Graduate Courses

Students will need to use Workday to manage course planning and registration for the 2024 Winter session. Contact english.graduate.program@ubc.ca for assistance related to registration and course planning for ENGL_V courses.
See Workday Student for Grad Students

 

Winter 2024

Term 1
THURSDAY, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Required of all graduate students in the PhD program. Pass/Fail.

Term 1
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.

Book History through the Collector’s Eye

Term 2
TUESDAY, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Recently, UBC Library’s department of Rare Books and Special Collections received a magnificent donation from a retired member of the English department, Professor Patricia Merivale, whose family had collected books for several generations. The collection, which begins in the first era of print and extends into the 20th century, is eclectic, but there are some themes that emerge, such as interest in fine bindings; in relatively obscure religious texts; in canonical literature; and in books that are just, well, valuable. This course will use the Merivale collection as the focus for a survey of the history of the book in the west. We will meet every week in RBSC for hands-on experience with selections from the Merivale collection, alongside relevant items from other parts of our collections. We will also think about what it means for a book to become part of a collection, considering how books move through the world; what motivates collectors; and how institutions reframe collections. Participants will have the opportunity to conduct original research on objects from the Merivale collection, which has never been the subject of sustained research before, and will produce public-facing work to present items from the collection to a general audience.

 

Digital Methods for Literary Study: Recovering Early Chinese Canadian Literature and History

Term 2
WEDNESDAY, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

This course is a course in Digital Humanities intended to develop students’ archival and digital research methods, which uses Early Chinese Canadian literature and history as a case study. We will pay particular attention to the lives and works of three early Chinese North American authors:

1) Edith Eaton (1865-1914), who, writing as “Sui Sin Far,” penned sympathetic fictional and journalistic portraits of diasporic Chinese in Montreal and cities in the eastern and western US during the Yellow Peril era. The author of Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912), Eaton is credited with founding Asian North American literature. We will read scores of uncollected unsigned 1890s journalism by her about Montreal’s Chinatown, as well as autobiographical works about herself and her family;
2) Winnifred Eaton Babcock Reeve (1875-1954), Edith’s younger sister, who published bestselling novels set in Japan while assuming an offensive masquerade as Yokohama-born Japanese noblewoman “Onoto Watanna,” before abandoning this persona to lead Universal Studio’s screenwriting department, champion Canadian literature as President of Calgary’s branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association, found Alberta’s Little Theatre movement, and write moving realist fiction and journalism about life on the Canadian prairie. We will read her bestseller The Japanese Nightingale (1901), her realist novel Cattle (1923), some autobiographical works, her journalism about Hollywood, and the screenplay for one of her films; and
3) the Eaton sister’s Chinese-born mother Achuen “Grace” Amoy Eaton, acrobat, translator, missionary, and author of a newly recovered autobiographical serialized 1906 novella, Jade.

Readings will include:
• selections from Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism, and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton and other uncollected journalism by Edith Eaton
• Winnifred Eaton/Onoto Watanna’s A Japanese Nightingale
• Winnifred Eaton’s Cattle
• Screenplay by Winnifred Eaton
• Grace Eaton’s Jade
• Jessica Marie Johnson, "Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies,” Social Text 137 vol. 36, no. 4 (December 2018): 57-80.
• Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts”
• Amy Earhart, “What’s In and What’s Out? Digital Canon Cautions”. In Traces of the Old, Uses of the New.
• Selections from Lily Cho, Mass Capture: Chinese Head Tax and the Making of Non-Citizens.
• Selections from Nancy Rao, Chinatown Opera Theater in North America
Most classes will be a mix of discussion and hands-on digital research and writing, with support from cross-faculty digital initiatives and faculty in other disciplines who are leading adjacent DH projects.

