2019 Winter Session

Below is a list of our seminar offerings and descriptions for the 2019 Winter Session.

See Course Descriptions Archive

Research Tools (MA Program)
Term 1 
Thursdays, 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm

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

Research Tools (PhD Program)
Term 1 
Thursdays, 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm

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

Linguistic Studies of Contemporary English
Term 1
Tuesdays, 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

In this seminar we will study what in linguistic circles is sometimes called the "English Language Complex" (Mesthrie & Bhatt 2008), by which we mean the different varieties and manifestations that the English language has taken on and developed today. There are many questions we will address, some of them quite fundamental. For instance, can we even still speak of the language, or should we talk about Englishes, always in the plural? If so, why are we the Department of English Language (singular) and Literatures (plural). How are we to interpret this? Is there a bias expressed via the majority opinion of this department’s members in c. 2012, when that name change was envisaged?

In this seminar, we will combine the essence of what is generally taught in different courses, involving the study of language and identity (Heller 2010, Muhr 2016), the history of English (Brinton and Arnovick 2016), the sociolinguistics of English (Meyerhoff 2018), World Englishes (Schneider and Kortmann 2004, Schneider 2007), or English as a Lingua Franca (Seidlhofer 2007), to assess "English" from a number of vantage points and to address bigger and smaller questions. We will do so in order to take a bird's eye view on the language that we usually take for granted in order to determine its roles in the world in the past, present, and, possibly, glean into its future. Is (British) English a boon to humanity, as Sir Randolph Quirk (1989/90), one of the most famous linguists, once suggested? Or is it rather a killer language, gobbling up smaller languages (as Robert Phillipson put it?) with its influence on most of the 7000 or so other languages (Coulmas 2018), an influence that is often more detrimental and likely contributing towards language death (Crystal 2014)?

The present time is an opportune moment to reflect on these questions. Now that many (many) more non-native speakers than native speakers use English (Crystal 2012), what should students of English from an "Inner Circle" (native-speaking countries) department know about the colonial language English (Jenkins 2015)? With the local native languages of BC mostly "sleeping" – in Vancouver the Coastal Salish languages –, how can we justify working on English to begin with? Is English possibly the universal code that philosophers have dreamed of for millennia and that would result in world peace? Or is there a bias in the language that we don't see, as Anna Wierzbicka (2013) argues? In her view, English as a medium of knowledge creation clouds and biases our perception in a Sapir-Whorfian way. This seminar is a one-stop shop on English: what you always wanted to know, what you may not have dared asking, and what you never thought about. As you can imagine, answers to these questions lie often somewhere in the middle. All of them are quite complex, so we should have an interesting seminar.

The course is designed for anyone with an interest in English/es. No linguistic knowledge is required, as all concepts will be taught in the course. I anticipate a wide array of term paper topics, ranging from linguistic to cultural studies and literary perspectives and beyond. All welcome!

Course outline and course readings:

New this year is that I’ll start the seminar with a novel, with the possible side effect to allay lingering concerns by the non-linguist:

  • André, Alexis. 2019. Days by Moonlight. Coach House Books. ($18)
  • André’s latest novel will be our “in” into English and colonization in the Canadian context.
  • We will then read what a First Nations editing professional thinks of English and colonization and learn, on the side, ways to redress the problem.
  • Younging, Gregory. 2018. Elements of Indigenous Style. Brush Books. ($18)
  • After that, we’ll move on to how a Canadian variety of English actually has come about:
  • Dollinger, Stefan. 2019. Creating Canadian English. Cambridge University Press. ($32)
  • Following up with a famous international Polish linguist:
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 2013. Imprisoned in English: the Hazards of English as a Default Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ($30 on amazon.ca)
  • After Wierzbicka’s revealing and perhaps somewhat extreme view, we’ll move to English as a Lingua Franca
  • Seidlhofer, Barbara. 2011. Understanding English as a Lingua Franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ($50)

These are the books we’ll read, which are all available at the UBC Bookstore (or, at times, at amazon.ca). All other readings will be provided to you at no cost through Canvas.



