2020 Winter Session


See Course Descriptions Archive


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

This course will introduce first-year MA students to graduate-level research skills and professional practices. Meetings will take the form of seminars, guest presentations, workshops, and library visits. Sessions will focus on topics such as archival research, digital tools, applying for grants, and writing seminar papers and conference proposals. The course is marked Pass/Fail.

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.

Studies in English Historical Linguistics
Term 2
Wednesdays, 5:00 - 8:00 pm

Figure 1: Consensus tree of shared vocabularies in a 19th-century corpus of British novels

In this seminar we address questions of style from both literary and linguistic points of view, complemented by perspectives that tend to combine the two. We will critically review standard practice in literary interpretations of style, beginning with questions such as perspective (e.g. 1st or 3rd person narrator) and representations of speech and thought in texts, such as direct and indirect speech. We will try to establish the strong suits and weak points of each of these approaches, for which readings such as Verdonk (2002) and Leech and Sharp (2007) provide the theoretical background. With the help of these tried-and-tested methods of qualitative stylistics, we will take a critical look at select points and recommendations in Strunk and White (2000), the most popular style guide for English, to determine whether the linguist’s despise (e.g. Pullum 2009) or the writer’s admiration (e.g. Garvey 2009) is a more apt verdict.

We will then forge the connection to quantitative methods via Critical Discourse Analysis, a method that is germane to literary studies (e.g. Wodak 2009). Beyond the theoretical grounding, emphasis will be placed on a hands-on element and the acquisition of new methods. We will use in this seminar R, Stylo, and Gephi. Stylo (Eder et al 2016), for instance, is a graphic user interface for R that computes and visualizes the shared vocabularies of sets of texts. Backed by the computational power of R, we can uncover ghostwriters or pseudonyms more safely. An example is seen in Figure 1. The “Anon” text at the six o’clock position patterns with the novels by Richard Doddridge Blackmore, showing by linguistic means that Blackmore was indeed the author of Clara Vaughn, which was published anonymously. Stylometry – until recently a highly specialized approach – is now ready to be integrated into the methodological toolkit of the humanities scholar.

I am looking forward to working with you at this exciting point in the development of the Digital Humanities. Bring a laptop and a curious mind.

Works cited & select readings:

  • Argamon, S. 2007. Interpreting Burrows’s Delta: geometric and probabilistic foundations. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 23(2): 131-47.
  • Crompton, Constance, Richard Land and Ray Siemens (eds.) 2017. Doing Digital Humanities. London: Routledge.
  • Eder, M., Kestemont, M. and Rybicki, J. 2016. Stylometry with R: a package for computational text analysis. The R Journal 8(1): 107–21.
  • Garvey, Mark. 2009. Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. New York: Touchstone Books.
  • Hoover, D. L. . 2008. Quantitative Analysis and Literary Studies. In: A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, edited by Ray Siemens and Susan Schreibman. Blackwell (e-version).
  • Leech, Geoffrey and Mick M. Short, M. 2007. Style in Fiction: A Linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose. Harlow: Pearson Longman.
  • Pullum,  Geoffrey. 2009. 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 17 April 2009. http://chronicle.com/
  • Rybicki, Jan. 2008. The great mystery of the (almost) invisible translator: Stylometry in translation. In Studies in Corpus Linguistics, edited by Michael P. Oakes and Meng Ji, 231–48. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Strunk, William Jr. and E. B. White. 2000. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Verdonk, Perter. 2002. Stylistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press [Oxford Introductions to Language Study].
  • Wodak, Ruth, Rudolf de Cillia, Martin Reisigl and Karin Liebhart. 2009. The Discursive Construction of National Identity. 2nd ed., trans. by Angelika Hirsch, Richard Mitten and J. W. Unger. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press.

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


By focusing on divergent theories of how language is supposed to produce particular effects, this course will survey theories of rhetoric from around the world, examining treatises, ancient and modern, that theorize how rhetoric is supposed to function. With its Greek origins, “rhetoric” is a somewhat controversial term to apply to nonwestern cultures. This course will put that assertion to the test by looking at, perhaps, Guiguzi: China's First Rhetorical Treatise, Three Arabic Treatises on Aristotle's Rhetoric, the oratorical advice of Pharaoh Ptah-Hotep, Mao Zedong’s propaganda theory, excerpts from Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the Lotus Sutra, as well as a survey of the field of Comparative Rhetoric.

