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.
In her landmark work Shakespeare From the Margins (1996), Patricia Parker observes that while popular and scholarly interest in Shakespeare endures, the details of his language – context, history, artistry – are subject to a curious critical ennui. Shakespeare’s language, Parker argues, is victim to a sense of "inconsequentiality . . . not only by the influence of neoclassicism but by continuing critical assumptions about the transparency (or unimportance) of the language of the plays” (13). In the decades following Parker’s assertion, the concerns that she raises have begun to be addressed. Recent years have featured a renewed interest in formal, stylistic, and linguistic approaches to Shakespeare. This course builds on recent innovative work, and borrows tools from the fields of discourse analysis, pragmatics, and linguistics, while also drawing on Renaissance ideas about language – the rich rhetorical context of the culture in which Shakespeare came of age – to explore what a new engagement with the complex language of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry might look like.
From its distant origins in Greek romance (in works such as Heliodorus’s Ethiopian Story) to contemporary romance and fan-fiction (such as Fifty Shades of Grey), the novel has perennially linked two problematizations: love and the individual. In this course we will examine the construction of gender, generation, and sexuality in novels and other fictions from Oroonoko to Frankenstein. As a genre, the eighteenth-century British novel was characterized by an immense inventiveness in narrative form and the devices of realism. This experimentalism has long been associated with the concurrent developments of philosophical empiricism and political individualism. Without abandoning these themes, our focus will be on the relation of “romance” to these and other developments, including changes in print capitalism and modes of female voice. The fiction of the eighteenth century is an exciting and vital genre to study, one that resonates with our own period of rapid media innovation. Working with a variety of novels by women and men, we will examine plots of blocked or forbidden love in sexual fictions, discourses, and rhetorics. We will also trace some of the key sexual discourses that influence and are incorporated by the eighteenth-century novel and, by extension, which influence the sexual rhetoric of our own media today.
The course explores black writing and cultural production in what is now Canada in national and transnational, hemispheric, and diasporic black Atlantic perspectives. Offering a survey of this important corpus, the course will also investigate how black Canadian texts and art appeal to their audience, how contemporary black Canadian artists use past texts and dimensions to engage audiences in the present, and what these works might mean for Canadian, diasporic, and North American literary and cultural debates. Both theoretical and literary texts and some films and other works of art will be studied to open up these questions. We will also look at some of the classic slave narratives, memoirs, newspapers, and other black texts produced earlier in what it now Canada. Against this background, we will study contemporary black Canadian authors and artists including Lorena Gale, Lawrence Hill, Mairuth Sarsfield, Dionne Brand, Wayde Compton, George Elliott Clarke, Esi Edugyan, Sylvia Hamilton, and Camille Turner. The final term work can include a digital or visual component.
Eugenics is defined as the science of "better breeding," has historically allowed people to justify racism, and is often connected to Nazi ideology. But Canadian and American eugenics preceded and in many ways inspired the German program, and eugenic ideas were very popular in Canada in the early part of the 20th century. In particular, Universities popularized these eugenic ideas and gave them research foundations. This course will explore the foundations of this eugenic rhetoric, examine and create archives of eugenics – in particular as they exist in Canadian higher education – and interrogate the futures of eugenic thought.
We will study the philosophy, construction, and deployment of the knowledge-representing structures known as ontologies, with particular attention to literary, linguistic, and rhetorical applications; that is, to the Humanities. Prominent among the ontologies we study are FrameNet, WordNet, and Rhetfig. We will build and link ontologies throughout the term, using the Web Ontology Language (perversely acronymized as OWL). Students will choose their own domains to model, preferably in groups.