  • Coulmas, Florian. 2018. An Introduction to Multilingualism: Language in a Changing World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Crystal, David. 2012. English as a Global Language. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Canto Classics.
  • Crystal, David. 2014. Language Death. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Heller, Monica. 2010. Paths to Post-Nationalism: A Critical Ethnography of Language and Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Jenkins, Jennifer. 2015. Global Englishes: A Resource Book for Students. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.
  • Kachru, Braj. 1991. Liberation linguistics and the Quirk concern. English Today7(1): 3-13.
  • Mesthrie, Rajend and Rakesh M. Bhatt. 2008. World Englishes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Meyerhoff, Miriam. 2018. Introducing Sociolinguistics. 3rd ed. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Muhr, Rudolf (ed.) 2016. Pluricentric Languages and Non-Dominant Varieties Worldwide. Part I: Pluricentric Languages across Continents. Features and Usage. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
  • Phillipson, Robert. 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Quirk, Randolph 1989/1990. Language varieties and standard language. JALT Journal 11(1): 14–25.
  • Schneider, E. 2007. Postcolonial English: Varieties Around the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schneider, Edgar W. and Bernd Kortmann et al. (eds). 2004. A handbook of varieties of English. A multimedia reference tool. 2 vols. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Seidlhofer, Barbara. 2007. English as a lingua franca and communities of practice. In: Anglistentag 2006 Halle: Proceedings, ed. by S. Volk-Birke and J. Lippert, 307-18. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag.
  • Seidlhofer, Barbara. 2011. Understanding English as a Lingua Franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 2013. Imprisoned in English: the Hazards of English as a Default Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Studies in Rhetoric
Term 2
Wednesdays, 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm

It is a fact well established that mental health has become a major focus of clinical, institutional, professional, academic, media, interpersonal, and individual attention.  Because so very much of the understanding and experience of mental health and illness has a discursive element, often a very strong one, it is not surprising that rhetoricians are among the scholars who have weighed in on their complexities and meanings. The lead article in the inaugural issue of the journal, Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (2018) was J. Fred Reynold’s “A Short History of Mental Health Rhetoric Research (MHRR)—and a special issue of the journal on the rhetoric of mental health is forthcoming.  This is what the call for submissions to that special issue looked like:

MHRR attends to the rhetorics of neuroscience, medicine, and psychiatry in connection with their cultural warrants; places judgments of in/sanity in rhetorical-historical context; follows mental health categories and diagnoses through clinical, professional, and personal settings; considers representations of mental health in medical and professional documents as well as popular media; and connects rhetorical appeals to strategies of activism and advocacy (http://medicalrhetoric.com/cfp-special-issue-of-rhm-on-mental-health/).

Clearly, studies of mental-illness discourses are interdisciplinary, and the theoretical frameworks of interest to the course come not only from rhetoric itself (Carol Berkenkotter, Kimberly Emmons, Jordyn Jack, Lucille McCarthy, Jenell Johnson, Amy Koerber, Cathryn Molloy, and others) but also from Philosophy (Ian Hacking on Multiple Personality Disorder), History (Andrea Tone on Anxiety); Anthropology (Emily Martin on Bipolar Disorder), Psychotherapy (Gary Greenberg on Depression), and Psychiatry (Allen Frances on psychiatric diagnosis itself), as well as other disciplines. This year, Historian of Science, Anne Harrington, published Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness.

This course will cover a range of theories, methods, and perspectives, attending especially to what, in a field of complex problem(atic)s, is most saliently discursive/rhetorical—and why it matters that it is.

Studies in Old English
Term 1
Wednesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

As Cary Wolfe observed in 2003, regarding animals as moral nonentities is the epistemological requirement for reducing human others to animal status. Much medieval cultural production seems to rebuke humanist narcissism: in premodern literature we see hybrid human-animal saints, birdsong drowning out human speech, and wild predators as moral actors. But other literature—for instance, Middle English devotional poetry in which the child Jesus gleefully turns Jews into pigs—demonstrates that medieval authors were also well-versed in species denigration as a racial, religious, and sexual cudgel.

This graduate medieval studies seminar examines the boundary between humans and beasts, interrogating how racial, sexual, and other forms of difference overlap with human-animal difference in medieval literature and culture. We will also consider when and how questions of sovereignty and subordination, linguistic difference, disability, childhood, and queerness become affiliated with the bestial, and how both violence and eroticism use the beast as figure and alibi. Also of concern to us will be the relationship between animal studies and medieval studies, and the place of medieval animal studies vis-à-vis ecocriticism, critical race theory and decolonial studies, and other potentially overlapping disciplines.

