Table of Contents
ENGL 512A, Middle English Studies
ENGL 515A, Shakespeare and Nature
ENGL 491A Shakespeare in the Wilderness
ENGL 410W: Topics in Early Modern English non-dramatic Literature.
Instructor: Dr. Tiffany Werth
This course holds two interrelated aims: first, to consider how seemingly recent concerns about environmental sustainability and resilience within ecological thought may have roots reaching back to the world of Renaissance literature; and second, to ask how we as located moderns living on the west coast engage with premodern thought. How might our assumptions about early modern attitudes toward animals, birds, vegetation, and the physical landscape inflect our own perception of the natural world? The course takes its structure from the pervasive scala naturae (scale of nature), what modern critics have taken to calling the Great Chain of Being, which was imagined to stretch from heaven to earth, linking God, angels, humans, worms, and stone. We will consider theories of ontology—such as what makes a being, is matter stable or metamorphic, how is change determined, and what determines humans’ relationship to their environs? As we do so, we will bear in mind environmental humanist Ursula Heise’s call for an “eco-cosmopolitanism,” that imagines the global, as time as well as geography, through a local and present frame. In our reading, we will explore some of the seminal texts of Renaissance literature—including Thomas More’s utopian experiment, Spenser’s hybrid land of the Faerie Queene, the lyric vegetal ruminations of Marvell, Montaigne’s near heretical musings on creaturely life, and Milton’s attempt to justify the ways of God to men—alongside contemporary philosophies such as vitalism, new materialism, and ecocriticism.
ENGL 510: Eco-critical Approaches to Early Literature: Beowulf.
Instructor: Dr. Mo Pareles
In the face of ecological crisis, new forms of criticism have arisen to rebuke and remedy unsustainable dualisms between (on the one hand) nature, the inanimate, animals, bodies, objects of study, and the feminine, and (on the other) humans, culture, mind, creativity, analysis, and the masculine. In various ways, ecocriticism and its related methodologies—animal studies, speculative realism, and science studies—have challenged some of the most cherished protocols of Western knowledge production. Because these structures of knowledge are so entangled with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European thought, they have been particularly inadequate to the interpretation of earlier texts, or those produced far from colonial centers of knowledge production. Such literature, then, provides particularly rich opportunities for ecocritical analysis.
This course takes the Old English poem Beowulf, which has been a proving ground for so many theoretical regressions and renewals, as a case study for ecocritical and animal studies approaches to premodern literature. Inhuman forces (gold, seas, monsters, and many more) pervade this cryptic Old English tale of a warrior king, and the manuscript itself– a thousand-year-old book that has been mistreated and badly burned, with ragged edges and missing pages—exerts its own curious pull on the critical imagination. What happens when we decenter the human characters and allow these powers full access to our attention? In addition to discussing some of the current debates within medieval (especially early medieval) studies on ecocriticism and animal studies, we will also investigate how periodization and the legacies of colonialism and nationalism have informed previous readings of Beowulf, and discuss what categories and concepts we might use going forward. We will read Thomas Meyer’s experimental translation, with its rich poetics of place, and take advantage of our own location in place and time to engage particularly with contemporary Canadian and indigenous ecocritics such as Peter Cole, Nicole Shukin, Pauline Wakeham, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.
ENGL 110, Approaches to Literature (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Vin Nardizzi
Through the study of drama, fiction, film, poetry, students will outline some of the relationships between criticism and literature. Intended for students who have a strong interest in literature, this course will introduce all students to the fundamentals of university-level literary study and will furnish them with the skills to think and to write critically about literature. In lectures and in discussion groups, students will explore basic literary concepts as well as methods of literary analysis to enable them to excel in more specialized English courses at the second-year level and beyond.
The theme for this course, “Imagining Nature,” aims to provide a focus for students who may find the reading materials unfamiliar or challenging. Our readings and discussions will engage how literature imagines nature. These questions are central to our endeavour: how does literature shape our relationship to nature, and does literature about nature help us to think and act differently in an era of climate change? Our syllabus will be divided into mini-themes, all of which represent a powerful way that literature has imagined nature: “catastrophe” and “pastoral,” “picturesque” and “sublime,” and “cultivation” and “wilderness.”
