2018 Winter Session

Graduate Seminars

We are offering these seminars during the 2018 Winter Session.
Please note that we also have our offerings for the 2019 Summer Session posted.

This course will introduce first-year MA students to graduate-level research procedures and professional practices. Our meetings will take the form of seminars and guest lectures that will cover a range of topics. Research- and course-related topics will include applying for grants, building bibliographies, practices of annotation and citation, archival research, and conceptualizing and writing a Master's thesis. Professional topics, such as how to present at conferences and how to apply for PhD programs, will also be covered.

There is currently no description available for this section of ENGL 500

Studies in the History of the English Language
Term 1
Tuesdays, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.

"I'll look it up in the dictionary!" Peeking into the "Black Box" behind OED, DARE, DCHP & Co.

In this seminar we explore the highly interesting but comparatively less-widely known sphere of dictionary making. While everybody uses some dictionary in some form, who knows how these tools, often seen as authoritative and "the law", are made? We will discuss all major English dictionaries in ways that recast the history of the English language as well as of dictionary making. This knowledge we will use to address in our essays questions as diverse as the following:

  1. What role, if any, did the Grimm Brothers have in bringing about the Oxford English Dictionary in 1857?
  2. Why is the Dictionary of American Regional English, a monumental work few have heard about, considered the best dictionary for geographical variation?
  3. Which dictionaries are Webster dictionaries?
  4. When did the F-word enter English dictionaries and how did that come about?

Lexicographical questions such as the four above can be studied from a qualitative-philological point of view, from a quantitative-linguistic one, or a combination of both. The short answers to the four question above are offered below*, while the long answers are potentially some of your essays. This means that in this seminar students may try their hands at a method novel to them (quantitative) or prefer to further hone their qualitative research skills in the exciting and slightly weird world of dictionary making in English (or other languages, e.g. in the context of bilingual dictionaries).

Those who have special ties to or an interest in a particular language may wish to embed it within the English dictionary tradition. For example, someone with a connection to Hindi might be interested in the Oxford English-Sanskrit dictionary tradition ("the Hobson-Jobson"), or those with an interest in First Nations Studies might want to take a critical and post-colonial look into a dictionary compiled by English missionaries in the Canadian west, for which we are "at the source" at UBC, as the H. Rocke Robertson Collection at UBC Archives is one of the world's finest dictionary collections. As the Collection is located in Ike Barber, we will make ready use of this resource, which should be especially appealing for those among you with an interest in archival work. Ever seen a first edition of Samuel Johnson's dictionary from 1755? We'll look at and analyze it, as we will for a 1604 "Cawdrey", which is generally considered the "first" English dictionary. There is, of course, always the option to write on Canadian English lexis and lexicogrpahy or on the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (e.g. Avis et al. 1967, Dollinger & Fee 2017), for which UBC is the best spot to work from.

Since there generally seems to be a widespread interest in word etymologies, we will use this seminar also to teach the basic tools on how to tell "fish from fowl", that is how to tell a non-sense etymology from a meaningfully plausible one. To that end, we will use the (very nice) textbook by Philip Durkin, OED's chief etymologist, to teach us the ropes of etymological research, which will, in turn, help us explore the fascinating and most often unexpected histories of words, such as silly (originally meant "blessed"), Lord (meant the "warden of the bread") or Lady (meant "she who kneads the bread"), which allows nice insights into cultural and societal practices of yesteryear. And who knew that Canuck and Austrian German Kanake 'foreigner (derogatory)' are one and the same with quite different meanings? These are just a few examples of the power of doing etymology "right".

A term paper will be written on an aspect of English lexicography and related languages – be it an aspect of a dictionary's history or the history of a given word or semantic field. No linguistic knowledge is presumed. All graduate students are warmly welcome to come aboard this "word-y ride".

* Answers: a) via "dictionary envy" about the Grimms' Deutsches Wörterbuch from 1838, b) the curse of lexicography, c) only Merriam-Webster's dictionaries, though "Webster" is also synonymous with any dictionary in the US, d) 1972.