Middle English Studies
Term 1
Wednesdays, 1:30 - 4:30 pm

Our modern world returns, again and again, to the medieval. Film, TV, popular and literary fiction, graphic novels, video games, and board games continually recreate the experience of the medieval for the modern consumer of culture. As a continually reimagined idea, the medieval lies at the heart of many aspects of our contemporary world; as the historical other to both the classical world and to modernity, its abject nature has been deployed in the service of nation, race, colonialism, and many other discourses since the day that the Middle Ages ended.

This course will examine both the academic discipline of medievalism (the study of the representation of the middle ages in contemporary media), and the manifestation of medievalism in our culture today. Our textual corpus will temporally, geographically, and generically widespread, taking us from the 19th century colonial use of medievalism in engagement with the indigenous in India and the Antipodes, to the medieval revivals of the late Victorian era, to the rise of medieval fantasy in the 20th century in fiction, film, and games, to TV phenomena such as Game of Thrones, and the multi-billion dollar industry of modern video games. For their research projects, students will have a great deal of freedom in applying the study of medievalism to the periods and texts that fit their interests most closely.

Studies in the Renaissance
Term 2

Fridays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Renaissance studies has been one of the most active sites for queer theory, both in terms of producing queer readings of texts and in terms of producing more generally applicable queer theories. In this course, we’ll look at Renaissance texts by Marlowe, Marvell, Philips, Shakespeare, Spenser, Surrey, and Wyatt. We’ll read these texts in conversation with a range of scholarship produced over the last twenty years or so in order to see what themes and theories emerge and how critical discourse has changed over the years. The critics will include Simone Chess, Colby Gordon, Stephen Guy-Bray, Jeffrey Masten, Madhavi Menon, Richard Rambuss, Melissa Sanchez, Kathryn Schwarz, and others.

Studies in the Eighteenth Century
Term 1
Tuesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

According to Randolph Trumbach, eighteenth-century Britain experienced a “gender revolution.” Masculinity was softened and sentimentalized yet kept clear of the increasingly harshly defined category of the homosexual or “sodomist.”  Women were increasingly permitted access to professional writing, giving rise to the first forms of feminist protest. Among conservatives, however, women found themselves increasingly essentialized as naturally designed only for the domestic sphere. Great efforts were made by moralists to cleanse the stage of overt references to sex, a reaction to the bawdy tone of much literature of the late seventeenth century. Partly through the examples set by literature, all genders found themselves in a much different position at the end of century than at the beginning. This seminar will be devoted to tracing this “gender revolution” through all the literary genres and other forms of commentary. We will consider how modern definitions of gender took shape during this era, and how recent reaction to these categories harken back in many respects to the more fluid delineations of a previous era.

The seminar will proceed through weekly topics including libertinism, feminisms, pornography, cross-dressing, homosexualities, race and sex, and gothic sex

Texts include: Aphra Behn, The Rover and Oroonoko;  William Wycherley, The Country Wife; Richardson, Pamela; Haywood, Anti-Pamela and Fantomina; Cleland, Fanny Hill; Charlotte Charke, Narrative of her Life; Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria or The Wrongs of Woman; Matthew Lewis, The Monk; Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Critical background: selection of historical works by Trumbach, Wahrman, Laqueur, Nussbaum and others; modern theoretical studies by Butler, Sedgwick, Irigaray and others

Studies in the Victorian Period
Term 1

Tuesdays, 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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 ways of reading, both of which have been extensively analyzed and theorized in recent years. Print- and visual-culture readings will include work by Gillian Beer, Simon Eliot, Kamilla Elliott, Kate Flint, Nicholas Frankel, Helen Groth, Josephine M. Guy and Ian Small, Zoe Jaques and Eugene Giddens, John O. Jordan, Anna Kérchy, Richard Maxwell, Robert L. Patten, Clare Pettitt, Stuart Sillars, Emily Steinlight, Julia Thomas, and Mou-Lon Wong.

