2021 Summer

100-Level Courses

Approaches to Literature
Term 1
MW, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
Web-Oriented Course

Rey: “You are a monster.”
Kylo Ren: “Yes, I am.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world”

Richard III 1.i

What is a monster? We know monsters from myths and legends, folktales, horror fiction and film. We know their variety: the grotesque, the beautiful, the terrifying, the pitiable, the sports of nature and the forces of evil. Dragons, werewolves, vampires, zombies, Frankenstein’s Creature, Dorian Gray, the Joker, many of the characters in The Walking Dead or Penny Dreadful or Game of Thrones: they’re everywhere, from under the bed to the battlefield, and right into a great deal of literature. Which leaves us here: in this section of 110 we’ll focus on how literary texts across the genres use representations of monstrosity to say a variety of things.

We’ll look at William Shakespeare’s Richard III (a play that both meditates on villainy and ambition, and demonizes its subject for Tudor audiences), then at clips from various film and stage adaptations, including Ian McKellen’s 1995 film, which shifts the setting to an alternate-reality 1930s England where fascism takes hold. Other core texts include Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Angela Carter's "The Lady of the House of Love", Charles Perrault's "Bluebeard" (and possibly Francesca Lia Block's retelling "Bones" and one or two other short stories), as well as selected poetry.

Since the course now will be conducted fully online, I have ordered only one text through the UBC Bookstore, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as a Broadview Press e-book (Broadview e-books are very reasonably priced and include great supplementary materials). Through Canvas, I will provide links to online texts of public domain required readingsand put other material on Library Course Reserve in full-text online format.

Evaluation will be based on three short writing assignments, participation in discussion on the course’s Canvas site, and an essay-based final examination.

Please check my blog at http://blogs.ubc.ca/drgmbaxter/ for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

Approaches to Literature
Term 1

MW, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Web-Oriented Course

All but one of the principal texts in the course are romantic comedies. Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare) starts as comedy but abruptly transforms into tragedy at the mid-point, Pride and Prejudice (Austen) presents romantic comedy in the form of a novel of manners, while The Importance of Being Earnest (Wilde) gently satirizes romantic comedy as a genre. In contrast, in Into the Wild (Krakauer) a young man appears to choose Wilderness as a substitute for relationship, with tragic consequence. There will also be a selection of poetry. Except for Pride and Prejudice, the readings are relatively brief and commensurate with what the human brain can absorb during six short weeks of warm and sunny weather.

The course requires all students to make a single group presentation, valued at 20 %.

The purpose of the course is to introduce students to some of the skills of literary study, including the techniques of close reading. There will be two marked in-class close-reading poetry assignments, one near the beginning of the course and one near the end.

Any student who wishes to take this course needs to attend the very first class.


  • Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet.
  • Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice.
  • Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest.
  • Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild.
  • Frost, Robert. A Boy’s Will and North of Boston. (Plus, a custom course package.)


  • Attendance and participation, 5%
  • Group presentation, 20%
  • In class assignment, 20%
  • In-class close reading exercise, 10%
  • At-home essay (1,000 words), 25 %
  • Final exam, 20%

Approaches to Literature
Term 1
TTh, 12:00 - 3:00 PM
Web-Oriented Course

Through the study of selected examples of poetry, fiction, and drama, this course will introduce students to the fundamentals of university-level literary study, and furnish them with the skills to think and write critically about literature. Students will be taught the basic concepts of genre and form in literature and methods of literary analysis in order to prepare them for future courses (in English and other disciplines) which require close reading, critical thinking, open discussion, and analytical writing. The emphasis in this section will be on Canadian authors and their works.

Course Requirements: Each student is expected to participate fully in all class activities (reading, writing, discussion, groups, etc.). Each student will write three essays (in-class and home), keep a Response Journal, and sit the Final Examination.

Attendance: Because English 110 is conducted as a participatory, hands-on course, regular and punctual attendance is mandatory. To succeed in this course, students must attend every class, on time, and well prepared, participate co-operatively in group work, and consistently contribute to the initiating and sustaining of small-group and class discussions. Please register for this course only if you are able to make this commitment.