Core literature

  • Brewer, Charlotte. 2007. Treasure House of the Language: The Living OED. Yale: Yale University Press. (Chapters 2 & 7)
  • Landau, Sidney. 2001. Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Chapter 2)
  • Considine, John. 2003. Dictionaries of Canadian English. Lexikos 13: 250-270.
  • Durkin, Philip. 2011. The Oxford Guide to Etymology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Durkin, Philip (ed.) 2015. The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (selected chapters)
  • Gilliver, Peter. 2016. The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press (chapters 1, 12 & 13)
  • Glowka, Wayne. 2008. How the American Dialect Society choose its Words of the Year. Dictionaries 29: 23-34.
  • McConchie, R. W. 2012. “Her words had no weight”: Jane Austen as a lexical test case for the OED. Dictionaries 33: 113-136.

Further literature (subject to changes, including reference sources)

  • Avis, Walter S., Charles Crate, Patrick Drysdale, Douglas Leechman, Matthew H. Scharill and Charles L. Lovell (eds). 1967. A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. Toronto: Gage. Accessible in digital form at www.dchp.ca/dchp1
  • Caudle, James J. 2011. James Boswell (1740-1795) and his design for A Dictionary of the Scot[t]ish Language, 1764-1825. Dictionaries 32: 1-32.
  • Considine, John. 2003. Dictionaries of Canadian English. Lexikos 13: 250-270.
  • Considine, John. 2012. Elisha Coles in context. Dictionaries 33: 42-57.
  • Dollinger, Stefan. 2015. National dictionaries and cultural identity: insights from Austrian German and Canadian English. In: The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography, ed. by Philip Durkin. Oxford: Oxford University Press (590-603).
  • Dollinger, Stefan (chief editor) and Margery Fee (associate editor). 2017. DCHP-2: The Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, Second Edition. With the assistance of Baillie Ford, Alexandra Gaylie, and Gabrielle Lim. Vancouver: University of British Columbia. www.dchp.ca/dchp2
  • Gilliver, Peter. 2011. Harvesting England’s ancient treasure: dialect lexicography and the Philological Society’s first plans for a national dictionary. Dictionaries 32: 82-92.
  • Hancher, Michael. 2010. Illustrating Webster. Dictionaries 31: 1-45.
  • Hausmann, Franz J., Oskar Reichmann, Herbert E. Wiegand and Ladislav Zgusta (eds.). 1989-91. Wörterbücher: Dictionaries: Dictionnaires: An International Encyclopedia of Lexicography. 3 vols. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • Landau, Sidney. 2001. Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lo, Katrina. 2012. (Re)Defining the “Eh”: reading a colonial narrative in the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. Unpublished MA thesis, UBC Department of English.
  • Lovell, Charles J. 1955. Lexicographic challenges of Canadian English. Journal of the Canadian Linguistic Association 1(1, March): 2-5.
  • Minkova, Donka and Robert Stockwell. 2009. English Words: History and Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Murray, K. M. E. 1977. Caught in the Web of Words: James A. H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Ogilvie, Sarah. 2008. The mysterious case of the vanishing tramlines: James Murray’s legacy and the 1933 OED Supplement. Dictionaries 29: 1-22.
  • Reed, Joseph W. Jr. 1962. Noah Webster’s debt to Samuel Johnson. American Speech 37(2): 95-105.
  • Sledd, James and Wilma R. Ebbitt. 1962. Dictionaries and that Dictionary: a Casebook on the Aims of Lexicographers and the Targets of Reviewers. Chicago: Scott, Foresman.
  • Starnes, DeWitt T.  and Getrude E. Noyes. 1946. The English Dictionary from Cawdrey to Johnson, 1604–1755. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Stein, Gabriele. 1985. The English Dictionary Before Cawdrey. Tubingen: Niemeyer.
  • Robertson, H. Rocke and J. Wesley Roberston. 1989. A Collection of Dictionaries and related Works illustrating the Development of the English Dictionary. Vancovuer, BC: Unviersity of British Columbia Press.
  • Zgusta, Ladislav. 1971. Manual of Lexicography. The Hague: Mouton.


Practice research assignment, 10%
Student research presentation, 10%
Student literature presentation, 10%
Research Paper, 50%

Participation (in class and outside)

Studies in Rhetoric and Theory of Composition
Term 2
Tuesdays, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
This seminar counts for STS credit.

Pain is not a diagnosis, or even a medical object: it is an experience, with problematic relations to language, to identity, and to sympathy. It challenges speech and it challenges persuasion; pain is, in other words, in part, a rhetorical phenomenon. This course will take up topics in the rhetoric of pain, including, for example, the following: pain and suffering; pain and affect; pain and addiction; pain and health inequities; pain and stigma; pain and disability, pain and gender. Through investigations prompted by the course, students will have a range of theoretical approaches and methods at hand when they read accounts of pain, literary and nonliterary, or when, in fact, they experience pain or (to borrow from Susan Sontag) they regard the pain of others.