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 cultures, 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.

Studies in the Twentieth Century
Term 1

Thursdays, 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century, lived in a period punctuated by devastating international conflicts, including the First World War (1914-1918), the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and the Second World War (1939-1945). As a member of the Bloomsbury Group, she associated with influential artists and intellectuals such as J. M. Keynes and Leonard Woolf, who intervened in public debates on the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the League of Nations (1920-1946), respectively. For her part, Woolf reflected on the causes and effects of hostilities in occasional writings, a polemical essay, experimental novels, and late fictions. Since the publication of the signal collection Virginia Woolf and War (1991), scholars have paid increasing attention to this pivotal concern in her oeuvre. Commentators revisit Woolf’s writings on total war and the rise of fascism in light of the asymmetrical conflicts and resurgent fundamentalisms characterizing recent global strife. To what extent do Woolf’s innovative texts illuminate transhistorical problems at stake in studies of war ranging from the First World War to the Iraq War? Conversely, how do her investigations of conflict expose ethicopolitical dilemmas–inequities, injuries, displacements, and divisions–particular to her era?

The seminar has five sections. We will begin with sociopolitical perspectives on the First World War and its aftermath by Woolf’s contemporaries from Britain and Germany. In the second section, we will grapple with key statements on militarism and pacifism in Woolf criticism prior to our deliberations on her occasional essays (ca. 1915-1940) and Three Guineas (1938). The third section features prominent research on Woolf’s experimental fictions before we approach Jacob’s Room (1922) and Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Similarly, we will address noted critical essays on Woolf’s late novels in the fourth part of the seminar before we interpret The Years (1937) and Between the Acts (1941). In the concluding section, we will gauge the impact of theoretical writing on post-9/11 conflicts in twenty-first century Woolf studies and we will consider the limits and possibilities of post-conflict paradigms in the present. Assignments may include a reading journal; a seminar presentation; a project proposal; and a final essay. In summary, this seminar orients graduate students to multidisciplinary research on organized violence; promotes familiarity with a range of texts in Woolf’s oeuvre; fosters critical fluency in current Woolf scholarship; and invites speculation on modern and contemporary modes of theorizing war.

Studies in the Twentieth Century
Term 1
Tuesdays, 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

This graduate-level course juxtaposes the category of the minor with modernism in order to sieve modernism’s rebellion from the major out from the institutions that have supported modernism itself *as* major, important, canonical, generative, and influential. Since Deleuze wrote about Kafka as a writer of a minor literature, the keyword has been applied broadly across critical and aesthetic theories. Shu-Mei Shih and Françoise Lionnet, in a volume of collected essays titled Minor Transnationalisms (2005), argue against allowing the major to always mediate the minor, and propose a horizontal set of relations produced among minority subjects. In Languages of the Night: Minor Languages and the Literary Imagination in 20th-century Ireland and Europe (2015), Barry McCrea “argues that the sudden linguistic homogenization of the European countryside was a key impulse in the development of literary modernism”; as vernacular rural dialects declined, they became available for subversive use by modernist writers such as Joyce and Proust. The minor may designate subjects’ identities, aesthetic categories or processes, languages and literatures, the marginal or disprivileged industry or occupation, locales, nations, or collectives. I myself see modernisms as in many respects produced in the context of the failure of major attachments in the early twentieth century, such as attachments to nation, empire, religion, kinship, established gender and class identities, and region.

Besides primary literary texts and theoretical materials, we will study little magazines and manifestos, visual art, film, dance and dramatic performances from around the world,  The bibliography is under development but I expect it will include primary authors such as Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Gertrude Stein, H.D., Jean Rhys, Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Sam Selvon, Djuna Barnes. Theorists will likely include Freud, Fanon, Said, Deleuze & Guattari, Braidotti, hooks, Lorde, Rich, Ngai, Hartman, Lloyd, Lionnet & Shih.