Required Texts:

  • Custom Course Pack of selections from Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, 2nd Canadian ed., edited by Kirszner, et al. (Nelson)
  • King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water (HarperPerennial)
  • Various handouts

Optional Text (If You Do Not Own a Good Handbook of English which Contains Updated [2016] MLA Formatting Style):

  • Aaron, Jane E., and Elaine Bander. The Little, Brown Essential Handbook, 6th Canadian ed. (Pearson)This three-unit course has been compressed into a brief six-week format. The readings are extensive. It is, therefore, recommended that you pre-read the novel.

Approaches to Literature
Term 1
TTh, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Web-Oriented Course

The renowned writer of weird fiction H.P. Lovecraft famously claimed that “the true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule” – rather “a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present.” This section of English 110 will consider drama, poetry, and prose fiction that meets these criteria: stories of monsters, demons, unfathomable horrors, metaphysical mystery, and cosmic awe. We will examine the ways that “weird” literature evokes emotions of wonder, fear, and disgust while engaging with political, social, and philosophical questions, interrogating boundaries, norms, and categories. Beginning with the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, a blood-soaked tale of monster-hunting in a world governed by a cruel, inhuman fate or “wyrd,” we will trace the literary history of the weird, following it through the fallen, omen-haunted tragedy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Christina Rossetti’s sensuously malevolent “Goblin Market.” The course concludes with a consideration of twentieth-century weird fiction, including the short stories of Lovecraft and Angela Carter, and with China Miéville’s “New Weird” novel The City & The City.

Approaches to Literature
Term 1
MW, 9:30 - 12:30 PM
Web-Oriented Course

What do we talk about when we talk about love? We’ll ask this question in various ways throughout this course by taking a look at how a variety of texts approach love, and writing about love—different kinds of love—in different ways. If love is constituted, in part, by the language used to describe it, how does the language of love stories shape how we perceive and experience it? How do our love stories shape our expectations of love? Is love merely personal, intense, private or is it also politically useful? What does literature have to say about this?

The philosopher Simone Weil said that love is “intense, pure, disinterested, gratuitous, generous attention.” Love can feel profound, even transformational. The little prince falls in love with a rose and travels from asteroid to asteroid to earth, in part, to mend his broken heart; in the process he learns a great deal about what kind of person he wants to be and what is meaningful. In Brother, two African-Canadian brother growing up in Scarborough, Ontario negotiate how to survive in community and music despite the ravages of racialized state violence. The protagonists in the stories in Islands of Decolonial Love relate to human and non-human species intimately, even lovingly, despite the effects of colonization.

This course introduces you to the skills and practices of literary criticism by inviting you, and equipping you, to interrogate details of language and form, and to pull together and analyze research sources in order to support sound and interesting arguments, i.e. to “read” these primary texts in new and deeper ways.

You will be asked to write short essays in this course. You will be invited to ask rich and provocative questions about literary texts, find and analyze research sources and write good, clear arguments. Lively engagement is a basic requirement of this course!


  • Participation (10%)
  • Student-led seminar discussion (20%)
  • Short Close Reading (20%)
  • Creative Critical Analysis (25%)
  • Exam (25%)

Approaches to Literature
Term 2
MW, 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Web-Oriented Course

This course is designed to introduce students to the three major forms of literature: drama, poetry, and the novel. We’ll practice a variety of approaches, examining literary works from historical, biographical, and psychoanalytical perspectives. The primary objective will be to teach students how to appreciate literature – what it can and cannot do and what distinguishes it from other forms of communication – and write about it in an analytical and scholarly manner.

Required Texts:

Please read Edward III for the first class

  • Shakespeare, Edward III (Arden)
  • Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (New Mermaids)
  • Blake, The Book of Urizen
  • Austen, Emma (Penguin)
  • Stevens, The Palm at the End of the Mind (Vintage)

Approaches to Literature
Term 2
MW, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Web-Oriented Course

This section of English 110 will introduce students to basic elements of university-level literary study by examining a wide range of works in three genres: poetry, prose fiction, and drama. These works are of various literary eras and by authors from diverse cultural backgrounds. Students will be taught methods of literary analysis that should enable them to read each work with care, appreciation, and (one hopes) enjoyment.

