Summer 2022: May 2 to June 15
Divine Comedies: Modern Readings in Dante (theory)
602.1 A, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 13:15 to 15:30, Stephen Ross
This seminar surveys the modern and contemporary legacies of foundational European poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Our project will be twofold: 1) to grasp some of Dante’s major formal and conceptual innovations by reading key works in English translation, and 2) to examine the rich and varied ways in which writers of the past two centuries have taken up his work—its inventions in literary form, its grand metaphysics, and/or its theories of language—either directly or obliquely. We will begin by examining how Dante’s important early work, The New Life, a prosimetron or hybrid of poetry and prose, anticipates experimental modernist texts by William Carlos Williams and others. We will then conduct an intensive study of Dante’s Inferno, the first of the Divine Comedy’s three canticles, followed by readings of book-length works by Arthur Rimbaud, Amiri Baraka, and Alice Notley that respond to and accompany Dante’s masterpiece. Finally, we will turn to Dante’s important treatise on language, On the Eloquence of the Vulgar Tongue, and consider how poets such as Osip Mandelstam and Lisa Robertson have entered into dialogue with Dante about poetics, language, and citizenship.
The New Life, Dante Alighieri
[tr. Rossetti, NYRB Poets, ISBN: 9781681370514]
Inferno, Dante Alighieri
[tr. Mandelbaum, Bantam Classics, ISBN: 978-0553213393]
On the Eloquence of the Vulgar Tongue, Dante Alighieri [PDF]
Spring and All, Williams Carlos Williams
[New Directions, ISBN: 978-0811218917]
A Season in Hell, Arthur Rimbaud [PDF]
The System of Dante’s Hell, Amiri Baraka
[Akashic Books, ISBN: 978-1617753961]
The Descent of Alette, Alice Notley
[Penguin, ISBN: 978-0140587647]
“Conversation on Dante,” Osip Mandelstam [PDF]
Thresholds: Prosody of Citizenship, Lisa Robertson [PDF]
2022-2023 Course offerings
Literary Pedagogies — Winter 2023
601.4 A, Tuesdays, 14:45 to 17:00, Danielle Bobker (theory)
In this course you will develop your skills and self-awareness as a teacher of literature while gaining a fuller understanding of the sociological, institutional, architectural, technological, and psychological structures shaping contemporary classrooms. Though we will generally focus on undergraduate English instruction and teaching assistantships in the context of Concordia and other North American universities, we'll also consider how these pedagogical principles and concepts may apply in CEGEPs, high schools, and other formal and informal educational settings.
The course is organized around seven core themes, each of which will engage us over two class sessions: (1) the inclusive classroom, (2) literary analysis & criticism, (3) lecture & discussion, (4) teaching writing, (5) evaluation, (6) institutions, and (7) affects. In the first session on each theme, we’ll work with a range of theoretical and practical pedagogical texts to identify and define the concepts and strategies we find most pertinent. The second session will afford an opportunity to reinforce or interrogate these concepts and strategies in a more embodied way as part of a student-led activity or lesson. In addition to reading about and discussing a wide variety of pedagogical issues, requirements will include leading a class, participating actively each week, writing weekly journal entries, and, at the end of the semester, writing a statement of teaching philosophy that could accompany a job application.
