2023 Winter Session
Research in English Studies
Thursday 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Required of all graduate students in the M.A. program. Pass/Fail.
This course will introduce new MA students in the Department of English Language and Literatures to graduate-level research skills and professional practices. Meetings will include a variety of guest presentations, workshops, and library visits. Sessions will focus on such topics as archival research, digital tools, applying for grants, writing seminar papers and conference proposals, and submitting articles for publications.
Research in English Studies
Thursday 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Required of all graduate students in the PhD program. Pass/Fail.
Studies in Bibliography
Mondays 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
This is a hands-on course in scholarly editing and publishing, in which we will work collaboratively across the term on a complete edition of Hobomok, the 1824 romance by American human rights campaigner Lydia Maria Child. The edition is under contract for 2025 publication by Broadview Press, and we will also develop some additional material for possible inclusion in the online resources for the Broadview Anthology of American Literature.
We will work on the text itself (cruxes, textual editing principles), on the identification and selection of historical appendices and illustrations, and on the critical introduction, footnotes, headnotes and contextual essays for a classroom edition of this complex fictionalization: in the (historical) Plymouth Colony, a (fictional) woman resists Puritan constraint and later marries Hobomok, a (historical) Pokanoket pniese and advisor to the Wampanoag sachem Massasoit. Child also published actively in the anti-slavery movement, and the course includes opportunities to work on her abolitionist writings. Students who complete the course will be named on the acknowledgements page in the published edition, and there will be an additional published teaching resource to which student-editors may be able to contribute.
This course will make use of scholarship on critical editing; on creating materials for decolonizing pedagogies; on the novel and its author; on women’s responses to Puritan patriarchies, romance as resistance, and the implications of colonial imaginings of Black and Indigenous lives by settler women; and on the historical Hobomok and his communities’ nuanced resistance to colonial violence and settler encroachment.
Course work will include one article-length essay (focused on either original scholarship or critical scholarly pedagogy), reviews of secondary readings (with short presentation), and several short researched editorial contributions (annotations, appendices, headnotes, illustrations).
Studies in Fiction
Fridays 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM
In this seminar, we will explore Victorian fiction’s fascination with imagined futures, alternate histories, and wonderful inventions. The genre of scientific romance (later, science fiction) fully emerged in the period; utopian and dystopian fiction became popular; literature by leading authors envisioned fantastic new technologies, alternative cultures, and alien lifeforms. In recent years, Victorian criticism has come to appreciate that the non-realist fiction that was once critically undervalued is central to the literary culture of the period. The revaluation of these texts has been driven largely by a shift toward interdisciplinary modes of literary criticism. Nineteenth-century speculative fictions draw on scientific, psychological, biomedical, and political ideas that emerged in and transformed nineteenth-century culture. The literary texts we will read pose questions about gender, race, colonialism, globalization, industrialism, technological progress, political and social relations, and the nature of the human. Examining the fiction’s literary and cultural contexts, we will discuss such topics as automata and the boundaries between humans and machines, science fiction’s entanglement with colonialism, new conceptions of time and space, environmental concerns and apocalypse, and imagined evolutionary developments of body and mind.
Assignments and Other Requirements:
- Seminar paper (roughly 20 pages)
- Presentation (roughly 25 minutes)
- Three sets of informal questions/comments on the readings
Texts will include:
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race
- Samuel Butler, Erewhon
- George Eliot, “The Lifted Veil” and “Shadows of the Coming Race”
- Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, “Sultana’s Dream”
- Karel Čapek, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)
- H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
- Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Tomorrow’s Eve
- Short fiction by Rudyard Kipling, Margaret Oliphant, Grant Allen, Israel Zangwill, Elizabeth Corbett, Edward Bellamy
- Mary Gibson, ed. Science Fiction in Colonial India
- Frederic Jameson, “Progress or Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future”?
- Iwan Rhys Morus, “Looking into the Future: The Telectroscope That Wasn’t There”
- Louis Chude Sokei, The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics
Studies in Poetry
Mondays 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Course details to follow.