Drawing on digitized newspapers, Head Tax records, and other digital and non-digital sources, students will build three projects using digital tools to share research about People, Places, and Texts:
1) A collectively researched but individually authored WordPress blog post with illustrations about a member of Montreal’s nascent Chinese community mentioned in Edith Eaton/Sui Sin Far’s 1890s journalism + a CollectionBuilder digital archive of sources used in blog
2) a collectively built spreadsheet of venues and dates for the European tour of a 19th -century Chinese acrobatic troupe that included Eaton’s mother + a collectively built Storymap of that itinerary
3) a TEI-encoded digital edition of a 1920s screenplay by Winnifred Eaton Babcock Reeve + a 1000-word context essay + a 100-word peer-reviewed headnote, all of which may be featured on winnifredeatonarchive.org

Jewish Guilt

Term 2
FRIDAY, 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM

The well-worn phrase “Jewish guilt” has at least two meanings. It refers, on the one hand, to a style of self-abnegation and anxiety stereotypical of North American (Ashkenazi) Jewish culture. On the other, it denotes an array of historical anti-Jewish beliefs, including the destructive myths that Jews killed Christ, use Christian blood in their rituals, and/or were responsible for the Great Depression and other societal calamities. This wide-ranging course on literary Jews and Jewishness takes inspiration from this disturbing polysemy to investigate how Jewishness intersects with concepts of responsibility and transgression in a variety of literary forms. The course has three units, all linked by this strange thematic thread: a) the ancient destruction of Jerusalem in the medieval imagination; b) thebelle juive (Jewish beauty) and European colonialism; c) eroticism and survivorship in AIDS literature. (Note that the course engages broadly with diasporic Jewish cultures and literatures and avoids a reductive association of Judaism with the Holocaust and Zionism.) Possible primary readings include Josephus’s The Jewish Wars in medieval Latin, Ge’ez, and Hebrew reimaginings; David Reubeni, Diary of a Black Jewish Messiah; Ladino, Arabic, and Yiddish poetry; documents from the Baghdadi Jewish diaspora; short fiction by Jamaica Kincaid, Blume Lempel, Vitalis Danon, and Clarice Lispector; and novels by Sarah Schulman and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. All readings will be in English. The final assignment is a conference paper, which students will be able to submit to a graduate or other academic conference.

 

Indigenous Land Privatization and Literary Response

Term 1
WEDNESDAY, 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM

Settler colonial violence against Indigenous peoples takes place on many levels, most notoriously through overt slaughter and physical dispossession and relocation. One of the most common but least familiar to the general public, however, is through more bureaucratic and more ostensibly peaceful means, especially privatization mechanisms by which collective land holdings are broken into individual, fee simple landholdings that are more readily lost to coercive sale, tax seizure, eminent domain initiatives, and adverse possession (squatters’ rights) claims. This course will consider Indigenous land privatization not simply as policy but as focus of Indigenous literary response and theoretical concern. Primary readings may include writers such as William Apess, Lee Maracle, Maria Campbell, Louise Erdrich, Linda Hogan, Charles Red Corn, Andrea L. Rogers, and LeAnne Howe, with secondary works ranging across literary, historical, economic, and geographic concerns. The course will culminate in a public mini-conference organized by seminar participants.

Term 1
MONDAY, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Transfeminist Rhetorics

In an era replete with rising transantagonism among feminists, raging wildfires sparked by gender reveal parties, and increasing support for state/provincial/federal legislation that upholds a dymorphic model of sex/gender, it hardly seems like we have reached the “transgender tipping point” as proclaimed by the New York Times in 2014. Certainly, there is more trans representation in media than ever before: more trans characters, plot lines, actors, directors, producers, musicians, politicians, and social media influencers. Yet trans violence is also at an all time high: more TERFs, more fire, and more legislation, not to mention more homicides, more domestic violence, and more suicide. So if we really have reached a “tipping point,” is it really a point we want to have tipped?

This course introduces students to the field of Transfeminist Theory from a rhetorical angle, focusing on issues of legibility and security in light of the seemingly paradoxical situation within which many trans people now find themselves—one of heightened visibility but also heightened vulnerability. We will prioritize engaging works by and about disabled, Black, Indigenous, and other racialized trans and gender nonconforming people. We will also emphasize connections between our weekly readings and current events as they unfold in real (or recent) time. Assignments will include weekly reflections on the assigned readings, a short presentation, and a formal seminar paper. Readings will include canonical, controversial, and contemporary scholarship in transgender studies, offering students an overview of the field’s development from the 1960s to the present.