Primary texts may include Old English riddles, the alliterative Middle EnglishSiege of Jerusalem, the Early South English Legendary, Marie de France’s Bisclavret, Gerald of Wales’s History and Topography of Ireland, Marco Polo’s Description of the World, hunting manuals, and homoerotic love poetry. Theoretical texts will include work by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Mel Y. Chen, Bénédicte Boisseron, Karl Steel, Peggy McCracken, Kari Weil, and Tavia Nyong’o.

Student evaluation is based on seminar participation (20%), presentation (20%), research abstract and bibliography (20%), and conference paper (40%).

Term 2

Mondays, 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm

This course will trace Chaucer’s developing ambition and status as a vernacular author in several of his mature works. The following list of texts and topics is intended to show how we will maintain continuity. Particularly in the weeks devoted to Troilus, there will also be time for other topics, to be chosen according to students’ interests.

Weeks 1-3: The House of Fame. The lies of the Classical auctores; travelling to Fame’s house; Fame’s fickleness; orality and literacy, outside and inside Fame’s house; looking forward (Troy, faithful women, and the tales of pilgrims).

Weeks 4-7: Troilus and Criseyde. Translating the (invented) auctor; protecting Criseyde from her “fame”; linguistic, historical, and textual self-consciousness; kissing the steps of poetry.

Week 8: The Legend of Good Women, esp. the Prologue. A fiction (?) of the author’s unfavorable reception; Chaucer’s self-glossing through the dream-vision; the list of Chaucer’s works; patronage and inspiration.

Week 9: The General Prologue and The Miller’s Prologue and Tale. Decentering literary authority; new genres for the author; the “cosyn to the dede”; orality and literacy II.

Week 10: The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale and The Clerk’s Prologue and Tale. Negotiating authorship through gender; antifeminist discourse; illuminating “al Ytaille of poetrie”; a first take on “retraction.”

Week 11: The Cook’s Tale; The Introduction to the Man of Law’s Tale; Sir Thopas and Melibee. The list of Chaucer’s works II; Chaucer’s (in)visibility; “What man artow”: deflecting expectations for the English author through fiction; Chaucer and his English predecessors; orality and literacy III.

Week 12: The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale; The Manciple’s Prologue and Tale; The Parson’s Prologue and the Retraction. Vicious men and moral tales; abandoning fiction; the list of Chaucer’s works III; Chaucer as translator and compiler.

Week 13: The “G” revision of the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women; the Prologue to The Treatise on the Astrolabe; Chaucer as author in some shorter poems. Chaucer’s self-presentation as author after the Tales.

Requirements: a presentation, to be revised and submitted in writing; a term paper of about 5000 words; posting commentary and questions to Canvas in most weeks; participation in class discussions.

Texts: The Norton Chaucer, gen. ed David Lawton, to be published in spring 2019, will again make practical the teaching of a course that reads across Chaucer’s entire canon.

Criticism will include studies devoted specifically to Chaucer, such as the chapter on Chaucer in Robert Edwards, Invention and Authorship in Medieval England (2017), but we will also look to work on Chaucer’s English, French, and Italian contemporaries (such as Christine de Pizan) to see how it might illuminate Chaucer’s assumptions and ambitions. Selections from Chaucer’s contemporaries that offer especially close comparisons with his texts will be read in parallel, such as Christine’s Path of Long Study with the House of Fame.

Studies in the Renaissance
Term 2
Thursdays, 9:30 am - 12:30 pm

In this course we shall explore the careers of two of Renaissance England’s most celebrated literary contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) and William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Typically, we’ll examine some of their major works in pairs – for example, Marlowe’s Edward II with Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Hero and Leander with Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis – to investigate how each engages comparable subject matter (the suspect English monarch and erotic pursuit and consummation in these examples) and similar literary form (the history play and the narrative poem). Our efforts, in the first instance, will be directed toward elaborating two critical commonplaces about Shakespeare and Marlowe: first, that because the innovative and popular Kit Marlowe predeceased Will Shakespeare by some 23 years, he exerted a profound influence over Shakespeare’s dramaturgy and poetry; second, that “Marlowe” – his life and his literature – functions in contemporary scholarship as shorthand for sodomy, a crime encompassing but not limited to homosexuality, whereas “Shakespeare” serves to establish and secure a heterosexual imaginary. We’ll of course work to unsettle these commonplaces not simply by highlighting counterexamples – there is homosexuality in Shakespeare – but, more importantly, by thinking about the usefulness of the interpretive scaffolding that has made them both possible and plausible: biography.