Linguistic Studies of Contemporary English
Thursdays 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Narrative meaning relies essentially on conceptualization of viewpoint. In this course, we will study theories of viewpoint proposed within cognitive linguistics and poetics, also adding some of the analytical tools used to study conceptual frames, mental spaces and blending, and multimodal interaction. The goal is to build an understanding of how viewpoint effects, even if observed in different modes of communication, rely on similar conceptualizations. We will apply these theories to a range of phenomena where narrative meaning emerges, seeking a better explanation of the mechanisms which prompt stories to help us interpret creative representations of situations.
We will first study the basics of current approaches to discourse viewpoint and narrative viewpoint, to then consider a range of examples from that perspective. Our readings, examples, and discussions will focus on a wide range of artifacts: novels, plays, films, graphic novels, video games, cartoons, advertisements, and, quite importantly, internet memes.
Among more theoretical problems related to narratives, we will address deictic meaning, forms of Speech and Thought Representation (including representation of experience), role of figuration, the nature of embodiment, sequentiality and causation, construction of identity, and the role of images in contemporary discourse.
Students will familiarize themselves with the methodologies and use the readings (scholarly articles and chapters) and in-class discussions to develop analytical skills that they would then use in their final project on relevant examples of their choice. All the readings will be available online via Canvas/UBC Library website.
Studies in Rhetoric
Fridays 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
While rhetorical studies has long engaged disability on issues of access and accessibility, scholars such as Tara Wood, Jay Dolmage, Margaret Price, and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson (2014) have urged the field to “move beyond mere lists and individual accommodations.” This seminar sets out to explore that “beyond,” teasing out the conflicts and potentials embedded at the intersection of disability, rhetoric, and activism. Over the course of the semester, we will ask two, interanimating questions: in what ways can we write about, theorize, and teach disability rhetorically? And in what ways might experiences of disability “crip” our understanding of rhetoric and rhetorical theory?
To further complicate these questions, our readings will insist that we adopt an intersectional lens, one that accounts for the ways both disability and sexuality are always already racialized, gendered, and classed. By the end of the course, you will come away with a thorough understanding of both the scope and the stakes of crip activism. Whether you intend to take up disability as the primary subject of your research or as a critical methodology to enrich your perspective on another topic, you’ll become aware of the centrality of disability, of its looming presence in rhetorical studies. As Rosemarie Garland-Thomson puts it (2016), “Disability is everywhere once you start noticing it.”
Importantly, disability is an embodied experience (rather than a purely theoretical exercise), which means our readings will include a combination of genres, such as memoir, fiction, theory, and graphic literature, that speak to disability’s materiality. The course assignments, too, will demand a kind of engagement with the world of disability that exceeds traditional library research and a final paper. These assignments ask you to take up Garland-Thomson’s call to “start noticing” disability in your scholarship, service, and lives outside of school. Noticing disability is a rhetorical task because it involves rescripting the discourses that we use to name and address bodymind difference. Indeed, this seminar sits delicately on the border of theory and praxis, urging us to take on a scholar-teacher-activist model of professionalism that reimagines disability and rhetoric in all aspects of our lives. As this seminar will make clear, studying crip rhetorics requires a commitment to fighting for disability liberation.
Middle English Studies
Wednesdays 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
The European Middle Ages have, from their very beginning, been called forth into the world through acts of dreaming. From Shakespeare's history play cycles to Tennyson's Idylls, Tolkien's medieval world-making to 2021's Capitol riot Viking Shaman, acts of medieval re-creation punctuate the histories of the west, conjuring forth a Middle Ages manifold in form and ideological content. Identity politics, and the question of who owns the past - and to what purposes this past is deployed - are concerns that lie at the heart of this course.
This course will examine the "Middle Ages" as a cultural phenomenon, tracing the continually reimagined idea of the medieval from its origins in the Early Modern through to its continual reinvention in early twenty-first century media. We will examine texts that track the slippery medieval through its long and varied history, taking in genres as diverse as theatre, poetry, the novel, film and TV, and the recent turn to the immersive digital medieval.
Studies in the Renaissance
Tuesdays 9:30 PM - 12:30 PM
In 2021, UBC acquired a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Published in 1623, the book is the first printing for nearly half of Shakespeare’s plays. Since there are no surviving manuscripts of any of Shakespeare’s works, 18 plays, including Macbeth, Anthony and Cleopatra, The Tempest and Twelfth Night, are known to us today only because they were first published in the Folio. The recent UBC acquisition, along with the fact that 2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the Folio’s publication, provides the occasion for this course.
