6000 Series Course Descriptions (Aspects of Theory)

ENG6064HS L0101

Theory of the Novel

Schmitt, C.

Course Description: 

When, in 1914-15, Georg Lukács chose the title The Theory of the Novel for his influential work on the modern literary genre par excellence, he named a field of endeavour that has preoccupied literary theorists and critics from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. Borrowing his title, this course sets out to engage with landmark contributions to the theory of the novel over the last century. In addition to Lukács’s Hegelian (and, later, Marxist) answers to the question of why novels exist and how they function, we will canvass Russian Formalist, structuralist, post-structuralist, psychoanalytic, and narratological approaches. We’ll also make certain to have two literary texts in common to enable deeply informed in-class discussion and analysis—one novel and one short story. (Is this last, the short story, cheating? Among the issues we’ll address is the extent to which the theory of the novel applies to all prose fiction.)

Course Reading list:  (subject to change)

Novel theory by Viktor Shklovsky, Georg Lukács, Mikhail Bakhtin, Gérard Genette, Dorrit Cohn, Roland Barthes, Fredric Jameson, Barbara Johnson, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Nancy Armstrong, and others. In addition, one short story (possibly Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” or D. H. Lawrence’s “The Odour of Chrysanthemums”) and one novel (most likely Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm).

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:

  • Informed participation (10%),
  • two short interpretations (10% each x 2 = 20%),
  • two short précis (10% each x 2 = 20%),
  • take-home final exam (50%).

Term: S-TERM (January 2024 to April 2024)
Date/Time: Wednesday / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm (2 hours)
Location: Room JHB TBA (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person  


ENG6365HS    L0101    

Diasporic Englishes    

Percy, C.     

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 will illustrate lectures and seminars.

Secondary Texts: Online readings and reference works will supplement a textbook, to be ordered to the University of Toronto Bookstore. Some of your predecessors’ projects are available online at http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/DiasporicEnglishes2007.htm 

Course Requirements and Method of Evaluation:

This is an introductory course. The course requirements are:

  • Short reports (best 3 of 6: 30%),
  • a proposal with bibliography (10%),
  • a presentation (15%),
  • a final research paper (35%),
  • and participation (10%).

Term: S-TERM (January 2024 to April 2024)
Date/Time: Tuesday / 10:00 pm to 12:00 pm (2 hours)
Location: Room JHB TBA (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person  


ENG6492HF    L0101    

Speaking of What’s Next: Climate and Dystopia in Near Future Fiction    

Goldman, M.    

Course Description:

Disruptions to the social and material foundations of global society produced by climate change are now ubiquitous and growing in severity. Writers and popular artists who aim to consider the human future face a narrative challenge: climate change is seemingly indefinite in duration, comprised of an incalculable number of inputs, and difficult to explicate through the traditional paradigm of protagonist and antagonist. How to speak about what’s coming? Dystopian fiction seems to offer a starting point. Climate may be understood as an intensifier of traditional hazards that dystopian artists and thinkers have long interrogated: plague, resource conflict, brutalized social control, and the perils of new technology. This course will review fictional, near future dystopias, interpolated by recent theoretical work on climate. Questions to be examined include: Does the traditional dichotomy between literary fiction and genre fiction remain salient in valuing future-facing texts? Have speculative forms like science fiction and dystopia acquired a new primacy ahead of “merely” literary works? Is the book-text alone still capable of mobilizing social action on subjects like climate change or is adaption to visual media now requisite? Must emotional potency come at the expense of scientific nuance? Is alarmism productive or unhelpful in climate fiction?

Course Reading List:            

Literary Works Don’t Look Up (film) by Adam MacKay • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline • The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or Station Eleven (miniseries) by Patrick Somerville • The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Theoretical WorksDown to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime by Bruno Latour • The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh • Rewriting Apocalypse in Canadian Fiction by Marlene Goldman • The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace Wells • Select scholarly papers

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:  

  • Class meetings/participation and engagement (10% of course grade)
  • Discussion papers (500 words each; due weekly) (5 papers x 4% each = 20% of course grade)
  • One seminar discussion (10 - 15 min presentation in place of discussion paper) (5% of course grade)
  • Seminar paper (6-8 pages; 25% of course grade)
  • Final paper title and abstract (750 word maximum; tentative due date: week of Nov. 7) (10% of course grade)
  • Final research paper (20 - 25 pages; tentative (30% of course grade)

Term: F-TERM (September 2023 to December 2023)
Date/Time: Thursday / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm  (2 hours)
Location: TBA JHB, Jackman Humanities Building (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street) 
Delivery: In-Person 


ENG6494HF    L0101    

Psychogeography and the Mapping of Literary Space    

Radović, S.    