Our required course texts are available at the UBC Bookstore:

  • Christopher Marlowe, The Complete Plays (Penguin)
  • William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1The Merchant of VeniceRichard IIRichard III, and The Tempest (Arden)

At the Bookstore you can buy a Penguin edition of Marlowe’s plays, as well as two biographies of our authors – Shapiro’s A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and Honan’s Christopher Marlowe. I recommend purchasing these books, but you may already have the Shakespearean drama in another format. You may use for this course any edition of the Shakespeare plays to which you have easiest access.

Course Requirements:

Each student will lead one seminar discussion (30%) and will submit a critical review of the two biographies on our syllabus (20%) as well as a final term essay (40%). The remainder of the mark for the course (10%) will reflect consistent attendance and active participation.

Studies in the Seventeenth Century
Term 2
Thursdays, 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm

In this course we’ll read much of the poetry of three 17th-century lyricists: John Donne, Andrew Marvell, and Katherine Philips. We’ll be especially concerned with how these very different poets write about such topics as sexuality, gender, poetics, aesthetics, and memory (both cultural and personal).

Studies in the Eighteenth Century
Term 1

Tuesdays, 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Among other revolutionary changes in the eighteenth century, this century gave rise to the “middle class,” a term that would come into common usage in the early nineteenth century. The “long eighteenth century” experienced three actual revolutions – the Glorious Revolution (1689), the American Revolution (1776-82) and the French Revolution (1789-94) – all of which deeply affected the social order in Britain, shifting power from the aristocracy to the middle ranks. The “middle class” in turn formed a hegemony against the “working class,” another term invented during this age. In the process of class struggle and hegemonic formation, literature played a key role. Poems, plays and novels changed as well, propagating and legitimizing new social structures, often in subtle and deceptive ways. In this seminar we will examine this process, analyzing how literary works participated in class formation and power during the long eighteenth century. The changes that we will study would continue to shape literature and society into the nineteenth century and beyond. We will also examine how class intersects with gender and race in significant and enduring ways.

Works: theoretical works on material history (Marx and Engels, Althusser, Williams, and others);  Jonathan Swift (selected poems on prostitution); Alexander Pope, The Dunciad; Nicholas Rowe, The Tragedy of Jane Shore; working-class poets (Stephen Duck, Mary Collier, John Clare); George Lillo, The London Merchant; Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews; Frances Burney, Evelina; Olauda Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of Gustavus Vasa; Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria; or the Wrongs of Women; Elizabeth Inchbald, Nature and Art; William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads and selected poems

Assignments: seminar paper and final essay

Studies in the Romantic Period
Term 2
Fridays, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Mary Shelley’s classic novel about the technological engineering of a person has itself engendered radically new ways of conceiving and propagating personhood. Critical discourses like posthumanism, methodologies like media studies, and practices like virtual reality, social media, video games and viral communication are anticipated by this self-consciously prophetic work whose historical relevance seems uncannily only to increase over time.  We will use the novel as a springboard to consider an array of texts from prehistory to the present, across domains including theory, fiction, poetry and film. We will also use Frankenstein’s farflung pedigree and progeny to re-focus Romanticism and the treatment of procreative technology in other Romantic period writing.  Besides recent posthumanist and media theory, we will focus on variations of the myth of Prometheus and story of Adam and Eve in horror and sci-fi literature and film.  In the spirit of the novel, this seminar is an experiment, exploring an eclectic selection of texts to see what sparks are generated, and students are encouraged to suggest additions.

Studies in the Victorian Period
Term 1

Tuesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

What did the Victorians think about the mind? How did their theories enter into their literary texts and how did literary texts help shape those theories? In this seminar we will examine interactions between Victorian theories of mind and literature, asking how the naturalization of the mind in the nineteenth century, and resistances to that naturalization, transformed the representation of consciousness in Victorian texts. The modern discipline of psychology developed during the nineteenth-century alongside new understandings of the physical nature of the mind. New findings on brain physiology in the period gave rise to heated debates on topics such as the relation between body and mind, the workings of memory, the unity of the self, humans as automata, aberrant versus “normal” psychology, and the limits of consciousness. Those problems together with theories on the unconscious mind were quickly incorporated into literary texts, affecting the ways in which mentality, character, and action are conceived. We will take up a range of topics (dreams, heredity science, race science, evolutionary accounts of mind, women’s “nervous disorders,” insanity, animal minds, and unorthodox and occult psychologies such as mesmerism, telepathy, plant minds, ghost seeing, and subliminal consciousness) as we consider how the new views on mind influenced the form and content of Victorian fiction. We will also take a look at some critical work in the area.