Term 2
Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

“Of hem that writen ous tofore/ The bokes duelle”

At the opening of his Confessio Amantis, John Gower reflects on the role of old books in informing the present, and the future. Gower is thinking in part about the contents of those old books - the stories, histories, and exempla that informed his work - but he is also, like many medieval poets, highly conscious of the impact that a manuscript culture, with all the variation in transmission that implies, has for his poetic project. Chaucer reflects similar concerns, chiding his scribe Adam, for example, for failing to copy Troilus and Criseyde faithfully. As for Thomas Malory, his favourite phrase is “as the French book saith,” a tic that reflects his mining of French romance for the details of his Morte Darthur, and that also reflects a question that has puzzled scholars for years: how did a “knight prisoner” actually access all the physical books he would have needed in the writing of his Morte?

In this course, we will explore texts by Gower, Chaucer, and Malory, in the context of their manuscript (and early print) history. We will make use of facsimiles to relocate texts we encounter today in modern scholarly editions, into their many “original” contexts (and we will have to think through what, exactly, “original” might mean). Seminar participants will receive hands-on training in late Middle English paleography and codicology. Our theoretical lens will be book-historical, as we read examples of materially-inflected criticism of Middle English texts. The course will include work in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Middle English Studies
Term 2
Mondays, 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Dowload full description & Readings

This seminar confronts the problem of an untenable disconnect between the language of the church and the language of the people by tracing the biblical sources and language of several late medieval English dramas. In an age when both worship is performed and Scripture is heard in Latin, a language that most people did not understand, English drama plays a central role in religious education and expressions of piety for the laity. Often staged in celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi, cycles of pageants re-enact sacred history from Creation to the Last Judgment. Together in this course we ask, what gets lost, added, or emphasized in the translation from Biblical narrative into popular entertainment? After reading a wide selection of plays from the Corpus Christi cycle and the Saints or Conversion plays (using Bevinton’s anthology), each student will select individual plays for further analysis (using individual critical editions). In the first half of this seminar, students will trace the sources and analogues for each play analyzed, asking how the biblical narrative is adapted for enactment in the medieval pageant.

Just as students trace plot developments, they will also examine biblical language as it is rendered from Scripture into popular entertainment. While the clerics responsible for the script of certain plays relied on the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible (available online), laity may have known the Middle English Bible (edition by Cooper) which used to be attributed to the Lollards (school of Wycliffe). By comparing and contrasting the two versions of each biblical source, students will explore the extent of English familiarity with the Bible. By comparing and contrasting sources with pageants, students will identify the literary strategies (e.g. narrative structure, stereotyped characters, humor, anachronism in contemporary setting – as explicated by Kolve, colloquial diction) employed in the vernacular drama. Student research will show how the use of colloquial spoken English plays a key role in the adaption of biblical material for the medieval stage (or pageant cart).

In the second half of this seminar, students will situate the English dramas in larger cultural context. Using the work of Duffy and Pfaff, students will familiarize themselves with the centrality of liturgy in the English Middle Ages. While scholars like Beckwith and Lee have examined medieval theater as enactments of liturgical drama or as “Sacramental theatre,” students will contribute original research by asking how the Middle English language of the plays, which they have elucidated, factors into particular aspects of religious and social life during the period of their performance.

Prerequisite: While a working knowledge of Middle English (ME) would be ideal, a willingness to immerse oneself in this late medieval language (practically Early Modern English) is all that is necessary.

Texts are glossed with Modern English equivalents and explanatory notes are provided in the edition ordered for class.

CourseRequirements: Students will lead a seminar meeting on their research and submit a 20 page paper on that research due at the end of the term (worth 75% of total mark). In addition to their required participation in class, students will be responsible for leading a discussion of the reading assignment for at least one class meeting (worth 25% of mark).