Sonic Approaches in Literary Studies — Fall 2022
603.2 A, Wednesdays, 14:45 to 17:00, Jason Camlot (theory)
This seminar is designed to explore, discuss and develop sound-focused studies of literary works, events and performances in a manner that draws connections between the fields of literary studies and sound studies. The past 20+ years have yielded a rich field of critical work that explores the relationship between literature and sound, both on and off the page, going back to the edited collections of Adelaide Morris (Sound States, 1997) and Charles Bernstein (Close Listening, 1998), to the special issue of ESC edited by Louis Cabri and Peter Quartermain (On Discreteness: Event and Sound in Poetry, 33.4 2007), up to recent studies by Katherine Robson (Heartbeats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem, 2012), Raphael Allison (Bodies on the Line, 2014), Matthew Rubery (The Untold Story of the Talking Book, 2016), Jennifer Stoever (The Sonic Color Line, 2016), Jason Camlot (Phonopoetics, 2019), among many others. This body of criticism has explored how sound, hearing and listening have been represented in literary works of different periods, and, increasingly, has focused on the cultural significance of literary representation, production, and performance when it is manifest as sound in events and documentary recordings of literary performances, readings, storytelling, sound poetry, and literary sound art. Sound Studies is an interdisciplinary field of research and theopry that focuses on audible events and their related social, institutional and technological contexts. It deploys methods of inquiry from media history (Jonathan Sterne, Lisa Gitelman), cultural studies (David Morton; Jacob Smith; Emily Thompson), philosophy and phenomenology (Don Ihde; Salomé Voegelin; James Steintrager and Rey Chow), disability studies (Mara Mills; Michele Freidner and Stefan Helmreich), Indigenous studies (Dylan Robinson), critical race studies (Nina Eidsheim; Nicole Furlonge), film studies (Michel Chion), rhetoric (Steph Cesaro), among many others. It also represents a significant, emergent branch of digital humanities that focuses on methods of analyzing and presenting audio signals in digital environments (Tanya Clement; Damon Krukowski). Literary sound studies, the still speculative interdisciplinary field of theories and interpretive methods we will explore, approaches literary history and poetics through engagement with new sonic concepts and entities, and potentially opens a range of new approaches to researching, conceptualizing, and understanding “the literary” and literary cultures.
Lyric and Lyrics: Song and Poetry in the Renaissance and Beyond — Winter 2023
603.4 B, Thursdays, 14:45 to 17:00, Kevin Pask (period)
Are song lyrics poetry? “Lyric” applies both to the dominant form of modern poetry and to song lyrics. The ancient Greeks classified lyric poetry by its musical accompaniment (the lyre, among other instruments). In the Renaissance, there was often at least a nominal connection between song and poetry, but often a practical connection as well. Thomas Wyatt refers to playing the lute to accompany his words. Thomas Campion was best known as a song lyricist. Shakespeare wrote songs for several of his plays, some of which approach the status of musicals, and it is likely that the songs were well known outside the theatre as well. Beyond the Renaissance period, the class will examine some key moments for the literary use of song, centrally including the ballad tradition (John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera and Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads). The traditional ballad is also important for the literary status often granted to the songwriters associated with the Folk Revival of the twentieth century. The course will conclude with a discussion of the “lyrical” status of the song tradition that includes Vachel Lindsay and Langston Hughes, Tin Pan Alley songwriters, the libretti and song lyrics of W. H. Auden, Gil Scott Heron, and the collaboration of the lyricist and musician Warren Zevon with the poet Paul Muldoon.
Some of the critical/theoretical texts will include John Hollander, James Winn, Maureen McLane, Jonathan Culler, Elizabeth Helsinger, and Philip Furia (on Tin Pan Alley).
Gothic Across Media — Fall 2022
604.2 AA, Tuesdays, 18:00 to 20:15, Marcie Frank (period/theory)
In this course we look at 18th-century Gothic in print and performance and at a range of later adaptations across media in order to identify its atmospheres, moods, compulsions, and the techniques used to sustain them. The goal is to come to an understanding of its elements, affects, and the relations to media at its roots in order to see if and how these inform its more recent branches. We explore the concepts needed to study Gothic: affect, genre, media, mood, archive, technology, and embodiment.