Course Requirements:

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

Texts will include:


  • Samuel Butler, “Book of the Machines” (from Erewhon)
  • Charlotte Bronte, Villette
  • Charles Dickens, The Haunted Man
  • George Eliot, “The Lifted Veil”
  • Frederick Myers, “The Subliminal Consciousness”
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    -----, “A Chapter on Dreams”
  • Jenny Bourne Taylor and Sally Shuttleworth, eds., Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890
  • Stories and poems by Grant Allen, Algernon Blackwood, Conan Doyle, George Egerton, George Gissing, May Kendall, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Machen, and H. G. Wells

SECONDARY (selections from)

  • Dorrit Cohn, Transparent Minds
  • Roger Luckhurst, The Invention of Telepathy
  • Shane McCorristine, Spectres of the Self
  • Alison Winter, Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain

Studies in the Twentieth Century
Term 2
Fridays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

This seminar will explore the development, importance and popularity of the long poem in the modern period originating with Homer and Dante and continuing with Whitman, Pound, Eliot, Williams, Crane, Stevens, Ginsberg, Olson, Ashbery, Merrill and Anne Carson. Attention to the expansion of the long poem in relation to the efficacy of the epic in the modern period, with particular attention to American poets, will be matched by a shift to experimentation and the emergence of the confessional form (Whitman, Pound, Lowell, Ashbery). The attraction of the long poem to poets and readers will be considered, as well as the undoing of its form from a more conventional structure (re Dryden, Tennyson or Browning) to something new. What happened when Pound edited The Waste Land? Do The Cantos have a structure? Is there a system to Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems? Did Allen Ginsberg’s Howl re-make the long poem? Can the traditional form of the long poem as presented in the 17th,18th or 19th centuries contain the experiences it seeks to convey in the 20th or 21st?

A series of critical questions will drive the course: what does the long poem accomplish and why do they continue? Is a poetic sequence a long poem? Are multiple voices necessary? Can a single narrative sustain a long poem? Is Ashbery’s Flow Chart as structurally significant as Anne Carson’s The Autobiography of Red? Poetic concerns such as voice, imagery, structure, metre and theme will be of primary importance, as well as the influence of prose on the construction of the long poem. Is the novel responsible for the continuation or decline of the long poem? These and other questions will frame the course which will present a range of largely American authors and works such as Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” Pound’s The Pisan Canto, Ginsberg’s Howl and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. Secondary readings to include work by William Carlos Williams, Susan Howe, and James Merrill, all shadowed by Homer and Dante.

Studies in American Literature to 1890
Term 2
Tuesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 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 the memorable gothic tales produced by nineteenth and twentieth-century U.S. writers, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as on gothic films produced in the U.S. more recently.  Our focus in terms of explanatory models will be, first, on psychoanalytic and anthropological models that relate the gothic to the subject’s repressed or unconscious life; second, on constructivist and historicist models that see the gothic as a political structure, and third, on recent materialist models that look at the gothic’s prophecy of and debts to posthumanism.  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. In addition to reading texts by Hawthorne, Poe, James, and Lovecract we will be watching the films Night of the Living Dead, Alien, Mulholland Drive, and Get Out. Our secondary readings will include chapters from Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, Žizek, Todorov, Bennett, and Weheliye.

Studies in American Literature Since 1890
Term 1
Fridays, 1:30 am - 4:30 pm

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

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

There will be two reading lists. The primary list will be common to all participants in the seminar, the basis of weekly discussions and presentations. Participants will also help to compile a secondary, annotated reading list--dynamic and open-ended--in support of research projects both small and large to be shared with the group.