Theories of Rhetoric & Violence: A Worldly Survey

Term 2
WEDNESDAY, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

This course surveys rhetorical theories from across time and space that address and conceptualize the role of violence and coercion aimed at persuasion, influence, motivation, and faith. With a focus on the promotion and advocacy of violence, nonetheless some of the readings seek the avoidance of violence through both overt suppression and exploiting the paradoxes and antitheses that arise from thinking about war and peace (e.g. aggression and self-defense, order and chaos, etc). Course readings might include some combination of Guiguzi, Mozi, selections from “the seven Chinese military classics,” the Wen Tzu, The Gateless Gate, Daikaku’s Samurai Zen, the late shogunate samurai Yamaga Soko, Sutra of Golden Light, the 20th century propaganda theories of Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Mohamed Siad Barre, Kwame Nkrumah, Mao Tse Tung, and – in order to consider the complete suppression of violence, dissent, and activism - Kim Jong Il’s On Juche Literature.

Othello and its Afterlives

Term 1
TUESDAY, 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM

In “Letting Go of Othello,” Fred Moten writes, “Othello is an experiment in black personhood for which black persons are not responsible.” Moten’s analysis of what is arguably Shakespeare’s most famous “race play” speaks to contemporary concerns about the representation of Black people by non-Black artists, draws attention to the fact that Othello stages a white playwright’s fantasy of a Black hero, and suggests that Othello has created a certain burden for Black people. Drawing heavily from the work of Moten and other Black Studies scholars (such as bell hooks, Sylvia Wynter, Cedric Robinson, Christina Sharpe, and Sharon Patricia Holland), this seminar will delve deeply into Shakespeare’s Othello and its afterlives. We will consider early modern English constructions of race (both blackness and whiteness), especially as it intersects with religion, gender, sexuality, and social rank. We will then examine afterlives of the play, how later engagements with Othello (performances, visual culture, literary criticism, and adaptations) respond to, revise, reject, and/or redeploy the play’s configurations of race and power: Romantic responses to the play (Samuel Coleridge’s is infamous!), artistic representations of scenes from the play, the history of blackface performance, landmark performances by Black actors (Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson), Ishamel Reed’s Japanese by Spring, Carlyle Phillips’s The Nature of Blood, Toni Morrison’s Desdemona, Rita Dove’s Sonata Mullatica, Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet, Stew’s Passing Strange, Keith Hamilton Cobb’s American Moor, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Course assignments: 4 short response papers, a presentation, and a 6000-word seminar paper.

Exploring Jane Austen: Reading race, empire, settlement, and migration

Term 1
WEDNESDAY, 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM

In January 2023, Kerry Sinanan and Marian Wassif issued a call for papers to be included in a volume they are editing on Jane Austen and whiteness for SUNY Press’s Long Nineteenth Century Series. Here is the volume’s mandate as the editors describe it: “The volume will show that it is specifically the making of Regency white people that has granted Austen her global, iconic status today.” Sinanan and Wassif are responding to several features of Austen criticism and Austen’s career: not only the recent online fandom of overt white supremacists who hold Austen’s protagonists up as examples of pure white “trad wife” womanhood but also recent contrasting work by Patricia Matthew and Devoney Looser arguing, respectively, that Austen’s novels reflect the vexed complexities of a Europe dependent on Atlantic chattel slavery and on goods and wealth produced by enslaved people and that Austen belonged to an overtly abolitionist family, whose politics must have inflected her novels; the classic statement by Edward Said, in Culture and Imperialism (1992) that Austen’s work everywhere reveals Britain’s dependency on empire but failed to recognize or critique what it reveals; and Said’s major influence Raymond Williams, who remarked in The Country and the City (1973) that Austen did not merely turn her face away from enslavement and empire but “chose to ignore [all] the decisive historical events of her time.” This seminar will follow Matthew’s call for an approach to Austen that recognizes that “there are no literary moments or figures whose work is not responding to questions of liberation” while making room for consideration of the many ways such work might have responded and might have been understood as responding. The purpose of this seminar is therefore to allow its participants ample space, in a detailed investigation of the six finished novels plus the unfinished Sanditon, to consider such questions of liberation and the early nineteenth-century histories of race, empire, settlement, and migration from which they arise and to which they respond. In addition to Austen’s novels, readings will include criticism and theory by writers including Williams, Said, Fredric Jameson, Clifford Siskin, William Galperin, Edward Gikandi, Lisa Lowe, Emily Rohrbach, Mary Favret, Christina Sharpe, Orrin Wang, and Patricia Matthew, material drawn from Austen’s popular reception and canonization as discussed, in particular, by Janine Barchas and as represented in current online cultures, and contemporary writings on the histories of power and mobility in the Atlantic world of the early nineteenth century.