Course Description:

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

Course Reading List:

“Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography” (Guy Debord), “Formulary for a New Urbanism” (Ivan Chtcheglov), “Of Other Spaces” (Michel Foucault), The Production of Space (Henri Lefebvre), “Terrain Vague” (Ignacio de Sola-Morales), “The Uncanny” (Sigmund Freud), The Politics of Public Space (Setha Low and Neil Smith, eds.), Psychogeography (Merlin Coverley), The Architectural Uncanny (Anthony Vidler), Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers (Stephen Graham), Non-Places (Marc Augé), Explore Everything (Bradley L. Garrett), The City and the City  (China Mieville), The New York Trilogy (Paul Auster), The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson), High-rise (J.G. Ballard), The Shining (Stephen King), Kindred (Octavia Butler)

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:

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

Term: F-TERM (September 2023 to December 2023)
Date/Time: Friday / 11:00 am to 1:00 pm  (2 hours)
Location: TBA JHB, Jackman Humanities Building (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street) 
Delivery: In-Person 


ENG6552HF    L0101    

Law and Literature    

Stern, S.    

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 2023 to December 2023)
Date/Time: Wednesday, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm - 2 hours
Location: TBA
Delivery: In-Person


ENG6848HS    L0101    

Representing Vandalism    

Mount, N.    

Course Description:  

Marking walls, defacing monuments, burning books, blowing up statues, breaking windows...for as long as humans have created things, they have also wilfully defaced and destroyed them. What is vandalism? Who does it, and why? Does vandalism also create? Can a transhistorical, humanist approach to vandalism offer new perspectives on old and new forms of vandalism that period-specific historians and (more recently) social scientists may have missed? These are the working questions of my current research/book. Besides key theoretical discussions of vandalism old and new, this inter-disciplinary seminar will explore representations of vandalism in both "fact" and fiction, media coverage and creative literature. Our topics of conversation, and potentially of your own research and essays, will include such things as state-sponsored vs. citizen vandalism, cultural vandalism, political vandalism, literary vandalism, the vandalism of art, art as vandalism, vandalism for fun and vandalism for profit.

Course Reading List: (tentative)

Theory/historical sources A.H. Merrills, “The Origins of Vandalism.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 16.2 (June 2009): 155-75 Christopher Stone, “Vandalism: Property, Gentility, and the Rhetoric of Crime in New York City 1890-1920,” Radical History Review 26 (1982) Stanley Cohen, “Property Destruction: Motives and Meanings,” Vandalism, ed. Colin Ward (Architectural Press, 1973) Ann Macy Roth, “Erasing a Reign,” Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh, ed. Catherine H. Roehrig (2005) Andreas Karlstadt, “On the Removal of Images” (1522) Finbaar Barry Flood, “Between Cult and Culture: Bamiyan, Islamic Iconoclasm, and the Museum,” Art Bulletin 84.4 (Dec. 2002) Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images (1999), ch3, “Images Overthrown” David Freedberg, The Power of Images (1989), excerpts Fernando Cortés, Letters of Cortes, excerpts Bartolomé de Las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1542) Hicks, Dan. The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution (2020), excerpts Marc Matera et al, The Women's War of 1929: Gender and Violence in Colonial Nigeria (2012), excerpts Jasper Becker, City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China (2008), excerpts Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism Since the French Revolution (1997) Nick Mount, “The Return of Beauty,” Queen’s Quarterly 115.2 (2008) Fiction/Art Lao She, “Neighbours” (trans. 1999) Alice Munro, “Vandals” (1993) in Open Secrets (1994) Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899) Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953) Graham Greene, “The Destructors” (1954) Banksy, Wall and Piece (2006)

Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements Course

Marks will be determined by

  • short written weekly responses (20%),
  • seminar participation (20%),
  • and a 5,000-word research paper (60%).   

Term: S-TERM (January 2024 to April 2024)
Date/Time: Wednesday / 10:00 am to 12:00 pm (2 hours)
Location: Room JHB TBA (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person