For room locations, please go to:

Summer 2018

6325 3.0: Walter Benjamin & his Contemporaries


Ian Balfou
Office: Winters College 104

Course Description

(offered in the S1 term)

This course engages selected major texts by Walter Benjamin of import for literary and cultural theory and criticism. Of particular interest will be to track how Benjamin conceives, theoretically and otherwise, history, language, critique, and translation and the consequences that follow from that. Benjamin's various models for practical criticism, including especially historical materialism, criticism and think about criticism as a kind of writing and public practice. Benjamin will be read partially in conjunction with other key figures of his time and ilk, principally Theodor Adorno.

Readings from among the following: "Theses on the Concept of History"; "The Task of the Translator"; "The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility"; "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire"; "Elective Affinities," "The Author as Producer"; "What is Epic Theater"; "Allegory and Trauerspiel," One-Way Street, "Capitalism as Religion".


  • One class presentation of 20 minutes (25%);
  • One major paper of approximately 3,000 words (65%);
  • Seminar participation (10%).

6235 3.0: Shakespeare, Women & the Theatre


Deanne Williams
Office: Stong College 348A

Vari Hall 1152

Course Description

(offered in the S1 term)

This course examines Shakespeare in relationship to women and female theatricality, addressing Shakespeare's female characters, women actors and playwrights in Shakespeare's England, and feminist responses to Shakespeare and his legacy. Although Shakespeare's stage admitted only male actors, girls and women had access to a wide range of performance opportunities in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, including dramatic writing, and the rich female parts played by Shakespeare's boy actors were eventually made available to actresses following the Restoration. Our focus in this course is on Shakespeare's representations of girls and women and ideas of femininity and their relationship to the rise of the actress and the history of the female dramatist, as well as the emergence of feminist studies. Primary readings will be read alongside critical writings on Shakespeare's women and girls by Dympna Callaghan, Phyllis Rackin, Jean Howard, Lisa Jardine, Juliet Dusinsberre, and Deanne Williams, as well as historical studies of early female performers by Clare McManus, Sophie Tomlinson, Kate Chedgzoy, Pamela Brown, and Karen Britland.


In-class presentation, plus 8–9 pp (2000 words) written summary 30%
Final research paper, 12–13 pp (3000 words)
* final research papers can build on the presentation research; in which case the final project would be about 20–25 pp. (ie. article length)
Class Participation
(based on class attendance; informed and active participation in weekly class discussions, including our opening 2–minute "lightning rounds;" and short presentation of final research paper)

Reading List (editions to follow)

  1. The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  2. The Taming of the Shrew
  3. Romeo and Juliet
  4. A Midsummer Night's Dream
  5. Hamlet
  6. Othello
  7. Pericles
  8. The Winter's Tale
  9. The Tempest
  10. Cymbeline
  11. Two Noble Kinsmen

6620 3.0: American Hard-Boiled


Art Redding
Office: Stong College 342F
Phone: x 30442

Course Description

(offered in the S2 term)

Evolving from dime novels, pulp and paperback fiction, literary naturalism and modernism, traditional detective stories, and gothic writing, a distinctively "American," modern, urban, and masculine style of "hard-boiled" and (later) "noir" writing and film developed during the jazz age, matured during the Depression, and thrived in the early years of the Cold War. If, as James Ellroy has remarked, "the subgenre officially died in 1960" it has proved remarkably resilient in its afterlife, subject to periodic revivals, revisionary critiques, and parodies, ranging from The Sopranos to Sin City. Taking an expansive understanding of the term, this course reconsiders the complex traditions of hard-boiled and noir literatures, casting a critical eye on its depictions of urban life and representations of gender, crime, labor, and race, its various functions as social critique and stricture, and investigating as well considerations of style, problems of genre and popular culture, and the economics of the film and publishing industries.

Each student will be expected to give a seminar presentations (20%); participate actively in class discussion (5%); submit three short reading responses (totaling 15%); and submit a final critical essay of 12-15 pages, suitable for publication in an academic journal (60%).

Required Texts
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926).
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (1929).
William Faulkner, Sanctuary (1931).
James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934).
Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place (1947).
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye (1953).
Jim Thompson, Savage Night (1953).
Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
Charles Willeford, Pick Up (1955). Please note that this will not be available through the York bookstore. I will try to make copies available, but students are requested (if at all possible) to purchase an edition (via Amazon or elsewhere online) in advance.
Chester Himes, The Real Cool Killers (1959).
Joan Didion, Play it as it Lays (1970).

There will also be a course reader (available online) of supplementary critical texts.

Out of the Past (1947), dir. Jacques Tourneur.
In a Lonely Place (1950), dir. Nicholas Ray.
The Naked Kiss (1964), dir. Samuel Fuller.

Fall 2017

5050 0.0 Bibliography and Scholarly Skills


Dr. Lesley Higgins

Course Description

The Bibliography and Scholarly Skills seminar is required of:

  • all entering M.A. candidates; and
  • those new Ph.D. candidates who have not successfully completed such a graduate course or who have not had equivalent academic experience.

The course, which is graded pass/fail and is not for credit, will consist of eighteen hours of bibliographical instruction—a combination of lectures, discussion, and practical skills sessions. In addition to preparing for class, students will complete one major assignment (due in January 2018). The latter will complement the student’s literary and research interests.

Six three-hour sessions will be held in the fall term. Attendance is mandatory at all sessions. The schedule is as follows:

September 20: History of the book
September 27: History of the book (continued)
October 4: Book production, textual transmission, and their implications for readers
October 11: Editorial theories and practices
October 18: Documentary editing and editorial problems
October 25: Research skills and scholarly methods

All classes will be held on Wednesdays, 2.30 to 5.30 pm, room TBA.

No textbooks are required. The instructor will provide numerous handouts, and students will be asked to download a Checklist of Checklists, to be used in the final class and for their final assignments. If you don’t already own the 8th ed. MLA style guide, purchase a copy.