Studies in American Literature since 1890
Term 1

Mondays, 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm

This course will explore the vibrant and complex print culture that documented new feminist political strategies and generated support for the U.S. suffrage cause while experimenting with an impressive array of forms and aesthetics, a literary tradition that has been ignored. The recovery of the U.S. suffrage literary tradition has begun only recently even though the British suffrage literary tradition was recovered decades ago. Scholars are beginning to acknowledge that U.S. suffrage literature—fiction, poetry, and drama--was an integral part of "the art of politics" (2).

This seminar will survey U.S. suffrage literature: early manifestoes including Sojourner Truth’s “Aren’t I a Woman?”; critiques such as James’ The Bostonians; coded pro-suffrage poetry by Marianne Moore; ambivalent treatments of the predominantly white campaign by Sui Sin Far and Onoto Watanna; and memorial treatments written after the granting of woman suffrage in 1920, for example, Gertrude Stein’s opera Mother of Us All. It will also examine the rich print cultural materials, i.e. banners, posters, cartoons, and valentines created as suffrage propaganda. More specifically, it will trouble distinctions between propaganda and literature that emerged in the modernist era in order to see how the tradition of suffrage literature might appear differently; it will also question the accuracy and relevance of the modernist "divide" (Huyssen) between modernist literary experiment and radical polemic, or between ART and PROPAGANDA. Suffrage literature is not the only literary tradition that advocated a political purpose; other examples include anti-slavery literature, 1930s proletarian fiction, and anti-war literature. Suffrage literature will serve as a kind of case study for the relationship between art and propaganda, and the critical legacy for works that appear to function in a propagandistic way. The course will also consider how many suffrage tactics have been updated and used recently by activists in the Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo movements.

Studies in American Literature since 1890
Term 2

Tuesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

This seminar will lead students through many key works by David Foster Wallace, working through some defining texts of the postmodernism to which Wallace responded, placing his work in the context of both predecessors and successors, and examining some issues that have attached to his prominence in contemporary letters (e.g., sincerity and irony; problems of periodizing contemporary literature; misogyny and possibilities of feminist reading in this tradition). The flow of readings is likely to include: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire; Don DeLillo’s End Zone; short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Franz Kafka, Lydia Davis, and Jennifer Egan; most of Wallace’s fiction (with ample time for Infinite Jest and The Pale King and a week or so each on short story collections) and several of his essays; philosophical texts by Kierkegaard and Derrida; essays by Leslie Jamison and Michelle Orange; and criticism by Brian McHale, Amy Hungerford, Mark McGurl, Stephen Burn, Clare Hayes-Brady, Lee Konstantinou, and others.

Students should expect to contribute regularly to online discussions and question-formulation in advance of most meetings; write a short seminar paper of roughly five pages; lead discussion on a designated date; and produce a term research paper. Anyone with questions in advance of the course is welcome to contact me at Jeffrey.Severs@ubc.ca.

Studies in Canadian Literature
Term 2

Mondays, 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

This grad course will think through crucial questions about Indigenous communities and their relations (or lack thereof) to state structures in what is currently a Canadian and U.S. context, and how these Western political formations come into conflict/contention with Indigenous articulations of belonging, self-determination, gender, cultural expression and production, among many other things. We will examine some of the diverse ways in which creative and critical Indigenous theory texts and other modes of cultural production can facilitate meaning and knowledge about contemporary Indigenous community articulations. This will foster an understanding of how Indigenous studies conceptualizes and addresses the diversity of Indigenous political, historical, and cultural identity formations, and how these interact with the settler state. We will address Indigenous notions of time, gender and sexuality, kinship, social organization, and resurgence and the way these notions interface with states currently situated on Turtle Island.