We’ll mainly read poetry (Andrew Marvell, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Virgil, Sir Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, Walter Ralegh, Ben Jonson, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Gordon, Lord Byron); some prose (Jamaica Kincaid, Lydia Davis, Joseph Conrad, Ann Radcliffe); less drama (Tom Stoppard and William Shakespeare) and then watch one film (Wall-E).
ENGL 364A, Nineteenth-Century Studies (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Deanna Kreisel
The City in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
In this course we will read, discuss, analyze, and write about nineteenth-century British literature depicting cities and urban spaces. We will also read theoretical texts (both older and modern) that think through the meaning and symbolic significance of these spaces. What does the city symbolize for nineteenth-century British culture? What kinds of utopian hope does it mobilize? How does the traditional “country-versus-city” dichotomy organize ways of thinking about the possibilities of human life? What were the impacts of rapid urbanization and industrialization on British culture? How were these impacts experienced differently by different populations: women, children, marginalized “others,” the poor? How did the authors of imaginative literature respond to and shape these fundamental questions? The course texts will be organized around three British cities: London, Manchester, and Bath. Literary works will include: Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend; Arthur Morrison, A Child of the Jago; Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey; Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South; and shorter pieces and essays by Henry Mayhew, Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Engels, and others. We will also read a range of modern criticism and theory dealing with cities, urbanization, and critical geography.
ENGL 490, Literature Majors Seminar (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Robert Rouse
Cli-Fi: Climate Fiction, or How Do We Witness Disaster?
In recent years a new genre of speculative fiction has become increasingly popular; one that examines the impact of humans on the natural environment, and which speculates on the impacts of continuing climate change on modern human civilization. Cli-Fi – or Climate Fiction – has become a genre of pressing importance in recent years, acting as both a meditation upon and a warning against the now-inevitable impacts of global climate change. In contrast with post-Barthean notions of authorial agency, Cli-Fi also speaks with the urgency of activism; authors speak of their intent to make a difference, to change behaviours, to sound the warning bells that will engage change. Texts will include short stories, novels, and film, and will be read in conversation with critical and scientific writing. The course seeks to answer the question of how do we witness the disasters to come?
ENGL 120, Literature and Criticism (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Deanna Kreisel
Literature of the Anthropocene
An enriched course in English studies meant for students with a passion for reading; it is particularly suited to students intending to pursue an Honours or Major degree in English. In weekly lectures and discussions, we will read literary and critical texts dealing with climate change and the environment from a variety of historical periods and geographical places. You will be encouraged to read deeply, to reflect on and practise a variety of critical approaches to the texts you read, and to extend your abilities as thinkers, speakers, and writers. Authors will include William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, H. G. Wells, Margaret Atwood, Sigmund Freud, Jamaica Kincaid, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, Jeff VanderMeer, and others.
ENGL 435W, Topics in the Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century (4 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Margaret Linley
Making Nineteenth Century Literary Environments
“Nature never did betray/The heart that loved her”
William Wordsworth, “Tintern Abbey” (1798)
“Nature, red in tooth and claw/…shriek’d against [God’s ] creed”
Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam (1850 )
“By the plague-wind every breath of air you draw is polluted, half round the world”
John Ruskin, “Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century” (1884)
This course examines nineteenth-century British writing about nature and the environment in the context of our present situation of ecological crisis and digital saturation. We will consider this situation in terms of processes that were set in motion, or intensified, in the nineteenth century, when extraordinary expansions of industrial technology and the worldwide web of communication forged ever tighter links between metropolitan and colonial spaces and places. We will explore some of the ways nineteenth-century writers already understood the idea of nature to be inextricable from culture. We will reflect along with them on what nature, including human nature, is or may be. We will engage the period’s forceful literary commentaries on industrialization and its consequences together with no less affecting indirect expressions of unspecified mourning and unaccountable loss. Most importantly, we will ask why and how these formulations matter today.