See full description for Readings

Studies in the Renaissance
Term 1
Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Recent turns in English Studies in general, and in Renaissance Studies in particular, have us refocusing our attention away from the representation of human experience in order to think about the vitality of objects, animals, environments and other non-human entities. This act of reorientation asks us to think about what is and what is not proper to human experience – a critical and scholarly exercise that, in some ways, is not unlike the project embarked upon by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Our purpose here will be, in the first instance, to connect the writing of an author central to post-renaissance notions of “the human” to some of the intellectual, scientific, colonial and theological investments of the early modern period associated with the rise of humanism. With this understanding in mind, we will move on to explore the places in Shakespeare’s work in which the contours of the human become less obvious, paving the way for contemporary theories of the posthuman.

Shakespearean texts will include: The Sonnets, Venus and Adonis, The Taming of the Shrew, Merchant of Venice, Richard II, Titus Andronicus, Othello, King Lear, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. Theoretical texts will include key texts of Renaissance Humanism as well as foundational work on Posthumanism (specific texts to be posted later in the summer).

Students are asked to read/reread Hamlet before the term begins.

Studies in the Renaissance
Term 2
Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.


Following a well-marked modern tradition of taking Francis Bacon’s call for “the general state of learning to be described and represented from age to age” as inaugural for a new intellectual discipline, Peter Burke begins the “Timeline” in his 2016 book What is the History of Knowledge? with Bacon’s Advancement of Learning (1605). Responding to Burke—and to the general upsurge in scholarly interest, since Foucault, in the history of knowledge—this course seeks to place Bacon’s initiative in a broader context of insular British and Anglophone retrospects on and projections of worlds of learning, beginning with Thomas More’s Utopia (Latin 1516, English 1551) and including Philip Sidney’s Defence of Poesy (written ca. 1580, first printed 1595) and John Milton’s Areopagitica, a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, to the Parliament of England (1644). We will use those three works, along with Bacon’s Advancement and his New Atlantis (posthumously published in 1627), as a introductory course in the stakes and styles of the speculative and polemical construction of alternative cognitive regimes, paying special attention to (1) the division of fields or kinds of learning, (2) the claims advanced for each kind, (3) the arguments and circumstances adduced to explain the fact or necessity of significant change over time. Then, in the second part of the term’s work, which will extend into individual research projects in the history of knowledge, we will attempt to bring these (and, as appropriate, other) putatively “early modern” accountings into relation with late twentieth- and early twenty-first century narratives of the onset of something like (or less than?) an early modern “knowledge revolution.” Participants in the seminar will be free to choose their own test-cases for this second phase of work from an imaginary bookshelf that would include the titles listed below. They will be expected, as part of their research and presentation to the group, to study at least some aspects of the critical reception of the study in question.

The seminar should be of value to students with a vocation or avocation for science and technology studies or the history of the book, as well for those with interests in literature and religion, literature and science, and/or in the abiding issues of power/knowledge.

  • Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin. L’apparition du livre. 1958. [The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450-1800. 1976.]
  • Marshall McLuhan. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. 1962.
  • Michel Foucault. Les mots et les choses. 1966. [The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1970.]
  • Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations. 1979.
  • Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine. From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe. 1986.
  • Anthony Grafton. New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery. 1992.
  • Bruno Latour. We Have Never Been Modern. 1993.
  • Lisa Jardine. Erasmus, Man of Letters: The Construction of Charisma in Print. 1993.
  • Adrian Johns. The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making. 1998.
  • Peter Harrison. The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science. 1998.
  • Peter Burke. A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot. 2000.
  • James Simpson. 1350-1547: Reform and Cultural Revolution. 2002.
  • Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, eds. Early Modern Science. 2006.
  • Stephen Greenblatt. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. 2011.
  • David Wootton. The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution. 2015.

Studies in the Eighteenth Century
Term 1
Fridays, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

During the eighteenth century, as emergent capitalism transformed social relations in Britain (and elsewhere), a strange thing happened to scarcity. It changed from a kind of event that happened occasionally when crops failed or supply was disrupted (and was usually explained by divine providence) to the organizing condition of economic and cultural life. “Where production and distribution are arranged through the behavior of prices,” Marshall Sahlins observes, “and all livelihoods depend on getting and spending, insufficiency of material means becomes the explicit, calculable starting point of all economic activity”; “Inadequacy of economic means is the first principle of the world's wealthiest peoples.” All human activity under the law of scarcity is governed by the need to choose what we can afford and give up what is foreclosed by our choices. For Karl Marx, the law of scarcity defines a key contradiction of capitalism: superabundance/overproduction leads to “an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity…. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence.” Unlimited productive capacity is the cause of dearth and impoverishment.