Our seminar will take the First Folio as its object of study. All of our encounters with this book will be mediated by an interrogation of its status as both a luxury commodity to be collected and cultural property to be protected. We will query where the book’s value comes from and question the assumption that the volume is imbued with the aura of Shakespeare himself. We will think about the book’s role in the settling of North America – that is how it became what scholar Jyotsna Singh has described, as “a key signifier within colonial discourse.” We will also think about the ways in which the Folio, as an artifact from a world distant from our own, penned by a figure that continues to tower over our collective imagination, provides an occasion for UBC students and faculty, living and working on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish people, to rethink our understanding of literary and cultural history.
We will have limited access to the UBC copy at Rare Books and Special Collections, so we will take these opportunities to explore the things that make it unique. We will look for markers of use and readership and we will investigate the book’s previous owners. We will also look at how UBC is promoting this notable acquisition and we will consider the implications of our library’s policy around who is and is not given access to it.
In class, students will explore the story of the Folio’s printing (the gathering of the plays as well as how the book was physically printed) and explore the volume’s idiosyncrasies. Students will have the opportunity to learn about about the printing of dramatic and literary works in early modern period and they will explore the value of digitization projects in our own period. Students will also spend some time with the Folio plays themselves in order to think about what they add to the Shakespearean canon. We will consider the resources the Folio provides for theatre practitioners and we will ponder why it is that actors are particularly drawn to this book.
Reading for this course will include 3-4 plays and a selection of secondary material. Evaluation will include a seminar presentation and a research project. Participation will be evaluated and in person attendance will be mandatory
Students participating in this seminar may have the opportunity to attend a symposium on the First Folio scheduled for the Fall of 2023.
Studies in the Seventeenth Century
Wednesdays 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Woman-identified writers of the English Renaissance in many fascinating ways both disturb and amplify the public discourses of their eras. They write into emergent Reformed nationalism and empire, speak for and against class hierarchies, create and subvert a politics of dissent, and reimagine authority. These writers thus intervene in the major narratives of this century: the Protestant Reformation; English nation- and empire-building; civil and regional wars--as they also build new literary alliances, new communities of readers, and new genres. This seminar will encounter a series of major English women writers from 1580-1680 and explore how they speak into their publics.
This course will implicitly challenge Habermas’ history of an emergent public sphere: whose politics, which publics?
We will use queer theory historians to study the roles of gender-identity and sexuality in these writers and in this era.
We will deploy scholarship on early English racialization to analyze the emergent colonialism and nationalism in which these writers operate.
Authors and Issues
- Mary Sidney Herbert (Psalms & dedicatory poems): scriptural nationalism
- Amelia Lanyer (Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum): women’s alliances & class-politics
- Mary Wroth (Pamphilia to Amphilanthus; Urania): desire, nostalgia, eco-politics
- Katherine Philips (Collected Poems; Letters): Royalist politics & female alliances
- Elizabeth Cary, Tragedy of Mariam: White Feminism & marriage-policy
- Margaret Cavendish, Convent of Pleasure: female pleasures, feminine communities
- Mary Rowlandson (Sovereignty and Goodness of God): captivity narratives, early settler colonization
- Margaret Fell (Women’s Speaking Justified): Quakers, revolution, & women’s spiritual voices
Course-Organization: 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 scaffolded course-work (article reviews, a presentation, a research project, weekly discussions) will facilitate our community of learning and your own growing professional skills.
Studies in the Victorian Period
Mondays 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
This seminar offers students a deep dive into the varied literary career and complex cultural afterlife of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the late-Victorian writer and personality. Although Wilde is perhaps best known as a playwright, he also published in multiple genres, including poetry, fiction, criticism, and fairy tales. Wilde was also a journalist, public speaker, and one of the inaugural figures in the modern phenomenon we now call celebrity culture. He reveled in paradox and contradiction: an Irish nationalist who adored Queen Victoria, Wilde was a self-proclaimed Socialist and Feminist who nevertheless gloried in his elite access to prestige and privilege. Wilde’s trials and subsequent imprisonment for “gross indecency” in 1895 remain a turning point in legal and literary history; those events also had, and continue to have, an indelible impact in shaping our understanding of queer identity and politics. In this course, we will consider Wilde’s writing and life by reading texts by him, about him, and even those erroneously attributed to him with an eye to the shifting contours of his reception and reputation. Students will also have an opportunity to work directly with rare and unique editions of Wilde’s writings at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections.