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

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


  • Active participation in the seminar's exchange and discussion, and
  • a ten-minute informal presentation, 10%
  • a two-page essay (distributed and read aloud), 15%
  • a seminar presentation, 25%
  • a final essay, 50%


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

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

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

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

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

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

“the people who think they are white” (Coates, Between the World and Me)

Studies in Canadian Literature
Term 1
Wednesdays, 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm

In the 1970s, “Asian Canadian” emerged as a means to contest the racialized terrain of Canadian culture and society. More recently, Asian Canadian Studies has emerged as an interdisciplinarity formation that not only seeks to document the experiences of Canadians of Asian descent, but also to interrogate knowledge production in the University. We will begin, then, with readings on disciplinarity (Michel Foucault, Sarah Ahmed, Robyn Wiegman) and examine some key themes in Asian Canadian history including settler colonialism (Iyko Day, Rita Wong), exclusion (Renisa Mawani, Lily Cho), multiculturalism (Sunera Thobani, Smaro Kamboureli(). The second half of the course focuses on Asian Canadian cultural studies: we will consider the role of non-Anglophone writing, the formation of cultural archives (including visits to UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections, home to some of the best archival collections in Asian diaspora cultural studies), anti-racist social movements (Roy Miki and Larissa Lai), and cultural memory. In order to balance course readings with the practice of Asian Canadian Studies, this course will include visits to cultural sites and events in the Vancouver area.

Studies in Commonwealth/Post-colonial Literatures
Term 2
Tuesdays, 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

There is currently no description available for this section of ENGL 546.

Studies in Literary Movements
Term 1
Fridays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

This course considers the literature, artistic expressions, cultural contexts, and scholarship of Queer, LGBTQ2SI, and Two-Spirit Indigenous people. Drawing on deep Indigenous traditions and emergent expressions of gender and sexual diversity alike, and engaging Indigenous and intersectional feminisms, Indigenous cultural and political activism, queer/LGBT2SI and gender studies, and Indigenous Studies scholarship more broadly, we will undertake a deep engagement of the artistic interventions, complications, and provocations in this area through a focused consideration of creative works from across Turtle Island, especially in those lands currently known as Canada.

Studies in Literary Theory
Term 1
Thursdays, 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm

This course aims to do two things: to offer a survey of the turn to affect in the theoretical humanities of the last two decades (with a particular emphasis on Silvan Tomkins's affect theory), and to locate this turn in relation to the longer history of materialist criticism and theory. The course begins with several of the essays that introduced affect and emotion as critical terms and considers the context for these interventions. We will read subsequent contributions in affect studies as well as critiques and reviews of the affective turn in order to understand the consolidation of the field (if that's what it is), its tendencies, and its limitations. In the second part of the course we will turn to the history of materialist criticism. Our guiding question will be: where is affect or emotion in the works of the great modern thinkers, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud? We will ask the same question of some of their key interpreters. Our goal will be to locate the relevance or importance of affect to significant early formulations of materialist criticism. Finally, we will survey the most recent work in affect theory to connect these various traditions with contemporary affect theory. Throughout the course we will read a handful of literary texts alongside the theoretical works. These will provide test cases for the theory under consideration; at the same time, we will assume that fictional material also explores affective experience and structures, and is itself theoretical.

Studies in Literature and the Other Arts
Term 2
Wednesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

In a special forum on #Linsanity in Amerasia Journal in 2012, Konrad Ng suggested that “the digital [was] becoming a privileged site for the Asian American experience … [and] the preeminent site for Asian American cultural activism and scholarship.” More recently, public discourses in the West have framed Asian diasporic online production as testaments to the "borderless" possibilities of social media networks.

This seminar examines the historical and shifting relationships between Asian/North American racialization and “new” media technologies—from techno-Orientalist figurations of Asian indentured workers as machines and settler colonial discourses about Asian labour as “abstract” (Iyko Day), to the apparent "success" of Asian/North American digital media producers. We will examine contingent relationships between Asian racial formations and discourses around mediating technologies preceding and within the so-called Information Age. The seminar approaches Asian/North American labour, performance, and production not only as being enacted through mediating technologies, but also as forms of mediation. We will situate these queries within critical analyses of imperialism, racism, migration, and the shifting parameters of relevant fields of study, including critical race studies, Asian North American studies, Asian American critique, Asian diaspora studies, and new media theory.

In doing so, we will attend to a few central questions: What are the historical and ongoing links between Asian bodies and (information) capitalism? How does Asian labour construct and/or disrupt the neoliberal narrative that one can “transcend” racial barriers in virtual space? How does virtual Asianness engender modes of critique? What is the temporality of transnational or diasporic new media? What futures, presents, and memories does it enact? How does Asianness mediate or interface with other racial formations and racialized bodies?