That kind of scarcity has often been called artificial or socially-produced scarcity. Natural scarcity, by most accounts, has been around longer, but began accelerating with the rise of capitalist industrialism and its resource depletions. But the eco (from the Greek oikos — household) in economics and the eco in ecology suggest a conjunction between the two fields of study that troubles the natural/social distinction. Indeed the earliest ecologists (Linnaeus, Gilbert White) thought of themselves as economists of nature. In a wide-ranging set of readings, we will investigate the complex interrelations between political and natural economy in the eighteenth century and consider their applicability to more recent eco-critical discussions. We will attend to the ways in which literary and non-literary discourse reacts to, resists, or helps to naturalize the new order of things, and the ways in which nature itself is drawn into and reshaped by the new politics of shortfall and allocation. From the mercantile visions of Daniel Defoe and the literary- marketplace romances of Eliza Haywood to the aesthetics of Edmund Burke, the post-feudal elegies of Oliver Goldsmith and George Crabbe, and the romance revival Ann Radcliffe, our reading will pursue the development of the politico-economic system in which socially produced insufficiency, resource exhaustion, and speciecide can be defined as natural occurrences. We will also read eighteenth-century economic and political theory by David Hume, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Hannah More, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Arthur Young, and Thomas Malthus, along with critical and theoretical work by Sahlins, Marx, Reginia Gagnier, Timothy Morton, Jason Moore, George Bataille, Lyla Mehta, and others.

Studies in the Eighteenth Century
Term 2
Mondays, 12:00 - 3:00 p.m.

 Imagining the Other in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Ethnicity, Race and Nationhood, 1660-1800

During what we call the “long eighteenth century,” Britain became the center of the first modern empire spanning from North America to India to Australia. The nation itself was cosmopolitan to a degree that may surprise us. There were some ten-thousand people of African origin in England; as the heart of a trading empire, London was so filled with different ethnic groups that Joseph Addison, standing in the Royal Exchange, imagined himself “a Citizen of the World.” Colorful myths of foreign peoples stemming from the Middle Ages gave way to a proliferation of first-hand travel accounts, while visitors from Africa, the Americas, and the South Seas became well-documented curiosities. The slave trade, fueled by domestic addictions to sugar and tobacco, reached its peak. Yet slavery increasingly met with resistance from abolitionism, the first great humanitarian struggle in the Western world. In this seminar, we will explore some of the main facets of opening Britain to the wider world through various kinds of literature – plays, poems, novels – and also a range of other kinds of documents – travelogues, scientific investigations, political/economic tracts.  We will cover as wide a range of ethnicities as possible in a short course: our materials will concern indigenous Americans, Africans, Turks, Indians, and South Sea Islanders. The goal of the course will be reach conclusions, however complex and ambivalent, about how Britons achieved a sense of their own national and “racial” identity through the course of global expansion and increased contact with the “Other.” We will also see how literature, science and politics adjusted to the cultural paradoxes and strains brought about by imperialism, colonialism and ramifying ethnic diversity.


  • Modern scholarship on the idea of “race” and its history
  • Aphra Behn, Oronooko and Southerne’s dramatic adaptation (1692)
  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Turkish Embassy Letters (1717-18)
  • Montesquieu, Persian Letters (1721)
  • Robert Rogers, Ponteach; or the Savages of America (1766)
  • Edward Long, The History of Jamaica (1774)
  • James Cook, Journals
  • Olaudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative of the Life of Gustavas Vasa (1789)
  • Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior of Africa (1799)
  • William Wilberforce, An Appeal to the…Inhabitants of the British Isles (1823)
  • Anon., A Woman of Colour (1808)
  • selected poetry

Studies in the Romantic Period
Term 2
Wednesdays, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

The period that in literary studies we still call the “Romantic” (roughly 1780 to 1830) also saw significant developments in mathematics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, physics, and biology. Indeed, it has been suggested that it was in this period that, thanks in large part to the rapid implementation of steam technologies in all sectors of the economy, science entered its modern phase. Fields that had been, to that point, concerned with verifying the compatibility of observed data with the subjective perspectives and needs of theorists (and their patrons) were, by the end of the eighteenth-century, becoming increasingly conscious of the ways that natural phenomena frequently overwhelmed subjectivist criteria, dislodging the human observer from its position of privilege. While there was some pushback against this “objectivist” turn, most philosophers, poets, novelists, and critics understood its radical implications for a general understanding of the relationship between the human “in here" and the world “out there” and sought ways to envision and formalize what this new relationship might look like. By way of literary, scientific, critical, and (some) theoretical readings this course will invite students to consider what our own historical and philosophical understanding of this turn means for the way we read not just Romantic works but literary aesthetics more generally, how, that is, the history of science can contribute to our own observations on and experiments with literary form, critical technique, and post-humanist politics. We will read a range of Romantic works, mainly poetry and fiction from both canonical and lesser-known writers. We will also work through a number of recent critical and theoretical interventions in the “literature and science” debates and consider their applicability to Romantic literary studies.

