Current Graduate courses


The systematic study of effective composition, argument, and persuasion-€”the art of rhetoric-€”dates back at least to the epics of Homer and flourishes today in countless academic disciplines and spheres of social life. In fact, the historical “empire” of rhetoric is so vast that it “digests regimes, religions, and civilizations” (Roland Barthes). This seminar seeks to introduce students to some of the essential concepts, issues, and controversies in the history and theory of rhetoric by analyzing selections from key texts from antiquity and the twentieth century. In addition to demonstrating the relevance of rhetorical theory and criticism to a variety of social, intellectual, and cultural fields (politics, feminism, critical race theory, etc.), the seminar also explores emerging forms of rhetorical practice made possible by new media technologies, such as digital advertising and information warfare. Ideally, students will leave the seminar with a firm grasp of basic concepts of rhetorical theory and a deeper appreciation for rhetoric as an inventive, critical, and multidisciplinary enterprise.


This course introduces students to both the theory and practice of “Critical Design,” broadly construed. Critical Design is not a field of its own, but a mode of design thinking that is informed by critical theories and research methods from the arts and humanities. Critical Design can intersect with and draw on established fields of design from graphic and UX design to industrial and urban design. The course begins with an overview of the history of design as critique, before examining the recent emergence of research-creation practices such as speculative design, critical making, discursive design, and applied media theory. The positionality of designers and audiences will be considered in readings and assignments that focus on gender, disability, race, and class. Special attention will be paid to the design of media technologies and the infrastructures that support them, which involves methods in UX design, sustainable hardware design, and digital urban design. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of course materials through writing, design, and light fabrication.


This course is an introduction to research methods used in rhetoric and writing studies. Students will become familiar with a range of methods, including methods in technical and professional communication, mixed methods, and rhetorical field methods, among others. This course allows students to map a variety of methods while understanding the relationship between practices (methods) and theoretical frameworks (methodologies), allowing students to pair appropriate methods to their own research questions. Outcomes of this course are an understanding of how to design a research project and how to support it with methods that are appropriate, feasible, flexible, and ethical.


This course will provide students a forum for considering gender variation in the eighteenth century in relation to contemporary ideas of transgender identity and their relevance for literary study. The period between 1660 and 1820 is often viewed as one in which ideas of gender identity were changing rapidly and were at the same time less fixed than in subsequent periods. From Jack Halberstam’s Female Masculinity to Jen Manion’s Female Husbands, cutting edge theoretical and historical accounts of transgender have sometimes started or anchored their arguments in this period. In this course we will examine texts about sexual disguise, masquerade, hermaphrodites, sex changes, and queer sexualities to assess what they reveal about the expression of transgender identity in the eighteenth century. Writers and figures we will consider include Charlotte Charke, Henry Fielding, Mary Lacey, John Cleland, and the Chevalier D’Eon.


The Brontë novels upset, even repulsed, contemporary readers. A review of Wuthering Heights in Douglas Jerrold’s Weekly Newspaper says it leaves the reader “shocked, disgusted, almost sickened.” Sharp's London Magazine states that their writer refused to even submit a review of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, “so revolting are many of the scenes, so coarse and disgusting the language.” The Quarterly Review reviewer writes that “the tone of mind and thought which has overthrown authority and violated every code human and divine abroad, and fostered Chartism and rebellion at home, is the same which has also written Jane Eyre.” And Matthew Arnold finds in Villette “nothing but hunger, rebellion, and rage.”

This course attempts to recover the disturbing and radical vision of the Brontë novels, to explore not only what alarmed readers in their own time but also what that alarm might mean in our own. In conjunction with this exploration, the course will trace some major movements in literary criticism using the Brontë texts as a focal point.


This course will introduce students to theoretical frames and primary texts shaping the field of critical race studies from its inception to the present.

 Winter 2024


Blake is known for his exaltation of the “Human Form Divine”. However, his works abound with other living things - plants, animals, angels, devils, various mythological beings -€“ all endowed with kinds and degrees of agency in creation and destruction, connection to and alienation from the divine. This course will explore the diversity of beings in Blake’s visual and verbal productions, focusing on selected Illuminated Books. We will consider in tandem Blake’s radical reimaginings of the relations of human and non-human and of image and text where (for example) vines become letters, and a Dragon-Man, a Viper, an Eagle, fiery Lions, and Unnam’d forms are all workers in the Printing house in Hell.


It is difficult to underestimate the importance of Alice Walker 's 1975 essay “Looking for Zora,” documenting her rediscovery of the work of Zora Neale Hurston and search for the author’s grave. Walker’s excavation of the life and career of forgotten literary giant of the Harlem Renaissance inspired a generation of scholars to turn to the archive, in search of a lost literary history. The works of authors from Harriet Jacobs (Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl) to Harriet Wilson (Our Nig) have been researched, republished, and recirculated. From the Schomburg Series of African American Women’s Writing to the University of Virginia’s Regenerations Series, presses have invested time and resources in making lost texts and forgotten authors available to the public. This has not been without hiccups: white authors have been misidentified as black authors; black authors whose works did not survive have been exempt from such considerations. Scholars have staked their careers on competing claims to have discovered “the first” African American novel. Complicating this is the fact that works that have recirculated with the most success are more likely to reflect our current literary, theoretical, and/or political preoccupations. Market forces also shape what gets republished and by whom. If the aim of recuperation is to enhance our understanding of past literary and print cultures, what happens when we selectively embrace particular texts?


