English Course Guide. First-year students

NOTE: Banner images should be placed in this first content block and should be at least 720px wide.

Join MSVU ENGL Dept. on TwitterRead the ENGL Dept News/Events blogFind MSVU English Society on Facebook

What courses will you take?

This guide is designed to help you make course selections for 2016-2017. While the Mount's University Calendar gives descriptions for all English and Writing courses, not all of those courses are offered each year. In the drop-down menus below, you'll see more detailed information about the courses offered, program options, an introduction to English at the Mount, information on courses for next year, and checklists to help you plan. Please consult the University Calendar for official information on admissions and program requirements.

  • Program Options -- Students can take a 20-unit Bachelor of Arts degree with an Honours or a Major in English literature (typically four years). English can also be taken as a Combined Major with another subject in the Arts or Science offerings. A 15-unit Bachelor of Arts (General Studies) degree is also available with a Concentration in English (typically three years). These and other options (such as a Minor in Literature or Writing) are explored below in the drop-down menu.
  • ENGL or WRIT -- Courses offered by our department are designated as English (ENGL) or Writing (WRIT) or both (ENGL/WRIT). Courses with the WRIT designation can count towards the Writing Minor or they can be taken as an elective. ENGL/WRIT courses let you decide if you want the course to count towards an English program option, towards the Writing Minor, or as an English or Writing elective.
  • Pre-requisites -- Please consult the University Calendar to ensure you are adequately prepared for the courses you want to take. Generally, taking a 1000-level course is recommended to help you prepare for 2000-level and 3000-level courses.

Looking for Academic Advising?

At the Mount, we want to ensure you're on the right track from registration straight through to graduation. Our academic advisors are here to make sure your course choices work for your degree requirements and timeline. Download our advising checklists and contact your academic advisor - we encourage you to meet in person. A list of academic advisors is posted on the English Department bulletin board on the 5th floor of the Seton Academic Centre (between Room 510 and Room 511), or if you need to be assigned to an advisor, ask our administrative assistant, Tracy McDonald, in Seton 533 (902-457-6346; tracy.mcdonald@msvu.ca).

Victorian lit recitations 2011

Left: Victorian Literature students after a public recitation of 19th-century poetry.


Study what you love

In the English Department you can select courses that cover a wide range of subjects from traditional and historical literatures to contemporary theory and cultural studies. As part of your course work, you may find yourself memorizing lines for a performance project, researching eighteenth-century women writers, examining art responding to 9/11, or analyzing what makes a monster in different cultures. You will craft persuasive essays about books, authors, and issues that excite you. Some of your course work might deal with authors and subjects that you already know you love, and other courses will introduce you to exciting new challenges and approaches.

Even as you may be involved in analyzing how a book is made into a film, or translating lines of medieval poetry, or debating concepts of gender and sexuality in contemporary media, you will also be improving your oral and written communication skills, your research abilities, and your own creativity as a writer while developing the theoretical tools that will lead you to a greater literary and cultural understanding.

We know that you're more likely to succeed in university if you study what you love.

Charlotte Kiddell at Grand Opening of McCain Centre

Left: Charlotte Kiddell, English Honours student and student activist, one of ten Canadians recently chosen by the CBC to interview the Prime Minister one-on-one.


Gain skills in communication and critical analysis

University English teaches you both clear, articulate writing and critical analysis of the ways that language and literature work. These skills are acquired by prolonged experience and practice, rather like high-diving or ballet or piano-playing. Regular attendance at classes is consequently essential, along with active participation.

To maximize participation, English classes at the Mount are usually run in a discussion format. Your instructors will sometimes transmit information necessary to understand the background of literary works or certain critical approaches -- but on the whole, our teaching of English will not be simple transmission, any more than your learning will be simple memorization. Rather, we try to raise thought-provoking questions about literary texts, so that students can try out various solutions. Through weighing one solution against another, and checking all these solutions against the text, you should acquire a good sense of literary judgment. This will, over time, make your responses more convincing, more sophisticated, and more able to take account of the full complexity of literature.

These skills are carried over into the formulation of written arguments. English Department faculty make an effort to give full, careful comments on each student's written work. If taken to heart, these comments should prevent the repetition of errors, and year by year the writing of English students increases in precision and authority.