Texts will include:
Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto and The Mysterious Mother plus Jan Svankmajer
Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest and James Boaden, The Count of Narbonne
Godwin Caleb Williams, and Pixérécourt’s adaptation
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and multiple Frankensteins on stage/screen
E.A. Poe in print and on screen (Roger Corman)
Resisting Redemption — Winter 2023
604.4 BB, Wednesdays, 18:00 to 20:15, Nicola Nixon (theory)
In Mary Gaitskill’s “Connection,” in Bad Behavior, Susan tells her friend Leisha, in response to an ongoing talk about careers and direction: “I want to work at Dunkin’ Donuts when I get out of school. I want to get fat. Or be addicted to heroin. I want to be a disaster.” Although feminist critics have tended to emphasize the redemptive narrative of female power, subversion, and/or resistance in women’s works since the 1950s, there is a vein of women’s writing and film making that actively resists such a narrative. Rather than representing female victimization or empowerment, and thus creating a legible riposte to a monolithically-conceived “patriarchy,” the women whose work I want to examine in this course interrogate such simplifications. Their cinematic and literary texts offer women like Gaitskill’s Susan and Lionel Shriver’s Eva Khatchadourian, whose “bad behaviour” makes them distasteful, unsympathetic, and therefore not subject to any easy forms of feminist reclamation. They make problematic accounts of feminist uplift, accentuating instead such affective zones as disgust, shame, and abjection.
Possible literary texts/films:
Lizzie Borden, Working Girls
Joyce Chopra, Smooth Talk
Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior
Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Chris Kraus, I Love Dick
Lorrie Moore, Anagrams
Flannery O’Connor, selected stories
Lynne Ramsay, We Need to Talk about Kevin
Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk about Kevin
Connie Willis, selected stories
Possible Theoretical Texts:
Lee Edelman and Lauren Berlant, Sex, or The Unbearable
Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism, The Female Complaint
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams
Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror
Kaye Mitchell, Writing Shame
Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings, Our Aesthetic Categories
Elspeth Probyn, Blush: Faces of Shame
Silvan Tomkins, Shame and Its Sisters
Raymond Williams, Structures of Feeling
Chaucer and His Afterlives — Fall 2022
608.2 A, Tuesdays, 14:45 to 17:00, Stephen Powell (period)
This course has two main goals. The first: to offer graduate students grounding in Chaucer’s works sufficient for appreciating and understanding Chaucer’s influences on later literatures and for comfortable teaching of Chaucer in undergraduate classes. The second: to study how Chaucer, dead since 1400, has nevertheless lived on.
The first goal will be met through intensive study of parts of The Canterbury Tales alongside shorter works, and modern critical responses to these texts. The length of this part of the course will depend on the previous experiences of the seminar’s members.
The second goal turns the class from examining Chaucer within his medieval context to exploring post-medieval reception of Chaucer in both scholarly and popular works. It will engage, in ways determined in large part by student interests, the rich history of transmission and reading of, and reactions to, Chaucer.
Among possible topics: editorial work (more or less continuous from the fifteenth century to now); retellings, translations, and adaptations (in verse, prose, film, and TV, and aimed at children, students, and adults); and the political agendas of Chaucer’s fans and detractors (Chaucer as either a shining token of English nationalism, or something much, much worse, and everything in between).
In exploring these afterlives, we will grapple with a startling, long-standing binary: throughout the post-medieval engagement with him, Chaucer is held up as a prime exemplar of medieval authorship and yet also portrayed as a proto-modern writer who has burst out of the Middle Ages, rejecting the past’s sensibilities and confronting modern issues. Throughout, then, we will seek to understand Chaucer as a medieval writer but also the reasons for the varied cultural uses to which post-medieval “Chaucer” has been put.
No prior experience is required, but those who have studied Chaucer before will nevertheless find much new in this course.
“Talking Renaissance Landscapes” — Winter 2023
611.4 A, Mondays, 13:15 to 15:30, Darragh Languay (period)
“The Land speaks” is the title of Richard Helgerson’s chapter in his Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England, and in the twenty years since the book appeared the land has been speaking a lot. The reappraisal of topographical literature continues to call for altered conceptions of early modern attitudes to the environment and to embryonic forms of ecology.
An abundant yet discounted literature in the form of “surveys”, “descriptions”, and “chorographies” do not only, in Helgerson’s terms, define “loyalty to England as loyalty to the land,” but also imagine the land as agentic: “Every mountain, forest, river, and valley, expressing in their sundry postures their loves, delights and natural situations” in Drayton’s Poly-Olbion. In contrast to chronicles, these texts, for instance, find value in unimproved lands, border areas and wilderness. Indeed, the attitudes to the land in these books anticipate concerns now familiar to environmental criticism.