Nineteenth-Century Minds and Machines

Term 1
TUESDAY, 12:30 PM - 3:30 PM

The modern discipline of psychology developed during the nineteenth-century alongside new materialist understandings of the mind. In this seminar, we will consider how ideas on “the physical basis” of mind entered into the fiction of the period (and also how that fiction helped shape theories in the broader culture). Much like current worries about AI and chatbots generating writing and art, the specter of machines capable of thinking and even of producing creative works gave rise to anxieties and speculation in the Victorian period. The distinction between minds and machines was increasingly questioned. Was the mind a machine? Could machines become minds? New technologies of communication and recording also influenced conceptions of mind and literary representations of consciousness.

We will read fictions of virtual reality, of the technological transmission of thought, of mind swapping, and of machines that develop consciousness. But we will also look at less overt treatments of the relations between minds, bodies, and mechanisms in some realist fiction of the period. Topics discussed will include nineteenth-century depictions of intelligent machines; early attempts at artificial intelligence; emerging technologies and consciousness; theories of the unconscious, “aberrant” minds, gendered minds, scientific racism, and automata—both mechanical and human.

Readings will include:

  • Ambrose Bierce “Moxon’s Master”
  • Samuel Butler, “Book of the Machines”
  • Charles Dickens, “The Signal Man”
  • George Eliot, “Shadows of the Coming Race”
  • Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders
  • Rudyard Kipling, “Wireless”
  • Ada Lovelace, “Notes on the Analytical Engine”
  • Israel Zangwill, “The Memory Clearing House”
  • short fiction by Grant Allen, Edward Bellamy, Arthur Conan Doyle, Florence McLandburgh, H. G. Wells, and others

        From:

  • Long Bui, Model Machines: A History of the Asian as Automaton
  • Louis Onuorah Chude-Sokei, The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics
  • Karl Marx, Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production
  • Sally Shuttleworth and Jenny Bourne Taylor, Embodied Selves
  • Francis Spufford and Jenny Uglow, ed., Cultural Babbage: Technology, Time, and Intelligence

Assignments and Other Requirements:

  • Seminar paper (roughly 20 pages)
  • Presentation (roughly 25 minutes)
  • Three sets of informal questions/comments on the readings

Forms of Coexistence

Term 1
FRIDAY, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

What is a people? What is a nation? How does a people connect to "a" land? What comprises self-determination? In the first half of the twentieth century, nationalist conflict was rife, political borders were hardening and closing, refugees were everywhere, and human coexistence once again received global attention as an urgent concern. Some speculated that the world could or should become cosmopolitan, whether morally (taking on a commitment to mutual aid) or politically (to adopt some form of cooperation between nations, rather than devoting one’s powers to competition), while others took up the banner of the modern nation state as protection against the many problems of human coexistence.

This course proposes a nuanced and sensitive review of concepts, issues, and topics of human coexistence (with itself, and with the planet) formally at the level of theory (Fanon, Baldwin, Said, Levinas, Colebrook, Braidotti, Derrida, Laclau and Mouffe, et al.), as well as to explore its literary appearance as a problem in texts of modern life such as Joyce’s Ulysses, Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, Woolf’s Between the Acts, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, and Barnes’s Nightwood. Topics include alternative structures and methods for creatively articulating political interests, justice and rights discourse, thin and thick conceptions of international or world government, layered sovereignties, conflict resolution and reconciliation strategies, and the planet-wide imbrication of justicial, political, cultural, and economic formations and practices.

The Cold War in Asia: Asian American and Asian Canadian Responses

Term 2
FRIDAY, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

The period post-WWII until the 1980s is conventionally understood in the West as the Cold War. Marked by events such as the Cuban missile crisis, the war in Vietnam, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, these years are remembered as a tense time when it seemed that the conflict between communist and capalist democratic ideologies might result in the outbreak of nuclear war. At the same time, it is important to remember that these same tensions played out very differently in Asia and took the form of multiple bloody and violent wars.  This course will return to this historical period in order to rethink what is conventionally remembered in the West as a conflict between the US and the USSR as a struggle that also involved—and, indeed, was staged in—Asia.