While all of our English courses will enable you to become a better writer, our Writing courses are for those who are especially interested in exploring the theory and practice of writing in different situations and in different types of writing. Writing courses will introduce writing as a rhetorical practice: a highly intentional exercise of choices to achieve a particular goal. Their topics range from an introduction to the field of writing studies, through creative writing and persuasion, editing and publishing, to theory and research in the field. Our Writing classes are run as small workshops of no more than 20 to 25 students in which you and your instructor and other students work closely on your writing, research, and editing.

The skills gained by these teaching practices -- the ability to think through problems and then to communicate the results convincingly -- will be useful not only in English classes but in any number of different fields and professions. In fact, excellent communication skills are among the top three priorities of most employers today. Read more about our students' career paths.


 Left:  a photo-collage of Halifax street art by Katrina Haight, part of her project in a Contemporary Culture course on psychogeography and the city as text.  Read more about Katrina's project.

Enjoy innovative teaching in a creative community

At the Mount, you will get to know your professors and classmates as you read, discuss, write, and work together in small classes of no more than 20 to 35 students. And your professors will get to know you as well, guiding you through your assignments and advising you on your program of study. Your work is graded by your professor, not by student teaching assistants.

While your professors are all active researchers in their fields, they also look for creative new ways to bring their knowledge into the classroom to share with you. All of our faculty are committed to high standards of teaching, and many of them have won or have been nominated for university, regional, and national teaching awards. Read more about our professors' teaching and research interests and their recent activities.

It's this personal level of attention that allows us to offer a full-year honours thesis course in which a student works with one professor on a substantial research project, a unique opportunity among Halifax universities. Other research and teaching opportunities are also available to our senior students, such as working as a research assistant or writing tutor.




English 1000-level courses. Photo Krista HillPhoto: Krista Hill


If you are considering a degree in English or if you are looking to sharpen your critical faculties, then choose ENGL 1155 or ENGL 1170 or 1171. These courses are introductions to English studies at the university level, but each one takes a different approach. Read the descriptions that follow carefully. 

If this is your first experience of English study at university, please note that it will differ from high school, and students sometimes report a drop in their English grades.  You will need a GPA of 2.0 (equivalent to a C average) in English to become and remain a major.  The Undergraduate Academic Calendar has a full description of the meaning of the various grades used at MSVU, and your English professors will most likely distribute in class the English Department Marking Scheme handout which describes how the department applies the Mount's grading system.  Copies of this handout are available from our department administrative assistant, Tracy McDonald, who is located in Seton 533.


WRIT 1120 is a course in writing theory and practice. It is the foundation of the Writing Minor, but it is valuable for any student.  Those who enjoy writing and its challenges will find stimulating challenges and will acquire a deeper understanding of how writing is accomplished, from the first glimmering of an idea to the final edit. English students (in the honours, advanced major, major, combined major, concentration, or minor programs) in literature can take this course as an elective. 


WRIT 1120: Writing Theory and Practice

Half (0.5) Unit--Fall or Winter  

NOTE: In WRIT 1120, you will be challenged and assisted to develop new strengths, whether or not you consider yourself to be a "good writer" already.  This course is not remedial or a review of what you have learnt in high school; it is a university-level course in which you will learn new writing techniques.  There is a firm exit standard: all students must demonstrate the same minimum competence in university-level writing in order to pass WRIT 1120.  To help you and your professor understand the challenges ahead, you will be asked to write in the very first class, for an entry benchmark.  This task is the purpose of the Calendar note which reads, "A writing exercise will be assigned in the first class. Students whose performances are judged as inadequate will be strongly recommended to withdraw from the course." 


01F   Monday & Wednesday  9:00-10:15   Clare Goulet

02F   Monday & Wednesday 10:30-11:45   David Wilson

03F   Monday & Wednesday 1:30-2:45      Dr. Anna Smol

04F   Tuesday & Thursday 10:30-11:45      Dr. Sandra Orser

05F   Tuesday & Thursday 1:30-2:45          Dr. Nathaniel Street

06F   Tuesday & Thursday  4:30-5:45         Dr. Sandra Orser


07W   Monday & Wednesday  10:30-11:45   Dr. Sandra Orser

08W   Monday & Wednesday  1:30-2:45       Lesley Newhook

09W   Tuesday & Thursday  9:00-10:15        Lesley Newhook

10W   Tuesday & Thursday   3:00-4:15         Clare Goulet

In WRIT 1120, you will approach writing from a rhetorical perspective: that is, writing is not just a matter of following a series of rules or applying a set of templates.  Instead, writing involves making choices that are appropriate to the situation.  Assignments will include, but also extend beyond, traditional academic writing.  You will get practice in drafting and substantial revision as well as editing and polishing.  Issues of academic integrity and accurate citation will be addressed in the process of developing research-informed papers.