ENGL 502A-002, Studies in Criticism (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Robert Rouse
This course will provide a graduate level introduction to Ecocritical Theory and Practice in the discipline of English. We will begin by examining the origins of of Ecocriticism alongside the rise of western environmentalism in the 1960s and 70s, before tracing the development of Ecocritical theory and the establishment of the field of Literature and the Environment in the 1990s, through to our own moment and the rise of the Environmental Humanities. Topics will include eco-poetry, ecofeminism, material ecocriticism and the ontological turn, intersectional ecocriticisms, debates about the Anthopocene, and the rise of Climate Fiction as a genre.
The course will not cover any one period of literature, but will instead seek to equip students with the theoretical and methodological tools to read ecocritically across literary material of their own choosing. Assessment will include a theoretical reading journal, a number of short response papers, and an analytical research paper.
ENGL 830, Studies in Medieval Literature (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. David Coley
The Black Death and the Literature of Medieval England
John Froissart’s terse summation of the fourteenth-century plague pandemic, “in 1347 a third of the world died,” turns out to be an understatement. Recent estimates culled from chronicle and documentary evidence as well as from modern epidemiological techniques put the mortality figures for the Black Death between 50 and 60 percent of Europe’s population, reaching even higher in the hardest hit regions. The demographic aftershocks of the catastrophe, a population collapse from which Europe would not fully recover until the mid-sixteenth century, affected every aspect of late-medieval life, causing or catalyzing many of the religious, economic, political, and social upheavals still used to mark the hazy line separating the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Curiously, while writers on the Continent frequently address the event of the plague directly — we might cite Giovanni Boccacio’s long description of disease’s progress through Florence or Guillaume Machaut’s moving lament for “great heaps of women, youths, / Boys, old people, those of all stations . . . dead from the buboes” — the literature of post-plague England shows a surprising reserve in dealing with the pestilence. True, Chaucer sets his “Pardoner’s Tale” in Flanders during an outbreak that “hath a thousand slayn” (CT VI 679) and Langland mentions “kene soores / As pokkes and pestilences” (B.20.97-105) near the conclusion of Piers Plowman, but the comparison between the subdued references in English poetry and the graphic evocations of the disease in Continental writing tends to reinforce the opinion, expressed most influentially by Siegfried Wenzel, that “the medieval plague experience left a surprisingly small and unremarkable imprint on the artistic consciousness and imagination in England.”
This course will focus on several major English works of the post-plague period, including the Canterbury Tales, The Book of the Duchess, Piers Plowman, and the writings of the Gawain-Poet, as well as less canonical works like Wynnere and Wastoure, The Plarlement of Thre Ages, and The Disputacione betwyx the Body and Wormes, in order to reassess the relationship between the Black Death and Middle English literature. In doing so, it will also engage with the growing body of criticism, both heavily theoretical and deeply historicist, striving not only to establish connections between plague and poetry, but also to understand the frequently understated and sometimes surprising forms in which those connections were manifest, the ways in which medieval English poets represented a traumatic event that fundamentally exceeded representation, the words they used to speak the unspeakable.
ENGL 833, Studies in Victorian Literature (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Margaret Linley
Digital Humanities and the Ecological Turn
The current expansion and exploration of digital space through such developments as cloud computing, big data, and the internet of things is paralleled by a profusion of ecological metaphors. This is especially evident in the emerging digital humanities. But the ecological framework that shapes the discipline’s paradigmatic self-understanding and underlying assumptions, in often surprising and fascinating ways, has largely fallen under the critical radar.
This course will take up the challenge of understanding what’s at stake in the systemic presence of ecological metaphors circulating throughout digital culture today and especially in the field of digital humanities, from the trees Franco Moretti cuts from “evolutionary theory” (Graphs, Maps, Trees) to proliferating “genetic texts,” “media species,” and “born digital objects.” We will begin by tracing developments in modern ecological thought in selected nineteenth-century literature (Wordsworth, Ruskin, Rossetti, Morris), evolutionary biology, and physics through the late twentieth-century media ecology movement and cybernetics. We will then follow this legacy in the work of Moretti alongside Matthew Jockers, Bethany Nowviskie, Katherine Hayles, and Jussi Parikka among others. We will ask what it means to think about digital ontologies in terms of species – with life cycles spanning birth, evolution, and extinction and with complex interactions involving enmeshments, mutations, migrations, and adaptations across platforms and through time. We will enrich our reading further with recent developments in global and postcolonial ecocriticism and theory, including Bruno Latour on the anthropocene, Jane Bennett on vital materiality, and Ursula Heise on eco-cosmopolitanism.