WARNING: one of our texts (Teleny) is pornographic.
- Anon., Teleny, or, the Reverse of the Medal (selections)
- F. Bloxam, “The Priest and the Acolyte” (Canvas)
- Alfred Douglas, “Two Loves” and “The Dead Poet”
- Merlin Holland, The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde (Harper Perennial)
- Oscar Wilde, The Major Works (Oxford)
- Salome (Illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley)
- The Soul of Man under Socialism and Selected Critical Prose (Penguin)
- “The English Renaissance” and “The House Beautiful” (Canvas)Our readings will also include the latest critical and theoretical developments in Wilde Studies.
Studies in the Twentieth Century
Tuesdays 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Description by Marlene Briggs
Virginia Woolf, War, and Post-Conflict Studies: From the First World War to the War in Ukraine
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century, lived in a period punctuated by devastating international conflicts, including the First World War (1914-1918), the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and the Second World War (1939-1945). As a member of the Bloomsbury Group, she associated with influential artists and intellectuals such as J. M. Keynes and Leonard Woolf, who intervened in public debates on the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the League of Nations (1920-1946), respectively. For her part, Woolf reflected on the causes and effects of hostilities in occasional writings, a polemical essay, experimental novels, and late fictions. Since the publication of the signal collection Virginia Woolf and War (1991), scholars have paid increasing attention to this pivotal concern in her oeuvre. We revisit Woolf’s writings on total war and the rise of fascism in a time of climate emergency marked by the return of conventional military tactics and right-wing populist leaders. To what extent do Woolf’s innovative texts illuminate transhistorical problems in studies of war ranging from the First World War to the War in Ukraine? Conversely, how do her investigations of conflict expose ethicopolitical dilemmas–inequities, injuries, displacements, and divisions–particular to her era?
We begin with timely theoretical interventions in war and post-conflict studies before turning to sociopolitical perspectives on the First World War and its aftermath by Woolf’s contemporaries (including Hogarth Press [1917-1946] editions in UBC Rare Books and Special Collections). In the next section, we grapple with key statements on militarism and pacifism in Woolf criticism prior to our deliberations on her occasional essays (ca. 1915-1940) and Three Guineas (1938). The third unit features prominent research on Woolf’s experimental fictions before we approach Jacob’s Room (1922) and Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Similarly, we address noted critical essays on Woolf’s late novels in the fourth part of the seminar before we interpret The Years (1937) and Between the Acts (1941). In the concluding section, we gauge the impacts of twenty-first century wars and conflicts in Woolf studies and we consider the limits and possibilities of post-conflict paradigms. Assignments may include a reading journal; a seminar presentation; a project proposal; and a final essay. In summary, this seminar orients students to multidisciplinary research on organized violence; promotes familiarity with diverse texts in Woolf’s oeuvre; fosters critical fluency in Woolf scholarship; and invites speculation on modes of theorizing war.
Studies in American Literature to 1890
Wednesdays 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Most of us have had the experience of paying good money so we can sit in a theatre, watch a film, and be terrified. What reward or pleasure is there in being artificially afraid? In this course we will investigate the genre of “terror,” partly by reading gothic materials themselves and partly by looking at a history of explanations of how the gothic works. Our focus in terms of primary texts will be on memorable gothic tales produced by nineteenth and twentieth-century US writers and filmmakers. Our focus in terms of explanatory models will be, first, on psychoanalytic and anthropological models that relate the gothic to the subject’s or the culture’s repressed or unconscious life; and, second, on constructivist and critical race theory models that see the gothic as a political structure. In this sense the course will look not just at a certain strand of the gothic itself but also at a rough map of twentieth and twentieth-first-century theorizations of the gothic. Fictional texts to be studied include: the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, and the poems of Emily Dickinson. Films to be studied include: George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Ridley Scott’s Alien, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Robert Eggers’ The VVitch, Jordan Peele’s Us, and Ari Aster’s Hereditary. We will be reading essays from Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Slavoj Žižek, Silvia Federici, Michel Foucault, Alexander G. Weheliye, and Christina Sharpe.