For further information, contact Dr. Lesley Higgins

6005 3.0: Theories and Practices of Literary Editing


Dr. Lesley Higgins
Office: Stong College 301D

Course Description

This course encourages students to question the “authority” of texts and the editorial processes that produced them. The particular focus in Fall 2017 is late Victorian and Modernist texts. | Part I | The course begins by surveying major theoretical approaches to literary editing and their ideological implications, paying particular attention to the editorial principles which emerged in the 1920s and 1930s (based on the practices of biblical and classical scholars, who worked with various versions of the texts, but not with manuscripts); the rationalizations for author-based editing best exemplified by Fredson Bowers and G. Thomas Tanselle in the 1960s and 1970s; and the impact of Foucauldian ideas about the “sociology” of texts and their reading communities as interpreted by D. F. McKenzie in the 1980s and Jerome McGann since that time. Key issues for documentary and scholarly editing will be discussed (manuscript “authority”; transcription principles; choice of “copy-text”; historical conditions of textual transmission). Attention will also be paid to the ways in which gender, class, and other social “norms” are reiterated in editorial work. | Part II | With this groundwork established, the class will consider the ramifications of editorial principles and practices in relation to a particular group of texts. To assess the practical effects of editorial mediations, published versions of texts will be compared with digital and photocopied manuscript reproductions, on-line archives, and/or published transcriptions. In Fall 2017, we will focus on four case studies: the manuscript poetry of Emily Dickinson (1830–86) and Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89), both of whom refused to be published in their lifetimes; T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922); and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927).


Two short editorial exercises (transcription and analysis) 30%
a 15-minute presentation 20%
research essay (15 pages) 40%
class participation 10%

Reading List
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson (Little/ Brown); The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition, ed. R. W. Franklin (Belknap Press/ Harvard UP); T. S. Eliot, Selected Poems of T. S. Eliot (Faber) and The Waste Land: A Facsimile Edition, ed. Valerie Eliot (Faber); Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Major Works, ed. Catherine Phillips (Oxford World’s Classics, OUP); Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (Oxford World’s Classics, OUP); William Proctor Williams and Craig S. Abbott, ,An Introduction to Bibliographical and Textual Studies, 4th ed. (Modern Language Association). We will also be consulting The course kit will include additional background materials and a copy of the holograph transcription of To the Lighthouse, ed. Susan Dick.

6157 3.0: Comparative and World Literature

Comparative and World Literature Seminar: History and Practice.

Course Description

This seminar introduces students to the conditions of emergence and development of the discipline of Comparative Literature from its beginnings in nineteenth-century Europe to its most recent global iteration of World Literature. Students will experience how expanded understandings of cultural translation and textuality have radically altered and expanded the Eurocentric character of the discipline.

Questions for investigation include (with the emphasis changing from year to year): What are the politics (the stakes, the ethics, the costs) of practicing Comparative Literature? How do those compare with the practice of World Literature? How do they relate to colonial, post-colonial, diasporic, cultural, translation studies and digital humanities? How are Comparative Literature and World Literature practiced in different locations? What role has the globalization of capital played in the formation of the discipline? How are theoretical and methodological decisions and approaches such as World Literature redefining the discipline?

Texts will include theoretical and methodological essays by Theodor Adorno, Emily Apter, Erich Auerbach, Pascale Casanova, Wai Chee Dimock, David Damrosch, Charles Mill Gayley, J.W. von Goethe, Édouard Glissant, Johann Gottfried Herder, Kobayashi Hideo, Djelal Kadir, Franco Moretti, Bruce Robbins, Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Germaine de Staël, Lawrence Venuti, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, René Wellek, and others.

Readings and Grade Breakdown coming soon!

This seminar course is required for students enrolled in both the Humanities Graduate Diploma in Comparative Literature and the English Graduate Diploma in World Literature. The seminar introduces students to the history of both fields, and the theories and methodologies that have forged them. Students who are not enrolled in either diploma can take the course if space permits.

6587 3.0: Asian Canadian Diasporas: Texts and Contexts


Arun Mukherjee

Course Description

This course will study the writing of Asian Canadian diasporic writers from a comparative and contextual perspective. In popular paralance, Asian Canadian and Asian American is often utilized to speak of Chinese and Japanese communities while South Asian is now the preferred term for people whose ancestry links them to the geographic area of the Indian subcontinent. However, Gayatri Spivak’s title Other Asias motivates us to think of these communities in continental terms. All three of them faced similar legal and cultural barriers in Canada, whether it was the Chinese Head Tax or the continuous journey law. However, beyond sharing similar handicaps in Canada, there are various cultural links, such as Buddhism, (and indentureship for Chinese and South Asians), that link these communities historically. The work of a writer like Kwai-Yun Li, born in Kolkata’s Chinatown, speaks eloquently of the complex migratory connections that link Asian Canadians and are now formalized in the celebrations of events such as the Asian Heritage Month. Reading a selection of texts from writers of Asian Canadian backgrounds we will explore their interlinkages as well as the meanings of terms such as diaspora, Canadian literature, Canadian culture and Canadian citizenship.


Gurjinder Basran, Everything Was Good-Bye;
Wayson Choy, The Jade Peony;
Ramabai Espinet, The Swinging Bridge;
Hiromi Goto, Chorus of Mushrooms;
Joy Kogawa, Obasan;
Larissa Lai, When Fox Is a Thousand;
Kwai-Yun Li, Palm Leaf Fan;
Kerri Sakamoto, The Electrical Field;
M. G. Vassanji, When she Was Queen.


One 20 minute seminar presentation 20%
a 2000 word seminar report 20%
a 4000 word essay 45%
Class participation 15%

6599 3.0: The Poetics of Contemporary Poetry


Andy Weaver
Office: 333 Stong College
Phone: (416) 736-2100 x30864
Course Hours: To be determined

Course Description

Parataxis, the (sometimes jarringly) disconnected juxtaposition of sentences, phrases, or images, is characteristic of much contemporary film, television, visual art, and music. In many ways, we live in a paratactic world, yet few of us understand what parataxis is, how it operates, or how it shapes our individual and collective selves. Contemporary poetry has conducted a decades-long investigation into these issues, and so this often overlooked body of work provides fascinating and challenging insights into how parataxis subtly constructs notions of selfhood and community, but also how it shapes aesthetic and political ideologies. In a sense, the poets in this course are attempting something no less audacious than to understand—and to intervene into—the fundamental relationship between aesthetics, politics, and subjectivity in our contemporary western world.

At the same time, despite any familiarity we might have with related stylistic patterns in other kinds of texts, paratactic strategies in contemporary poetry have often perplexed readers, prompting important questions. What is parataxis’s relationship to meaning? How and why does parataxis blur the distinction between coherence and meaninglessness? Can reading discover a logic of parataxis, or is contemporary poetry's defiance of such investigation a symptom of an exciting sort of anti-logic? In what ways does the paratactic aspect of contemporary poetry require new explanations of the reader and the author? Recognizing the rich perplexity of contemporary poetry as a key resource for critical inquiry, this course will see the poetry as an opportunity to explore the theoretical and political implications of contemporary paratactic literary style.