Studies in Canadian Literature
Term 1
Wednesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

To the (potential) students of ENGL 545B:

Months ago, I proposed this graduate seminar:

Asian Canadian critique can be traced back to the 1970s as a means to contest the racialized terrain of Canadian culture and society. Asian Canadian Studies has since emerged as an interdisciplinary formation that reframes theoretical topics such as settler colonialism, borders and nationalism, globalization, refugee critique, social movements, and archival collections in light of transpacific migrations. This course offers an introduction to Asian Canadian Studies through theoretical, historical, and literary readings with a special focus on the role of Asian migrations in shaping local spaces. Course assignments are designed to practice different forms of writing and presentation for academic as well as non-academic audiences.
*PLEASE NOTE:* Past versions of this course have sought to introduce students to local historical, cultural, and activist resources relevant to Asian Canadian Studies.  As a result, classes have frequently been held off campus in order to provide easier access to memorials, historical neighbourhoods, artist studios, galleries, and other non-profit organizations. More details will be available in late summer, but please contact the instructor if you have any questions about course schedules in the meantime.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes at UBC will be held online this fall with students joining in from various locations outside Vancouver. My original plans for this seminar, which would have been mostly held off campus in order to connect our learning with various local communities, no longer seem possible. At the same time, given the global nature of this pandemic and more specifically the outbreak of anti-Asian racism here and elsewhere, Asian Canadian studies seems more urgent than ever. So instead of just proposing a replacement course, I would like to have a group conversation in late June or early July about how we can reshape this seminar in light of present circumstances. I would like to hear from you about what questions in and around Asian Canadian studies are worth animating at this time, and how we can use our seminar to explore them in collaborative ways (I recognize that some of you may be new to the topic but I would like to include you in this conversation nonetheless). I will contact everyone who is registered in this course to set up a time to connect, but in the meantime, I’d be happy to hear from you about your ideas. Please drop me an email at Chris.Lee@ubc.ca. Stay healthy and well - I look forward to meeting you all.

Studies in Canadian Literature
Term 2
Thursdays, 9:30 am - 12:30 pm

“Art and the planet tell us. Change your life.” —P. K. Page


This seminar will investigate recent work by six writers and media artists associated with Canada, work that circles conceptually and creatively around the audible deficits and refigurings of human connection to the natural world, work that thematizes the unmaking and remaking of the planet and its environments. We will investigate how such work engages palpably in close listening, enacting versions of what Susan Stewart has called “touch at a distance,” an attentiveness aligned to the complex, porous, haptic, performative materiality of human bodies in the world. We will explore variations of what Tina M. Campt has called “listening to images.” We will begin to address what Isabelle Stengers has named "the felt necessity of trying to listen to that which insists, obscurely," at what feels like the catastrophic end of nature. In a world beset with climate change, pandemics and crises, what can we learn by listening to, for, with and through literary media? We will read texts, hear recordings and view films by and about P. K. Page, Don McKay, Lorna Goodison, Dionne Brand, Alanis Obomsawin, and Alice Munro, alongside work on late ecology and the poetics of listening by Lorraine Daston, Isabelle Stengers, Dylan Robinson, Brian Massumi, Imre Szeman, Timothy Morton, R. Murray Schafer, Michael Snow, Lisbeth Lipari, and others. The seminar will invite participants to engage in emerging and alternative forms of performative and practice-based research: to make, unmake and re-make their own co-creative work.

Studies in Commonwealth/Post-Colonial Literatures
Term 1
Wednesdays, 5:00 - 8:00 pm

Details to be published soon

Studies in Literary Movements
Term 2

Wednesdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

“[Camp] is terribly hard to define but you’ll find yourself wanting to use the word whenever you discuss aesthetics or philosophy or almost anything.”  -- Christopher Isherwood

This seminar examines the origins (and trajectories) of the much-debated aesthetic sensibility known as camp. Widely understood as a celebration of artifice and stylized exaggeration, camp still struggles to be taken seriously because of its orientation toward humor and the un-serious. Although one of its earliest theorists, Susan Sontag, famously argued that camp was at its core “apolitical,” one of the questions students in this seminar will ponder is the potential political value (to queer and non-queer people alike) of camp style, performance, and gender critique. We will attempt to situate camp historically by locating its origins in the aesthetic strategies of 1890s Decadence before exploring its manifestations, transformations, and characteristic patterns across the twentieth century and beyond. In pursuit of this objective we will read literary and theoretical texts in addition to viewing several films. Our object will not be to construct a camp canon, but instead to observe how camp and Decadence speak to queer experience at distinct historical moments while at the same time retaining recognizably transhistorical characteristics.

