Courses at the 3000 or 4000 level require successful completion of at least one unit of literature at the 1000 level. At least one unit at the 2000 level is recommended.
An English Department seminar. Photo: Krista Hill
WRIT 3212 Selected Topics in Writing: Writing Pedagogy / half unit
TTh 1:30 – 2:45
Instructor: Dr. Nathaniel Street
This course engages one simple question: how do we teach writing? Engaging that question, however, is far from simple. The history of composition studies emerged humbly enough, with a demand, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to prepare less-privileged students (the kind who didn’t grow up with Latin tutors) to take university literature courses. In other words, we could say that composition studies began in 1885, with a newly mandated course at Harvard titled “English A.” Over the course of the next 50 years, the mandatory first-year writing course spread across North America, especially in The United States. Most instructors of these courses were literary scholars who “paid their dues” teaching first-year writing until they could get a “real job” teaching literature. Those who did not “advance” (disproportionately women) made careers teaching writing.
Something happened in the 100-or-so-years after the start of English A. Instructors discovered that teaching writing is not simply a matter of teaching the “basics” of grammar and genre so students would be ready for “real” or “more advanced” studies. Instructors realized that the teaching of writing requires research, philosophical care, and pedagogical sophistication. In short, it requires a field of study dedicated to better understanding what writing is, how we relate to it, and how we are able to learn and teach it.
This course surveys the major theoretical and pedagogical developments in composition studies since the mid 20th century. We will pay particular attention to“process pedagogy,” which treats writing as a fluid, non-linear process rather than as a product to “get right.” We will further cover other major theories that inform contemporary pedagogy, including expressivism, social constructivism, and feminism. We will consider how these pedagogies inform writing instruction in the classroom and in tutoring, especially in writing centres.
This course will provide ample opportunities for experiential learning. Through a series of workshops, students will tutor each other, using their own writing as case-studies. Additionally, students will develop and refine their own approaches to writing instruction and articulate that approach in a Statement of Teaching Philosophy. This course should be of particular interest to students preparing for admission to a B.Ed. program and/or those who wish to work in the MSVU Writing Centre.
ENGL 3311 Indigenous Feminisms and Sexualities / half unit
TTh 12:00 – 1:15
Instructor: Dr. Bernadette Russo
“Indian people must wake up! They are asleep! . . . Part of this waking up means replacing women in their rightful place in society. . . . There’s no power in medicine that has all force unless it‘s balanced. The woman must be there also, but she has been left out! When we still had our culture we had the balance. The women made ceremonies, and she was recognized as being united with the moon, the earth, and all the forces on it. Men have taken over. Most feel threatened by holy women. They must stop and remember the loving power of their grandmothers and mothers.”—Rose Auger (Cree), Native Aboriginal Women’s Summit 2007.
Resonating with the hope of healing, Rose Auger’s (Cree) speech is a call for the awakening of Indigenous feminisms and sexualities. Yes, Indigenous feminisms: a plurality as wide ranging and diverse as Indigenous peoples. Pre-settler contact, many Indigenous nations were matriarchal in structure, while others were egalitarian, and still others were patriarchal. The values structures, kinship formations, and systems of identity pre-colonization were richly varied and unique.
The primary focus of this course will be the intersectional consideration of Indigenous feminisms and sexualities at the interstices of race and class. What are Indigenous feminisms? How are Indigenous feminisms different from other forms of feminism? Why study Indigenous feminisms? What does the term Indigenous sexualities mean, and what does it encompass? How are Indigenous feminisms and Indigenous sexualities influenced by and performed at the intersections of race and class in North America? How is sexual violence institutionalized and institutionally weaponized and deployed to preserve settler and patriarchal positionality? These contested issues provide a springboard into the complex realm of Indigenous expression. As these topics broadly encompass an array of Indigenous experience, expression, and scholarship, this course will consider specific forms, and issues within each area. However, regardless of the focus, the course will consistently employ an Indigenous epistemology and an Indigenous critical framework. The course will also place Indigenous feminist and sexuality theories in dialogue with their contemporaries of the Western-European canon.
ENGL 3319 Modern Poetry to 1945 / half unit
MW 10:30 – 11:45
Instructor: Dr. Graham Fraser
The Modernist period (1900-1945) was a time of radical artistic change, crisis, and invention. In this course we will examine a range of Modernist poems and poetics in order to understand 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 shaped the first decades of the Twentieth century.
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 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 3327 Victorian Literature / half unit
MW 3:00 – 4:15
Instructor: Dr. Karen Macfarlane
In this course we will be focusing on the ways in which Empire, with all of its related issues around social reform, social inequities, definitions of race, nation, and “civilisation”, was represented in British literature from approximately the 1850s until the turn of the century. We will be using selected works of critical theory as well as non-fiction sources from the period to help contextualise our discussions of literary works by authors such as Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Elizabeth Gaskell, and H. Rider Haggard.
ENGL/WRIT 3330 Myths and Theories about Writing / half unit
TTh 10:30 – 11:45
Instructor: Dr. Nathaniel Street
Is writing just second-rate speaking? What does it mean to be an author? Does writing communicate and, if so, what? And what is writing, anyway? Beginning with Plato’s Phaedrus, wherein Socrates warns that writing will degrade “living” thought, this course tackles the mythological foundations of writing.