This seminar course will study a broad range of formally paratactic contemporary poetry and poetics in relation to relevant critical theories on parataxis, subjectivity, and aesthetics. Students will learn to see the challenges of this poetry—challenges to conventions of mimesis, to interpretation, to logic, to selfhood, to definitions of “text,” etc.—in relation to cognate political and social theories such as avant-gardism, anarchism, and Marxism in order to examine how leading Canadian and American poets have attempted to engage with, understand, and intervene in the extremely paratactic world in which we live.

Required course texts (Tentative)
John Ashbery, The Tennis Court Oath
Robert Duncan, Bending the Bow (New Directions)
John Cage, Empty Words (Wesleyan)
Lyn Hejinian, My Life (Green Integer)
Harryette Mullen, Recyclopedia (Graywolf)
Steve McCaffery, The Black Debt (Nightwood)
Darren Wershler-Henry, the tapeworm foundry (Anansi)
Susan Howe, That This (New Directions)
Erin Moure, Pillage Laud (BookThug)
Jeff Derksen, Transnational Muscle Cars (Talonbooks)

Additional essays, excerpts, and other materials.

The final grade for the course will be based on the following items, weighted as indicated:

Essay (3500-4000 words), distinct from the class presentation 50%
Class presentation (20 minutes) and leading of discussion 35%
Informed class participation 15%

6618 3.0: 21st–Century Fiction in English: Writing Wars


Professor Susan J.Warwick

Course Description

On August 4, 1914, World War One, “the war to end war” in H.G. Wells oft-quoted phrase, saw its beginning. That events of the century that ensued remorselessly annulled the hopeful promise announced by Wells and others hardly needs noting. From World War Two to Korea to Vietnam, from civil wars in myriad locations to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is unequivocally apparent that the hundred years that followed World War One have seen no cessation of war and warfare.

In this course, we will examine a selection of twenty-first century war narratives to engage a series of questions about war and its representation in fiction of the new millennium. These narratives from Australia, Canada, England, India, Iran, Nigeria, and the United States take as their subjects military confrontations that include World War One, World War Two, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, the Lebanese Civil War, the Nigerian Civil War, and the Iraq Wars among others. As different as all wars are, so are these texts in their approaches to wartime trauma, violence and the body, national and spatial boundaries, figurations of the enemy, spectacle and spectatorship, death and the machines of war.

If, as Peter Boxall has argued in Twenty-First-Century Fiction, there is in the novels of the new century “a strikingly new attention to the nature of our reality – its materiality, its relation to touch, to narrative and to visuality,” one of the key concerns of our exploration of the century’s writings of war will be consideration of “the emergence of new kinds of realism, a new set of formal mechanism with which to capture the real.” Here the work of theorists such as Catherine Belsey, Hall Foster, and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht will be central to our investigation of, in Belsey’s words, “the implications for cultural criticism of acknowledging the determinations exerted by the unknowable real” in the writings of war.

By necessity, the course is highly selective in its choice of texts through which its inquiry will be conducted, and no definitive description, categorization, or theorization of the twenty-first century war narrative will be assayed. Instead, the course will assume, following Bakhtin, an understanding of the novel as a self-contestatory and self-renewing genre which is reborn in and with each novel. In our examination of particular war novels we will follow a critical practice that attends both to the contexts informing their writing and reading and their formal dimensions and properties. The objective is, in Dominick LaCapra’s words, “to develop approaches that are historically informed and critically alert to the interpretation of specific artifacts without being narrowly historicist (in reducing texts to mere documentary symptoms of contexts) or formalist (in isolating and remaining rigorously but ascetically—at times rather preciously—within the internal workings of texts).”


Essay (3500-4000 words), distinct from the class presentation 40%
Seminar presentation Oral—15%; Written Submission—15%
Final Paper (2500 words) 30%

Tentative Primary Readings

Adichie, Chimamanda, Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun. (2006)
Barker, Pat. Toby’s Room. (2012)
Benedict, Helen. Sand Queen. (2011)
Flanagan, Richard. The Narrow Road to the Deep North. (2013)
Ghosh, Amitav. The Glass Palace. (2000)
Hage, Rawi. DeNiro’s Game. (2006)
Jin, Ha. War Trash. (2004)
Johnson, Denis. Tree of Smoke. (2007)
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. (2000)
Thirwell, Adam. Kapow! (2012)

Tentative Critical Readings

Arendt, Hannah. On Violence. (1970) (Selections)
Baudrillard, Jean. The Gulf War did not take place. (1991)
Belsey, Catherine. Culture and the Real: Theorizing Cultural Criticism. (2005) (Selections)
Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. (2004) (Selections)
Foster, Hal. The Return of the Real. (1996) (Selections)
Fussell, Paul. Wartime. (1989) (Selections)
Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. The Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey. (2004) (Selections)
Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. (2003) (Selections)

6961 3.0: Indigenous Critical Theory: Demon Theory


Dr. Vermonja R. Alston

Fall 2017 Wednesdays, 11:30 am to 2:20 pm

Course Description

The course introduces graduate students to scholarly conversations currently underway in Indigenous Critical Theory between the United States and New Zealand. We seek to understand the major debates around tropes that have been central to the scholarship on indigenous literature: memory, survivance, and sovereignty, as well as aesthetic challenges to those tropes from a new generation of writer/scholars of literary fiction and popular culture, such as David Treuer and Stephen Graham Jones. The course’s title, “demon theory,” is from one of Blackfeet novelist Stephen Graham Jones’ novel. For Jones, a prolific writer of horror fiction and other genres of popular culture, “the story of the new world is horror, the story of America a crime” (Byrd xii). Legal scholar Robert A. Williams’s Savage Anxieties: The Invention of Western Civilization provides a foundation for understanding the idea of the savage in European myth, legends, philosophy, and law from Homer through the Enlightenment period and the age of Human Rights discourse. We gain a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the critical debates by reading the theory and criticism alongside works of literary and genre fiction, as well as plays. Students who complete the course successfully should be able to produce a final research paper of publishable quality (with revisions).


