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Fall 2020

EN 6000 0.0: Literary Research Methods


Lisa Sloniowski
Office: 310M Scott Library
Phone: ext. 20072

Course Description

(This seminar is a required 0 credit pass/fail course offered in the Fall term, for all entering M.A. candidates and those Ph.D. candidates who have not successfully completed such a graduate course or who have not had equivalent experience. The seminar will take place over 6 weeks in the Fall term in 3 hour sessions, dates still to be determined.)

Methodological questions animate 21st century humanities research and literary studies are no exception. For example, fierce contemporary debates challenge the propulsive force of the digital or computational turn in humanistic research, while others struggle to rethink what constitutes the archival and what is socially and politically at stake in archives. The question of how we study literature is intimately entwined with questions of why, where, when, or who.

The Literary Research Methods seminar is designed to introduce new MA and PhD students to some of the conceptual and/or methodological frameworks which characterize literary scholarship while we simultaneously make inquiries of the physical sites, technological platforms, and skills needed to do work in this discipline. Students will be introduced to specialized research and writing resources needed to perform both comprehensive and focused literature reviews at the graduate level, as well as to the skills needed to both use and critically interrogate those resources. We will learn to approach research projects with an attention to key methodological questions such as: how does the knowledge organization of a field shape or contribute to our understanding of it?

The seminar will also take up the question of digital humanities from a critical perspective and examine this method in the context of the bibliographic work in literary studies more generally. We will also situate literary research methods broadly in relation to the methods of other disciplines as we explore how and where humanities research differs from, and converges with, the questions of social sciences, fine arts, and sciences.

Guest lectures and workshops will be provided by faculty members in the GPE, as well as archivists and librarians. The seminar is led by Lisa Sloniowski, who is a humanities librarian in York University Libraries, a PhD candidate in Social and Political Thought, and an associate faculty member of the Graduate Program in English.

As this seminar is a pass/fail zero credit requirement, required reading will be no more than two essays per week. Students will engage in collaborative hands-on research workshops in the library, in the archives, and with bibliographic databases. Assignments will consist of seminar presentations, a short essay, and a collaborative editing project.

EN 6424 3.0: Victorian Sexualities


Dr. Tina Y. Choi
Office: 720 Atkinson
Phone: ext. 22149

Course Description

Recasting what we think we know about the “monotonous nights of the Victorian bourgeoisie,” Foucault argues that the Victorians were in fact preoccupied with sex – that sex and sexuality lay at the centre of nineteenth-century life and writing. There was, he contends, “an institutional incitement to speak about it, and to do so more and more,” with “explicit articulation and endlessly accumulated detail.” In this course we will begin with Foucault’s thesis, before turning to some instantiations of that “accumulated detail” in nineteenth-century writings; among these, we will examine journalistic exposés of sexual underworlds, medical and psychological investigations into sexuality and sexual conditions, and literary works (both canonical and pornographic). By reading these alongside a selection of both foundational and recent theoretical works, we will explore Victorian representations of sexual pleasure and anxiety, its sexual attitudes and theories, its sites of transgression and prohibition, and its fears, scandals, and excitements, as we also ask how emergent forms of sexual knowledge intersected with contemporaneous concerns about gender roles and same-sex desire, social class, and Empire.

Two short reading response papers (300-400 words each) (10%)
One 20-minute oral presentation of the week’s reading (20%)
Active, informed participation in discussion (15%)
Final essay, approximately 4500 words (55%)

Acton, William, Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (selections)[Anonymous], The Pearl (selections)
Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan
Brontë, Emily, Wuthering Heights
Darwin, Charles, The Descent of Man (selections)
Eliot, George, Adam Bede
Ellis, Havelock, Studies in the Psychology of Sex (selections)
Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality, Part I
Haggard, H. Rider, She
Hardy, Thomas, Jude the Obscure
Le Fanu, Sheridan, Carmilla
Rossetti, Christina, “Goblin Market”
Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray
+ selections from critical, theoretical, and historical works by Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, James Kincaid, Anne McClintock, Sharon Marcus, Eve K. Sedgwick, Judith Walkowitz, and others

EN 6425 3.0: Readings in Victorian Literature: Decadence


Prof. Lesley Higgins
Office: 544 Atkinson College

Thursdays 4:00–7:00pm, via Zoom

Course Description

What makes a poem, a novel, or a play “decadent”? How was it that, in the later nineteenth century, “decadence” was both a compliment and a condemnation, a badge of honour and a bane? How could the same word imply both delight and dissolution? This course considers how, in Anglo-Irish texts, decadence was variously defined and practiced—in creative and critical texts, in life—from the 1860s to the early 1900s.