Studies in the Victorian Period
Term 1
Tuesdays, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

This seminar will situate five canonical works of fiction in relation to the mid- and late Victorian print cultures that produced them: Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Oscar Wilde’s A House of Pomegranates. Working with copies of the earliest publications (available in Rare Books and Special Collections and/or in my personal collection), we will explore how the material form and publication of a work – including whether it was first published serially or in its entirety and the ways in which publishers targeted particular types (sometimes classes) of readers – affected the reading experience. What difference does it make to read Bleak House in nineteen monthly parts, with each instalment of Dickens’s text preceded by Hablot K. Browne’s (Phiz’s) illustrated cover, the “Bleak House Advertiser,” and two (four in the final double number) Phiz plates, or in the first edition with Phiz’s illustrations interspersed throughout the volume? Or Middlemarch in eight parts (with advertisements and decorated wrappers) or in the four-volume first edition? How does reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the first edition, for which the placement of John Tenniel’s illustrations was carefully planned by both Tenniel and Carroll, influence the interpretation of the text? What effect does the format of The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper – its folio-size pages, high-quality illustrations, and emphasis on news stories – have on reading the serialized Mayor of Casterbridge, illustrated by Robert Barnes? How does this experience differ from reading the heavily revised, unillustrated novel one volume at a time as borrowed from a lending library? How do the material aspects of A House of Pomegranates – for example, the binding, the cover design, and the illustrations by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon – help to define the volume as a work of the Aesthetic movement and/or as a collection of fairy tales?

Because four of our five texts are illustrated we will discuss Victorian ways of seeing as well as Victorian ways of reading. We will also explore how one of our texts, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, functions in relation to twentieth- and twenty-first-century print/visual culture, discussing a selection of illustrated editions in RBSC’s “Alice 100” collection, as well as – depending on the interests of the seminar participants – screen adaptations, e-books (e.g., “Alice for the iPad”), and various manifestations of Alice as culture-text, a text that occupies such a prominent place in the popular imagination that it is collectively known and “remembered” even when the original work has never been read.

While discussing the literary works in relation to print culture will be central to our seminar, we will also explore other aspects of our texts. Students will be encouraged to give presentations and to write papers on any topics of interest raised by these works.

Please read before term begins at least one of our two longest texts, Bleak House and Middlemarch, paying attention to their serial structure. First editions of all five texts are available on the Internet Archive; the Bleak House parts (bound together to produce the first edition) are available through Project Boz and the Graphic is available through UBC Library (we will be discussing both the serial text and the first-edition text of The Mayor of Casterbridge). If you would like to have print copies for ease of reading and annotation, I recommend purchasing the Oxford World’s Classics Bleak House and Middlemarch and the Penguin Mayor of Casterbridge, and printing the Internet Archive Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Macmillan, 1866) and A House of Pomegranates (Osgood, McIlvaine, 1891).

Studies in the Twentieth Century
Term 2
Fridays, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

“There are two ways of going beyond figuration … either toward abstract form or toward the Figure. Cézanne gave a simple name to this way of the Figure: sensation. The Figure is the sensible form related to a sensation; it acts immediately upon the nervous system, which is of the flesh, whereas abstract form is addressed to the head and acts through the intermediary of the brain, which is closer to the bone.”           --Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (trans. Daniel W. Smith), p. 31.

In 2018, the Modernist Studies Association invited submissions to its conference under the rubric of “Graphic Modernisms.” This not only suggests the growing ascendency of graphic design during the period (the term itself was coined in Modernism’s annus mirabilis, 1922), but also the general pressure which Modernism as an aesthetic and intellectual movement put upon figuration. Arguably, the most important “going beyond” was of the idea of the real itself, as the century took thought about how to manage its own hermeneutic suspicion. In The Cambridge Companion to Modernism Michael Bell speaks of a “living synthesis of different world conceptions…held together in a … mutually testing relation” (12). This course explores seminal and recent work on the Figure in Modernist style in relation to its materialisms and politics, its cross and intermedia, its global travels, and its cultural histories, and tries to come to some conclusions about the lasting effects of Modernism’s crisis of representation on consciousness. Perhaps the Figure can even help us to reimagine the Subject.