One 1000-word essay 25%
One 3500-word final research paper 35%
One 15–20 minute seminar presentation with 800-word written memorandum 25%
Informed mandatory participation 15%


(subject to change depending on availability)
Byrd, Jodi. The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Print.
Coulthard, Glen Sean. Red Skin, White Mask. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. Print. (Introduction and Chapter 1 available on course Moodle site)
Grace, Patricia. Potiki. Manoa: University of Hawaii Press, 1995. Print.
Jones, Stephen Graham. Demon Theory. San Francisco: MacAdam/Cage, 2006. Print. (ebook also available).
MLA Handbook, 8th edition, New York: MLA, 2016. (
Moses, Daniel David. Brébeuf’s Ghost, a play. Exile Editions, 2000. Print. Nolan, Yvette. The Unplugging, a play. Playwrights Canada Press, 2014. Print.
Treuer, David. The Translation of Dr. Apelles. New York: Random House, 2006. Print. Vizenor, Gerald. Hiroshimi Bugi: Atomu 57. University of Nebraska Press, 2003. Print.
Weaver, Jace. “The Red Atlantic: Transoceanic Cultural Exchanges.” The American Indian Quarterly 35.3 (Summer 2011): 418-63. Web.
Williams, Robert A. Savage Anxieties: The Invention of Western Civilization. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. (ebook also available).
Womack, Craig S. Art As Performance, Story As Criticism: Reflections on Native Literary Aesthetics. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009. Print.

6990 3.0: Suffrage and Sexuality on the Stage


Professor Kym Bird
Office: 226 Vanier College
Office Hours: 5:30-6:30 Thurs or by appointment
Phone: 416 736 2100 (ex: 77085)

Course Description

This course reads the texts and contexts of turn–of–the–twentieth–century women playwrights as they intersect with politics, suffrage, sexuality and the cultural legacies of colonialism and imperialism on stages in Canada, Britain, and the United States. It examines how the issues and activities associated with the theatre both challenged the normal expectations of female behaviour while reinforcing conventional attitudes to social class, gender, race, and empire. This iteration of the course examines suffrage and sexuality in the particular context of public sphere theory. It explores how the explosion of women’s theatre helped engender women’s access to the public sphere and how this access changed the theatre, women, and their roles in the social world



Sept. 7 Introduction

Sept 14 Age of Arousal (2007), Linda Griffiths

  • Habermas, Jürgan. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Trans Thomas Burger. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press, 1991: 1-70.

Sept 21 Laura Secord: the Heroine of 1812 (1886); Sweet Girl Graduate (1882)*, Sarah Anne Curzon

  • “The Public and the Private Realm.” Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958:22-78.
  • Bird, Kym. “Leaping into the Breeches.” Redressing the Past: The Politics of Early English–Canadian Women’s Drama, 1880-1920. Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.
  • Coates, Colin M., and Cecilia Morgan. Heroines and History: Representations of Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

Sept 28 Book of the Victorian Era Ball, James Mavor and Ishbel Aberdeen+

  • Balme, Christopher B. “Introduction,” and “Locating the Theatrical Public Sphere.” The Theatrical Public Sphere. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014: 1-21; 22-46. †
  • Filewod, Alan. “The Nation on parade: the empire as mise en scene. Textual Studies in Canada (Spring 2002).
  • Cupido, Robert. “Appropriating the Past: Pageants, Politics, and the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 9.1 (1998): 155-186.
  • Glassberg, David. American Historical Pageantry: The Uses of Tradition in the Early Twentieth Century. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
  • Prevots, Naima. American Pageantry: A Movement for Art and Democracy. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1990.

Oct 5 Birthright (1906) *, Constance Lindsay Skinner

  • Kinahan, Ann-Marie. “Transcendent Citizenship: Suffrage, the National Council of Women, of Canada and the Politics of Organized Womanhood.” Journal of Canadian Studies. 42 3(Fall 2008): 5-27. †
  • Geller, Peter. “‘Hudson’s Bay Company Indians’: Images of Native People and the Red River Pageant, 1920.” Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture. Ed. S. Elizabeth Bird. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996: 65-77.
  • McNally, Michael D. “The Indian Passion Play: Contesting the Real Indian in Song of Hiawatha Pageants, 1901-1965.” American Quarterly 58.1 (March 2006): 105-138.
  • Titley, E. Brian. A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986.

Oct 12 The Wooing of Miss Canada (1917)*, Edith Lelean Groves

  • Pickles, Katie. Female Imperialism and National Identity: Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2002. †

Oct 19 Mock Parliament (1893 and 1896)*, Ed. Kym Bird

  • Warner, Michael. “Public and Private.” Publics and Counter Publics. New York: Zone Books, 2005: 21-63. †
  • Bird, Kym, “Performing Politics: Propaganda, Parody, and a Women’s Parliament.” Redressing the Past. Montreal: McGill Queens UP., 2004: 59-91.

Oct 26 Reading Week


Nov 2 A Chat With Miss Chicky (1912); Miss Appleyard’s Awakening (191?)*, Evelyn Glover

  • DiCenzo, Maria. “Militant Distribution: Votes for Women and the Public Sphere.” Media History 6 2 (2000): 115-128. †
  • Midgley, Claire. Feminism and Empire: Women Activists in Imperial Britain, 1790-1865. New York: Routledge, 2007.

Nov 9 Diana of Dobson* (1909), Cecily Hamilton

  • Smitley, Megan. “Introduction,” and “The Feminine Public Sphere.” The Feminine Public Sphere: Middle-Class Women in Civic Life in Scotland 1870-1914. Manchester: Manchester UP., 2009: 1-18; 40-59. †
  • Vervaecke, Philippe, “The Primrose League and Women’s Suffrage 1883-1918.” Suffrage Outside Suffragism: Women’s Vote in Britain 1880-1914. Ed. Miriam Boussahba- Bravard. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007: 180-201. †

United States

Nov 16 Peculiar Sam, or The Underground Railroad *, (1879) Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins

  • Ryan, Mary P. “Gender and Public Access: Women’s Politics in Nineteenth-Century America.” Feminism: The Public and the Private. New York: Oxford UP., 1998: 195-222. Also in Calhoun, Craig. Habermas and The Public Sphere. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1992: 259-288. †
  • Ryan, Mary P. “Introduction: In Search of The Public.” Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins UP., 1990: 2-18. †

Nov 23 Mine Eyes Have Seen (1918), Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson*

  • “The Gender of Freedom and Women in Public.” The Gender of Freedom: Fictions of Liberalism and the Literary Public Sphere. Stanford, California: Stanford UP., 2004.
  • Pickles, Katie. Female Imperialism and National Identity: Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2002. †

Nov 30 Live Performance: TBA (this date may have to be altered depending on the date of the performance we choose)