Two in-class essays: 20% each
One home essay (1000 words): 30%
Final exam: 30%

Lisa Chalykoff, Neta Gordon, Paul Lumsden, eds. The Broadview Introduction to Literature:Concise Edition, 2nd ed. (Broadview, 2019)

Provisional reading list
Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”; W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”; Ezra Pound, “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter”; Theodore Roethke, “My Papa’s Waltz”; Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”; Adrienne Rich, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”; Margaret Atwood, “Death of a Young Son by Drowning”; Seamus Heaney, “Digging”; George Eliot Clarke, “Casualties”; Jackie Kay, “In My Country”; Karen Solie, “Nice”

Short stories:
Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”; Chinua Achebe, “Dead Men’s Path”; Alice Munro, “Friend on My Youth”; Alistair MacLeod, “As Birds Bring Forth the Sun”; Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings”; Thomas King, “A Short History of Indians in Canada”; Kazuo Ishiguro, “A Family Supper”

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night;
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

Approaches to Literature
Term 2
TTh, 12:00 - 3:00 PM
Web-Oriented Course

Our Literature class has three Units, all in dialogue with each other: a Unit on gender, a Unit on race and class, and a Unit on place (and rootedness, postnationalism, dislocation, naming, and bounding).

Our Literature class has writers from the world: Vancouver, Australia, Jamaica, Britain, Canada, Nigeria, Virginia, Brooklyn, the USA, Antigua, and Kenya.

Our Literature class will ask that you read, a lot, and you will be rewarded for doing so.

Our Literature class will ask that you write, and your writing will be rewarding.

Approaches to Literature
Term 2
TTh, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Web-Oriented Course

This course is structured as four modules: Poems, Dramatic Script, Short Stories, and Fable. The texts are written by a wide variety of authors: people writing from here, from elsewhere, deceased writers, angry, funny, and reserved voices. In each module you will be introduced to relevant literary studies terminology and you will practice applying it to the texts in your assignments. This vocabulary is a tool for understanding and describing how specific literary forms craft nuanced meaning out of language. We will consider technique, genre, and context. Your assignments will aim for precision, clarity, and thoughtfulness. The course will include written discussion comments on Canvas and small group discussions in Collaborate. The theme for this particular section is the representation mixed feelings in literature. Sometimes we experience the sharp clarity of one strong emotion, but more often than not, our life experiences produce mixed feelings. W.H. Auden famously wrote that “poetry can be described as the clear expression of mixed feelings.” The same could be said about many types of literature. In this course we will read literature that represents and evokes complex feelings with striking clarity—poems about love and death, a story about refugee sponsorship, a dark comedy about starting over, and a contemporary fable about ingenuity and understanding our past. Come ready to enjoy reading stories and to learn more about how they work.


Literature in English to the 18th Century
Term 1
TTh, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

This course focuses on selected English writers of poetry, drama, and prose from the late 14th to the early 18th centuries. The following literature will be studied: The General Prologue in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; poems by John Donne; selections from John Milton’s Paradise Lost; Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko; Part 4 of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Class discussion of each work will sometimes focus on its treatment of social, political, and economic issues of the period in which it was written: for instance, the alleged corruption of the late-medieval Church and the questioning of conventional gender roles in the early modern period.

Course requirements:

  • Quiz #1, 20%
  • Quiz #2, 20%
  • Home essay; 1500 words, 30%
  • Final examination, 30%


  • Joseph Black et al., eds., The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Concise Edition, Volume A (The Medieval Period, The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century, The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century), Third Edition
  • William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (Broadview)
  • The texts will be available at the UBC Bookstore in a specially priced, shrink-wrapped package.

Literature in Canada
Term 1
MW, 12:00 - 3:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

"Is it possible to imagine being named by a place? And – were we to contemplate such a thing – how would we come to merit that honour?"
– Don McKay

Canadian identity “is less perplexed by the question ‘Who am I?’ than by some such riddle as ‘Where is here?’” – Northrop Frye

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” – Thomas King

Our Canadian Literature course this summer will explore literature that thinks through the following ideas:

  • when space becomes place becomes home (or in reverse)
  • “Oscillating Nationalisms” & Regionalism: mythology & metanarratives
  • History and histories (and memory)
  • “Garrison Mentality” and community
  • identity and violence
  • recognition & the other
  • multiculturalism (or elsewhere in/as here)
  • versions of wilderness: ecocritcal attention

I look forward to meeting you all.