Primary texts include Joyce, Woolf, Eliot, Pound, H.D., Barnes, W. Lewis, Beckett, and some European modernists in translation, such as Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Kafka. You will be asked to listen to selected music recordings and to view art images available in digital archives, on course reserve, or in the reference department. Also: Wittgenstein, Adorno, Deleuze, Lyotard, Massumi, Huyssens, Margot Norris, Daniel Albright, et al.


  • 20% -- Lead one seminar discussion on an assigned reading.
  • 20% -- Submit two brief written critical reflections on assigned readings (10% each).
  • 60% -- Research/critical essay

Studies in Canadian Literature
Term 1
Wednesdays, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

See Course Site

Writing In Catastrophic Times, the philosopher Isabelle Stengers describes what she names  "the felt necessity of trying to listen to that which insists, obscurely" in our world. Around climate change, political and social upheaval, indigeneity and diaspora, displaced populations and globalization, Stengers notes the emergence of a widespread human imperative to attend to our fractured world by enacting a multisensory, multimodal version of what has been called the “auditory turn.” By learning to listen carefully, with critical acuity, to recent developments in contemporary Canadian poetry and poetics, we will investigate how current writers address this imperative. After some engagement with theories and critical approaches focused on listening, we will examine in detail the work of six poets (drawn from, among others, Jan Zwicky, Robert Bringhurst, Ken Babstock, Karen Solie, Lorna Goodison, George Elliott Clarke, Fred Wah, Anne Carson, Gregory Scofield and Elise Partridge) with an ear to the complexities and challenges their writing presents. Members of the seminar will also have space to pursue the writing and thought of other North American poets of their choosing. Our aim will be to trace the specific ways in which contemporary sound and auditory texture impact on and are also impacted by the verbal or textual arts.

Studies in Postcolonial Literature
Term 1
Tuesdays, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

The description for this seminar is not yet available. We hope to post it in the coming weeks.

Studies in Postcolonial Literature
Term 2
Thursdays, 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.

The description for this seminar is not yet available. We hope to post it in the coming weeks.

Studies in Literary Movements
Term 2
Wednesdays, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Although the orality vs. literacy binary has often been invoked as a structuring device in the discussion of Indigenous writing, recent work by scholars like McCall, Martin, and McLeod has challenged this convention, decolonizing it through the development of approaches rooted in Indigenous epistemologies, poetics and law as well as in the study of Indigenous oral histories.  This seminar will begin with an overview of the traditional binary and then focus in more detail on recent decolonial theoretical approaches.  We'll discuss several examples of oral histories, considering some of the techniques used to bring spoken words to the page and some of the issues arising including practices of transcription, translation and the use of graphic and poetic devices on the page.  We'll conclude with a consideration of the fortunes of oral history in the courtroom and contrast settler law with Indigenous legal traditions in relation to stories.

Studies in Literary Theory
Term 1
Thursday, 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Recent ecocritical (and other) theory has taken as a central task the dismantling of the instrumentalist view of the relationship between nature and humankind. Such challenges can be roughly divided into two groups: 1. Heideggerean approaches such as speculative realism and object-oriented ontology (Meillassoux, Harman, Morton) that posit a radically unknowable object which “withdraws” not only from human epistemological mastery but also from other objects; and 2. Spinozist-Deleuzean approaches such as new/vital/feminist materialisms that centralize matter as opposed to object and favor models of complex systems of relations such as networks and flows. Both sets of approaches are committed to a radical de-centering of human subjectivity and agency and an ethically driven emphasis on nonhuman actants.

In this seminar we will read focus on works from the second camp — recent feminist and gender theory that challenges the linguistic and ontological turns in philosophy by arguing for the ireduceability of the material world.  We will accompany this reading with plenty of context: authors from the first camp as well as readings from the longer history of feminist theory and criticism.  While we will do the occasional illustrative literary reading, this is primarily a theory course, and is appropriate for graduate students in any discipline wishing to deepen and extend their understanding of this important body of criticism.