We will explore the legacies of Cold War logics and the afterlife of the wars in Asia for Canadians and Americans by engaging with works of literature and theory. How do these contradictory memories and competing historical narratives shape how Asian diasporas in North America imagine themselves and are understood by non-Asians? How does what critic Jodi Kim calls the “protracted afterlife” of the Cold War continue to influence current conversations about migration, citizenship, and global events and politics? We will contextualize our discussions of these literary texts with critical and theoretical material and documentary films in order to think critically about these competing cultural representations and the narratives they produce.

Contemporary U.S. Novel: DeLillo, Morrison, Lee

Term 1
THURSDAY, 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

This seminar will examine in depth works from the 1970s to the 2010s by three of the great U.S. novelists: Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, and Chang-rae Lee. Readings will include most or all of the following texts: DeLillo’s Americana (1971), The Names (1982), and Libra (1988); Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977), Jazz (1993), and Paradise (1997); and Lee’s Native Speaker (1995), A Gesture Life (1999), and On Such a Full Sea (2014).

Our goal will in part be to understand 40 to 50 years of literary and cultural history through figures who, in their monumental power and reach, tend to embody certain periodizing and otherwise explanatory categories but also trouble their boundaries and distinctions, whether those categories be (to name only a few) modernism, postmodernism, paranoia, twentieth-century African American novels, contemporary U.S. literature, historical fiction, transnational U.S. fiction, or immigrant writing. We will also be on the lookout for hidden symmetries and unexpected lines of influence.

The focus will be on close examination of the novels and on two major writing assignments by each student: a seminar paper of about five pages that will form the basis of discussion in most weeks; and a final research paper at the end of term. Students will also lead discussion in selected weeks and write discussion posts. Essays from each novelist will be part of our reading, and criticism on the syllabus, invoking a wide range of theoretical paradigms, will come from Colleen Lye, David Cowart, John McClure, Mark McGurl, Chris Lee, Lavinia Delois Jennings, Kenneth Warren, John K. Young, Amy Hungerford, and others.

Canadian Literature and the 2024 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Term 2
MONDAY, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

When the Scotiabank Giller Prize was created in 1994, the award’s founder decided that “cultural, political, and regional factors would be wilfully shunned.” The “only criterion was to pick the best book.”  What, however, is the “best”? This is a question that has long plagued literary studies, alongside the problematic concept of ‘great books.’  The fraught answer relies on aesthetic evaluation, critical taste and expectation, and subjective notions of literary value. It also changes over time and across space. And, why “shun” cultural, political and regional factors? What is lost? What is gained?

In this seminar, the 2024 Scotiabank Giller Prize will serve as a case study for the critical examination of both literary prize culture and contemporary literary history in Canada. Together, we will study the works of fiction shortlisted for the 2024 Prize and situate the work in the larger context of the heated cultural debates of the past decade. Both writers and critics in the Canadian literary community have been occupied with discussions of the asymmetrical distribution of power in the literary establishment, asked whose voices are heard, questioned what kinds of books are lauded, queried who has access to publication and subsequent reviews, and considered those who have refused to accept the status quo.  The ongoing discussions about inclusion and exclusion have been situated within significant critical conversations about settler colonialism, critical race studies, and generic expectation in the study of Canadian literature. In this class, we will examine the relationship between these critical conversations and the most lucrative prize in Canadian letters. We will ask: what influence do literary prizes have in developing audience taste? What are the benefits of prizes for authors and the literary community? Sales of shortlisted books increase by approximately 500%  (“The Giller Effect”). What does such material support and exposure mean for writers? What about the issues raised by increased corporate sponsorship in a time of waning government support of the arts?  So many questions! We will consider the ongoing debates as we critically assess the culture and politics of awards systems in Canada. In this class, in addition to studying the shortlisted books for 2024, we will read critical and theoretical works by Lorraine York, Gillian Roberts, James English, Erin Wunker, Julie Rak, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Joshua Whitehead, Kai Cheng Thom, Sarah Brouillette, Pierre Bourdieu, and Walter Benjamin, among others.