This course will provide students with a graduate-level introduction to the theories, methods, and materials of critical discourse analysis. CDA takes the view that most discourses reproduce and recirculate dominant social and political formations, that, in essence, everyday language practices and hegemonic ideology are deeply interwoven. Drawing on tools from grammar, linguistics, semiotics, Marxism, and social theory, CDA pries open otherwise opaque texts and practices to reveal that they are profoundly shaped by dynamic social forces and structures that are themselves realized in discourse. Power relations, in particular, come in for special examination: power becomes observable as the subject ventriloquizes the discourses that have in fact ventriloquized the subject. Social and discursive resistance is not impossible but submission is much more attractive. The aim of CDA is unapologetically old-fashioned: to contest oppressive social relations and practices by exposing them to the light of critical scrutiny. Case studies in this course will be derived from contemporary business and environmental discourses. Among the primary readings are texts by Marx, Bahktin, Jakobson, Austin, Bourdieu, Foucault, Althusser, Norman Fairclough, Deborah Schiffrin, Deborah Tannen, Teun Van Dijk, Gunther Kress, Stuart Hall, and Ruth Wodak.

Reading List:

The Discourse Reader (3rd. edition) edited by Adam Jaworski and Nikolas Coupland
Language and Power, Norman Fairclough
How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis, David Machin and Andrea Mayr


In this course we will explore recent writings about the Anthropocene—€” the era in which “humans act as a main determinant of the environment of the planet” (Dipesh Chakrabarty)—€”in conjunction with texts and concepts drawn from critical race theory and the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Th. W. Adorno, and Walter Benjamin). Theorists of the Anthropocene and eco-critical thinkers have especially taken note of the Frankfurt School’s critique of “instrumental reason” and modernity, with its notions of development and techniques of domination over both nature and parts of humanity. These and other features of Frankfurt School Critical Theory have also become increasingly relevant in recent critical black studies, where scholars reflect on the relation between modernity and the slave trade, and the concomitant development of notions of blackness that continue to mark our present. We will look at this critical juncture between three important theory formations in the wider context of theories of postcoloniality and non-domination. Some literary texts will serve as test cases, while students are invited to propose additional works for examination in these theoretical contexts for their final project.

795: Autotheory: Ethos, Persona, and Persuasion in Academic Writing (RCD)

In Teaching Queer, Stacey Waite1 writes about the need to make her queer identity part of her pedagogical practice -€“ to blend her personal and professional identities into a unified persona in order to better connect with her students. This directed reading course will explore the
concept of the professional persona by considering the ways we perform “self” and create academic personas within the classroom, professional writing, and online self-presentation to answer the question of whether (and how) the personal can be professional.

This course topic is best approached from an interdisciplinary perspective; to that end, readings will be drawn from the fields of rhetoric, auto/biography studies, and social psychology in order to explore the ways in which we manifest and write from our particular academic
personas. Key terms that animate this course include autotheory, automediality, persona, ethos, and the narrating “I.”

Returning to her teaching job just days after bilateral mastectomy surgery, Anne Boyer2 writes that she’s “expected to be bravely visible as a breast cancer survivor while my students have no idea what has been done to me or how much I hurt” (157). The aim of this directed
course is, as Boyer struggles with in The Undying, to find a middle ground between being always “bravely visible” and simultaneously invisible in the individual lived experiences that inform how we interact with the academy and perform academic work.

 Spring 2024


In the Age of Shakespeare, rhetorical training formed the core of the educational curriculum, and rhetorical practice lay at the heart of law, politics, and literature. For the aspiring poet and dramatist, “rhetoric” meant not just a nice turn of phrase, or even “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” In addition, rhetoric provided writers like Shakespeare with a multi-faceted toolkit that included a mode of intellectual inquiry, a technique of emotional identification, a means of character creation, a source of stylistic variety and richness, a thematics of political control or, alternatively, of political engagement, and above all a method for inventing and structuring exploratory fictions. In this class we will investigate Shakespeare’s relationship to the traditions and culture of rhetoric, and consider a number of prominent critical approaches to that relationship. Works to be studied include Othello, Coriolanus, Troilus and Cressida, The Rape of Lucrece, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, Richard III, and Henry V. Critics will include Joel Altman, Patricia Parker, David Norbrook, Lynne Magnusson, and David Schalkwyk.


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.


What exactly does nostalgia do? This question preoccupies writers in late 19th and early 20th century Canada. Their work offers several contradictory answers but consistently represents it as a feeling that catalyses action or change of some kind by, e.g., prompting scrutiny of some remembered past and/or fostering the imagination and pursuit of alternative futures. In this seminar we will examine a range of diverse representations of nostalgia in writing from this period in Canada, with a particular focus on the feminist, queer, and anti-imperial critiques that they make available. Writers on the syllabus may include Sara Jeannette Duncan, Edith Maude Eaton/Sui Sin Far, Winnifred Eaton/Onoto Watanna, Susan Frances Harrison, E. Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake, L.M. Montgomery, Marjorie Pickthall, and J. Georgina Sime; seminar members will also read a range of critical texts that may include Barbara Cassin’s Nostalgia: When Are We Ever At Home? (2016), excerpts from Tanya Agathocleous’s Disaffected: Emotion, Sedition, and Colonial Law in the Anglosphere (2022), and essays by Sara Ahmed and Badia Ahad-Legardy.


One of the controlling questions in the early days of Game Studies (i.e. about a quarter-century ago) was whether or not games tell, or indeed could tell, stories. On the one hand, this is a silly question, since anyone who has played even a card game such as Euchre can usually craft a story about how one or more hands were played. But because of the desire at the time to cast games in the media focus given to film, television, and even novels and short stories, it was probably inevitable that narrative become a studied element of how games function. English 794 examines the constantly growing body of scholarship devoted to the idea of story in games, drawing together strands ranging from the design of game content through the design of game mechanics. A central question guiding this course will be if we can identify a narratology of games; we will focus on digital games but address several boardgames as well.