Readings will include (theory): Walter Pater, Susan Sontag, Esther Newton, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Lee Edelman, David Halperin, Paul Baker, and others; (literature) Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, Ronald Firbank, Noël Coward, Christopher Isherwood, Frank O’Hara, Joe Orton, and others. We will also view films by directors Robert Aldritch, John Waters, and Pedro Almodóvar.

Evaluation will be based on seminar presentations, informed and active participation, an annotated bibliography, and a final research paper.

In the event that we are not able to hold classes on campus at UBC Vancouver, this course will go ahead using a combination of asynchronous (recorded/text/online) materials and synchronous (real-time) classes in our designated timeslot.

DISCLAIMER: some students may find material in this course very offensive. If you are easily shocked, this is not the course for you.

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

This section is cross-listed with PHIL 525

This seminar explores the variety of meanings associated with the terms performative and performativity. These terms and concepts initially belong to two very different discourses, speech act theory and theater studies, but have found their way into general use in the theoretical humanities. Our concerns are, in part, genealogical: we will track the emergence of these concepts in ordinary language philosophy (J.L. Austin. How to Do Things with Words), their uptakes in Continental philosophy, and their inflections and uses in feminist and queer theory. We will also be concerned with auxiliary terms and concepts that have followed from the performative (such as the distinction between (illocutionary, locutionary, and perlocutionary speech acts and the idea of the para-performative), as well as the ways these philosophical terms intersected with theater studies. Our goal is to unpack the meanings these terms have come to have in the last two or three decades, their particular coherence and incoherence, their uses and intended consequences (for example, in the contrast between performativity and representation), and the values associated with these terms.

In addition to Austin we will read work by: Jacques Derrida, John Searle, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Richard Schechner, Shoshana Felman, J. Hillis Miller, Stanley Cavell, Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Elin Diamond, Andrew Pickering, Samuel Beckett, a selection of other literary/dramatic work. Course work will include an oral presentation and report, analytic/critical responses, and a final paper.

Studies in Literature and the Other Arts
Term 2
Tuesdays, 2:00 - 5:00 pm

Post-Internet literature is literature that is written in and about internet culture. It raises the question of how the internet—ephemeral yet all encompassing—can be represented in literature, and it asks how we can speak of originality in the context of hypermediation. Post-Internet literature can be about the internet, in its social and political contexts, and it can be of the internet, made up of recycled scraps taken directly from internet sites. It is post-humanist in its orientation, both critically and poetically, proclaiming an “unoriginal genius,” in the words of Marjorie Perloff.

In this seminar we will explore the theoretical positions that underlie the concept of post-internet literature, and we will examine this literature in its various generic iterations, from works about the effects of the internet to works written from within the paradigm of the internet. The seminar will introduce students to the media theory that underpins the concept of the internet, and it will provide a broad introduction to this new and increasingly hegemonic (post)literary form. A preliminary list of readings includes: Oana Avasilichioaei,  Eight Track (2019); Harry Burke,  ed., I Love Roses When They’re Past Their Best (2014); Caryl Churchill, Love and Information (2013); Joshua Cohen, Book of Numbers (2016); Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010); Kenneth Goldsmith, The Weather (2005); Susan Howe, The Midnight (2003); Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station (2011); Tao Lin et al, 40 Likely to Die Before 40: An Introduction to Alt Lit (2014); Dave Malloy, Octet [libretto] (2019); Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (2015);Sam Riviere, Kim Kardashian’s Marriage (2015); Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (2010); Olivia Sudjic, Sympathy (2017).

*In the event that this course is delivered online, we will combine modes that allow us to work together as well as individually.