Topics to be considered include: the reception, in England, of “dangerous” works by French authors such as Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire; British critics’ feverish condemnation of “the fleshly school” of poets and painters; Walter Pater and the theorization of decadence; Wilde’s textual and personal performances of decadence; the work of Max Nordau and others to equate decadence with “degeneration.” In addition to studying works of poetry, prose fiction, drama, and non-fiction, we will be considering the proliferation of decadent culture across the arts: in painting, graphic art, interior design, and clothing. Parodies of decadence that very quickly emerged—in poetry, prose, drama, and cartoons—will also be studied.

The questions that will frame our work include: what are the requirements and expectations of art in Decadent practice and theory? How is Decadence to be understood in relation to Aestheticism and, later in the 19th century, Symbolism? How does Decadence craft a new model of the subject? How does gender become newly configured in Decadence, if at all? What are the possibilities for spirituality opened by Decadent culture? What questions posed by Decadent art and thought continue to trouble us today? Has the meaning of decadence evolved or devolved?

How will the course be conducted?
Working together on-line using Zoom, although far from ideal, will nevertheless enable us to have vigorous, informative weekly seminars. Mindful that Zooming is also tiring in ways that live conversations are not, however, there will be some modifications. Each week, a short introduction to the week’s readings, and any visual materials, will be posted by the prof by Tuesday morning. The live/synchronous seminar will take place on Thursdays between 4:00 and 6:00 pm, and will include students’ presentations. The time between 6:00 and 7:00 pm will be reserved for a live office-hour.

Reading List
Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal [Flowers of Evil] (Oxford World’s Classics);
W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Patience (Internet);
Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan (PDF);
Walter Pater, selections from The Renaissance (Oxford World Classics), and other essays;
Elaine Showalter, ed., Daughters of Decadence;
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Norton) and The Importance of Being Earnest (Oxford World’s Classics);
The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetics, ed. Thomas Collins and Vivienne Rundle (Broadview).
We will also be working with The Yellow Book, the major journal of decadence in the 1890s (
The instructor will supply a number of readings and copies of Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Wilde’s Salome.

Students will give one substantial 15-minute presentation, worth 20%.
Two short (600-word) response papers will be worth 10% each.
A final research paper (15 pages; 4000 words max.) will be worth 50% of the final grade.
Informed class participation will be worth 10%.

For the course Moodle, go to:
Please make sure that your correct e-mail address appears on the Moodle site.

Week 1 Introduction
Week 2 French and therefore “dangerous”: Charles Baudelaire, selections from Flowers of Evil (in translation), and Théophile Gautier, preface to Mademoiselle du Maupin
Week 3 The “fleshly school” of poets (including Tennyson and Dante Gabriel Rossetti), painters (Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones), and their arch critic, Thomas Maitland [pseud. for Robert Buchanan], “The Fleshly School of Poetry”
Week 4 Walter Pater, “Poems by William Morris,” other selections from The Renaissance (Preface, “Leonardo da Vinci”), a chapter from Gaston de Latour (PDF), and “imaginary portrait” “Denys l’Auxerrois” (PDF)
Week 5 Selected poems by A. C. Swinburne, Ernest Dowson, Michael Field, Arthur Symons,
Oscar Wilde
Week 6 Manifestos
Walter Pater, “Conclusion” to The Renaissance
Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist”
Arthur Symons, Introduction to The Symbolist Movement in Literature (PDF)
Week 7 Gender and Sexualities 1
Selections from Daughters of Decadence
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885
Week 8 Gender and Sexualities 2
Selections from Daughters of Decadence
Oscar Wilde, Salomé (PDF) and Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Salomé
Week 9 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Week 10 Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Week 11 Satirizing decadence
Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience (PDF)
Selected cartoons from Punch; Lionel Johnson, “A Decadent’s Lyric”; Max Beerbohm, selected sketches
Week 12 And now for something completely different
Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan (PDF)

A PowerPoint presentation about “Disseminating Decadence,” including examples from Punch magazine, The Yellow Book (available on-line), and The Century Guild Hobby Horse will be posted on the Moodle site.