This emergent genre of writing has an influence on the way land is imagined as well as catalogued. Land becomes an agent of world formation and not a mere passive subject of dominion. In Paradise Lost Milton repeatedly invokes the newly adopted Dutch term “lantskip” to describe the vistas of Eden with a particularity and care that makes it a character of its own, as Rebecca Buckham and others have noted.
With attention as well to seventeenth century landscape painting, the course considers what happens when we read Milton’s Eden, Shakespeare’s Arden , Marvell’s Garden, Sidney’s Arcadia, Browne’s “Garden of Cyrus” etc. in conjunction with the proliferating proto-environmental literature, including William Harrison’s The Description of England and Michael Drayton’s topographical epic of England and Wales Poly-Olbion, as well as Anne Clifford’s chorographic writings. We will also examine the influence of this genre on such poems as John Denham’s “Cooper’s Hill,” Jonson’s “To Penshurst,” Aemilia Lanyer’s “Description of Cookham,” and Anne Kemp’s “A Contemplation on Basset’s Down Hill.” This course will consider theoretical models from Helgerson’s and Thomas’ historiographical re-evaluation of early modern nature in Man and the Natural world: A History of the Modern Sensibility to Jane Bennet’s vital materialism and exemplary extracts from the contemporary revival of chorography.
Idioms of Distress: Literature, Medicine, and Metaphor — Fall 2022
626.2 AA, Thursdays, 18:00 to 20:15, Omri Moses (theory)
This course investigates the way literature across the long twentieth century represents physical and mental distress, understood as a socially and culturally resonant prism through which we can examine diagnostic classifications, experiences of pain or difficulty, and understandings of personal or collective resilience. In psychiatry, an “idiom of distress” is both a fresh way of classifying or conceiving what was once referred to as “culture-bound syndromes” and a cross-cultural program of research that seeks to understand how linguistic concepts and metaphors, as well as political and economic processes, shape and construct mental disorders. As we explore such matters, we will be turning toward metaphor theory, asking how to understand the effects that language has on bodies and bodies have on our linguistic expressions. With this in view, we will study the tensions between less formalized ways that literary fiction, poetry, and memoir conceive and represent distress, which draws on prevailing cultural metaphors and folk ideas such as “nerves,” “thinking too much,” and feeling “stressed.” Then we turn to the influence of biomedicine, which seeks to systematize and abstract diagnostic classifications. Our purpose, as we move between literary and psychiatric discourses, is to trace their influence on one another. In the process, we will begin to see how literature contributes to or battles with the cultural forces that lead us to medicalize suffering. We will also focus on shifting cultural metaphors to historicize the ways that Euro-American literary culture makes new sense of human distress and interrogates new treatments and lifestyles.
The Contemporary (Re)Turn to Ethics — Fall 2022
627.2 A, Mondays, 13:15 to 15:30, Cynthia Quarrie (theory)
In Tiffany Lethabo King’s 2019 book, The Black Shoals, she argues that Black Studies must contend with North American Indigeneity, not in response to “political cajoling,” but rather as part of “an ethics of Black radical struggle, period.” In this class, we will unpack and explore the theoretical category of ethics that she points to in this statement. While the relationship between morality and literature has long been contested, contemporary “ethics” in literary and critical theory came to prominence in the 80s and 90s, especially in conversations between the prominent post-structuralist thinkers Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, as well as other such disparate writers as Martha Nussbaum, Wayne Booth, Judith Butler, J Hillis Miller, Enrique Dussel, and Alain Badiou. Recent years have seen a resurgence of explicitly ethical frameworks in writers such as King, Dorothy Hale, Paul Gilroy, Katherine McKittrick, Christina Sharpe, Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, and Matthias Fritsch.