We will also have the opportunity to look behind-the-scenes at the Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2024 and meet with some of the shortlisted authors, jury members, and publishers. While much of the reading list for this class won’t be available until the 2024 shortlist is announced, books by MG. Vassanji, Esi Edugyan, Alice Munro, Vincent Lam, Omar El Akkad, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Madeleine Thien, Michael Ondaatje, André Alexis, Margaret Atwood, Rohinton Mistry, Suzette Mayr, Ian Williams, and Sarah Bernstein have all won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in the past and students will be asked to research a prize-winning book from this list in addition to the 2024 list in the context of class discussions.

Term 1
TUESDAY, 3:30 PM - 6:30 PM

The instructor for this seminar will provide a description shortly. We will post a description once available.

Fictions of London

Term 1
MONDAY, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

“Neither of us are English, we’re Londoners you see”
--Sammy, in Hanif Kureishi’s Sammy and Rosie Get Laid

This course will attempt to chart the urban and fictional landscape of the former imperial metropolis and conceptualize a London uneasily situated at the intersection of the material and the imaginary. We will read, watch, and listen to a selection of novels, poetry, films, photographs and recordings from the mid-1950s to the present, and attempt to address such issues as the representation of space in former imperial, now global, centers, and the processes of change (cultural, social, political, aesthetic) that such representations both respond to and produce. We will debate the extent to which these fictions of London are intimately bound up not only with migrant and diasporic, colonial and postcolonial identities, but also with increasing, and in some instances highly troubled, political and cultural ties to Europe and America. Our aim will be to consider London as a complex and conflicted space of intercultural exchange where social and material inequalities are constantly challenged and resisted in imaginative representations within both literary and popular cultural forms.

Our primary texts might include works by Sam Selvon, Colin MacInnes, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Derek Jarman, Hanif Kureishi, Patrick Keiller, Gilbert & George, Monica Ali, and Zadie Smith. Secondary readings might include writings by Iain Sinclair, Doreen Massey, David Harvey, Stuart Hall, John McLeod, Edward Soja, and others.

Bodies: Person, Flesh, Thing

Term 1
THURSDAY, 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM

The basic premise of the course is that bodies are natural and social, biological and cultural. We have our bodies and we are our bodies. Bodies are both voluntary and involuntary. Our current understanding that the boundaries of one’s self are coextensive with the boundaries of one’s body had its origins in the eighteenth century. Using a broadly historical approach, we will begin with Richardson’s epistolary narrative Pamela and John Cleland’s 1747 pornographic novel Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure to consider bodily privacy and its invasions. From there, we will move on to slavery, judicial torture, and incarceration as systems that reduce persons to things and flesh. Readings: Mary Prince’s slave narrative The History of Mary Prince; Jean Amery’s memoir At the Mind’s Limits; James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk; Susan Brison’s Aftermath; Andrea Long Chu’s Females; and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Finally, to develop the idea that bodies are subject not only to intentional harm, but also to involuntary forces such as sickness or impairment, the class will end with A Body, Undone, Cristina Crosby’s memoir of her disability. Critical and theoretical excerpts will be drawn from the work of Michael Foucault, Hortense Spillers, Didier Fassin, Elizabeth Hinton, and Jay Bernstein. Requirements: regular attendance and participation; Canvas posts; a 5-page book review; and a 15-page research essay.

Term 2
TUESDAY, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Reading like an amateur: criticism and/as wild analysis

In his recently published work Professing Criticism John Guillory poses "the question of lay reading": what are the historical and conceptual relations between the pleasures of amateur reading and the work of interpretation by professional literary critics and scholars? How distinct are these modes of reading, and how are they continuous? This seminar turns to models of transference and countertransference from psychoanalytic theory and practice to think about these questions. We will explore a specific trajectory of affect and object-relations theory (emerging from the mid-twentieth century work of Melanie Klein) as it may help to ground techniques for literary interpretation in phenomenologies of affective experience. What happens if we think of the critic's affective states as indices of motives and phantasies that can be analyzed in historical, socio-political, and conceptual contexts? Can we develop a critical subjectivism, a reflexive form of what Freud somewhat ambiguously called "wild analysis"?