This course is the foundation of the Writing Minor; it is recommended that you take 1120 before you attempt any other WRIT or WRIT/ENGL courses.

ENGL 1155: Introduction to Literature: Gender and Form

Full (1.0) Unit--Fall and Winter 

An introduction to the critical study of the major forms of fiction, poetry, and drama, using examples from the time of Chaucer to the present day.  Readings will include a balance of female and male writers, and a special focus for discussion will be representations of gender.  Students may not take both ENGL 1155 and ENGL 1170/1171 for credit.

NOTE: This course is also listed as a women-emphasis course in the Women's Studies Department.

01FW       Monday and Wednesday   1:30-2:45     Dr. Graham Fraser

02FW       Tuesday and Thursday       3:00-4:14    Dr. Rhoda Zuk

ENGL 1170: Introduction to Literature: Reading Literary Forms

Half (0.5) Unit--Fall or Winter

An introduction to the terms and methods of literary analysis.  Through reading and thinking about literary works, students will acquire the skills needed to write about them effectively.

NOTE: Students may not take both English 1155 and English 1170/1171 for credit.


01F     Monday & Wednesday   10:30-11:45     Dr. Diane Piccitto

02F     Monday & Wednesday   12:00-1:15       Dr. Stephen Cloutier

03F     Tuesday & Thursday       9:00-10:15      Lesley Newhook

04F     Tuesday & Thursday       12:00-1:15       Dr. Anna Smol

18F     DLCE: Tuesday :              6:00-7:15        David Wilson


05W    Monday & Wednesday    12:00-1:15      Dr. Sandra Orser

06W    Tuesday & Thursday       10:30-11:45     Lesley Newhook


ENGL 1171: Introduction to Literature: Reading Historically

Half (0.5) Unit--Winter only

An examination of the problems involved in interpreting literature of ages other than our own.  By identifying the preconceived notions of historical periods from the middle ages to the present moment, students assess how these preconceptions affect interpretation.  

NOTE: Students who have previously received credit for ENGL 1155 may not take this course for credit. .


01W   Monday & Wednesday  10:30-11:45    Dr. Diane Piccitto

02W    Tuesday & Thursday    12:00-1:15      Dr. Anna Smol

18W    DLCE: Tuesday   6:00-7:15                 David Wilson

2 studentsPhoto: Krista Hill

You may take a 2000-level ENGL course once you have completed one unit of literature at the 1000 level or five units of any university study. Completion of at least one unit at the 2000 level is recommended for English courses at the 3000 and 4000 level.  WRIT and ENGL/WRIT courses may have particular pre-requisites.

ENGL 2201  Shakespeare/one unit



Monday and Wednesday 10:30 - 11:45

Instructor: Dr. Graham Fraser

In this course, we will examine Shakespeare’s development as a dramatist, both during his career as a whole and within the specific genres of history, comedy, tragedy, and romance.  In doing so, we will focus on the literary issues, performative possibilities, and historical contexts of selected plays.   Text: The Norton Shakespeare. 3rd ed. This course is required for English majors.

ENGL 2202  Introduction to Critical Methods/half unit

Fall term

Tuesday and Thursday 10:30 - 11:45                             

Instructor: Dr. Karen Macfarlane


Literary theory explores how we do what we do as readers and literary critics.  It explores the issues around how language works, how we define and work with literary and cultural texts, how we work through the series of complex codes and meanings that make up our culture, how our material position (our social position, our race, gender, ability, sexuality etc.) affects the use of language, the production of literature, the structures and forms of narrative, our position as readers, and a variety of other issues related to our relationship with the texts around us.

This course is structured as an introduction to critical theory as a field of study with the aim of providing students with a strong grounding in the methods, terms, and strategies that underpin English studies. You will be introduced to the major schools and approaches that shape contemporary theory, such as psychoanalysis, Marxist theory, structuralism, poststructuralism, feminist theory and postcolonialism.  In addition to reading texts about theory, we will read both selected primary theoretical works and selected literary texts through a variety of critical lenses.

This course is required for all English majors and strongly recommended for all English students at every level of the programme, and for all students interested in thinking about language, literature, and culture.