In this class, we will revisit some of the major ethical theorists of the late 20th century, and we will trace a return to or a recentering of ethical problems and ethical frameworks in contemporary decolonial, feminist, queer, and ecocritical thought. The reigning questions for the class will be: Is ethical theory adequate to the properly political challenges of racism and neo-nationalisms, homophobia and transphobia, extractive capitalism and climate change? Where do politics end and ethics begin (or vice versa)? When we talk about literature, are we also talking about ethics? What are the tools that ethical discourse provides, and what is it about our moment that makes these tools seem necessary and urgent again?
Samuel Beckett and Modern British & Irish Drama — Fall 2022
636.2 A, Thursdays, 13:15 to 15:30, Andre Furlani (period)
Since the success of Waiting for Godot and Endgame in the 1950s, Samuel Beckett has remained among the most controversial and influential of modern dramatists. With attention to modern dramatic practice as well as to performance and media theory, the seminar examines Beckett’s work for stage, screen, and radio. The seminar also pursues its pronounced impact on subsequent British and Irish drama, including plays by Harold Pinter, Joe Orton, Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Marina Carr, Brian Friel and Sarah Kane. The focus is upon themes in Beckett that these dramatists developed in their own theatre, such as incarceration and other forms of confinement, ecological collapse, colonial subjection, sexual trauma, the master-slave dialectic, censorship, biopolitics, neurodiversity, and technological change.
Participants study recordings of stage, radio, television and film productions, and become familiar with the rich archival materials, such as Beckett’s theatre notebooks, letters, journals, marginalia, and commonplace books. Participants in this seminar deliver a presentation, circulate a short assignment, and submit a term essay on any aspect of the subject.
American Immigrant Narratives, Postwar and Contemporary — Winter 2023
655.4 A, Tuesdays, 18:00 to 20:15, Mary Esteve (period)
In Chang-rae Lee’s 1995 novel, Native Speaker, cultural informants (or spies) employed by corporate capitalists insinuate themselves into various American ethnic communities by pretending to belong: “Each of us engaged in our own [ethno-racial] kind, more or less. Foreign workers, immigrants, first-generationals, neo-Americans.” The casual rapidity with which this speaker delivers his assessment of the late 20th century’s convergence of (im)migration flows, fragmented transnational identities, and the rapacious global economy is but one indication of the vast gap between this speaker’s historical and cultural context and that of the late 19th century, when ethnic-immigrant narrative realism began to flourish in the U.S., and the trope of the “melting pot” predominated. Similarly, Lee’s speaker’s knowingness diverges from the narratives of confusion and struggle that mark immigrant fiction of the early post-WWII years. And yet, a novel from 1995 is by no means terminal: novels from the decades after 9/11 indicate even more extreme experiential, geopolitical, and narratological divergence from the “melting pot” roots. Legislative immigration policy of the 1940s and 1960s, for one thing, facilitated such divergences.
This seminar examines American immigrant fiction from the early postwar era to the near-present, with an eye toward the ways such narratives reckon with legislative, socioeconomic, geopolitical, domestic, institutional, and diasporic inflections of American and transnational experience. The seminar will attend to the specific literary and formal aspects informing these novelistic endeavors as well as to relevant theoretical and literary criticism.
Primary texts may include most (but, alas, not all) of the following: Nabokov, PNIN; Marshall, BROWN GIRL, BROWNSTONES; Cisneros, THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET; Mukherjee, JASMINE; Jen, TYPICAL AMERICAN; Lee, NATIVE SPEAKER; Díaz, THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO; Hamid, THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST; Cole, OPEN CITY; Adiche, AMERICANAH; and Ozeki, A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING. Theoretical and secondary criticism may include essays and chapters by Gayatri Spivak; Yogita Goyal; Rachel Lee; Paul Gilroy; Elda Román; Arjun Appadurai; Kwame Appiah; Stuart Hall; and others.