EN 6616 3.0: Black Song: Introduction to African American Poetry


Leslie Sanders
Office: 225 Vanier College
Phone: ext. 66604

Wednesdays 4:00–7:00pm

Course Description

The current popularity of African American fiction notwithstanding, from its earliest publication, it is African American poetry that has most deeply engaged questions of identity, language, representation, struggle and revolutionary change. For example, it was the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance that most profoundly marked African American’s engagement with American modernism, and the poetry of the Black Arts Movement of the Sixties that had the most transformative impact on how African Americans have come to articulate their experience. In profound conversation with various contemporaneous poetic forms, African American poets primarily sought ways of representing African American voice, both verbal and musical. This course will focus on the work of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Amiri Baraka,as central to the tradition, and including representative work by poets ranging from Phillis Wheatley in the 18th century to Robert Hayden, Gill Scott Heron, Audrey Lorde, and Natasha Trethaway, as well as a selection of more recent contemporary poets., Students will be expected to read widely and listen to a range of African American music, principally spirituals and gospel, certain periods of jazz and blues, and R&B.

One 20-minute oral seminar presentation (followed by written version, maximum 8 pages), 20%; one final essay, 20 pages maximum, 50%; informed participation (mandatory) in seminar discussion (10%), including brief presentations or articles or poems 20%.

Required Texts: (note, several of these texts are available electronically. Ebooks do not always reflect line delineation correctly, so if using ebooks, beware)

TBA but at least including:
The Black Poets, ed. Dudley Randall. Bantam 0553275631
The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, Library of America 931082871
Amiri Baraka, SOS Poems: 1961-2013 0802124682
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Vintage, 1995. ISBN 0679764089 (new and used through Amazon)

We will also be using several databases: African American Poetry, Twentieth Century African American Poetry, Black Women Writers, Black Thought and Culture. 20th Century African American Poetry does contain all of Hughes, and some of the other poetry. You may, however, find books easier to use, especially in class. Other readings on Moodle.

EN 6683 3.0: Twentieth-Century American Public Intellectuals


Art Redding
Office: 718 Atkinson College
Phone: ext. 22143

Course Description

In his famous discussion in the Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci highlights the singular “absence” of traditional intellectuals in the United States and underscores “the need to fuse together in a single national crucible with a unitary culture the different forms of culture imported by immigrants,” pointing as well the mergence of a “surprising number of negro intellectuals”; the historian Richard Hofstadter describes a vital “anti-intellectualism” in American social life, a trait that often seems to dominate American politics. This course will investigate various ways modern thinkers have endeavored to critically intervene in the public sphere, and how they have addressed issues of race, heterogeneity, and nation, how they have responded to an assortment of critical public events and crises, and how they have gauged and mediated relations between social and political institutions and cultural and intellectual production.

Required texts:
Agee, James, and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams.
Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son.
Ta-Nehisi Coates. Between the World and Me.
Davis, Angela. With My Mind on Freedom: An Autobiography.
Goodman, Paul. Growing Up Absurd.
Hughes, Langston. I Wonder as I Wander.
Kramer, Larry. The Normal Heart.
Locke, Alain, ed. The New Negro.
McCarthy, Mary. The Group.
Olsen, Tillie. Tell Me a Riddle.
Said, Edward. Representations of the Intellectual.

Course readings composed of additional texts by Emma Goldman, Randolph Bourne, Antonio Gramsci, Edmund Wilson, Noam Chomsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harold Cruse, Norman Mailer, Richard Hofstadter, Alan Wald, Adrienne Rich, Susan Sontag, Andrew Ross, and others.

Each student will be expected to give one seminar presentation (20%); participate in class discussion (5%); submit three short reading responses (totaling 15%) and write a final critical essay (60%).