In Course Kit: *
On Line: +
† On reserve at Scott Library

To be purchased through "Bob Miller Book Room", 180 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 3E7 Hours: 9am–6pm Ph: (416) 922–3557
Age of Arousal, Linda Griffiths
The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Jürgan Habermas.
Diana of Dobson, Cecily Hamilton


Seminar of at least 50 minutes (student are expected to make a formal presentation and lead a discussion among the class; notes on the articles and notes on the seminar to be handed in) 25%
Research essay 4,000 word. 60%
Active, in-class participation 15%

Additional Secondary Sources (available in/through library)

  • Auster, Albert. Actresses and Suffragists: Women in the American Theatre 1890-1920. New York: CBS, 1984.
  • Barlow, Judith E. Introduction. “Introduction.” Plays By American Women: The Early Years. New York: Avon, 1981: xxxii.
  • Bassnett-McGuire, Susan E.: “Towards a Theory of Women's Theatre.” Semiotics of Drama and Theatre: New Perspectives in the Theory of Drama and Theatre. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1984.
  • Bengough, J.W. “The Nation on Parade: The Empire As Mise en Scene.” Textual Studies in Canada. (Spring 2002): p11.
  • Bennett, Susan: “Theatre History, Historiography and Women's Dramatic Writing.” Women, Theatre and Performance: New Histories, New Historiographies.” Ed. Maggie B. Gale and Viv Gardner. Manchester, England: Manchester UP, 2000: 46-59.
  • Ben-Zvi, Linda. Susan Glaspell: Essays on her Theater and Fiction. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.
  • Canada and the British World: Culture, Migration, and Identity. Ed. Phillip Buckner and R. Douglas Francis. Toronto; Vancouver: UBC Press, 2006.
  • Carlson, Susan. “Conflicted Politics and Circumspect Comedy: Women's Comic Playwriting in the1890s.” Women and Playwriting in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 1999: 256-76.
  • Case, Sue-Ellen. Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.
  • Clark, Larry D. “Female Characters on the New York Stage in the Year of Suffrage: Enter Advocacy, Quietly, Stage Left.” Theatre History Studies. 7 (1987): 51-60.
  • Davis. Cynthia J. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: a Biography: Stanford, Calif: Stanford. University Press, 2010.
  • France, Rachel. “Apropos of Women and the American Theatre: The Suffrage Play.” Theatre History Studies. 13 (1993): 33-46.
  • Friedman, Sharon. “Feminism as Theme in Twentieth Century American Women's Drama.” American Studies. 25 1 (Spring 1984): 69-89.
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: [electronic resource]: (1860-1935) Biographies, Criticism, Journal articles, Work overviews. York University Library.
  • Harrison, Patricia Greenwood. Connecting Links: the British and American Woman Suffrage Movements. Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.
  • Newey, Kate. “Women's Playwriting and the Popular Theatre in the Late Victorian Era, 1870–1900.” Feminist Readings of Victorian Popular Texts: Divergent Femininities. Emma Liggins and Daniel Duffy. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001: 147-67.
  • Shafer, Yvonne Shafer. American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950. New York: Peter Lang, 1997.
  • Smith, Beverly A. “Women's Work-Trifles? The Skill and Insights of Playwright Susan Glaspel. International Journal of Women's Studies. 5:2 (1982): 172-184.
  • Tyrrell, Ian. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Perspective 1880-1930: Women World Women’s Empire.
  • Women's Suffrage in the British Empire : Citizenship, Nation, and Race. Ed Ian Christopher Fletcher, Laura E. Nym Mayhall, and Philippa Levine. London ; New York : Routledge, 2000.

Winter 2018

6157 3.0 Comparative and World Literature

Comparative and World Literature Seminar: History and Practice.

Course Description

This seminar introduces students to the conditions of emergence and development of the discipline of Comparative Literature from its beginnings in nineteenth-century Europe to its most recent global iteration of World Literature. Students will experience how expanded understandings of cultural translation and textuality have radically altered and expanded the Eurocentric character of the discipline.

Questions for investigation include (with the emphasis changing from year to year): What are the politics (the stakes, the ethics, the costs) of practicing Comparative Literature? How do those compare with the practice of World Literature? How do they relate to colonial, post-colonial, diasporic, cultural, translation studies and digital humanities? How are Comparative Literature and World Literature practiced in different locations? What role has the globalization of capital played in the formation of the discipline? How are theoretical and methodological decisions and approaches such as World Literature redefining the discipline?

Texts will include theoretical and methodological essays by Theodor Adorno, Emily Apter, Erich Auerbach, Pascale Casanova, Wai Chee Dimock, David Damrosch, Charles Mill Gayley, J.W. von Goethe, Édouard Glissant, Johann Gottfried Herder, Kobayashi Hideo, Djelal Kadir, Franco Moretti, Bruce Robbins, Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Germaine de Staël, Lawrence Venuti, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, René Wellek, and others.

Readings and Grade Breakdown coming soon!

This seminar course is required for students enrolled in both the Humanities Graduate Diploma in Comparative Literature and the English Graduate Diploma in World Literature. The seminar introduces students to the history of both fields, and the theories and methodologies that have forged them. Students who are not enrolled in either diploma can take the course if space permits.

6220 3.0 Shakespeare's Political Theory


Elizabeth Pentland

Course Description

Many of Shakespeare’s best known plays, from early tragedies like Richard 2 or mature history plays like Henry 5, to late romances like The Tempest, interrogate the relationship between theatre and politics, exploring, for example, the performative nature of kingship or the illusions that sustain political authority. This course explores Shakespeare’s engagement with the political issues and theories of his time by grounding our reading of his plays in the major theoretical works of the period, allowing us to better understand his representations of sovereignty, tyranny, and servitude; absolutism and republicanism; colonialism and conquest. Better known works like Machiavelli’s Prince can usefully inform our reading of plays like Richard 3, Henry 5, and Hamlet, while works by More, Montaigne, and Las Casas can all be paired in productive ways with a play like The Tempest to explore utopianism, skepticism, and the early modern debates about human rights. Early modern resistance theory, articulated in radical works by La Boetie and the pseudonymous “Brutus,” author of the Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos, can also shed light on plays like Richard 2, Julius Caesar, and King Lear.

Readings and Grade Breakdown coming soon!