This course is structured as an extended meditation on the question of writing. At all points, we could reduce the class and its texts to a handful of simple questions: what is writing? how does it work? how does it affect us? Our course texts will engage these questions from a variety of angles that take into account the mythos of writing. We will treat myth in several ways: as false beliefs about writing that must be re-considered, as legendary points of origin that need to be sifted through, and as a kind of power that must be articulated. We’ll do this by discussing key philosophical and literary texts in class, but you’ll do much of your thinking-work by writing through the texts and the problems and theories they engage. Thus, part of the class’ goal is to both theorize and perform the mythological power of writing.
ENGL 3346 Contemporary Literature / half unit
MW 10:30 – 11:45
Instructor: Dr. Graham Fraser
This course examines some of the concerns of contemporary postmodern fiction. We will pay particular attention to postmodern conceptions of authorship, history, memory, autobiography, and the role of material objects in culture and fiction. We will also examine the ways in which these texts challenge the traditional boundaries between fiction and other textual forms (poetry, the image, non-fiction genres) and their efforts to bend or re-create language and fictional form into new shapes. Some of these works are popular in orientation and others are more obscure – all, however, are important and compelling works of literature which offer a great deal to think about and enjoy.
Tentative Text List:
Baker, The Mezzanine; Beckett, Nohow On; Brossard, Mauve Desert; Carey, Alva and Irva; Carson, The Autobiography of Red; Hoban, Riddley Walker; Johnson, The Unfortunates; Marcus, The Age of Wire and String; Sebald, Rings of Saturn; Shapton, Important Artifacts…
ENGL 3352 Nineteenth-Century American Literature / one unit
Full (1.0) Unit – Fall and Winter
MW 1:30 – 2:45
A study of American literature from 1776 to 1900. The course examines constructions of a national identity from the Declaration of Independence to later Civil War and topics such as resistance, gender, slavery, Indigenous relations, and American Romanticism. Authors may include Callahan, Cooper, Dickinson, Emerson, Melville, Poe, Stowe, and Wheatley.
For English Honours students, this course fulfills the requirement of 0.5 units of Eighteenth-Century or Romantics and 0.5 units of Nineteenth-Century British or American Literature.
ENGL 3364 Shakespeare’s Contemporaries / half unit
MW 3:00 – 4:15
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 for the stage. Playgoing was like watching Netflix today. Theatre was pop culture, and, like today’s pop culture, it reflected the social anxieties of the time—anxieties about social hierarchy, gender relations, and politics to name a few. In this course we will read some of the most popular plays of the period by playwrights who worked alongside or in competition with Shakespeare: writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton, 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 who may have had just as much influence on Shakespeare. We will think of these works not just as written texts, but as live performances staged for audiences who both cheered and jeered.
ENGL/WRIT 3377 Old English: Translation Theory and Practice / half unit
MW 4:30 – 5:45
Instructor: Dr. Anna Smol
Translation is both an academic subject of study and a creative art. Learning to translate Old English will give you the opportunity to experience first-hand the processes and challenges of translation, raising your awareness of translators’ choices no matter what language you are reading. We will examine translation theories from the Middle Ages to the present, discussing concepts of originality and equivalence, the status of translations, and issues dealing with gender and colonialism.
You will put these theories into practice by learning to translate Old English, one of the languages spoken and written in Britain from approximately the 5th to the 11th century. We’ll start with the basics of grammar while reading widely in modern translations of Old English poetry to become acquainted with this early medieval literature. These readings will introduce you to a growing body of contemporary texts termed the “New Old English” poetry. At the same time, you will learn to translate for meaning before eventually crafting a polished translation of a short passage on your own along with an analysis of your theoretically informed choices as a translator.
We study Old English in order to read and translate it but not to converse in it as you would a modern language. Learning to read Old English will acquaint you with a fascinating literature, challenge your historical preconceptions, and allow you to engage creatively with the texts in workshopping your own translation – and, of course, in the process improving your understanding of how language works, essential knowledge if you hope to become a teacher, writer, editor, or effective communicator in any role. No previous knowledge of the language – or even of grammar – is expected. For more details about the course, please go to the course webpage at http://annasmol.net/teaching/englwrit3377.
For English Honours students, this course may count as a 0.5 medieval credit or as a half unit of a theory credit. For English Majors, this course partially fulfills the requirement of a pre-nineteenth-century course. For Writing Minor students, WRIT 3377 counts as an upper-level elective in the Writing Minor.
ENGL 4415 Studies in Children’s Literature / half unit
MW 4:30 – 5:45
Instructor: Dr. Rhoda Zuk
The concept of “home,” of belonging, is a central trope in children’s literature that, in picture books, novels, and folklore authored by writers of the African diaspora, is complicated by the displacement, material insecurity, and physical and symbolic violence attendant on systemic anti-Black racism. This course will be grounded in readings selected from recent, influential studies of racialized childhood and children’s literature. Having supplemented that preparation with a consideration of Black cultural theory, we will move on to an analysis of folklore, poems, picture books, stories, and novels for children and young adults created by iconic as well as emergent Black Canadian, American, and West Indian writers and illustrators.
ENGL 4480 Studies in Literature and Film / half unit
MW 4:30 – 5:45
Instructor: Dr. Reina Green
In this course we will explore the relationship between literature and film by looking at how some of Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted to film. Shakespeare’s work has been a popular source for screen adaptations since the film industry began at the end of the nineteenth century. We will examine why filmmakers worldwide continue to adapt Shakespeare’s plays 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.