[selections from the following]

  • Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (2013)
  • Richard Cavell, “Dematerialization and Rematerialization: Mediatic FlipFlop and the Anthropocene,” Berlin Journal of Critical Theory 3.1 (2019)
  • Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter, Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the 21st  Century (2015)
  • “Digital Literary Studies,” special issue of Materialidades di Literatura / Materialities of Literature 4.1 (2016), https://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/issue/view/146
  • Aneeq Ejaz, “Are Internet Memes a New Form of Literature?” Quillette (28 November 2016), https://quillette.com/2016/11/28/are-internet-memes-a-new-form-of-literature/
  • Kenneth Goldsmith, “Post-Internet Poetry Comes of Age,” The New Yorker (10 March 2015)
  • _____, Uncreative Writing (2011)
  • Katherine N. Hayles, Electronic Literature (2008)
  • James Jarvis et al, Preserved Present: Redefining Post-Internet Art in the Era of  Fake News (2017)
  • Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone Film Typewriter (1999)
  • Florian Kramer, “Post-Digital Writing,” electronic book review (12.12.2012), https://electronicbookreview.com/essay/post-digital-writing/
  • Andy Lavender, “The Internet, Theatre, and Time: Transmediating the Theatron,” Contemporary Theatre Review 27.3 (2017)
  • Gene McHugh, Post Internet (2011)
  • Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius (2010)
  • Bernhard Siegert, Cultural Techniques (2015)

Topics in Science and Technology Studies
Term 2
2:00 to 5:00pm

Structural relations between colonial power and scientific knowledge production have shaped political and cultural life since the nineteenth century. Objectivity, facts, experiment, and the scientific method gained global authority and political power at a time when European powers dominated much of the non-western world. Even as decolonization, anti-imperial movements, and neoliberalism variously shifted global political relations over the next two centuries, scientific objectivity was often believed to be neutral, and held up as aspirational for developing nations. Today, activist and scholarly calls to decolonize knowledge force us to rethink the relationship between technoscientific practice and political power. Histories of empire, decolonization, and development have been drawn into conversation with the history, philosophy, and anthropology of science and technology.

This course offers a graduate-level introduction to these fraught but urgent conversations. Readings include writing in colonial history, development studies, informatics, feminist science studies, and science fiction, via the work of STS scholars such as Donna Haraway and Warwick Anderson, historians of science Marwa Elshakry, Gabrielle Hecht, Lorraine Daston, and Thomas Kuhn; geographers Gillian Hart and Neil Smith; and many writers whose names may be less widely known for reasons connected to the failures of decolonial politics. Through widely interdisciplinary reading, we will seek to understand the significance of the “decolonizing turn” in technical practice and scientific knowledge production. Students from all disciplinary backgrounds are welcome to bring a critical, open, engaged perspective.

Studies in Environmental Humanities
Term 2

Mondays, 5:00 - 8:00 pm

During a 2000 conference in Mexico City, the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen had an epiphany: “we’re not living in the Holocene anymore, we’re living in the Anthropocene!” His idea was that humans have changed the Earth’s climate and geography enough to create a new geological epoch. The Holocene, which began with the last ice age 10,000 years ago, had come to an end. Anthropocene soon became a keyword across the disciplines, from geology and Earth science to literature, anthropology, and the art world. In 2020, the Anthropocene is a controversial cross-disciplinary research frame that sees the whole biosphere altered by human activities, and humanity as a force that changes (or destroys) “the functioning of the Earth system.” Some see this as the event of a new humanism, others the rise of an uncontrollable “technosphere,” and others as the latest in a series of colonial and capitalist ideologies.

The goal of the seminar is advanced knowledge of the Anthropocene frame as it shapes cultural theory. We begin by zooming out to introduce the environmental humanities at their broadest, especially where they address climate change. From there, we go on to learn how the Anthropocene took hold and changed the field, and what the pros and cons of this shift might be. In the following weeks, we zoom in on two topics: theories of the subject and theories of technology such as artificial ecosystems, energy infrastructure, and communication media. We emphasize general questions like who is the human of the Anthropocene and what is technology on an artificial Earth. Our readings take up the Anthropocene concept by drawing on scientific texts, whether to affirm it or critique it or both. The readings come from the fields of science and technology studies, critical race theory, literary criticism, and media theory. Throughout the semester, we ground our two core questions in film and digital video texts. Assignments include a presentation, a research proposal, and a term paper.