For model ontologies, see
R. W. Emerson writes that “language is fossil poetry,” continuing a tradition of thought that would have the origins of language rooted in poetic expression. Mirroring this idea, poetry has long been interested in the historical dimension of the language it employs, even as knowledge about the nature, origins, and development of language (and our language) have undergone periods of radical revision. Though the “truth” of etymology (which means, etymologically, “a discourse about true meanings”) may hold little sway over contemporary thinking about language, poetry since Saussure has continued to find value in truths, myths, and fables that make up the life stories of words. In this course we will read a selection of poems and essays that have been animated by a historical sense of the language, along with recent theory and criticism addressing this topic.
This course looks at the theory, history, and practices of new media to understand how one constructs analysis of and critical objects in a network society. At the core of this course is the subject of Data & Society, where we look at emergent issues of big data ontologies, smart objects such as Internet of Things design, and critical points of discourse within this new terrain of information in relation to the built environment. If we have entered a network society, then the question of how information is produced and circulated in the form of massive amounts of data (big data) is an important research question in regard to how we shape our digital futures. These are futures that span civil rights and surveillance culture, but also the everyday experience of engaging with the place in which we live, such as wayfinding, locational information, and so on. The course addresses formulations of pervasive mediation and ubiquitous computing, post-human formulations of the subject, and constructions of epistemological systems—how do we “situate” ourselves within a world of networked information that has become “too big to know” (Weinberger). The class looks at a history of communication technologies from telegraph to mobile to pervasive in order to better understand the context and scale of contemporary media engagement.
The concept of the frontier has been a powerful signifier of American identity since the colonial period. This course will survey representations of the frontier in American literature and culture, including text, film and television, and videogames. We will pay close attention to the textual representation of race and its intersections with sex and gender, the representation of nation and national identity, the ways in which literary texts construct and deconstruct notions of territorial entitlement, and key terms in American frontier discourse including the concepts of “civilization” and “savagery.”
788: Disruptions, Interventions, Transformation: Digital Relations and Activism (RCD/XDM) - Condon, Morrison
The potential of digital activism to facilitate social change has been widely touted by ideologues across the political spectrum. Too frequently, however, digital activism succeeds better at providing exits from accountability than at making accountability actionable. How can digital activists cultivate relationships across lines of difference, build affiliative alliances, support intersectional activism and, hence, enact inter-movement solidarities? In this project-based course, students will develop conceptual and methodological frameworks for digital activism, and enact these in digital activist projects, extensively workshopped in class.
This course views the act of eating as a biological necessity that requires the confrontation of one’s relationship with others and with the environment. Eating and the process of digestion establishes that the boundaries between inside and outside, between self and other are porous. As such, as much as to be the eater is to be empowered, to be the eater is also to encounter one’s vulnerabilities and dependencies. Furthermore, it is to acknowledge how edible matter acts upon and in fact forms the body. Focussing largely on texts that render monstrous our appetites and our bodies abject/grotesque, this course asks what do we fear when we fear eating and/or being eaten. To explore these ideas, our course will combine a study of critical scholarship regarding such fields as Food Studies, the Body, and Race/Culture with a study of literary and other object texts (including television shows, advertisements, and awareness campaigns). Possible themes of study include capitalist consumption of bodies (transatlantic slave trade), the abject body, survival cannibalism, hunger strikes, eating disorders, and famine.
The idea of cultural politics has been bandied about for decades and there have been attempts to advance and enlarge political projects through cultural initiatives for centuries. This course examines cultural politics by studying the strategies through which it has been pursued: avant-gardism; infiltrating mass culture; establishing countercultures and subcultures; demonstrations with cultural intent; subversion and parody; realism and reportage. Although the readings are largely theoretical, presentations and essays will focus on specific historical cases, which may include examples drawn from the socialist and labour movements, feminism, gay and gender politics, the New Right and Christian conservatism, the civil rights movement, student movements, the punk subculture, and alternative forms of life (created and traditional).
This course examines the relationship between one of the most pressing social issues of our time, the question of refugees, and the longstanding problematic of representation. Analyzing a variety of texts—novels, plays, documentaries, policy, journalism, poetry, photography, etc.—we will launch an inquiry into how people seeking asylum have been imagined and represented, and how such representations determine or influence the ways they are understood and treated. Topics to be examined include humanitarianism, xenophobia, nationalism, diaspora, identity, and forced migration.