World Literature in English
Term 2
TTh, 12:00 - 3:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

In this course, we will consider how contemporary Global Anglophone literatures depict the entanglements that can impede dominant cultural narratives of identity. Our focus will be on three recent novels by David Chariandy, Mohsin Hamid, and Sally Rooney, assessing how factors like race, gender and class affect characters as they attempt to secure a future good life for themselves. We will frame these longer works in relation to critical debates about the marketing, reading, and terminology of Global Anglophone literature in the context of globalization. Supplementing the longer works on the course with short fiction by writers like Ted Chiang, Lee Maracle, Shani Mootoo, and Zadie Smith, we will investigate questions of identity and place such as: how are Vancouver, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada located in the world? What does it mean for queer and refugee subjects to define their place in the world? And how does technology increasingly lead us to see ourselves and others differently, or even in the plural? These and others questions of identity that our course texts raise will help us set the existential doubts about the world that climate change and now COVID-19 pose in relation to other longstanding challenges many face in placing themselves in the world.

Television Studies
Term 2
WF, 3:00 - 6:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

The course will take the TV series, based on the works of George R. R. Martin, as the central text for an investigation of how the medieval is reimagined in our current moment. Reacting both to the High Fantasy genre of the 1970s and 80s (that inspired by, and largely imitating the mode of Tolkien’s novels), and to post-everything nature of the last twenty years, Game of Thrones holds an influential place in the popular modern imagined medieval, largely supplanting any real notion of the European Middle Ages in the minds of most of its readers and viewers. As such, we will be examining A Game of Thrones as much for what it tells us about our own moment, as for what they tell us about our ideas of the past.

Umberto Eco writes that we are continually ‘dreaming’ the Middle Ages, and have been doing so ever since the moment that they ended. Eco’s words, in Faith in Fakes: Travels in Hyperreality (1986), presage the surge in scholarly interest in Medievalism – or the study of the reimagining of the Middle Ages – in contemporary fiction, film, TV, and popular culture. Throughout the history of western culture, the medieval has been continually reimagined to reflect, as in a mirror darkly, the fears and desire of the contemporary moment. For the writers of the Renaissance, the medieval was the abject other from which the rebirth of classical learning has liberated them, while the Victorians found in the Middle Ages the archetypical structures of Empire and class-orientated chivalry. This course seeks to examine the recent neo-medieval phenomenon that is HBO’s Game of Thrones.

300- and 400-Level Courses

Technical Writing
Distance Learning (Online)
May - August

English 301 98A involves the study of principles of written and online communications in business and professional contexts; it includes discussion of and practice in the preparation of abstracts, proposals, applications, reports, correspondence and online communications: emails, texts, Web Folio and networking.

Note: Credits in this course cannot be used toward a major or a minor in English.

Prerequisite: six credits of First Year English or Arts One or Foundations

English 301 is offered as a fully online course. The use of a computer and ready access to an Internet connection are required. This is a Guided Independent Study course with required teamwork; there is no synchronous content, though there are firm in-term deadlines for readings and assignments.

Intended Audience

This course should be of interest to students in a variety of disciplines such as commerce, science, education, and the health sciences. It may also be of interest to students in Arts Co-Op and other Co-Op programs.

See the Distance Learning for full description of this course.

English Grammar and Usage
Distance Learning (Online)
May - August

The English 321 course provides an introduction to English grammar and its use in everyday communication. We take a descriptive stance when considering the rules of grammar, starting with the study of words and their parts, proceeding to word classes, phrases and clauses, and concluding with the different communicative functions that grammatical structures can perform when we package information in particular ways. This course equips students with skills to identify and describe the effects of derived or deviant structures in various communicative situations and provides a strong basis for further study of the English language and of literary and non-literary stylistics as well as for teaching English. The course includes numerous exercises analyzing sentences and chunks of discourse. There are four short collaborative assignments, two monthly tests, and a final exam counting 30% of the final grade. The prescribed books are Börjars & Burridge (2010) and Leech, Deuchar and Hoogenraad (2006). More details are available on the course website on canvas.ubc.ca.

See ENGL 321-98A Distance Learning

All students will be expected to write the final exam with Proctorio (a remote proctoring service) in their own personal space. You will need a Windows or Mac desktop or laptop computer that has a working microphone and webcam to use Proctorio.