EN 6997 3.0: Issues in Contemporary Theory: Writers on Drugs


Marcus Boon
Office: 722 Atkinson
Phone: ext. 40675

Course Description

All human cultures have involved relationships with psychoactive plant substances (henceforth referred to as "drugs"). In this course, we will explore the connection between drugs and writing in the modern and contemporary periods, and the intersections between religious, scientific and aesthetic discourses that go into constructing descriptions of drug experiences in our time. We will read a series of literary works, ranging from nineteenth century texts by Thomas De Quincey and Samuel Coleridge, through twentieth century texts by Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Philip K. Dick, Jacqueline Susann and Clarence Cooper, Jr., to more recent works by Mian Mian, Cat Marnell, Paul Preciado and Tao Lin. Topics discussed will include issues of addiction, the political economy within which what we call "drugs" have appeared, the current renaissance in psychedelic research and the advent of medical/psychedelic humanities, indigenous perspectives on psychotropic plants, gender and sexuality as they relate to drugs, limit experiences and the relationship of drugs to questions of ontology. Theoretical perspectives may include those emerging out of actor-network theory (Bruno Latour, Erik Davis), deconstruction (Jacques Derrida, Avital Ronell), speculative realism (Timothy Morton), queer theory (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Neşe Devenot), postcolonial theory (Arun Saldhana, Michael Taussig) and ecopoetics (Jonathan Skinner, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing). We will be joined via Zoom by scholars who are working in this field.

Week 1 Introduction
Week 2 Antonio Escohotado, A Brief History of Drugs
Week 3 Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater; Samuel Coleridge, "Kubla Khan."; Eve Sedgwick, "Epidemics of the Will."
Week 4 Virginia Woolf, "On Being Ill"; Walter Benjamin, "Hashish in Marseilles"; Anna Kavan, "High in the Mountains" f. Julia and the Bazooka.
Week 5 William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch.
Week 6 Clarence Cooper Jr, - f. The Farm; Terry Southern, "Blood of a Wig"; Jacqueline Susann, f. Valley of the Dolls.
Week 7 Maria Sabina, "The Autobiography"; Davi Kopenawa, f. The Falling Sky; Michael Taussig f. Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man.
Week 8 Philip K Dick, A Scanner Darkly. Erik Davis, f. High Weirdness.
Week 9 Mian Mian, Candy.
Week 10 Tao Lin, Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation and Change.
Week 11 Dale Pendell, f. Pharmakognosis; Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, f. The Mushroom at the End of the World; Neşe Devenot, "A Declaration of Psychedelic Studies.
Week 12 Cat Marnell—Amphetamine Logic columns for Vice; Paul B. Preciado, f. Testo Junkie; Dodie Bellamy, "When the Sick Rule the World".

Selected Readings

  • William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch.
  • Clarence Cooper, Jr. The Farm.
  • Erik Davis, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies.
  • Thomas De Quincey—Confessions of an English Opium Eater
  • Neşe Devenot, "A Declaration of Psychedelic Studies.
  • Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly.
  • Antonio Escohotado, A Brief History of Drugs.
  • Davi Kopenawa, The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman.
  • Tao Lin, Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation and Change.
  • Cat Marnell, Amphetamine Logic columns for Vice magazine.
  • Mian Mian, Candy.
  • Dale Pendell, Pharmakognosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path.
  • Paul Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era.
  • Maria Sabina, Selected Works.
  • Michael Taussig, Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing.
  • Virginia Woolf, "On Being Ill"

Course Requirements

3000 word term paper 50%
20 minute class presentation on course materials to be recorded and presented on Moodle w. 500 word reflection written after the presentation 25%
Weekly comments in discussion forum on Moodle and/or Zoom meetings 25%

EN 6998 3.0: Studies in Contemporary Literature: Confession


Myra Bloom
Office: C212 York Hall, Glendon
Phone: ext. 88597

Course Description

Michel Foucault once called the modern subject a “confessing animal,” and never has this characterization been truer: From the most banal Instagram post to the #MeToo groundswell, practices of self-disclosure are ubiquitous in our culture, where they are alternately vilified for their narcissism or celebrated for their power to challenge the status quo.

This class will consider how contemporary writers like Nelly Arcan, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and Danez Smith negotiate these dynamics in their work, paying particular attention to the way race, gender, sexuality, and other identity positions triangulate confessional modalities. We will contextualize our study of these authors within a historical lineage of confessional writing that begins with St. Augustine’s 4th-century Confessions, takes off in the Enlightenment, and is subsequently distilled into various personal, institutional and aesthetic discourses.

Topics to be discussed include: the main formulations and critiques of confessional discourse; the major milestones in confessional writing and how they have evolved; the theories of selfhood embodied in these practices; the relation between confession and identity politics; the multimodal forms of self-disclosure in the digital age.

Primary Texts
Texts marked with an * will be made available online, as will all secondary readings.

