This page lists the graduate courses being offered in the current academic year. For a list of graduate courses offered in previous years, see Past graduate courses. For a list of graduate courses offered next year, see Future graduate courses.
The systematic study of effective communication—the art of rhetoric—dates back at least to the epics of Homer and flourishes today in countless academic disciplines and fields of business. In fact, the “empire” of rhetoric is so vast and enduring that it “digests regimes, religions, and civilizations” (Roland Barthes). Nevertheless, English 700 sets out to compress two and a half millennia of rhetorical theory and criticism into a single semester. More specifically, this introductory seminar aims to provide students with the grounding in rhetorical theory necessary for advanced study in rhetoric, communication design, digital media, and literary studies. To accomplish this goal, the seminar will introduce essential concepts, frameworks, and debates in rhetorical theory by analyzing key selections from foundational texts, both ancient and contemporary. The seminar will also demonstrate the relevance of rhetorical theory and criticism to a variety of social, intellectual, and cultural fields: law, politics, science, philosophy, etc. Finally, the seminar will investigate, with the help of guest lecturers, emerging forms of rhetorical theory and practice made possible by new media technologies: digital design, information warfare, computational gaming, and others. Students will leave the seminar with a firm grasp of basic concepts, an ability to analyze rhetorical artifacts, and a deeper sense of rhetoric as an inventive, critical, multimodal, and richly interdisciplinary enterprise—what Quintilian calls an “encompassing art” (ars circumcurrens).
“In the plays of Shakespeare,” Coleridge wrote, “every man sees himself” (and, we may add, every woman herself). For most of the twentieth century Shakespeare was celebrated as a secular writer par excellence, one whose skepticism in matters of religion miraculously mirrored that of many of his modern Western readers. In the twenty-first century, however, as religious extremism has changed the conversation in a post-9/11 world, religion has emerged as a central interest of Shakespeare studies. Shakespeare has been reinvented as a writer marked by both the knowledge of religion and a religious sensibility – though exactly what constitutes the latter remains the subject of lively debate. In this class we will join in this debate, asking what religion in Shakespeare meant then, and what it means now.
735: Three Voices in Recent UK Poetry (LIT) - Williams
The course will introduce students to the poetry and poetics of three prominent voices in contemporary UK poetry: Paul Muldoon (b. 1951), Kathleen Jamie (b. 1962), and Don Paterson (b. 1963). We will take for object texts their poems, literary essays, and critical prose, in order to think about their poetics, including how this is shaped by, and how it itself is shaping, the surrounding social, political, cultural, and literary landscape. In addition to their relations to each other, we will consider each poet’s place within the various literary traditions to which they lay claim and which lay claim to them—be these British, Irish, Northern Irish, Scottish, European, or American—as well as the difficulties of distinguishing national traditions in the contemporary context.
Marilynne Robinson and Cormac McCarthy are two of the most intellectually curious writers in the contemporary American literary scene. Their names are not often mentioned together, but they have much in common. Robinson, an award winning novelist and acclaimed essayist, has also become a public voice on theology, ecology, science, and democracy. She might be found in conversation with a biblical translator, an astrophysicist, or President Barack Obama. At the same time, McCarthy, a highly praised novelist, playwright, and screenwriter—whose apocalyptic prose is often said to carry the narrative weight and terror of the Bible—is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute, a think tank of physicists, anthropologists, economists, and philosophers who interrogate comfortable intellectual boundaries by asking the “big questions” about life and its meanings.
In this course, we’ll examine the rhetorical precedents for cultural, structural, and genocidal violence. Taking up the question of by what means citizens are called to participate (by omission or commission) in the construction and subsequent repression, oppression, or annihilation of a collective Other, we will examine primary historical artifacts including texts, images, and films designed to incite violence. We will look also at works composed or made in service of resistance, protest, and, finally, of witness and remembrance. Alongside these primary texts, we will examine the variety of ways in which violence and, in particular, the language of violence has been theorized by scholars within and beyond the field of rhetorical studies.
The Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) has proclaimed Waterloo Region as the "tech capital of Canada," based largely on economic activity generated by Blackberry, a culture of tech startups, and tech-oriented research and education based at local universities. Whether or not this claim is accurate, it points to a glaring irony: Waterloo Region is also the "Old Order Mennonite capital of Canada," and the tech hub of Kitchener/Waterloo is surrounded by communities that rigorously limit the use of technology in their homes. Why would an individual--or a whole community for that matter-- abstain from the use of advanced technologies? This question, which is central to this course, is posed not just in the context of Old Order Mennonites, but applies equally to contemporary trends in "unplugging," from Digital Detox retreats in California to the recent movement by French unions to ban e-mail communication for tech workers after 6:00 p.m. For some, the growing ubiquity of digital media represents a great achievement in human history, or even a turning point in human evolution. But there exists a persistent desire to unplug from our wired world, especially in response to information overload, the spectre of surveillance, or even as a form of resistance to what might be called the relentless tyranny of social media.
In this course, students will seek to understand why and how digital abstinence is observed in the Western World. We will begin by evaluating the attempts of various individuals and communities to observe digital abstinence, and we will tally their successes and failures. We will conduct our own experiments in digital abstinence, and ultimate create digital projects that (perhaps ironically) engage with digital abstinence for the sake of promoting the concepts of ritual, mindfulness, privacy, contemplation, community, and presence, among others.
Using the magisterial recent works of Mary Carruthers, The Craft of Thought and The Book of Memory, as well as Michelle Karnes’ Imagination, Meditation and Cognition in the Middle Ages and some of the broad range of theory on the medieval body, this course will focus on the ways in which the self resides in the world in medieval literature. We will use the conspectus of philosophical, rhetorical and medical works presented by Carruthers to read Chaucer’s House of Fame, Langland’s Piers Plowman and Thomas Hoccleve’s Series, and Julian of Norwich’s Book of Showings, four central works of the Middle English canon, all of which concentrate on human phenomenological experience and theory of mind. The complexity of interaction between mind, body and environment imagined in the medieval period — and the dense materiality of all of these — is unrivalled until the advent of twentieth century neuroscience, making cognitive critical approaches natural in this course.
This course offers an introduction to science studies and literature, with a particular focus on how “the experiment” becomes a structuring principle of the arts and sciences in the enlightenment’s wake. Originally connoting direct, first-hand experience, the “experimental” comes to signal, among other things, methods for producing objective or replicable knowledge; the domain of feeling or introspection, with echoes in the literature of sentiment and sensibility; or a trial or test with an uncertain outcome (and, by extension, attempts to try new, untested things, from poetic innovation to revolutionary politics). We will begin with a brief introduction to the emergence of an experimental culture of science, via writings by Spratt, Bacon, Descartes, and Locke. We will then examine how literary writers engage, adapt, and influence the idea of the experimental, above all in poems and novels that push the formal and conceptual limits of their genres. In addition to primary readings by writers including Edward Young, Horace Walpole, Anna Barbauld, the Wordsworths, and the Shelleys, we will read widely in the history and philosophy of science and recent critical approaches to experimental literature.
In 1998, Joe Lockhard estimated that as little as 10% of nineteenth-century African American literary production had been located. In the almost twenty years following Lockhard’s claim, our understanding of nineteenth-century African American literature has shifted significantly as once forgotten texts have been identified, republished, and engaged. Whereas previously male-authored slave narratives, abolitionist writing, and late-century realist texts were presented as definitive, we now have access to a more diverse roster of authors and writings, including newspaper journalism, magazines, novels, and more. At the same time, such recoveries have not been without controversy or confusion, as is evident in the cases of Hannah Crafts and James Williams. This course looks at canonical writings as well as recuperated ones with an eye to considering how amorphous the African American canon has been, and what role print culture, availability, and political movements might have played in the recuperations which continue to reshape it.