Our focus will primarily be modernist writers and thinkers and those who help us think about the amateur/professional divide. Readings will include some of the following: Lauren Berlant, Wilfred Bion, Sigmund Freud, Paula Heimann, Franz Kafka, Melanie Klein, Claude Levi-Strauss, Mary McCarthy, Sianne Ngai, Thomas Ogden, Edward Said, Nathalie Sarraute, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Hannah Segal, others.

Course currently under construction. Please check back in the fall.

Term 2
THURSDAY, 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Narrating Labor and Capital in Asian Diasporic Literature

From the mass importation of migrant workers into developing settler colonial economies in the nineteenth century to contemporary debates about the neoliberal economy, Asian migration to North America has long been associated with questions of labor. This course examines how labor might function as a productive (or, conversely, limiting) theoretical lens/metaphor for understanding global processes of capital and subject formation. In addition to critical readings that historicize and theorize Asian migration, we will take up literary texts that thematize and interrogate labor in relation to race, gender, sexuality, and other structures of power. Throughout the course, we will focus on cultural production from the West Coast of what is now Canada and, as much as possible, engage with local Asian Canadian cultural production. The course will likely include visits to off-campus sites and might require some flexibility in scheduling (I will contact the class later in the fall with more details, but please feel free to contact me in advance if you have any questions).
Tentative readings (please check in with me if you'd like to read in advance):
Selections from
  • Karl Marx, Capital (Vol 1)
  • Patrick Wolfe, Trace of History: Elementary Structures of Race
  • Lucie Cheng and Edna Bonacich, eds., Labor Immigration Under Capitalism
  • Joyce Liu and Viren Murthy, eds., East Asian Marxisms and Their Trajectories
  • Iyko Day, Alien Capital
  • David Harvey, The New Imperialism
Literary texts:
  • Paul Yee, A Superior Man​
  • Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart
  • Sachiko Murakami, Rebuild​
  • Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife
  • Catherine Hernandez, The Story of Us

Photo-textualities: Writing in the Age of the Camera

Term 2
MONDAY, 1:30 PM - 4:30 pM

“The most obvious thing about words and pictures is that they routinely appear together, and even the simplest joint appearances—words supplying credit lines or captions, pictures supplying illustrations—suggest how each art works, how the shown is never exactly the same as the spoken.” (Jefferson Hunter, from Image and the Word: The Interaction of Twentieth-Century Photographs and Texts)

This course will examine the influence of photography and cinema on literary form. Photography has become such a common aspect of contemporary life that camera technology is now regularly built into smart phones, tablets, desktop and laptop computers, and automobiles. The photographic recording of everyday life provides an unprecedented archive of visual memories. Photographic ways of seeing exert complex and contradictory effects on life: the camera both records and distorts, and it is a tool for both those who expose social injustice and those who seek to invade the privacy of the citizen and to place others under the power of surveillance. Susan Sontag, in On Photography, alerts us to the “peremptory rights [of the photographer] to interfere with, to invade, or ignore whatever is going on. Our very sense of situation is now articulated by the camera's interventions” (11). The judgments of the invasive camera eye have, as Sontag states, shaped subjective assessment: "We learn to see ourselves photographically: to regard oneself as attractive is, precisely to judge that one would look good in a photograph” (85).

We will explore some of the following central questions: Given the increasing power of photographs and cinematography in the formation of private and public judgments, how have novelists, poets, dramatists, and film makers responded to these visual influences? What happens to the articulation of the written self when it confronts the power of photography? What kinds of critical strategies have writers adopted to resist the invasive influences of photography and visual culture? How have writers incorporated some of the techniques of photographic and cinematic ways of seeing into their forms of writing?

We will think carefully about the dynamic relationships between literary texts and the modes of visualization peculiar to photography and cinema. We will review the pre-history of literary representations of photography through the rhetorical concept of ekphrasis, or the representation of painting or sculpture in literary forms, and the historic impact of such developments as the daguerreotype, portable personal cameras, motion picture photography, and videography. We will also consider uses of photography as an instrument of colonial control, through passports and immigration documents such as the Chinese Canadian Head Tax, and the effects of what Lily Cho has deemed “Mass Capture,” and through the mass scales of visual surveillance theorized by John Tagg.