  • St. Augustine, Confessions (selection)*
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (selection)*
  • Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an Opium Eater (selection)*
  • Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror (selection)*
  • Sigmund Freud, Studies in Hysteria (selection)*
  • Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality (selection)*
  • Sylvia Plath, Ariel
  • Sina Queyras, My Ariel
  • Catherine Millet, The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
  • Nelly Arcan, Whore
  • Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love
  • Danez Smith, Don’t Call Us Dead

Methods of Evaluation

4 blog posts 4x5=20%
20-minute seminar presentation + write-up 25%
Annotated bibliography 15%
Final essay (3000-4000 words) 40%

Winter 2021

EN 6157 3.0: Comparative and World Literature


Marie-Christine Leps
Office: 640 Atkinson College
Phone: ext. 22145

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, and translation studies? 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, Debjani Ganguly, Édouard Glissant, J.W. von Goethe, Johann Gottfried Herder, Kobayashi Hideo, Djelal Kadir, Adam Kirsch, Franco Moretti, Bruce Robbins, Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Germaine de Staël, Galin Tihanov, Lawrence Venuti, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, René Wellek, and others.

  • Two short response papers (10% each).
  • Class presentation (15 minutes, 10%); essay based on the presentation (20%) (2300 words/7 pages).
  • Final research paper (40%) (3500 words).
  • Class participation (10%).

This seminar course is required for 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 are of course welcome.

EN 6200 3.0 Early Modern Food and Writing: Early Modern Food Cultures


David Goldstein
Office: 744 Atkinson College
Phone: ext. 30355

Course Description

This interdisciplinary and cross-genre course examines how food functions in the works of early modern authors, and places them in relation to modern and contemporary theory. Food and eating are central preoccupations in Renaissance writing, and to study them is to open new perspectives on attitudes toward the body, religion, philosophy, theatricality, authorship, imitation and originality, class, gender, and race. We take as our point of departure the notion, outlined by philosophers as diverse as Plato, Montaigne, and Levinas, that there is a very close relationship between eating and ethics. The course demonstrates that this relationship permeates the uses of food at all levels of early modern consciousness.
Our study takes us through writing by both major and less well-known authors of the period, including More, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Herrick, and Milton, along with authors of cookbooks and household manuals such as Hugh Plat, Ann Fanshawe, and Hannah Woolley. The course frames these discussions in relation to important modern theoretical discussions of food—including works of Mary Douglas, Foucault, Bakhtin, and Levinas—as well as essays by major critics of Renaissance literature. We will also participate in digital initiatives by the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) and the Folger Shakespeare Library to transcribe and create a searchable database for all known early modern manuscript recipe books. Lastly we will experiment with recreating early modern recipes using both early modern and modern techniques, as a form of experiential learning.
Evaluation (subject to change)

Response paper (1000-1500 words) 15%
Recipe transcription 10%
Archival recipe preparation and blogpost 10%
Research proposal and bibliography 10%
Final research/creative project (3500 words) 45%
Class participation 10%

Required Books (subject to change)
Askew, Anne. The Examinations of Anne Askew. Ed. Elaine Beilin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Jonson, Ben. Bartholomew Fair. Ed. Suzanne Gossett. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001.
Milton, John. The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton. Ed. William Kerrigan et. al. New York: Modern Library, 2007.
Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. Ed. Barbara Hodgdon. Arden 3rd Series. London: Bloomsbury, 2010.
Shakespeare, William. Timon of Athens. Ed. Anthony Dawson and Gretchen Minton. 3rd Series. London: Bloomsbury, 2008.
Additional readings available online or in the library.

EN 6546 3.0: Post-Apartheid Drama: Theatricalizing the TRC


Marcia Blumberg
Office: 644 Atkinson College
Phone: ext. 33847
Office Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 12:30—1:30pm
Course Hours: Thursday 2:30—5:30pm

Course Description

This course examines the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a foundational body for the new democratic South Africa. The hearings, which ran from 1996 –1998, constituted a national drama that was performed in towns and villages throughout the country. From 1996 plays and other art forms responded to and challenged the TRC; they eschewed simplistic scenarios such as those that “forgive and forget” and instead examined the vehicle and its limitations, undoubted failures, imperfect successes and the ramifications of this process in South African life and through specific theatrical arts. We will use Catherine Cole’s noteworthy book, Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition (2010) as a core text and heed her call to undertake “scholarship that honors the complexity of the interpretive process; scholarship that looks for truths embedded in testimony that run counter to the commission’s mandate; interpretations that shelve the interminable assessment of the commission’s virtues or faults; books and articles that actually quote testimony.” Through a range of plays and other media, which have been created over the past two decades that relate to the TRC, we will interrogate such significant issues as truth and reconciliation, testimony and witnessing, the politics of memory, violence and trauma, the performance of law and testimony, restorative and retributive justice, and many unspeakable situations that have been voiced during the TRC hearings and within the theatrical and artistic texts. How has South Africa fared during its vast stages of transition?