The course will explore implications of national, hemispheric, and postcolonial studies and consider relevant theoretical and fictional texts from various parts of the Americas. Besides theoretical work, texts under study include narratives of discovery, Native voices, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, slave narratives and other black nineteenth century texts from Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean, and novellas or novels from Cuba, Colombia, Canada/Quebec, and the United States, by Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez, Margaret Atwood, Jacques Poulin, Thomas King, and Toni Morrison.
In this course we will learn to see cities and urban space more generally as structures filled with meaning. The premise of the course is that cities are not merely built environments organizing our economic and social lives, but also systems of signs, which compose a meaningful world for the urban dweller. Meaningful, but not unambiguous: there are many different kinds of people in cities, who live in different places and interpret the city in different ways. Much of our attention will be directed towards conflicting interpretations of elements of the city, and to struggles over the shape and meaning of city space. As will become clear through the course, these struggles are conducted not only through writing on the city, but also via battles over the fates of neighbourhoods, over the shaping and decorating of the urban environment, over the development and use of space, and even over how one walks (or drives, or rides a bicycle). Ideally, we would spend a great deal of time actually wandering through cities, given that our concern will be not only with texts on urban existence but with everyday acts of interpreting the city. Unfortunately, a hands-on approach would prove unwieldy and perhaps expensive, so in the main we will content ourselves with different kinds of writing on the modern city: essays, novels, texts by architects, sociologists, and urban theorists. Much of the most significant writing on cities concerns places we may not have ever visited, such as Paris, Rome, New York, Berlin or Los Angeles. It's hard to think about interpreting a city we experience only through writing, so the fiction on the course focuses on a city experience only through writing, so the fiction on the course focuses on a city relatively close to home: Toronto. By examining writing on Canada's largest city (we'll watch a film on Winnipeg as well, so it isn't just Toronto) we'll ensure a point of reference beyond the fiction.
Introducing students to key concepts of method in digital media analysis and digital design, the course primarily takes workshop format. Students examine methods and apply design strategies to the conception, design, and production of a research paper or digital project. The course engages several forms of research methods including textual analysis, ethnography, design charrette, games, and peer review. Students read texts and address objects from different disciplinary orientations such as Actor Network Theory, ethnography, experimental interface/HCI, and Internet of Things, as well as work with professional media-design tools. The goal of the course is to ground students in methodological approaches to digital media studies, critical theory, and designed objects. The course does not require any background in media theory or design. Strongly recommended for XDM students.
CS698/ENGL795: Rhetoric, Argument and Machines DiMarco
The course will survey current theories of Rhetoric and Argumentation that are being applied to analyze and generate persuasive language in various forms of online communication. The course will also investigate how such theories are presently being used in computational algorithms for artificial intelligence systems.
Selected topics will include:
- Health Communication
- Scientific Discourse
- Serious Games
- Social Media
Rhetoric and Argumentation are intrinsic to human intelligence and reasoning, not only in formal situations like understanding chains of reasoning in scientific articles or legal texts, but in everyday life, where we constantly express our own, and evaluate others', sentiments and opinions, interpret media, judge politicians, and so forth, in order to understand situations and make appropriate decisions.
Studies of Computational Rhetoric and Argumentation—and how these subjects may be applied in persuasive language technologies—are bringing together researchers and practitioners from many disciplines, including Philosophy, Logic, Linguistics, Argumentation Theory, Computational Linguistics, Computer Science, Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning.
In this course we aim to develop a multidisciplinary approach through the interaction of participants from both the Humanities and the Computational Sciences. While the end goal for all course projects will be an artifact illustrating some aspect of a persuasive language technology, the artifact itself may be as varied as a model, a design, a prototype, or an actual implementation.