Studies in American Literature Since 1890
Thursdays 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
The seminar will focus on three U.S. writers: Gertrude Stein, Richard Wright, and Mary McCarthy. These writers are most often associated with the aesthetics and politics of early- and mid-centiury modernism, but in this course we will think about their writing as it participates in that earlier, somewhat outré literary formation known as naturalism. With its origins in the work of the French writer Emile Zola and its uptake in the American scene by Frank Norris and others, naturalism is often characterized as an attempt to realize nineteenth-century materialist, scientific theories (of heredity and political economy, for example) in literary form. And while it bears some resemblance to nineteenth-century realism, naturalism's commitment to obscure forces that determine subjectivity and behaviour make it continuous with twentieth-century aesthetics often associated with modernism
In this seminar we will ask questions that disturb any easy periodizations of literary practices. What role do naturalist formations play in twentieth-century writing that takes up these conventions in the critical, experimental modalities that we associate with modernism? What happens to gender, sexuality, race, class, and other categories when naturalizing tendencies come into relation to specific historical and political exigencies (such as changing institutions of gender and sexuality, racial segregation and protest, radical worker movements and anti-Communism)? What is there to be learned from a "weak theoretical" approach to literary writing (to cite Paul Saint-Amour citing Silvan Tomkins) that approaches these writers (and others) with close attention to phenomenologies of reading? Methodologically, this seminar offers a syncretic mix of literary and cultural history, American studies, modernist studies, and affect theory.
In addition to the seminar's focus on Stein, Wright, and McCarthy, authors may include: Emile Zola, Frank Norris, W.E.B Du Bois, Mina Loy, Jesse Fausset, Nella Larsen, Hannah Arendt, and others, and selections from relevant secondary work by Mark Seltzer, Sianne Ngai, Christina Sharpe, Mark Goble, and others.
Course currently under construction.
Studies in Canadian Literature
Fridays 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
“Improvisation,” says the American historian Robin D. G. Kelley, “is the most important tool you have to navigate both the catastrophe we’re facing and the counter-planning needed to move beyond that catastrophe.” “As a mode of being in the world,” write Daniel Fischlin, Ajay Heble and George Lipsitz in The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights, and the Ethics of Cocreation (2013), “improvisation shows us that there are other ways of doing things, that social change is possible, that another world is possible.” The recent decade has witnessed the emergence (at conjunctions of Literary and Performance Studies, of Cultural Studies and Media Theory) of a vitally Canadian version of Critical Studies in Improvisation, in socially-engaged academic, artistic, and community contexts across North America and around the world. While improvisation is commonly associated with theatre, comedy and jazz, study has expanded to include the politics of protest and community formation, as well as the temporality and historicity of many forms of text and representation. This seminar will offer encounters with significant Canadian bodies of creative and co-creative work, enacted through the dynamic critical framework of Critical Studies in Improvisation. We will use the first four weeks of the seminar to begin to develop both theory and method around the study of improvisation, as a form of practice-based research and as a present-tense modality of “doing the work,” including such key concepts as attendance, close listening, risk, care, accompaniment, reciprocity and disruption; this stage of the work will involve addressing and interrogating tactics of decolonial unsettling that are changing how we understand the literary, cultural and media landscape of the country. In addition to key examples of improvisatory technique in fiction, poetry, song, theatre and film by, possibly among others, Michael Snow, Jordan Abel, Karen Solie, Michel and Jeannette Lambert, Lorna Goodison, George Elliott Clarke, The Weather Station, Dylan Robinson, François Houle, Cadence Weapon, Pierre Hébert, Esi Edugyan, and Michael Ondaatje, students in the seminar will be invited to bring in samples of current creative work in Canada that engages their interest. The second half of the seminar will involve two-week case studies of works by four crucial figures in contemporary Canadian arts: Dionne Brand, Don McKay, Fred Wah, and Alanis Obomsawin. We will take time to investigate and to navigate the imaginative potentials that their poetry, prose and film enact. In what ways do they unsettle Canada, but also present possibilities for imagining other kinds of community?