Classical Persian Poetry as World Literature — Fall 2022
665.2 AA, Wednesdays, 18:00 to 20:15, Reza Taher-Kermani (period/theory)
This is an advanced course in world literature. The goal is to introduce students to the literature and culture of medieval Persia and to explore the place and significance of this influential literary tradition in the canon of world literature. In doing so, the unit focuses on the history of development of classical Persian poetry, studying the works of poets such as Attar, Firdausi, Khayyam, Rumi, Sa'di, and Hafiz. Part of the design of the course is also to study the reception and representation of these poets in the West; classical Persian poetry has been widely popular in Europe and North America since the dawn of the nineteenth century. The course as such takes an interdisciplinary and transregional approach, studying the works of figures such as Sir William Jones, John Malcolm, James Morier, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Matthew Arnold, Edward FitzGerald, Louisa Stuart Costello, Jessie E. Cadell, Robert Browning, and Gertrude Bell. Bringing together some of the other sources influencing these texts, from Persian source material to travel writing, the aim is to explore the literary, political, and historical implications of British conceptions of Persia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
From Negritude to the Haitian Revolution: The Poetics of the Untimely — Winter 2023
668.4 AA, Mondays, 18:00 to 20:15, Nathan Brown (theory)
the poem is not a mill to
grind sugar cane certainly not
– Aimé Césaire, “Reply to Depestre Haitian Poet”
In Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal, Aimé Césaire refers to “Haiti where negritude rose for the first time,” and in his “Reply to Depestre Haitian Poet” he aligns a commitment to the poetics of free verse with “the mad chant of Boukman birthing your country,” referring to the Vodou oath at Bois Caïman which initiated the Haitian revolution. How exactly are we to understand this alignment of free verse and the politics of Negritude with the rupture inaugurated by the Haitian revolution, and with the role of Vodou within it? What are the implications of this relationship for understanding “romantic” and “modernist” orientations toward the politics of poetry and the poetry of politics? What are the implications of Césaire’s implicit claim to the revolutionary genesis of free verse—as an instance of retroactive, speculative, and poetic historiography—for our understanding of the relation between imagination and history?
Engaging with mid-century debates in Présence Africaine concerning decolonization, “national poetry,” and the politics of form, we will address these questions through close readings of works by Aimé Césaire and René Depestre, historical and theoretical accounts of the Haitian Revolution, and writings on Vodou. Throughout, we will try to understand the dialectical entanglement of poetic form, historical rupture, and affirmations of Black power across modernity.
Selections from The Complete Poetry of Aimé Césaire (trans. Eshleman & Arnold)
Aimé Césaire, Journal of a Homecoming / Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal (trans. Davis)
René Depestre, A Rainbow for the Christian West (trans. Dayan)
Historical and Theoretical Texts (selections):
C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
Caroline E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below
Nick Nesbitt, Universal Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution and the Radical Enlightenment
Colin Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods
Willy Apollon, Vodou: A Space for the Voices (draft translations)
Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica
Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti
Neil Roberts, Freedom as Marronage
Gary Wilder, Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World
David Marriott, Whither Fanon? Studies in the Blackness of Being
Anthony Reed, Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production
Texts from the debate on “national poetry” in Présence Africaine (1955)
Sonic Approaches in Literary Studies — Fall 2022
(cross-listed ENGL 603)
801.2 A, Wednesdays, 14:45 to 17:00, Jason Camlot
From Negritude to the Haitian Revolution: The Poetics of the Untimely — Winter 2023
(cross-listed ENGL 668)
800. 4 AA, Mondays, 18:00 to 20:15, Nathan Brown
Creative writing workshops
Please note that the creative writing workshops are only available to students registered in the creative writing option of the M.A. program.
Prose Workshop — Fall/Winter 2022-2023
672.3 AA, Tuesdays, 18:00 to 20:15, Mikhail Iossel
Hybrid Writing Across Genres — Winter 2023
673.4 A, Wednesdays, 18:00 to 20:15, TBA
Literary Essay & International Magazine Writing — Winter 2023
(cross-listed ENGL 429)
673.4 AA, Mondays, 18:00 to 20:15, TBA
Poetry Workshop — Fall 2022
674.2 A, Tuesdays, 13:15 to 15:30, Stephanie Bolster