Focusing on media, this course explores critical infrastructure studies—an advanced understanding of the systems of work that organize/operate our “post-industrial” information society, as well as the structures that keep these systems invisible to media user-consumers. Organized in three parts, students will examine infrastructures of: media interfaces and (im)materiality; objects and ecologies; and subjects and bodies. Analysis will be placed on the ways in which the materiality of media—including natural resources, obsolete “old” devices, e-waste, outsourced Others, and bodies of labour—may be rhetoricized as objects and subjects of consumption and exploitation, or of inquiry and critical agency.
710: "A Little Art Upon the Blood": Shakespearian Persuasion in Theory and Practice (LIT/RCD) - MacDonald
Although humanism was closely associated with the rediscovery of key manuscripts of classical rhetoric, Renaissance theorists did not simply exhume the corpse of the ars rhetorica: they breathed new life into ancient rhetoric and put it to work for their own purposes. The plays of William Shakespeare offer us a striking example of this transfiguration of ancient rhetoric at work. Analyzing plays alongside key works of Renaissance rhetorical theory, this seminar will examine how Shakespeare took up and transformed—“figured” and “disfigured”—the models and principles of rhetorical persuasion drubbed into him at the King’s New School. At the level of practice, the seminar explores how Shakespeare retools the formal elements of classical rhetoric in the “quick forge” of his imagination, fashioning a vernacular eloquence that differs starkly from the Latinate sophistry of gasbags like Polonius. At the level of theory, the seminar examines how the plays interrogate the myths and mystifications of Tudor rhetorical culture, especially the humanist ideal of the civilizing power of eloquent wisdom. We shall see that Shakespeare’s critique of sophistry and rhetorical illusion serves a persuasive purpose of its own: it conceals the status of the play-world as a sophistic artifice, a virtual world or “living drollery” conjured on the stage by means of words.
A novel makes no noise as it sits in your hands. But the figuration of sound in fiction is crucial to the construction of phenomenal worlds, social realities, ethical subjects. Sight is our dominant sense. Held at a distance, the world is stabilized for the gaze. We might expect that sound, which surrounds and penetrates, will constitute worlds and subjects differently. Ethos, a term of rhetoric that takes in both “world-view” and “character,” notions central to the study of the novel, will guide our inquiry into this difference as it is explored in fictional representations and in narrative style – where the ethos of both author and character is bodied forth in prosody and pacing, modality and diction.
Recent years have brought new debates over which quantitative and qualitative methods are most effective in (1) uncovering the hidden anonymous, pseudonymous, and protest literatures circulating around the British empire in its dying decades (c 1875-1925), and (2) analyzing the era’s intertextuality. Who was influencing whom, and how? Drawing on literary and rhetorical writing from Canada, South Africa, India, and the Antipodes, we will explore, debate, and develop research methodologies that investigate this early global literature and its audiences. Students will be encouraged to engage in their own archival research of the writing in this era by exploring the many print venues that carried writers’ work abroad.
This course studies J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings from the standpoint of adaptation theory and literary/film semiotics, exploring in detail the three-part film adaptation by Peter Jackson (2001-3), the BBC radio adaptation (1981), and at least two game adaptations, one of which will be The Lord of the Rings Online (2007-current).
This course is an investigation and demonstration of hands-on approaches to the study and practice of Media Theory. Note how the term “hands-on” invokes simultaneously the conspicuous gender politics of contemporary maker culture, Heidegger’s concept of ready-to-hand (zuhanden) and a disability studies critique of handiwork. In this course, in students will look critically at experimental research methods, engage in careful media analysis, and undertake critical making projects without indulging in naïve statements about the value of physical labour. As the playful title indicates, the course is about both the creation of media theory as an academic practice (making Media Theory) and also the transformation of media into theory (making media theoretical).