ENGL/WRIT 2220  Writing to Influence/half unit


Fall term   ENGL/WRIT 2220-01F                  

Monday and Wednesday 9:00 - 10:15   

Instructor: Dr. Nathaniel Street


Winter term                     

ENGL/WRIT 2220-18W (DLCE)    

Monday 6:00 - 7:15                     

Instructor: David Wilson

Pre-requisite: WRIT 1120 or five units of university study.


If you are taking this course in the writing minor, you are recommended to complete WRIT 1120 first.

Building on WRIT 1120, this course explores the rhetoric of persuasion in various genres and situations. The foundation of the course is classical rhetoric, as reinterpreted for modern times.  We explore logic and style as part of effective persuasion, as well as ethical issues that arise.  By the end of the course, students will have been familiarized with a variety of rhetorical and literary terms - impress your friends by referring casually to paronomasia or paraprosdokian.  Some research in the field is required.

ENGL/WRIT 2221  Creative Writing/ half unit

Fall term  

Tuesday and Thursday 3:00 - 4:15                     

Instructor: Clare Goulet

Pre-requisite: 0.5 unit of English at the 1000 level or permission of the instructor.

If you are taking this course in the writing minor, you are recommended to complete WRIT 1120 first.

A study of lyric and narrative thinking via specific writing assignments in poetry, fiction, and/or nonfiction, in a workshop environment. Reading and written discussion of (and visits by) contemporary writers is central to the course, with peer-reviewed literary journals drawn on as texts and to establish standards.  Limited enrolment.

WRIT 2222  Introduction to Editing/half unit

Winter term

Tuesday and Thursday 1:30 - 2:45                                 

Instructor: Clare Goulet

Pre-requisite: WRIT 1120 and ENGL/WRIT 2220 or permission of the instructor.

An introduction through workshops and case studies to the history and practice of text editing, from manuscript analysis, structural and stylistic issues to copy editing and proofing galleys, in a range of genres: literary, scholarly, scientific, and popular.  Students will have access to manuscripts and editing professionals. Based on the Professional Editorial Standards of the Editors’ Association of Canada.  Limited enrolment.

ENGL 2260  Poetry/half unit

Fall term

Monday and Wednesday 12:00 - 1:15                               

Instructor: Dr. Diane Piccitto       


In the early nineteenth century, poet P. B. Shelley wrote, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”  Throughout this course, we will ask a number of questions about this rich mode of expression: What is poetry? How can we define it? What are its necessary components? What are its aims and effects?  As we consider the nature of this mode of writing, we will survey poetic techniques, terminology, and genres by analyzing select examples from different periods of literary history.  We will examine the ways in which poets employ form to convey meaning, work within traditions as well as challenge them, and explore various topics such as deep emotion, death, identity, creativity, freedom, and myth.  Readings will range from early modern texts by William Shakespeare, Anne Bradstreet, and John Donne to contemporary works by Maya Angelou, Adrienne Rich, and Christian Bök, as well as ranging from the sonnet to contemporary popular song.

ENGL 2263  Detective Fiction/half unit

Winter term

Monday and Wednesday 12:00 - 1:15 

Instructor: Dr. John Morgenstern


A study of detective fiction as it has developed from its genteel English and hard-boiled American origins into a form able to embrace serious social analysis, feminist perspectives and post-modernist poetics.


ENGL 2270   Classical Traditions/half unit

Winter term

Tuesday and Thursday 3:00 - 4:15                                 

Instructor:  Dr. Anna Smol


Love, War, Myth: From Classical to Contemporary Arts

The influence of ancient Greek and Roman texts has permeated the Western tradition for millennia. In our sampling of some of these works, we will read the lyric love poetry of Sappho, Homer’s epic accounts of the Trojan War and its aftermath in The Iliad and Odyssey, selections from Virgil’s epic, and excerpts from the mythological poetry of Ovid. One aim of the course will be to understand these texts in their own literary and historical contexts, but we will also look at how later writers and other artists have used these ancient texts, with examples drawn from early modern poetry to contemporary popular culture, including the Coens’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Margaret Atwood’s play The Penelopiad. Key concepts for examination will include adaptation, influence, translation, parody, and appropriation. For more information about the course, please consult the course webpage at http://annasmol.net/teaching/engl2270.

english-dept-seminarCourses at the 3000 or 4000 level require successful completion of at least one unit of literature at the 1000 level.  Although it is not required, at least one unit at the 2000 level is recommended.