Grade Breakdown

10% Seminar Presentation (15) minutes.
10%–1250 words Written version of seminar presentation within 2 weeks.
30%—3x750 = 2250 words Best 3 response papers from a minimum of 6 out of 10 plays, no more than three pages each.
These are due before 10am on the morning of the class.
40%–2500 words A final 7–10 page research essay.
Due at the end of term.
10% Informed and regular participation.

The following are all required reading/ viewing. Texts marked * will be made available to you.

Cole, Catherine. Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition. Indiana UP, 2010
Farber, Yael. He Left Quietly (created with Duma Khumalo) 2002 *
Foot, Lara. Solomon and Marion. Oberon Books, 2013
Fugard, Athol. The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek. Samuel French, 2015
Herzberg, Paul. The Dead Wait. Oberon Books, 2002
Higginson, Craig. Dream of the Dog. Oberon Books, 2011
Laufer, Erez and Miri. One Day After Peace (Documentary) 2012
Kani, John. Nothing but the Truth. Witwatersrand UP, 2002
Key, Liza. Rewind (documentary of the making of Philip Miller’s 2006 REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony), 2010.
Magona, Sindiwe. Mother to Mother 2012*
Reid, Frances. A Long Night’s Journey Into Day. (Documentary) 2000
Rodsell, Bobby. The Story I am About to Tell 1996*
Taylor, Jane. Ubu and the Truth Commission 1996*
Wright, Nicholas. A Human Being Died that Night. 2013*
Texts marked * appear in the course kit.

I have access to a substantial collection of DVDs and videos from South Africa—whether interviews, excerpts of plays or full-length productions. I will include selections from these whenever possible.

Historical and Cultural Texts (will be placed on Reserve)
Deegan, Heather. Politics South Africa. (Pearson Education Ltd) 2011 (Second Edition)
James, Wilmot and Linda Van De Vijver, Eds. After the TRC: reflections on truth and reconciliation in South Africa. Cape Town: David Phillip Publishers, 2000.
Johnstone, Gerry and Daniel W. Van Ness, Eds. Handbook of Restorative Justice. Devon, UK: Willan Publishing, 2007
Jolly, Rosemary. Cultured Violence. (Liverpool UP) 2010
Krog, Antjie. Country of my Skull, guilt, sorrow and the limits of forgiveness in the new South Africa. (Random House) 1999
Shepherd, Nick & Steven Robins. New South African Keywords. (Jicana Press) 2008

Weekly Schedule

1st class Introduction + methodology. Assignments. Each week there will either be readings from Cole, articles from the library, or material that I will provide. A brief encapsulation of SA history. Overview of the TRC and the course.
2nd class A Long Night’s Journey into Day 2000. (Documentary)
Reading: David Dyzenhaus. “Justifying the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The Journal of Political Philosophy 8:4 (2000): 470-496.
3rd class Sindiwe Magona. Mother to Mother. 2012*
Reading: Catherine Cole. Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission. Preface ix-xxvii, Chapter 1, pp 1—27, and notes
4th class Jane Taylor. Ubu and the Truth Commission. 1996* Kentridge + Handspring Puppet Company.
Reading: Catherine Cole. Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission. Chapter 3, pp 63—90 and notes.
5th class Bobby Rodsell and Lesego Rampolokeng. The Story I am About to Tell 1996*
Reading: Pamela Dube. “The Story of Thandi Shezi.” (2002). 117-130*
Liza Key. Rewind (documentary of the making of Philip Miller’s 2006 REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony), 2010.
6th class Paul Herzberg. The Dead Wait 2002
Reading: Catherine Cole. Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission. Chapter 4, pp 91—120 and notes.
7th class John Kani. Nothing but the Truth 2002
Reading: Catherine Cole. Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission. Conclusion and Afterword, 159—169 and notes.
8th class Yael Farber. He Left Quietly (created with Duma Khumalo) 2002 * in Theatre as Witness: Three Testimonial Plays.
Reading: “But Even Bodies Never Speak Pure Languages—An Interview with Don Foster” Matatu 38 (2010):103-125. Also in Trauma, Memory and Narrative in South Africa: Interviews. Will be on reserve for En 6546 at Scott.
9th class Craig Higginson. Dream of the Dog 2012
Erez + Miri Laufer. One Day After Peace (Documentary) 2012–2 copies York SMIL.
Please see this dvd before class.
10th class Lara Foot. Solomon and Marion 2011
11th class Nicholas Wright. A Human Being Died That Night. 2013 (Course Kit)
12th class Athol Fugard. The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek. 201