6225 3.0: Ecology and Literature: Medieval to Renaissance


David Goldstein
Office: 301E Stong College
Phone: (416) 736-2100 x30355

Course Description

This course examines the intersection between nature and culture in early English literature from the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries. Early English writers invented and fiercely debated notions of ecology, the environment, nature, sustainability, and the nonhuman that remain fixtures of our current understanding of the nature/culture divide, but also approached such questions using different assumptions from those of most thinkers today. This course examines the ways in which medieval and early modern writers articulated their relationship to the nonhuman, and uses these findings to shed light on our own assumptions about ecology and environmental philosophies. Along the way, we will develop a historical understanding of late medieval and Renaissance literature that mixes canonical authors with other forms of writing such as gardening tracts and recipe books. Ultimately ecology becomes our pathway into the study of the period’s literature in broad context.

Our study focuses upon nodal works of great importance to the development both of literature and environmental attitudes in England, including Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowles, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, late medieval mystery plays, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Shakespeare’s poems and plays, the pastoral poetry of Andrew Marvell, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. We also examine more ephemeral texts that complement and transform our understanding of more canonical works. These works will be read against major critical studies of early modern environmental literature, from early work on the pastoral to more recent materialist, feminist, and posthumanist approaches. Our reading practices will incorporate and challenge current ecological philosophy by Stacy Alaimo, Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Timothy Morton, and Kate Soper, among others.


Two response papers (750-1000 words each) 20%
One in-class presentation with write-up 20%
Research proposal and bibliography 10%
Final research/creative project (3500 words) 35%
Class participation 15%

All written assignments should be submitted by email unless otherwise agreed upon in consultation with the professor.

Response Papers: You will choose two readings throughout the term, at your discretion, to respond to in a thoughtful and measured but relatively informal way. These will be different from the reading you choose for your presentation (discussed below). The response paper should ask a pertinent question about one or more of the readings, and should then reflect upon or attempt to answer that question (no definitive conclusions or arguments are necessary). One response paper must be drawn from material in the first 6 weeks of class. The paper is due on the day of the assigned reading.

Presentation: The presentation consists of a 15-minute presentation on one of the readings. Within a week following the presentation, the student must write up the notes and hand them in (approximately 5 pages). Grading will be as follows: 1/3 on content of presentation, 1/3 on style and delivery, 1/3 on research and written materials.

Final Project: The final project consists either of a traditional research essay, or a creative or digital project plus a 1500-word supporting essay.

The research proposal and bibliography should outline your ideas for your project in about 250-500 words, and should include a short annotated bibliography of at least 5 secondary sources that are not included in the assigned course readings. I am also willing to look at revised proposals, bibliographies, and drafts of the essay—within reason, and with at least a week’s lead time before a due date—at any time during the course.

Website: The course will have a moodle site, and most of the readings not in material book form will be uploaded to the site.

Primary Texts
(in the chronological order in which they will be discussed)

  1. Excerpts from Plato, Aristotle, and Virgil on humanity, the nonhuman, and farming;
  2. Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowles, The Former Age, and The House of Fame;
  3. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight;
  4. Medieval Cycle Drama: The Wakefield Noah and Second Shepherd’s Play; selections from the York Cycle;
  5. Spenser, The Faerie Queene Book II, Cantos 9–12; Book III, Cantos 1–6; and “The Cantos of Mutabilitie”;
  6. Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis;
  7. Shakespeare, As You Like It or another play;
  8. Renaissance treatises on gardening and agriculture;
  9. Seventeenth–century medical and cookery recipe books;
  10. Andrew Marvell, “The Garden,” the Mower poems, and “Upon Appleton House”;
  11. Milton, Paradise Lost (selections) and shorter poems.

Secondary and Theoretical Texts
(very much subject to change and condensation)

Alaimo, Stacy. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.
Alpers, Paul. What Is Pastoral? Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Beckwith, Sarah. Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus Christi Plays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Berry, Wendell. The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Norman Wirzba, ed. Washington, DC: Shoemaker and Hoard, 2002.
Borlik, Todd. Ecocriticism and Early Modern English Literature. London: Routledge, 2011.
Bowerbank, Sylvia. Speaking for Nature: Women and Ecologies of Early Modern England. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004.
Bushnell, Rebecca. Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. "Inventing with Animals in the Middle Ages." In Nature in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. Barbara Hanawalt and Lisa J. Kiser. University of Notre Dame Press, 2008.
Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” In Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, ed. William Cronon. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995: 69-90.
Derrida, Jacques. The Animal that therefore I am. Tr. David Willis. New York: Fordham UP, 2008.
Empson, William. Some Versions of Pastoral. New York: New Directions, 2000 (reprint).
Esposito, Roberto. Immunitas. Tr. Zakiya Hanafi. Polity Press, 2011.
Estok, Simon. Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Foucault, Michel. The Birth of Biopolitics. New York: Picador, 2010 (reprint edn).
Haraway, Donna Jeanne. When Species Meet. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print.
Hiltner, Ken. What Else is Pastoral? Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.
Laroche, Rebecca. Medical Authority and Englishwomen's Herbal Texts, 1550–1650. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000.
Latour, Bruno. Politics of Nature. Trans. Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Print.
May, Theresa J. “Greening the Theatre: Taking Ecocriticism from Page to Stage.” Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. Fall 2005: 84-103.
McColley, Diane Kelsey. “Milton’s Environmental Epic: Creature Kinship and the Language of Paradise Lost.” In Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism, Karla Armbruster and Kathleen R. Wallace, eds. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 2001: 57-74.
Merchant, Carolyn. The Death Of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution. New York: Harperone, 1990.
Morton, Timothy. The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.
Nardizzi, Vin. Wooden Os: Shakespeare’s Theatres and England’s Trees. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013
Raber, Karen. Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
Schoenfeldt, Michael Carl. Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England: Physiology and Inwardness in Spenser, Shakespeare, Herbert, and Milton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
Smith, Bruce R. The Key of Green: Passion and Perception in Renaissance Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
Soper, Kate. What is Nature?: Culture, Politics, and the Non-Human. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995.
Stanbury, Sarah. “Ecochaucer: Green Ethics and Medieval Nature.” Chaucer Review 39.1 (2004) 1-16.
Steel, Karl. How to Make a Human: Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2011.
Totaro, Rebecca. The Plague Epic in Early Modern England. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012.
Thomas, Keith. Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800. London: Penguin, 1992.
Tigner, Amy. Literature and the Renaissance Garden from Elizabeth I to Charles II: England’s Paradise. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012.
Wall, Wendy. Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming.
Watson, Robert. Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 205.
Wolfe, Cary. Before the Law. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

6334 3.0: A History of Reading


A. Ricci (Humanities)

Course Description

The course examines the nature and history of reading from an interdisciplinary perspective. What does reading mean? What have books meant to readers from antiquity to the present day? The course addresses these questions by focussing on the dynamic relationship between the tangible objects that carry words into the world — manuscripts, printed books, and digital media — and the intangible entity of the text, the verbal work not limited to any one physical artifact. The course draws upon various approaches, theories, and methodologies that embrace the question of reading: the history of books, philosophy, literary studies, and intellectual and cultural history. Topics considered may include the physiology of reading, private and public reading, literature and artifacts, aesthetic value, sacred reading, the modalities by which the material forms of written communication shape textual meaning and the reading experience, word and image, orality and literacy, and the influence of historical context on authors and readers. The principal geographical focus of the course is on Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas, but topics related to non-Western traditions of reading can be selected by students for assignments.