The course will be divided into the following sections (subject to change!):

  1. Precursors in feminist theory: fromécriture feminine to Butler;
  2. From cyborg feminism to assemblage theory;
  3. OOO and its discontents;
  4. Grappling with Darwin; and
  5. Queer/trans/of color critique of the critique

We will read the following authors (this is a partial list also subject to change!): Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Grosz, Jane Bennett, Stacy Alaimo, Karen Barad, Rosi Braidotti, Sara Ahmed, Jordy Rosenberg, Mel Chen, Alexander Weheliye

Studies in Literary Theory
Term 1
Mondays, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.

What does it mean to think, speak, and write about “Asia” from our location here at UBC (and in an English department as well)? If large-scale migrations from across the Asia Pacific have played a key role in the post/colonial development of the West Coast, then attempts to theorize Asia from here are enmeshed in questions of empire, capital, and racialization. As Naoki Sakai has argued, "Asia" is not a self-evident or coherent concept, but rather the product of a modern "cartographic imaginary" based on the systemic, if illusory, distinction between the West and the Rest. With this insight in mind, this seminar explores ways of thinking about "Asia" as a geopolitical entity, socio-economic construction, and cultural formation. The course will revolve around two critical fields: Asian Canadian critique and inter-Asia critique. Our goal will be to place them in conversation with each other, with particular attention to our disciplinary location in English literary studies. Our final classes will attempt to put these ideas into practice by taking up several “cases” that call for comparative and transnational methodologies as a way of developing strategies for our own critical work. Class discussions will be supplemented by visits to local neigborhoods, arts events, and galleries, as well as dialogue with guest speakers.

Assignments will include an in-class presentation, a book review, presentation responses, and a term paper.

Tentative Readings (please contact the instructor in August if you’d like an updated reading list):

Dipesh Chakrabarty, _Provincializing Europe_
Kuan-hsing Chen, _Asia As Method_
Grace Cho, _Haunting the Korean Diaspora_
Iyko Day, _Alien Capital_
David Eng, _The Queer Feeling of Kinship_
Larissa Lai, _Slanting I, Imaginging We_
Roy Miki, _Redress_
Yoshimi Takeuchi, _What is Modernity?_
Wang Hui, _The Politics of Imagining Asia_

Shorter pieces by Lee Maracle, Harry Harootunian, Kojin Karatani, Renisa Mawani, Smaro Kamboureli, and others.

Studies in Literature and the Other Arts
Term 1
Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
This seminar counts for STS credit.

New technologies emerged in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries that transformed conceptions of time, space, and the self, influencing the form and content of fiction. Trains, and later automobiles, allowed for rapid travel; electricity illuminated cities, altering perceptions of the relations between night and day; the telegraph enabled instantaneous, seemingly incorporeal, communication across distances; sound recording and radio delivered disembodied voices. In this seminar, we will consider the ways in which technologies of communication, perception, transportation, industry, and recording altered the culture and shaped literary texts. We will examine emerging technologies as they are represented in literature, and consider the effect of new technologies such as the train, the telegraph, the phonograph, wireless, and the motion picture on the form of narrative from the mid-nineteenth century into early modernism. Topics discussed will include technology and consciousness, technology and perception, industrialism and the environment, globalization and imperialism, technology and the supernatural (psychic studies, spiritual telegraphy, ghost photography), automata and technology and the body.

Assignments and Other Requirements

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

Texts will include:


  • Charles Dickens, “The Signal Man,” Dombey and Son
  • Samuel Butler, “The Book of the Machines”
  • George Eliot, “Shadows of the Coming Race”
  • E.M. Forster, “The Machine Stops”
  • Rudyard Kipling, “Wireless,” “Mrs. Bathurst.” “Deep Sea Cables”
  • Vernon Lee, “The Motor Car and the Genius of Places”
  • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Manifesto of Futurism”
  • Karl Marx, from Capital
  • T. Stead, “Wireless Telegraphy and Brain Waves”
  • H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
  • Virginia Woolf, “The Searchlight,” “The Cinema”
  • Israel Zangwill, “The Memory Clearing House”

SECONDARY (selections from)

  • Tim Armstrong, Modernism, Technology, and the Body
  • Nicholas Daly, Literature, Technology, and Modernity
  • Douglas Khan, Noise, Water, Meat
  • Friedrich A. Kittler, Discourse Networks
  • Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey
  • Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television