Graduate Courses 2023-2024

Fall 2023

Migration, Home, and Habitat (Dr. Nandini Thiyagarajan)

This seminar takes a global, comparative approach to migration and displacement. Whether forced or voluntary, migration has shaped our world and become an even more pressing topic in our current moment because of climate change, political conflict, and habitat loss. Texts that represent migration offer us a window into the diverse experiences of those who migrate, while also placing individual stories within larger, world histories. In this seminar, we will imagine what connects and differentiates migrants across the world.

The focus on home and habitat brings the natural world into the conversation. Animals and the land shape the places that we call home. In the Anthropocene, animals must also migrate to find more suitable habitats and escape human-driven changes to their environments. The cultural and scholarly texts that we will focus on imagine human and nonhuman stories of migration and home in conversation with each other. As migration and displacement (both human and animal) become increasing global realities, it is crucial to envision the world as interconnected and interdependent, instead of fractured and isolated. We will read works originally written in English, as well as translations that represent exile, diaspora, and migration. We will look to literature from North and South America, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands to envision the connectedness of the world through migration.

Poetry and Relationality (Dr. Anne Quéma)

This course revolves around twenty-first century experimental poetry and establishes a dialogue between poetic practices in the UK and poetic practices in Canada. Poets often collaborate beyond national borders, while poetic innovations and concerns travel from one culture to another. This is all the more so as transnational exchanges through reading performances and digital magazines play a major role in twenty-first century practices of experimental poetry.

The first objective will be to locate experimental poetry in the UK, US, and Canada in a historical context so as to get acquainted with a genealogy of heterogeneous practices of poetic experimentation. Second, our discussion of poetry will revolve around the relationship between languages and sensorial bodies with a focus on ecologies of affect and relationality. Theoretical reflections will include texts by authors such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Glen Coulthard, Edouard Glissant, Christina Sharpe, Lynn Keller, Elspeth Probyn, and Donna Haraway. Third, we will compare the ways in which poets in the UK, US, and Canada generate ecologies of relationality by deploying multimedial and multisensorial poetic strategies. Our approach to experimental poetry will take full advantage of a wealth of auditory and visual material available on the Internet. We will heed not only the textuality and visuality of poetry but also its rhythms, accents, and noises

Texts will be selected from the following list:

Abel, Jordan. NISHGA. McLelland and Stewart, 2021.

Beaulieu, Derek. Surface Tension. Coach House Book, 2022.

Bergvall, Caroline. Alisoun Sings. Nightboat, 2019.

Brand, Dionne. The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos. McLelland and Stewart, 2018.

Carson, Anne. Nox. New Directions, 2010.

Gladman, Renée. Calamities. Wave Books, 2016.

---. Prose Architectures. Wave Books, 2017.

Howard, Liz. Letters in a Bruised Cosmos. McLelland and Stewart, 2021.

Howe, Susan. That This. New Directions, 2010.

Monk, Geraldine. They Who Saw the Deep. Free Verse, 2016.

Tarlo, Harriet. Field. Bristol: Shearsman, 2016.

McLeer, Brigid.

Skoulding, Zoë. Footnote to Water. Seren Books, 2019


Winter 2024

The Literature of Sensibility and the Cultural Politics of Emotion, 1740–1800 (Dr. Stephen Ahern)

Often called “the Age of Sensibility,” the later eighteenth century was a time when polite society in Britain became preoccupied with feeling as a basis for human knowledge, as a force for social cohesion, as a moral good. But by the end of the century, the ideals of sensibility and the sentimental habits of rhetoric and gesture were often seen as more affected than affecting. Why this abrupt change in public taste?  Did the aesthetic features and political implications of the sentimental worldview doom it from the start to critique and parody? If so, why is sentimentality still a dominant mode in Anglo-American culture? Finally, how did a cultural ethos that was arguably at once democratic yet elitist, emancipatory yet paternalistic, work to erase or to reinforce markers of social difference such as rank/class, gender, and race?   

We’ll address these and other questions as we read key examples of the literature that in large part articulated the ideals of sensibility and shaped public taste. We’ll consider the generic conventions, formal elements, and thematic concerns of the verse, fiction, and drama of the period, to build an account of literary sentimentalism. We’ll also investigate the models of affective agency promoted by social reformers, politicians, moral philosophers, and essayists, always with a critical eye to how the cultural politics of emotion have real world material impacts, significant then as now.

Witty Women of CanLit (Dr. Wanda Campbell)

In her book, Last Laughs: Perspectives on Women and Comedy, Regina Barreca writes, “Generally speaking, commentators on comedy continue to treat the subject as a necessarily all-male pastime, rather like writing in the snow.”  This would appear to be the case in Canada, if the winner’s list of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour is any indication, though the last decade has brought improvements. From the nineteenth to the twenty-first century there are numerous Canadian women writers who have successfully explored the genres of humour, satire, and parody.  Through a study of fiction and poetry by L.M. Montgomery, Antonine Maillet, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Miriam Toews, Jennifer Grant, Rebecca Thomas and others, we will explore the rich and varied tradition of female humour in Canadian literature. For critical context the class will also examine classical and contemporary theories of humour/parody from Aristotle to Umberto Eco, Henri Bergson to Linda Hutcheon, plus examples from other media.