An English Department seminar. Photo: Krista Hill

ENGL 3305  Children's Literature / half unit

Fall term

Tuesday and Thursday 12:00 - 1:15
Instructor: Dr. Rhoda Zuk


It has been thirty years since First Nations, Inuit, and Métis authors, illustrators, and animators began to publish picture books, novels, and animations for children. In this course we will analyze culturally specific issues with relation to voice, memory, and representation in texts by writers such as Nicola I Campbell, Tomson Highway, Thomas King, Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, Catherine Knutson, and George Littlechild. We will also consider animations by Alan Syliboy and an animated cartoon series produced in cooperation with Norval Morrisseau. Our study will be informed by the theoretical frameworks and insights of Indigenous literary critics concerning language, land, orality, spirituality, gender, and resistance.

ENGL 3308  Romantic Revisions / half unit

Fall term
Monday and Wednesday 3:00 - 4:15
Instructor: Dr. Diane Piccitto

Reformers, Artists, and Antiheroes

The need for socio-political change, particularly with individual and group rights as well as parliamentary reform, persisted throughout the Romantic period (ca. 1785-1835). While the more immediate context for the second half of this era was the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte and subsequent Napoleonic Wars, the French Revolution continued to both inspire and haunt the imagination of a generation of writers that were either very young or not yet born when this historic event transpired. They struggled with the call of liberty and the rousing feats of the Promethean overreacher on the one hand and the belief in pacifism and the good of the general public on the other. In this course, we will examine various manifestations of socio-political conflicts as well as the viability of slow reform rather than violent revolution in the context of the imagination, the power of poetry, tradition versus progress, individualism versus social good, nature, and domesticity, primarily in the writings of second-generation Romantics such as Lord Byron, P. B. and Mary Shelley, John Keats, and Felicia Hemans. ENGL 3307 is recommended but not required.


ENGL 3319  Modern Poetry to 1945 / half unit

Winter term
Tuesday and Thursday 9:00 - 10:15
Instructor: Dr. Graham Fraser


In this course, we will examine a range of poems and poetics from the Modernist period (1900-1945). We will examine the innovations of Modernist literature against the background of 19th century poetry, and we will look into connections between Modernist poetry and other Modernist movements in art (especially visual art) and the larger cultural, scientific, philosophical, and political shifts and crises which informed the Modernist period.

Modernist poetry is often intentionally difficult in terms of both its poetic form and the complexity of its ideas.  It expects much of its audience and demands that its readers rise to its level and meet it on its own terms.  This course is designed to confront, understand, and hopefully to enjoy these difficulties (and perhaps even to reveal them to be not so difficult after all).  Some of the poets and poetic movements addressed will include: Imagism, Vorticism, Surrealism, Loy, Williams, Yeats, Pound, Eliot, H.D., Stevens, Stein, Moore, Riding, and Bishop.

Text: Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry Volume 1. 3rd ed.

ENGL/WRIT 3330  Myths and Theories about Writing / half unit

Winter term
Tuesday and Thursday 10:30 - 11:45
Instructor: Dr. Nathaniel Street

An examination of attempts to explain where ideas come from and how writing is accomplished, focusing on the social theory of writing, contemporary research, and ongoing issues and debates. Of interest to anyone who writes, this course provides a framework particularly important for potential teachers, editors, and critics.

ENGL 3364  Shakespeare's Contemporaries / half unit

Fall term
Monday and Wednesday 1:30 - 2:45
Instructor:  Dr. Reina Green

The late sixteenth and early seventeenth century is known as the golden age of English drama and not just because Shakespeare was writing plays then. Playgoing at the time was like watching Netflix today. Theatre was pop culture and, like today’s pop culture, it reflected many of the social concerns of the time—concerns about social hierarchy, gender relations, and politics to name a few. In this course we will read the most popular plays of the period by playwrights who worked alongside or in competition with Shakespeare: writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, and John Webster who may have influenced Shakespeare’s work or were influenced by it. We will also read works by writers like Elizabeth Cary whose plays were not publicly performed but may have had just as much influence on Shakespeare’s plays. We will think of these works not just as written texts, but as live performances staged for audiences who both cheered and jeered.

ENGL 3365 The Eighteenth-Century British Novel / half unit

Winter term
Tuesday and Thursday 12:00 - 1:15
Instructor: Dr. Rhoda Zuk


The eighteenth century saw the emergence and various developments of a new literary form in English: the novel. This literature can be understood as an aesthetic response to the formation of particular social identities engendered by the flourishing of mercantile capitalism. Each of the novels on our syllabus emphasizes the materiality of the world: money, clothing, household fixtures and objects, even paper and ink. In addition, the works we will analyze, written by women and men of disparate class positions, religious traditions, and political affiliations, have in common themes of work, education, class aspiration, virtue, and reputation.