Studies in Commonwealth/Post-colonial Literatures
Thursdays 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
“Development”—and its myriad cognates, including “underdevelopment,” “uneven development,” “developing nations,” “human development index” and so forth—has been the central paradigm framing colonial and postcolonial geopolitical and economic structures over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The aim of this seminar is twofold: first, we will trace the history and evolution of the term “development,” the ways it has been differently envisioned and defined; its historical impact on colonial, postcolonial, and international forms of governance; and its imbrication with other political discourses like human rights and gender equality. Second, the course will read twentieth- and twenty-first century colonial, postcolonial, and world Anglophone fiction to see how various novelistic forms, especially the Bildungsroman—the quintessential narrative of development—adapt themselves to different socio-historical conditions of development and intervene in broader political debates.
Primary texts may include Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson, Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable, Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’O, Petals of Blood, Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, and Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms. Secondary readings will be drawn from an intersection of humanities and social sciences scholarship (in the field of development studies), including work by Gilbert Rist, James Ferguson, Frederick Cooper, Gayatri Spivak, Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Brian Larkin, Michael Rubenstein, Martha Nussbaum, and Amartya Sen.
Studies in Literary Movements
Tuesdays 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
In this course we will ask: what does it mean to read, theorize and teach Indigenous texts here where a continent meets an ocean? Bringing together key critical and creative Indigenous texts from the Western edge of this continent and from the vast Pacific region, we will consider critical foundations for our conversation, engage ocean-centered approaches to literary texts and the urgency of the climate crisis as it affects the Pacific, and trace several textual and structural sites in which ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Pacific’ interact.
Studies in Literary Theory
Tuesdays 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
This class is an opportunity for intensive study in one of the most promising areas of development in Trans Studies today: a field aptly described by Elle O’Rourke and Jules Gleeson as “Transgender Marxism.” The course will explore the intersection of Marxist thought and struggles around gender and sexuality, and will address and introduce classic areas in Marxist analysis - such as production/reproduction, the commodity-form, and fetishism - as well as more vanguard areas of the field - such as metabolic rift theory and eco-socialism - alongside major LGBTQIA movements, movements for racial justice, sex workers’ rights, industrial labor and workplace struggles, health activism, land struggles, mutual aid, and immigrant rights. Throughout, we will center a meta-methodological question that comes directly from a Transgender Marxist praxis itself: why is it that much of the most important and impactful work in trans theory and thought is being produced outside of academia proper? We will take seriously and discuss the historical conditions for this situation, and the majority of our materials and guest lectures will be drawn from non-academic or para-academic scholars and thinkers. Authors may include theorists, poets, activists, and artists such as Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel, Eman Abdelhadi and M.E. O’Brien, Aren Aizura, Tithi Bhattacharya, Lou Cornum, Treva Ellison, Leslie Feinberg, Jules Gill-Peterson, Jules Gleeson and Elle O’Rourke, Sophie Lewis, Max Liboiron, Petrus Liu, Nat Raha, Dean Spade, and C. Riley Snorton.
Studies in Literary Theory
Thursdays 2:30 PM - 5:30 PM
This seminar explores the relationship between race, capitalism, and information technologies. By following these links, we attend to historical and contemporary racial formations and/as “new” technologies—including settler colonial figurations of enslaved and indentured labour that construct borders around the human, the nonhuman, and the machinic; techno-Orientalist discourses in the information age; border surveillance and computation; and the logics of algorithms in social and political practices. The seminar also takes up theories of race, gender, and sexuality as they pertain to new media performance, affect, and labour. With a particular focus on Asian North American and new media studies, we will read critical theory across different fields and engage a variety of texts, including visual art, film, literature, music, and digital media.
Topics in Science and Technology Studies
Wednesdays 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
"Media & Misinformation: The History of Truth from Pseudoscience to Propaganda"
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Media and Misinformation: The History of Truth from Pseudoscience to Propaganda
Information and propaganda, science and truth, planetary crises and democratic responses are inter-dependent. The lives of people and the planet will depend on our ability to communicate accurately and effectively. Media Studies, traditionally the locus for the study of communication technologies, has, by necessity, expanded its field to engage with disciplines such as Science and Technology Studies, Information Studies, Infrastructure and Network analysis, as well as with established disciplines such as History, Geography, and English. This new iteration of Media Studies has now become the most consequential place—inside and outside the academy—for a new critical, interdisciplinary vocabulary to take effect.