The Structure of Modern English: Sounds and Words
Distance Learning (Online)
May - August

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to English phonology, morphology, parts of speech, and lexical (word) meaning. We start by studying the smallest units of language, speech sounds, and work our way up to larger structures until we reach the level of words and their meanings. Students are required to become proficient in phonetic transcription, including becoming familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet as it pertains to present-day varieties of English. The course is offered from a descriptive perspective, an approach not situated exclusively in any specific linguistic theory. There are three collaborative assignments, six quizzes, and a final exam counting 40% of the final grade. The prescribed book is Brinton & Brinton (2010). More details are available on the course website on canvas.ubc.ca.

All students will be expected to write the final exam with Proctorio (a remote proctoring service) in their own personal space. You will need a Windows or Mac desktop or laptop computer that has a working microphone and webcam to use Proctorio.

See ENGL 330-98A Distance Learning

Term 1
MW, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

The course will focus on Shakespeare’s first history tetralogy, the Wars of the Roses, and another early work, Edward III, that has recently been credited in part to Shakespeare. These plays display the hand of a young playwright – the reliance on battle scenes and a stylized, self-consciously rhetorical manner – but we can already glimpse in characters like Queen Margaret the skill of the mature Shakespeare. We’ll note differences between the young and mature Shakespeare, specifically in his treatment of soliloquies, dialogue, and characterization, and discuss the distinction between providential and secular history, Shakespeare’s attitude toward chivalric honour, and his contribution to the stage Machiavel.

Required Texts:

Please read Edward III for the first class

  • Shakespeare, Henry V (Oxford UP)
  • Henry VI 1 (Oxford UP)
  • Henry VI 2 (Oxford UP)
  • Henry VI 3 (Oxford UP)
  • Richard III (Oxford UP)

Victorian Literature
Term 2
TTh, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

“Ghosts are real, this much I know” – Edith Cushing, Crimson Peak

“There are such beings as vampires; some of us have evidence that they exist” – Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula

Whether we take Edith Cushing or Abraham Van Helsing at their word, the 19th-century Gothic revival certainly emphasized possibilities for terror and horror in tales of the supernatural. However, these interventions of spectral and un-dead beings often take place in the recognizable present; they speak to its anxieties. Perhaps they speak to ours as well, given our recent fascination with Neo-Victorian representations of the 19th century, such as Penny Dreadful, From Hell, Crimson Peak, etc. We will bring a chill to summer evenings as we examine stories addressing issues of gender and sexuality; class, race, and culture; realism and the supernatural; urban and rural settings, all in a century known for developments in science and technology, social upheaval, and a veneer of respectability, yet with monsters lurking in closets and under beds.

Our focus will also permit consideration of the boom in publication of popular literature in a variety of formats, as well as the rise of the professional writer during the 19th century. Core texts tentatively include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, and short fiction by authors including (but not limited to) M.R. James, Margaret Oliphaunt, Charlotte Riddell, Elizabeth Gaskell, E. Nesbit, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Since the course now will be conducted fully online, any texts ordered will be in e-book/digital format. Through Canvas, I will provide links to online texts of public domain required readings and will put other material on Library Course Reserve in full-text online format.

Evaluation will be based on two short essays and a term paper, participation in discussion on the course’s Canvas site, and an essay-based final examination.

Please check my blog at http://blogs.ubc.ca/drgmbaxter/ for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

Contemporary Literature
Term 2
MW, 12:00 - 3:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

What constitutes an award-winning book? What types of works win particular prizes and who decides on their merits? Whose texts are overlooked? Is James English’s assessment that such prizes “systematically neglect excellence, reward mediocrity . . . and provide a closed, elitist forum where cultural insiders engage in influence peddling and mutual back-scratching” in any way justified?

This class will focus on five award-winning novels from 2019: Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Bernadine Everisto’s Girl, Woman, Other, the joint winners of the Booker Prize; Joan Thomas’ Five Wives, which was chosen for the Governor General’s Literary Award; Ian William’s Reproduction, awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize; and Andre Alexis’ Days by Moonlight, which won the Rogers’ Writers Trust Fiction Prize. We will consider the institutional components of each prize (evaluation criteria, selection of judges, procedures for submission and selection, history of the prize, and past recipients) as well as the influence of what Manshall, McGrath & Porter term “consecrating forces and actors, from the publishers who select and promote a title to the authors who blurb it and the reviewers who praise it.” In addition to producing an analytical literary essay, students will be asked to select one of the books studied for an in-house “Best of 2019” award and provide a justification for their choice.