Elizabeth Haywood’s Love in Excess; Or, The Fatal Enquiry and Daniel Defoe’s Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress take up the ambivalent figure of the unchaste woman; Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded and Henry Fielding’s satirical response to that work, An Apology for the Life of Mrs.ShamelaAndrews, ascribe divergent motivations to a young woman’s claims to pure intentions and her resultant fortunate marriage. Lawrence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman comically interrogates masculinity while Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman questions class divisions and gendered expectations.


ENGL 4407 / WOMS 4407/ GWGS 6607  Queer Theory / half unit

Winter term
Monday and Wednesday 3:00 - 4:15
Instructor:  Dr. Diane Piccitto


As a theory of otherness, disruption, and alternative ways of being and acting in the world, Queer Theory offers a mode of resisting and deconstructing normative - especially heteronormative - ideologies, discourses, and practices. Addressing representations of marginal identities and experiences, it is a rich theory that continues to develop and be reshaped with contemporary investments, particularly in the context of sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, as well as numerous constellations of expression, performance, and desire. Throughout the course, we will consider how various thinkers have contributed to this dense field and interrogate the philosophical implications of their theories, including the relationship between theory and practice, knowledge and being, identity and embodiment. Specifically, we will conduct intensive examinations of fundamental critical texts such as those by Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Judith Butler. Students are strongly encouraged to take ENGL 2202 (Introduction to Critical Methods) before taking this course.


ENGL 4427  Studies in Victorian Culture / half unit

Fall term
Tuesday and Thursday 1:30 - 2:45
Instructor: Dr. Karen Macfarlane


This course will focus on the Gothic in Victorian literature and culture. This is a huge topic (the Gothic was everywhere in Victorian culture!), so our focus will be narrowed down to an exploration of the Gothic and its relation to Empire with an emphasis on the tensions enacted on bodies at this intersection: specifically, (but not limited to) domestic and “foreign” bodies, monstrous bodies, and contaminated bodies. While we will cover a wide range of texts, images, and cultural practices from throughout the Victorian era, our focus will be on the fin de siècle (roughly 1870s to 1914). We will also be reading selected theoretical texts to provide context for our discussions. Emphasis will be on active discussion and engagement with the material.

Tentative Text List: Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray; Richard Marsh, The Beetle; and possibly Bram Stoker, Dracula.


ENGL 4475  Studies in Medieval Culture / half unit

Fall term
Tuesday and Thursday 4:30 - 5:45
Instructor: Dr. Anna Smol


Poets, Preachers, and Rebels

This course explores the literature of the European Middle Ages between approximately 1100 and 1500. Using gender as a category of analysis, we will examine constructions of sexual difference, class, and cultural alterity in texts written by women and about women. Beginning with troubadour lyrics written by women and some of the short romances and fables of Marie de France in the twelfth century, we will examine the social and political conditions that gave rise to what modern critics have sometimes called “courtly love.”

We will then move on to the influential thirteenth-century text, The Romance of the Rose, whose idealized and misogynistic representations sparked an intense debate about women in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in which the writer Christine de Pisan was a leading figure. We will look at her fiction, mainly The Book of the City of Ladies, which serves as an extended commentary on the debate from a woman’s point of view. Geoffrey Chaucer’s responses to The Romance of the Rose in his shorter texts, such as “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” and The Parliament of Fowls, will lead into our study of the sexual politics of romance in his major work, Troilus and Criseyde.

We will also examine women’s roles in Christian mysticism through the writings of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich as well as the representation of women and racialized others in encounters between Christians and Jews or Saracens in Chaucer’s “Man of Law’s Tale,” “Prioress’s Tale,” and in the anonymous work, The Sultan of Babylon.

Throughout the term, our study of these texts will be supported with excerpts from biblical commentaries, legal codes, penitential handbooks, clerical satires, natural philosophy, and with visual and musical arts.  All of the readings will be in modern English translations except for Chaucer’s works and The Sultan of Babylon, which we will read in Middle English (with the help of some glossaries and translations – no previous knowledge of Middle English is expected).

