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 616 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person 


The Roots of Autotheory: Nietzsche, Milner, Barthes

M. Ruti