Children's Literature [FORMERLY ENGL 468]
Distance Education (Online)

The story of the child’s world, vision and experience has only recently become the object of serious scholarly attention; this is an exciting period for studying this topic, as new knowledge is being made all the time. In this senior course on Children's Literature, we will be examining a variety of genres, from fairy tales and fantasy, to domestic realism, sexuality, adventure and war. Novels will include The Hobbit, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Anne of Green Gables and The Golden Compass. Most of our texts are written about or from the point of view of a child or youth who challenges expectations and thus places the norms of a society under scrutiny. Readings of scholarly essays on genres and texts will support the understanding of the concepts and genres, and weekly discussion forums will provide opportunities to build our knowledge together as a community. Formal assignments will include a critical response essay, a term paper proposal, a term paper and a final exam. Students are expected to meet senior level standards for critical thinking, research and writing.

This course is a prerequisite for programs in Education and Library/Archival Studies.

Studies in Prose Fiction [FORMERLY ENGL 406]
Term 1
TTh, 12:00 - 3:00 PM
Web-oriented Course

This section will examine youth gone wrong.

In the Bildungsroman, the 'novel of formation' traditionally ends on a positive note—with the protagonist comprehending her true self, their social role, or his value to society—the fiction selected for "Bildungsroman (Adjacent)" will investigate depictions of the aftermaths of adolescences where the normalcy arrived at turns out to be problematic.

The course will consider five or six novels and/or short story collections, most of which will have been published in the past twenty years.

  • George Elliott Clarke, George and Ru
  • Margaret Atwood, Lady Oracle
  • Brett Josef Grubisic, This Location of Unknown Possibilities
  • Anoshi Irani, The Parcel
  • Katherena Vermette, The Break

500-Level /Graduate

Studies in the Seventeenth Century
Term 2
TTh, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

John Milton, poet, politician, pundit, could easily be read as an early-modern literary cross between Bernie Saunders and Jordan Peterson. This bizarre mashup of Milton’s revolutionary (in a good way) and masculinist (not so much) public and poetic discourses will be the focus of this course. We’ll explore Milton’s sophisticated, influential, and ambiguous fantasy of a masculinized--and radicalized--public sphere in order to understand some of the politics of the male and female subject in his fraught cultural moment. We’ll look specifically in Milton’s writings at male friendship (including its eroticized versions); husbands and wives in marriages; men at war; men and women in education; and and men in conversation, as each contributes to a fantasy of the gendered public citizen in early modern England. Feminist and queer-theory-inflected masculinity studies; historicism; rhetorical theory; and cultural poetics will inform our discussions and readings.

NOTE: This course will be on-line and synchronous.


Primary Works: John Milton, Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, Ludlow Masque, Lycidas, Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce. (Editions TBA). We will also have occasional (short) readings from Milton’s contemporaries with radically differing perspectives (women writers; Levellers; etc.). Because this is a condensed course, I strongly recommend that you read the Milton works before the start of term, ESPECIALLY Paradise Lost.

Secondary/Theoretical Works: Selections from Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick; Judith Butler; Alan Bray; Stephen Guy-Bray; Mark Breitenberg; Mary Nyquist; Paul Stevens; Will Stockton; Judith Kegan Gardiner; Jonathan Goldberg; Laura Knoppers; Alexandra Shepard; Diane Purkiss.


July 6, 8: Ludlow Masque: schooling gender
July 13, 15: Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce: enslaved husbands, private wives
July 20, 22: “Lycidas,” Samson Agonistes: old boys
July 27, 29: Paradise Lost: first man, first woman, first garden
Aug 3, 5: Paradise Lost: locker-room talk
Aug 10, 12: Paradise Lost: men at war


We will all be responsible for our collective learning in every class, since that’s how a seminar works. Graduate courses are also professional training grounds in which you become practiced in scholarly genres and modes. All of the course-work is therefore geared toward those two goals.

Note that I do not assume that you are necessarily experienced in this period or this author, but we will all bring perspectives, experience, and knowledge from which we can all learn, myself included. That is the great pleasure of a seminar! And you will obviously have considerable choice within these assignment-envelopes to discuss issues of interest to you in the course.