The topics considered are illustrated by material preserved in the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections at York University and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

6420 3.0: Romantic Texts: Aesthetics and Politics in the Era of the French Revolution


Ian Balfour
Office: 104 Winters College

Course Description

This course addresses major theoretical, critical, and literary texts in Britain and beyond in the era of the French revolution, with attention to aesthetics, politics and their interrelations. There will be a particular focus on matters of freedom in its various modalities. Among the questions to be: What is a subject, in linguistic, textual and political terms? What are the possibilities and limits for action, thinking, writing, criticism and/or critique? What is artistic freedom? What textual/literary forms do the investments in freedom take?
The core of the course addresses texts from and relating to the 1790s, not to the exclusion of some reflecting on the aftermath of the revolution and its period.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (Oxford)

Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (Oxford)

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France (Penguin)

Wollstonecraft, Mary. Selections from Reflections on the Rights of Man (online)

Wollstonecraft, Mary. Selections from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (online)

Wollstonecraft, “Letter on the Present Character of the French Nation” (pdf – public domain)

Wollstonecraft, Mary. Selections A Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution

Godwin, Caleb Williams (Oxford)

Hegel, selections from the Phenomenology of Spirit and Lectures on the Philosophy of History (on the French Revolution)

Selected lyrics poems by Percy Shelley, Mary Robinson, Charlotte Smith, and William Wordsworth (online)

Hazlitt, selected essays on politics, poetry, and thinking from Spirit of the Age; “On My First Acquaintance with Poets,” “Coriolanus,” “What is a People?”


One twenty-minute class presentation to be written out and submitted 25%
one major paper of approx.15 pages 55%
class participation 10%
short final test 10%

6450 3.0: 19th–Century British Fiction


Dr. Tina Y. Choi

Tuesdays 11:30am-2:30pm

Course Description

While Edward Gibbon, author of History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1782), asserted that “accuracy” was the historian’s goal, late Romantic and Victorian works reveal a more experimental attitude towards the writing of history. In this course, we will explore the latter’s use of the past as a field for speculation, nostalgic representation, narrative and temporal experiment, and counterfactual discourse, at a time when traditional historical narratives (political, military, and individual) were growing in popularity, and new genres (speciological and geological) were emerging. More generally, we consider the role of history in a range of works and contexts from the 1810s to the 1870s. Why were recreations of the past, in the form of historical fictions, monumental surveys, and immersive displays, so popular during this period? How might we interpret historically based literary works with relation to a contemporaneous enthusiasm for reenactments, the installation of life-size dinosaur models in public parks, or displays of Indian workers performing traditional forms of manual labour?

Our readings will include selected major works by Scott, Dickens, Eliot, and others, as well as an array of recent critical and theoretical material. While our primary focus will be on the historical novel, we will also examine the period’s historical and historicizing impulse as expressed in its many popular histories, exhibitions and museums, and geological and archaeological writings.


One oral seminar presentation (approximately 20-25 minutes) 20%
Final essay (approximately 4500 words) 55%
Active, informed participation 15%
Two written responses to the assigned readings (500-700 words each) 10%

Readings (tentative)
Scott, Waverley
Hogg, Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Lyell, Principles of Geology (selections)
Carlyle, The French Revolution (selections)
Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Eliot, Middlemarch
Birdwood, The Arts of India (selections)

+ a selection of recent critical and historical works by Ian Duncan, Catherine Gallagher, Saloni Mathur, Ralph O’Connor, Katie Trumpener, Hayden White, and others

6591 3.0: Intermedial Bloomsbury


Elicia Clements

Course Description

Although the concept of intermediality has been defined in various ways—as a bridge between medial differences, for example, or, as the combination and adaptation of several media—it is often understood as representative of our current cultural moment, indicative of the interconnectedness of modern media. Yet, the members of the Bloomsbury Group (an oscillating yet somewhat cohesive community that developed around Virginia Woolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell) were earnest about their interart aesthetic at the beginning of the twentieth century. This course examines what might now be called a proto–intermedial impetus in Bloomsbury. Exploring the writings of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster and others, together with the painting, sculpture, textiles, and decorative arts of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and those involved in the Omega Workshop, we will investigate what Virginia Woolf might have meant when she claimed that "Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world… we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself."

6743 3.0: The International Avant–Garde (1896–1947)


Stephen Cain

Course Description

If we consider the first Dada performance at the Cabaret Voltaire (Feb 15, 1916) as a foundational moment for the avant-garde, we must acknowledge that the avant-garde is fundamentally an internationalist enterprise. Initiated by two Romanian Jews, three German radicals, and a Swiss-Alsatian couple, it is also not coincidental that the Dadaist movement was founded in the international metropolis of Zurich. While not discounting the importance of Paris as a cradle of several avant-garde movements (such as Symbolism and Surrealism) this course will seek to explore the international spread of avant-garde tendencies in literature including Italian Futurism, Russian Futurism, English Vorticism, and the Surrealism of the Black Diaspora.

Required Texts

Breton, Andre. Nadja (Grove);
Cesaire, Aime. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Wesleyan);
Jarry, Alfred. The Ubu Plays (Grove);
Loy, Mina. The Lost Lunar Baedeker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux);
Marinetti, F.T. Selected Poems and Related Prose (Yale);
Mayakovsky, Vladimir. The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Indiana)


Two short oral introductions 25% x 2 = 50%
a research paper of 12-15 pages 40%
informed participation 10%

Fall/Winter 2017-2018

6992 6.0 Studies in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory


Marcus Boon
Office: 347 Stong College
Phone: 416-736-5166
Mondays, 11:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Version 1.0, May 1, 2017

Course Description

This seminar introduces students to contemporary literary theory and cultural studies; it covers major developments in such fields as Marxism, psychoanalysis, existentialism and phenomenology, aesthetics, feminism, deconstruction, postmodernism, queer studies, African-American and post-colonial studies, linguistics, structuralism and semiotics, ecocriticism and speculative realism. We will examine what the word “theory” means today, and explore its relationship to contemporary literature and culture, through a series of close readings of key theoretical texts, as well as examples taken from film, literature, music and other cultural forms. There will be 50 – 100 pages of readings, often quite challenging, per week. No background in theory is required – the course is designed to give students the tools to make these texts intelligible, and to help see what is at stake in them.