This course offers a design for a new kind of literacy. The future world citizen must be equally proficient in analyzing technical, historical, and narrative forms. Yet our disciplines parse, prioritize, and rank these forms of representation, creating students highly skilled in one or two but not across the diverse forms in which “truth” and “information” come packaged today. The future of education is interdisciplinary, because our crises are inter-connected, and because transdisciplinary citizens are needed to address planetary and political challenges. This course seeks to create a set of tools that will enable critique at the intersection of the history of truth and the future of citizenship.
Studies in Environmental Humanities
Fridays 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Storying Land: Canadian Literary Ecologies
Since emerging as a multidisciplinary field in the early twenty-first century, environmental humanities research has variously interrogated the narratives and cultural concepts figuring humanity’s relations to the land and non-human nature. Imperative to literary criticism within this paradigm has been not only a reappraisal of “nature” as an object of study but a reorientation of anthropocentric understandings of humanistic “culture” (including the Humanities) toward its material and ecological embeddedness—pressingly, the inseparability of environmental crises from their historical and cultural foundations shaping how we imagine (and might reimagine) what it means to live in relation to the land. In the context of lands claimed by the state formation of Canada—the land beneath our feet at UBC—such crises and relations are profoundly marked by the history of colonization and encompass radical differences between settler and Indigenous epistemologies. Literature in Canada is implicated in the historical stabilization of foundational binaries between “human” and “nature” that have naturalized the eliminatory and extractive logics of settler-colonial territoriality, a violent structure both of land-based domination and environmental injustice. A grounding place for struggles towards decolonial and/as environmental justice in the work of many writers, artists, scholars, and activists in Canada today is thus the meaning of the land. How do we know the land in literature? Can literature write the land (without exploiting it)? How might the land itself speak through literature? How is it heard?
In this seminar we will take up these (and other) questions by examining literature’s relationship with land in the context of Canada. Our concern will be to first establish a historical perspective, and then to ask what role stories and literary arts are playing in denaturalizing settler-capitalism by envisioning reciprocal land relations and more environmentally just futures. We will begin by examining the Eurodescendant epistemologies transposed by writers who mapped onto ostensibly “new” territory ideas about the sublime beauty or terror of a vast, unpopulated landscape—ideas like “wilderness” and “the North” that supported Canadian national identity, Indigenous erasure, and the work of “developing” lands and resources. We will consider how such land-claiming narratives delegitimated other ways of living and making meaning in relation to the land, displacing not only the storied knowledge of Indigenous peoples who have lived with the land for millennia, but other diasporic relations to place and ecology. We will look to decolonial epistemologies of land and kinship in contemporary Indigenous literary arts and activism to consider resurgence in relation to environmental justice (and in conflict with certain currents of “environmentalism”), and to cultural ecologies of non-Indigenous solidarity and anti-anthropocentric resistance. Our readings will broach both rural and urban lands in Canada, range from the Pacific coast to the Prairies to the high Arctic to the Maritimes, and address particular crises and sites of resource extraction (e.g., pipelines, tarsands, climate change), adopting an expansive sense of the “literary” in diverse genres and representational forms.
We’ll be localizing our approach to the diffuse field of environmental humanism within Canadian contexts, drawing on Indigenous studies and settler-colonial studies as they interface with thinking in ecocriticism, Anthropocene studies, petrocultures/energy humanities, critical race studies, and environmental and climate justice.
Students can expect a mixture of creative and critical texts; while not a “theory” seminar exclusively, it encompasses theory and encourages students to consider stories and creative arts as theoretical. Generally, our weekly seminars will combine secondary readings with a primary text(s) in the form of novels, books of poetry, short stories, short and feature-length films, digital media, and visual art. A provisional list of authors/artists includes Jeannette Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, Di Brandt, Edward Burtynsky, Warren Cariou, Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott, Glen Coulthard, Cherie Dimaline, Margery Fee, Northrop Frye, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, the Group of Seven, Donna Haraway, Tasha Hubbard, Naomi Klein, Bruno Latour, Lee Maracle, Cecily Nicholson, Rob Nixon, Howard O’Hagan, Al Purdy, Eden Robinson, Zoe Todd, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Imre Szeman, Tanya Tagaq, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Fred Wah, Kyle Powys Whyte, Patrick Wolfe, rita wong, Kathryn Yusoff, Zacharias Kunuk.