In general, this course should develop your knowledge of the complexity of late medieval European culture that goes far beyond current clichés about the medieval. In recognizing what is both different and familiar in this period in western history, you will attain a greater understanding of our contemporary culture and the ideologies that sustain it. For more information, please consult the course webpage at http://annasmol.net/teaching/engl4476.


ENGL 4480  Studies in Literature and Film / half unit

Winter term
Monday and Wednesday 1:30 - 2:45
Instructor: Dr. Reina Green


In this course we will explore the relationship between literature and film by examining how certain Shakespeare plays have been adapted to film. Shakespeare’s work has been a popular source for screen adaptations ever since the end of the nineteenth century, and we will examine why his plays are so popular with filmmakers and what happens when a work intended for the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century stage is adapted to a different media and different culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will consider the cultural value of Shakespeare and how adaptations of his work are marketed, along with the relationship between “live” theatre, the larger-than-life movie screen, and the virtual life of social media. Throughout, our exploration of the print, stage, and screen versions of Shakespeare’s plays will be informed by theories of adaptation.

 Note: Students who have received credit for ENGL 3380 may not take ENGL 4480 for credit.

Karen Livingstone Image

Our upper-level courses are offered in rotation, usually in alternate years. The courses listed below are the 2000- to 4000-level courses which we hope to offer in 2018-19. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this projection as the timetable will be affected by faculty sabbaticals, levels of funding, and other factors beyond the department's control. We will ensure, however, that Majors and Honours students will be able to meet their requirements.

Image:  Lothlorien (detail) by Karen Livingstone. Created as part of a creative project / analysis in ENGL 4475. 


  • ENGL 2201  Shakespeare
  • ENGL 2202  Introduction to Critical Methods                                              
  • ENGL 2216  Drama
  • ENGL/WRIT 2220  Writing to Influence
  • ENGL/WRIT 2221 Creative Writing
  • WRIT 2222 Introduction to Editing
  • ENGL 2242 Themes in Women’s Writing
  • ENGL 2250 Canadian Poetry
  • ENGL 2251 Canadian Fiction
  • ENGL 2261 Short Fiction
  • ENGL  3300  Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature
  • ENGL 3307 Romanticism and the Gothic
  • ENGL 3313 Modern and Contemporary Drama
  • ENGL 3327 Victorian Literature
  • WRIT 3331  Studies in Writing I
  • ENGL 3342  Modern Fiction
  • ENGL 3346 Contemporary Literature
  • ENGL 3354  Issues in Modern Canadian Literature and Theory
  • ENGL 3355 Sixteenth-Century Literature
  • ENGL 3356  Seventeenth-Century Literature 
  • ENGL 3361  Old English Literature
  • ENGL 4408  Critical Theory
  • ENGL 4446  Studies in Contemporary Culture

Summer School 2018

Summer Session I:

  • ENGL 1170 Introduction to Literature: Reading Literary Forms
  • ENGL 2213 Contemporary Film
  • ENGL/WRIT 2220 Writing to Influence
  • ENGL 3376 Medieval Literature

 Summer Session II:    

  • ENGL 1171  Introduction to Literature: Reading Historically
  • ENGL/WRIT 2221 Creative Writing
  • WRIT 2222 Introduction to Editing
  • ENGL 3366 Nineteenth-Century British Novel         

English Honours. Photo Krista HillThe MacDonald Collection, MSVU Library. Photo: Krista Hill

The 20-unit Honours degree in English is designed for students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above and who are interested in an in-depth study of English literature.  The Mount Honours English degree is unique among Halifax university English programs in that it includes the writing of an Honours thesis, a year-long full-credit course in which Honours students research a topic that interests them under the supervision of a faculty member and write a thesis on the subject. Students who are considering graduate school should enroll in the Honours program, but it is also a suitable degree for any student who is doing well in English courses.

If you are considering an Honours program, read the package of information for prospective Honours students available from the Department Secretary in Seton 533 and talk to your advisor or the Department Chair about your interest. The program requires careful planning, especially if you are considering graduate studies. Roughly, you should have a GPA of 3.0 or above in order to apply for Honours; MA programs usually require a GPA of 3.0 to 3.5 for admission. Graduate programs in English usually require that students pass a second language exam at some point in their studies, so it is advisable, if you are thinking of going on to do an M.A. or PhD in English, to take a language course during your undergraduate years.

Admission to the Honours program must be approved by the Honours Committee of the English Department. Typically, application through the Department Chair would be made after the completion of 10 units of study; acceptance is contingent upon the agreement of a faculty member to supervise the thesis. Honours students are also required to present an Honours colloquium, and to attend those presented by other Honours students.