EN 6965 3.0: Theorizing Memory


Julia Creet
Office: 604 Atkinson College
Phone: ext. 66255

Course Description

Memory Studies has emerged in recent decades as an interdisciplinary field that spans one of the most complicated and political domains of human thought. Our current intellectual and artistic preoccupation with memory is an inheritance of the 20th century, a century which began with a theory of the self built on memory (psychoanalysis), fell into two world-wars and the inevitable sequences of forgetting and remembering that followed, and then saw the development of radically new and sophisticated physical and electronic archives, which threaten, so theory would have it, to replace human memory altogether. We waver between Plato’s ancient concern that writing is a poor substitute for living memory, a form of “hypomnesis,” a theme Jacques Derrida will reanimate, and the “hypermnesis” characteristic of our obsessive collecting and memorial practices of the late twentieth century. Beginning with the classic texts of the ars memoria, “Theorizing Memory” explores contemporary theories of cultural, collective, archival, literary and personal memory through transhistoric texts and transgeneric materials that have proven iconic to current configurations of memory studies.

Reading List:
Frances Yates, The Art of Memory; St. Augustine, Confessions; Avishai Margalit, The Ethics of Memory; Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After; Roland Barthes, Camera Obscura; Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family; Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude; W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever

Shorter works and critical sources will be available on the course website via electronic reserves. You must be registered in the course to have access to the Moodle site.


  • 2 short response papers (approx. 1000 words) each worth 20%.
  • Leading Seminar discussion 20% (based on one response paper)
  • 1 final paper, which may have creative, visual or autobiographical elements. (approx. 4000 words) worth 40%.

EN 6982 3.0: Romantic Texts: The Visionary Tradition


Bruce Powe
Office: 632 Atkinson College
Phone: ext. 33775

Course Description

The Visionary Tradition is a semester-long course dedicated to exploring a selection of essential, radically inventive figures in the lineage we call the visionary imagination or the visionary sublime. By this, we mean there is a line of poets, novelists, thinkers, and mixed mode artists who embody profound and sometimes dislocating inquiries into transcendence and immanence, explorations into the edges of how spiritual obsessions and fascinations can be experienced and expressed through literary art. It is the premise of this course that the visionary imagination represents a specific, authentic, complex, counter and influential energy in the poetics of imaginative engagement. We will explore this presence and lineage in a selection of significant literary figures, beginning with William Blake and concluding with Susan Howe, who have wrestled with the articulation of the concern with how the spiritual intersects or collides with the questions of form and expression, with social constrains and prescribed intellectual debate. The figures we will be reading make the visionary imagination—the exploration of the imagination, of enigmas, complexity, many dimensions of possible realities—an essential aspect and often the imperative of their writings. These explorations will examine this often overlooked or hermetic tradition, how it emerges in writers’ expressions, and how reality and articulation are often challenged by these works. We will also look at how the literary industry is often uneasy with the visionary lineage—ignoring or evading its implications and unclassifiable aspects. This course looks at how writers often push boundaries of reality, test the nature of human identity itself, In their intensities that lead to disruptions of authority and convention. The deliberate disordering of literary sense through artistic practice, poetics, imagination, and the absorption of raw experience of many dimensions of possibility can lead to disrupted, splintered texts. This course will examine how it can be the search for greater modes of awareness and sensivity, of sensibility and consciousness, that can lead to fields of energy in works that present and maintain strangeness, countering modes of perception, the possibility that the sacred and profane may be caught in words. The visionary imagination can be a driven or a cultivated state of mind; and it can be what galvanizes originality and the urgings of expressive forms and new styles of eloquent engagement with visible and invisible energies.