Provisional Syllabus

Fall Semester

Sept. 11


Sept. 18

Kant, f. Critique of Judgment (N); Piper, "Flying" (X); Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?" (X).

Sept. 25

Nietzsche, from Beyond Good and Evil (X); Foucault, "Nietzsche, Marx, Freud" (X); Nelson, f. The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (X).

Oct. 2

Saussure from Course in General Linguistics (N); Wittgenstein, from Philosophical Investigations (X); Peirce, sel. writings on semiotics (X).

Oct. 9

Thanksgiving—no class

Oct. 16

Sartre, "Existentialism is a Humanism" (X); Beauvoir from The Second Sex (N); Fanon, from Black Skin, White Mask (X).

Oct. 23

Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology" (X); Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” (N); Bataille, "The Notion of Expenditure" (X).

Oct. 30

Foucault, f. History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 (X); "The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom" (X); Agamben, "What is an Apparatus?" (X); Deleuze “Postscript to the Societies of Control” (X).

Nov. 6

Said, Intro. to Orientalism (N); Butler—from Gender Trouble (N); Sedgwick from Epistemology of the Closet (N).

Nov. 13

Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa” (N); Lispector, Agua Viva (X); Barthes, f. A Lover's Discourse (X).

Nov. 20

Derrida, "Differance"; Sakai, "Introduction: Addressing the Multitude, Echoing Foucault" (X); Khanna, "Unbelonging: In Motion" (X).

Nov. 27

Deleuze and Guattari, “Rhizome” (N); Grosz, f. Chaos, Territory, Art (X); Deleuze, "Immanence: A Life" (X); Eshun, f. More Brilliant Than the Sun (X).

Dec. 4

Latour, “From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik" (X); Harman, "The Road to Objects"; Stengers, "Wondering About Materialism" (X).

Winter Semester

Jan. 8

Hegel, f. Phenomenology of Spirit (N); Kojeve, “In Place of an Introduction” from ,em>Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (X); Buck Morss, “Hegel and Haiti” (X).

Jan. 15

Marx and Engels, all readings from the Norton anthology (N) "Theses on Feuerbach" (X); Badiou, "The Communist Hypothesis" (X); Karatani, intro. to Transcritique (X).

Jan. 22

Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (B).

Jan. 29

Benjamin, “The Storyteller” (X), "Surrealism" (X); Horkheimer and Adorno, "The Culture Industry" (N); Marcuse, "Political Preface 1966" to Eros and Civilization (Online).

Feb. 5

Bataille, Intros to The Accursed Share, vol. 1 and Erotism (all X); Kristeva, f. Powers of Horror (X); Agamben, intro. and 112-135 from Homo Sacer (X); Mbembe, "Necropolitics" (X).

Feb. 12

Lacan, "Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis," (X) "Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud" (N), "Signification of the Phallus" (N).

Feb. 19

Reading Week.

Feb. 26

Althusser, from On Ideology,/em> (N); Lefebvre from The Critique of Everyday Life (X); Certeau, from The Practice of Everyday Life (X); Zizek, "The Specter of Ideology" (X).

March 5

DeBord from Society of the Spectacle (X); Baudrillard from Simulations (N), Jameson and Lyotard on postmodernism (N).

March 12

Moten, f. In the Break (X); Spivak, from Critique of Postcolonial Reason (N); Gilroy, f. The Black Atlantic (N).

March 19

Halberstam "The Queer Art of Failure" (X); Edelman & Berlant, f. Sex, Or the Unbearable (X); Preciado, from Testo Junkie (X).

March 26

Berlant, "Cruel Optimism" (X); Lazzarato, "Immaterial Labor" (X); Berardi, f. After the Future (X).

April 2 (?)

Morton, f. "The Ecological Thought"; "The Xenofeminist Manifesto" (X); Viveiros de Castro, "Cosmologies: Perspectivism" (X).

Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents.
All texts marked "X" will be available via Moodle.


1000 word response paper (10 % x 2 = 20%); 20%
3000 word term paper (20% x 2 = 40%); 40%
20 minute class presentation on course materials, with a 500 word reflection on the presentation to be handed in the week after (15% x 2 = 30%); 30%
Participation 10%

Students are required to attend regularly, to prepare by doing all the readings, and to contribute to class discussion.

A short response paper will be set, towards the beginning of the course each semester, to test your understanding of key course concepts.

Presentations should develop out of the week’s readings and provide some particular examples that help with our understanding of topic and/or texts. Presentations should include some element of interaction (questions for the seminar etc.) and may include a Powerpoint presentation, audio and/or video clips etc. I would prefer that you don't simply read a pre-written text, but if you do, **please make sure it is less than 2000 words long**. Please discuss your idea for a presentation with me at least a week before the date of the presentation. The 500 word reflection is a chance to rethink your topic after the presentation, summarize conclusions and questions for further research.

The term paper should make use of at least one of the course readings, and can focus on any aspect of the course that you find interesting. You must discuss potential ideas for the paper with me before the due date for the proposal, either by email or during office hours.

Academic Honesty/Secondary Sources
Students are encouraged to seek out secondary sources, to further their studies and help them understand the course material. When such sources are used by a student writing a paper or exam, either in the form of a direct quote or an idea taken from someone else’s work, they must be attributed and cited as such. Using ideas and quotes in this way is an important part of good scholarly practice. Failure to cite and/or attribute the work of others constitutes plagiarism. All discovered cases of plagiarism will be reported to the university.

Office Hours
Marcus Boon, 347 Stong. t.b.d.

Directed Reading

(ONLY available for students registered in the Graduate Program in English)

Students have the option of taking a Directed Reading course with a faculty member provided something like it is not available in the current curriculum and provided it does not overlap significantly with a course taken previously.  Students are normally allowed one reading course during their entire graduate tenure at York.  Please access the required course registration paperwork.

*   Cross-listed course.  Courses that are cross-listed will reserve a certain number of seats for students in each of the cross-listed disciplines.
** Taught at the Glendon Campus
This is the core course for the Diploma in World Literature