1 “Conference Paper”: a 20-minute researched analytical argument developed from the primary readings for that week and engaging with the scholarship on your topic and texts. 30% of seminar mark. This will give you the chance to dive into scholarly conversations and literary texts and test out your own emergent theories.

2x “Paper Respondent”: Twice during the course, you will provide a 5-10-minute response to another student’s seminar presentation. 20% of seminar mark. This will allow you to learn how to be a generous, analytical respondent, to open up conversations and lines of inquiry, and to sharpen your own thinking through those conversations.

12x “Reading Group”: For every class, come with 1 passage from the primary text and 1 passage from the secondary readings annotated in a shareable form and ready to discuss. 20% of seminar mark. This will enable you to have something to offer in every class, a little prepared so that you can more fully and easily participate; it will also make it easier for us all to build our ideas together during the seminar discussion.

1 “Journal Article”: A ~4,000-word research paper based on your seminar presentation. 30% of seminar mark. Due by August 20th. This will give you, in a fairly small-risk way, (additional) experience in turning a conference paper into an article and also specific practice with more formal and polished argumentative writing. It will give you the chance to learn from an earlier attempt, which process is also essential to scholarly work.

1 Information Interview, 1 Exit Interview: These are assignments for me. I will talk to each of you briefly individually at the beginning and end of the course, so that I can learn from you how best to pitch and organize the material to meet your various skills, knowledge, and goals.

Studies in American Literature since 1890
Term 1
MTh, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

“Faulkner in Absalom, Absalom! spends the entire book tracing race, and you can’t find it. No one can see it, even the character who is black can’t see it.” (Toni Morrison in interview)

We’ll read a selection of works of American literature that situate their complex and violent tracings of race in relation to the history of slavery, racial segregation and Jim Crow, Civil Rights, mass incarceration, voter suppression, white supremacy, and police brutality. How can “race” be difficult to find in a society dominated, since 1619, by the division between black and white?

There will be two reading lists. The primary list will be the basis of weekly discussions and presentations. Seminar participants will also help to compile an additional annotated reading list in support of research projects both small and large to be shared with the group.

Final selections for the primary list will be drawn from the following:

  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845)
  • Herman Melville, Benito Cereno (1855)
  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
  • Kate Chopin, “Desirée’s Baby” (1893)
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
  • James Weldon Johnson, Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, “White Imperialism” (1914)
  • Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)
  • Ernest Hemingway, “The Battler” (1925)
  • Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
  • William Faulkner, “Dry September” (1931)
  • William Faulkner, Light in August (1932)
  • William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)
  • William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1942)
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  • James Baldwin, “Letter from a Region of My Mind” (1962)
  • James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)
  • James Baldwin, “On Being ‘White’ and Other Lies” (1985)
  • Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
  • Angela Davis, “Reflections on the Black Woman's Role in the Community of Slaves” (1972)
  • Don DeLillo, End Zone (1972)
  • Wallace Terry, ed., Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History (1984)
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  • Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992)
  • Hortense Spillers, Black, White and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture (2003)
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The First White President” (2017)



Active participation in the seminar's exchange and discussion, and

  • a ten-minute informal presentation 10%
  • a three-page essay (distributed and read aloud) 15%
  • a seminar presentation 25%
  • a final essay 50%


“My father was a white man.” (Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave)

“What tangled skeins are the genealogies of slavery! Who can measure the amount of Anglo-Saxon blood coursing through the veins of American slaves?” (Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl)

“’It is a lie; it is not true, I am white! Look at my hair, it is brown; and my eyes are gray, Armand, you know they are gray. And my skin is fair,’ seizing his wrist. ‘Look at my hand; whiter than yours, Armand,’ she laughed hysterically.” (“Desirée’s Baby” by Kate Chopin)

“He watched his body grow white out of the darkness like a Kodak print emerging from the liquid.” (Faulkner, Light in August)

“We’re all black to the white man, but we’re a thousand and one different colors. Turn around, look at each other!” (Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

“Abraham was black. Did you know that? Mary the mother of Jesus was black. Rembrandt and Bach had some Masai blood. It's all in the history books if you look carefully enough. Tolstoy was three-eighths black. Euclid was six-fifths black. Not that it means anything. Not that any of it matters in the least. Lord, I think I'm beginning to babble." (Taft Robinson, in Don DeLillo’s End Zone)

“the people who think they are white” (Baldwin, Coates)