Studies in Literature and the Other Arts
Term 1

Mondays, 1:30 - 4:30 pm

"Which was better, the book or the film?" This question has too often become the cornerstone of modern debates about adaptation. Our objective in this course will be to reframe the ways in which we might consider and discuss the many and varied relationships between literature and other media, including but not limited to film. The scope of our discussion will range from detailed examinations of particular passages and scenes to the re-definition of concepts and re-shaping of terminology in an effort to explore how literature and other media may function as different but equal partners. Instead of considering adaptation as a lit-centric field, in which the value of a film is based on its fidelity to the “original” text, we’ll look at the ways in which literature and other media might engage in fruitful and productive exchange. We’ll consider how stories adapt to the aesthetic and commercial demands of multiple genres – novels, comic books, plays, short stories, sound recordings, visual art in its many forms, the Web. In the process, we’ll read some adaptation theory and study the cultural contexts surrounding both the source text and its adaptation/s. We’ll explore the ways in which different media use diverse forms of technological representation to engage with a number of cultural and social issues. And we’ll address more recent attempts within the field of adaptation to move beyond the unidirectional movement of literature to film, as content moves away from notions of a single, stable source and an identifiable author, and towards an era of transmedia creation by multiple entities and media conglomerates.

Primary texts may include the following:

Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac, Vertigo [novel]
Vertigo, dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” [short story]
Away from Her, dir. Sarah Polley

Richard Van Camp, The Lesser Blessed [novel]
The Lesser Blessed, dir. Anita Dordon

Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief [memoir]
Adaptation, dir. Spike Jonze

Daniel Clowes, Ghost World [graphic novel]
Ghost World, dir. Terry Zwigoff

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange [novel]
A Clockwork Orange, dir. Stanley Kubrick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [novella]
Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott

Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave [memoir]
12 Years a Slave, dir. Steve McQueen

Peter Greenaway, The Tulse Luper Suitcases (multimedia project)

Derek Jarman, Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (illustrated screenplay)
Caravaggio, dir. Derek Jarman

Star Wars, dir. George Lucas
Star Wars novelizations

Critical readings may include selections from the following:

  • Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation
  • Jorgen Bruhn, Anne Gjelsvik, Eirik Hanssen, Adaptation Studies: New Challenges, New Directions
  • Deborah Cartmell, Imelda Whelehan, Screen Adaptation: Impure Cinema
  • Simone Murray, The Adaptation Industry: The Cultural Economy of Contemporary Literary Adaptation
  • Thomas Leitch, Film Adaptation and its Discontents
  • Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
  • Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, Joshua Green, Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture
  • And additional readings.

Topics in Science and Technology Studies
Term 2
Tuesdays, 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, iPods, 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.  In our first seminar meetings I 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.

Each seminar meeting will usually include both the discussion of an assigned literary work and a theoretical or critical essay (with some exceptions for variety and practicality).

Course Requirements:

  • Weekly participation in the discussion of readings, topics, and questions, including a response to an oral presentation: 15%
  • One oral presentation (15 minutes) on a primary text and critical context: 10%
  • One short critical meditation of 750 words (3 pages max.) on a core concept situated in theories of photography and literature.  This exercise can be used to explore an idea that could be put into more extended play and reflection in the final paper: 15%
  • One longer 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.  The longer essay could also employ photographs, video, or other multimedia forms, and could blend creative and critical approaches:  60%.

Required readings/film viewings:

Theory: Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (Hill and Wang); Kyo Maclear, Beclouded Visions: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Art of Witness (SUNY) Susan Sontag, On Photography (Picador); plus selected  e-texts or handouts. Optional:  Geoffry Batchen, ed. Photography Degree Zero (MIT)

Fiction/Prose:  Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter ; Le Thi Diem Thuy, The Gangster We Are All Looking For (Anchor);

Drama: Kevin Kerr, Studies in Motion (Talon); Marie Clements and Rita Leistner, The Edward Curtis Project: A Modern Picture Story (Talonbooks)

Screenplay and Film: Marguerite Duras and Alain Resnais, Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Grove)

Films: Finding Vivian Maier (2013); Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954);  Michaelangelo Antonioni, Blow-up (1966);  Christopher  Nolan, Memento (2000);

Poetry: Selections from Fred Wah, Sentenced to Light (Talon); Roy Miki, Mannequin Rising (New Star)