View Program Requirements (Academic Calendar) »

Old English class toastStudents in an Old English class preparing to give their presentations.

The degree with a major is intended for those students with a clearly focused interest who wish to gain knowledge in depth of a single discipline.


View Program Requirements (Academic Calendar) »

English 2000-level courses. Photo: Krista HillThe combined major degree is intended for those students who wish to gain in-depth knowledge of two disciplines. Students must declare a major or combined major before registering for their sixth unit of coursework. Students who do not make this declaration within this time frame will not be permitted to register for further coursework.

Photo: Krista Hill

View Program Requirements (Academic Calendar) »

A Concentration in English literature is available for students in the BA General Studies (15-unit degree).

View Program Requirements (Academic Calendar) »

Students who require a Minor as part of their degree may complete a Minor in English Literature. Please note that the English Department offers two different Minors, one in Literature and one in Writing, and that the requirements are different for each one. A Minor in English Literature consists of three full units of ENGL courses, including two full units of English at the 2000 level or above.

View Minor Requirements (Academic Calendar) »

Writing MinorOffered by the Mount's Department of English, the Writing Minor will enable you to become a strong and flexible writer who can excel in any university field of study or future career. You'll explore the theory and practice of writing, covering communication in many forms such as creative writing, editing, researching in the digital age, the business of publishing, classical rhetoric, scientific writing, and contemporary theories about composition. 

Visit the Writing Minor page »

When you submit an essay as part of the requirements of a university course, it is assumed that the essay is your own work. Plagiarism is an inexcusable offence in the academic world, but some students seem uncertain about how to recognize and avoid plagiarism.

The university calendar defines plagiarism as "presenting someone else’s words, ideas or information as though they were one’s own" and lists a number of specific examples. Note the scope of this definition: words: this means that you must not incorporate material from another source directly into your work without proper citation and quotation marks; ideas: this means that your material must be original – if you are influenced by another’s original thoughts, understanding, interpretation, or perception then you need to acknowledge that influence with a citation; information: there is a difference between common knowledge in the discipline (date of Shakespeare’s death, for instance) and more specialized or controversial information: it is the specialized information that must always be cited. The scope of this definition makes diligence necessary when you are using secondary sources. Keep close track of where you got your information. Any presentation of material other than your own, whether intentional or unintentional, is plagiarism. It is your responsibility to make sure that your paper reflects your own ideas and that the material from which you drew any other information is properly cited.

Quotations: The rules governing quotation and references are very simple. If you find a passage that seems particularly apt for your chosen topic, you may reproduce it in your essay so long as it is copied accurately, enclosed in quotation marks (or indented, in the case of longer quotations), and followed by a correct parenthetical reference. (See  the English Department's A Student's Guide to MLA 2009 for instructions). At the end of the essay, under the heading "Works Cited," you must also list the author's name, the title of the work, the name of the publisher, and the place and date of publication. Detailed descriptions of correct forms for citations can be found in A Student's Guide to MLA 2009..

Paraphrase: You may, however, decide that, although an article or chapter is relevant to your studies, and has influenced you in the preparation of your essay, there is no specific passage that offers itself as quotable material. In this case you may paraphrase or summarize the argument or opinion presented. Since you do not use the words of the original, you do not need to use quotation marks, but you must still provide a correct parenthetical reference (see A Student's Guide to MLA 2009 for instructions). What you must not do, under any circumstances, is find relevant passages on the topic, cut and paste them (or simply copy them out), and offer them as if they were your own work. Note here that you must still indicate clearly in the body of your work that you have drawn your idea/information/interpretation from another source. It is not enough to include the source in your bibliography. Not indicating that specific passages, ideas etc are drawn from another source is plagiarism.

Electronic Sources are not excluded from this rule. If you use information from web sites, from full text databases (like EBSCO), from CD ROMs, or from other electronic sources these must be followed by a proper citation. Cutting and pasting sections of these sources into your own paper, even if you change them slightly or take only sections, is plagiarism and is not allowed. You will be penalized.

Penalties: Plagiarism is theft. Like any other form of dishonesty, it is unacceptable and results in serious consequences. Penalties include the awarding of a grade of F or zero to the assignment containing plagiarized material, or receiving a grade of F for the course (at the time of the infraction), or receiving a grade of F* for the course (which indicates that the course was failed because of cheating. This grade will remain on your transcript). It is that serious a matter.

September 2006