Readings will include Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida, essays by Walter Benjamin, and selections from Susan Sontag's On Photography, Kyo Maclear's Beclouded Visions: Hiroshima-Nagasaki, and the Art of Witness, John Tagg’s The Disciplinary Frame, and Lily Cho’s Mass Capture: Chinese Canadian Head Tax and the Making of Non-Citizens. We will also consider works of fiction, drama, poetry, and cinema that respond to our increasingly visual culture such as Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter, Le Thi Diem Thuy's The Gangster We are All Looking For, Marie Clement's The Edward Curtis Project, Roy Miki's Mannequin Rising, and films by Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window), Michaelangelo Antonioni, (Blow-up), and Christopher Nolan (Memento).

Each seminar meeting will usually include both the discussion of an assigned literary work and a theoretical or critical essay.

Course requirements:

1) Weekly participation in the discussion of readings, topics, and questions: 15%

2) One oral presentation (15 minutes) on a primary text and critical context: 10%

3) One short critical meditation on a core concept situated in theories of photography and literature: 15%

4) One final essay (3500-4000 words, or 14-16 pages, excluding bibliography), that could emerge from a revised version of your seminar presentation, or which pursues your particular research interests on a relevant question: 60%

Early Modern Energies

Term 2
THURSDAY, 2:30 PM - 5:30 PM

This seminar will be coordinated with a research project called “Energy Transitions in Long Modernity” (https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=AH%2FY007166%2F1). In our seminar, we shall survey the broad field of the Energy Humanities before narrowing focus on histories and representations of energy sources in the long seventeenth century. Research nodes will include the early modern history of renewables (sun, wind, water) and technologies associated with capturing them; the uneven transition from wood to coal, as well as the use of peat; and, the extraction of labor from a range of bodies, including animals, servants, and enslaved persons. We’ll read scholarly texts from across the disciplines (History, Comparative Literary Studies, Art History) and host a series of guest speakers representing them. Our literary texts will include mainstays in the utopian tradition (Thomas More, William Shakespeare, Francia Bacon, and Francis Godwin) and fictional and literary accounts of global empire (Theodore de Bry, Richard Hakluyt, Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, and Jonathan Swift). Each student will lead an hour of seminar, submit weekly responses, and complete a final writing assignment.

 

Summer 2024

Term 1
Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM

The course description for this section of ENGL 546A is not yet available. Please check again shortly.

On the Coast

Term 2
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

This course introduces graduate students in English to the emerging field of Coastal Studies. Unlike most environmental or “green” criticism, which tends to focus on terrestrial matters such as growth, preservation, and consumption, and the “blue” humanities, which mainly explores “unknowable” or “sublime” regions in and under the sea, coastal studies is, as Steve Mentz has argued “brown”: it examines the way things meet, mix, encounter, cross, conflict, decay, and overwhelm. At the same time, while it confronts serious and seemingly intractable issues like population expansion, species extinction, colonial domination, and climate change, coastal studies has a rhythmic and poetic aspect involving and describing the movement, collection, and dissolution of people, animals, plants, and objects. Less dialectic, and more tidalectic—to borrow the Caribbean scholar Kamau Braithwaite’s evocative term—coastal studies is about life, and death, on the edge. A necessarily interdisciplinary field that embraces geography, economics, history, hydrology, cartography, physics, literature, theory, Indigenous studies, and of course environmental science, coastal studies also imagines what the humanities will look like as ocean levels rise and the “lure” of the coast (where more than half of humanity lives) becomes less about holiday fun and more about our future living with and among our aquatic neighbours.

This seminar will be both speculative and constructive, inviting students to think through their reading, work, assignments, and experience toward the world into which their work is falling, or perhaps sinking. In classroom conversations, we will think about the ways that an orientation toward coasts has influenced new styles and genres from Romantic poetry in the past to the climate journalism, Black feminism, queer poetics, and speculative fiction coming from various nations and communities today. Taking advantage of UBC’s situation on one of the world’s most dramatically (or ominously) human coastlines, the course will look out as well as in, and feature field trips, guest speakers, and (hopefully) public engagement with local initiatives for coastal development and protection in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Course assignments will likewise have both an “inside” and an “outside” orientation. Students will build two assignments: (1) a conference-length paper applying coastal studies (in its broadest senses) to a reading of a literary work and (2) a collaboratively developed and constructed presentation, curation, or display situating a local (i.e. Vancouver-based) coastal initiative in a wider theoretical context.

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