A novel makes no noise as it sits in your hands. But the figuration of sound in fiction – voices, tones, noise, silence; uses of music, song; departures from normative discourse; representations of speech as normative, idiosyncratic, othered; prosodic insurgencies – and the relative presence and absence of these – is constitutional in establishing narrators, phenomenal worlds, social realities, ethical subjects.
By convention, sight is our dominant sense and listening subordinate. Sight stabilizes an object world more effectively than does sound; it constitutes worlds and subjects in a certain fashion. We might expect, then, that sound, which surrounds and penetrates, will constitute worlds and subjects differently. We will consider such difference in connection with questions about periods (is postmodern fiction “noisier” that its precursors and does it accordingly produce different ethical subjects?); about the privileging of sight or sound as having a bearing on canons and margins; about what reading critically for sound will yield even where it seems incidental to a text; and about (most of all) the ethical implication – for some thinkers, central to the novel – a stress on sound reveals.
In order to think about sound, we will range across, in addition to literary theory and criticism, readings in philosophy, music criticism, poetry (where sound has been privileged), and anthropology. Primary texts may include works by Faulkner, Ellison, Kerouac, Pynchon, O’Connor, Morrison, Bishop, Delillo, McCarthy. We may give some attention to the soundscape of film.
Although colonial discourses were dominated by the settler-invaders who benefited most from them, the era’s literary and rhetorical texts also suggest a more disruptive exchange of views in the contact zone where migrants of all races, indigenous peoples, Métis, and imperial subjects met. Class participants will interrogate this exchange in the crucible of late empire (c1875-1930), when colonialism had created spaces, from South Africa to India to Canada, where the problems of imperial expansion pressed upon writers. Course readings include texts by Olive Schreiner, George Orwell, Fakir Mohan Senapati, and E. Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake.
If rhetoric is, as Kenneth Burke has it, the study of symbolic inducement—or, never mind Burke, as Aristotle has it, the study of available means of persuasion—then it opens up all discourses to investigation, even the allegedly most recalcitrant discourses, those of modern science. We will chart the ways in which rhetoric opens up science—far from being the autonomous and sacrosanct enterprise trafficking in pure truth and absolute rationality, science is a set of value-saturated social practices pivoting on the trade of suasions. By focussing on the theory and methodology of rhetoric with respect to science, we will be able to isolate the big questions of the field—the relation of rhetoric to truth and knowing, the reciprocal status of things and words, and the ethics of language. Theorists will include Carolyn Miller, Jeanne Fahnestock, Dale L. Sullivan, Nathan Crick, Xiaosui Xiao, Celeste Condit, Danette Paul, Davida Charney, and Aimee Kendall.
This course will survey qualitative methods in professional communication and user experience (UX) research. We will consider many examples and read broadly on topics related to research design such as interviewing methods and also online research ethics. In addition to becoming familiar with standard qualitative methods in professional communication and UX research, students will also explore innovative approaches to studying digital media environments. We will consider issues of reliable data, data collection from online sources, managing online data collection, data security, and ethical issues about collecting, aggregating, and sharing any data that may contain personal information. Importantly, we will learn to use this data we collect to produce knowledge with an ethical orientation. Building up to the major project, students will complete small assignments contributing to the research process, resulting in a research proposal as the final assignment. All class work can be tailored to students’ specific research program or interests at either the master or doctoral level.
This course aims to introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of sonic interaction design. Sonic Interaction Design studies the use of sound as one of the primary means of conveying information, meaning, and aesthetic and emotional qualities in an interactive context. It encompasses a range of technical and theoretical topics and concepts from a wide variety of disciplines. The course will introduce students to the use of interactive sound in a variety of media forms from a range of theoretical perspectives, and include a series of techniques and methods for sonic interaction design.
This course studies J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings from the standpoint of adaptation theory, exploring in detail the three-part film adaptation by Peter Jackson and at least two game adaptations, one of which will be Turbine's The Lord of the Rings Online.
789: Code Meshing and Translingualism (LIT/RCD) - Young