Seminar and response-presentation papers (1000 words) 40%
research essay (5000 words) 50%
in-class engagements 10%

Reading List
(Primary): WilliamBlake, Songs of Innocence and Experience and excerpts from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (in Selected Poems, edited by Patti Smith; also the introduction by Patti Smith); Emily Dickinson, Envelope Poems; Northrop Frye, The Double Vision; Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, The Seasons of the Soul (selections); HD, Helen in Egypt; Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (selections); Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; Roberto Calasso, Literature and the Gods; Paolo Coehlo, The Alchemist; Marilynne Robinson, Gilead; Anne Carson, “Anthropology of Water” (in Plainwater); Susan Howe, Debths.


  • Bachelard, Gaston. On Poetic Imagination and Reverie. Trans. Collette Gaudin. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.
  • Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. Trans. Lydia Davis. New York: Station Hill Press, 1981.
  • Bloom, Harold. The Daemon Knows: Literary Criticism and the American Sublime. New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2015.
  • Calasso, Roberto. The Unnameable Present. Trans. Richard Dixon. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.
  • -- La Folie Baudelaire. Trans. Alastair McEwen. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
  • Carson, Anne. Decreation. New York: Knopf, 2005.
  • Frye, Northrop. Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974
  • -- The Great Code: The Bible and Literature. Toronto: Academic Press, 1982.
  • Gray, Francine Du Plessix Gray. Simone Weil. New York: Viking, 2001.
  • Susan Howe. The Birth-Mark. New York: New Directions, 1993.
  • -- My Emily Dickinson. New York: New Directions, 1985.
  • James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Triumph Books, 1991.
  • Pagals, Elaine. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. New York: Vintage, 1980.
  • Pirsig, Robert. Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. Toronto: Bantam, 1991.
  • Robinson, Marilynne. The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought. New York: Picador, 2005.
  • -- When I was a Child I Read Books. Toronto: Harper-Collins, 2013.
  • Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation, and other Essays. New York: Picador, 1966.
  • -- Styles of Radical Will. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1976.
  • Vendler, Helen. Soul Says: On Recent Poetry. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.

EN 6987 3.0: Utopian and Dystopian Literature


Allan Weiss
Office: 622 Atkinson College
Phone: ext. 77318

Course Description

This course covers the history of modern utopian and dystopian literature, tracing the development of the genre from the Renaissance to the present. The goal of the course is to study changing perspectives on the nature of the ideal or nightmarish society as influenced by historical, cultural, intellectual, and literary developments. We look at the secularization of religious images and concepts such as heaven and hell, the treatment of class relations, labour, education, race and colonialism, and gender relations, and postmodern and feminist challenges to the conventions of utopian literature. We study the primary texts in the light of theories of utopian thought and writing, including the work of Fredric Jameson, Ruth Levitas, Northrop Frye, Tom Moylan, Frances Bartkowski, Lyman Tower Sargent, and Marleen S. Barr.

Organization of the Course
There will be a three-hour seminar each week involving discussion of the utopian/dystopian texts and, where appropriate, theoretical backgrounds to the study of utopian literature. Each seminar will begin with a preliminary survey outlining the political, ideological, historical, and other contexts of the literary text(s) assigned that week.

Course Learning Objectives
The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the field of fantastic literature, where students are not already familiar with it, and to trace the development of utopian literature from the Renaissance to the postmodern era. Our assumption will be that the genre has undergone profound changes, while retaining various conventions and tropes, throughout its history in response to changing circumstances surrounding its composition. The course will also introduce students to the major theoretical perspectives regarding utopian literature—both utopian and dystopian fiction.

Specific learning objectives:
It is hoped that students will

  • become familiar with the major texts in utopian literature;
  • gain a facility with the theoretical language used in the study of utopian literature;
  • recognize both distinct and common features of texts across periods, subgenres, etc.

Course Texts

  • More, Thomas. Utopia
  • Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward
  • Morris, William. News from Nowhere
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We
  • Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed
  • Piercy, Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time
  • Womack, Jack. Random Acts of Senseless Violence
  • Atwood, Margaret. The Heart Goes Last
  • Dimaline, Cherie. The Marrow Thieves
  • Claeys, Gregory, and Lyman Tower Sargent, ed. The Utopia Reader

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.
* 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