From digging, mining, and mapping data to the border zone interchanges enabled by interfaces – at both its depths and surfaces, ecology functions at the very nexus of the digital and the humanities. This course explores how ecological metaphors help us grasp the expansiveness and complexity of digital ecologies and provide a crucial epistemological grounding. At the same time, we will also want to consider how these functional, and at times inspirational, metaphors may also raise the limits of our comprehension as well as our political response to the increasing dynamism that lies at the heart of human experience in the digital age.
The seminar includes a hands-on opportunity to explore key ideas of the course in a digital ecology created out of a corpus of nineteenth-century texts about nature, travel, and emergent environmental consciousness.
ENGL 512A, Middle English Studies (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Robert Rouse
The Material (of) Medieval Literature
This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to medieval British literature at a graduate level. The course will ensure important period coverage for graduate students working pre-1900, as well as allowing more focused work for those specializing in early- and pre-modern literature. In addition, the course will involve an introduction to the frameworks of recent theoretical turns ranging across the geographical, spatial, ecocritical, transhuman, and the transtemporal.
A major theme of this course will be an engagement with the vibrant connective tissues and fluid network ecologies of medieval literature. Interfacing with the ongoing UBC/SFU Oecologies research collective, students will be encouraged to situate their work within an ongoing examination of the challenging and provocative ways in which premodern culture imagined its relationship with the non-human world.
ENGL 410W, Topics in Early Modern English Non-Dramatic Literature (4 credits)
Instructor: Nathan Szymanski
Singing Shepherds: The Pastoral Poet in the English Renaissance
This course will provide a study, rooted in the English Renaissance, of pastoral poetry and its accompanying models of love, lust, loss, sex, friendship, and competition. Our initial focus will be to analyze poems that respond to Classical literary forebears of the pastoral (Theocritus and Virgil). Then, over the course of the semester, we will track the proliferation of pastoral motifs into diverse poetic genres in England, first and foremost the epic, but also the ‘minor’ genres of the epyllion (mock epic), estate poem, and elegy.
Questions this course will investigate include the following: What is the basis of literary or poetic relationships during the period? Which models of lust and love become most associated with the pastoral? How does one embark upon a poetic / literary career? Why do so many Renaissance poets adopt the names of Classical shepherds? Alongside foundational pastoral criticism, we will read a diverse range of scholarship (studies of influence, Queer studies) to help us answer these questions and pose many others. But, mainly we will look closely at the poems themselves to see what they have to say. We will read poems by Barnabe Googe, Edmund Spenser, Mary Sidney Herbert, Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh, John Donne, Richard Barnfield, Ben Jonson, Robert Herrick, John Milton, and Andrew Marvell, among others.
ENGL 490, Majors Seminar – Literature (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Vin Nardizzi
Some Versions of Renaissance Pastoral
In this seminar we shall explore examples of English pastoral literature from the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. Since we would be hard pressed to provide a satisfactory definition of what “the pastoral” is, our central concern will be the multiple, shifting versions of pastoral figures that English Renaissance writers employed. We will study period translations of Theocritus, Vergil, and Horace; the pastoral verse of Christopher Marlowe, Richard Barnfield, Ben Jonson, and Edmund Spenser; the pastoral prose and poetry of Philip Sidney; and the pastoral drama of Shakespeare, John Fletcher, and Giovanni Guarini (in translation). Our texts will be accompanied by brief (but potent) readings by Raymond Williams, William Empson, Giorgio Agamben, Julian Yates, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Peter Erickson, Stephen Guy-Bray, Bruce Smith, Valerie Traub, Annabel Patterson, Paul Alpers, Louis Montrose, Robert Watson, and Ken Hiltner. Our discussions of pastoral texts, then, will range from Marxism to gender and queer studies, to intellectual history, to New Criticism, to New Historicism, and to animal and environmental studies. There are indeed many – maybe too many – versions of pastoral on offer in this seminar; it has clearly had something to offer successive generations of scholars. We will thus have to address, over the course of a leisurely term, why Renaissance pastoral literature has such explanatory usefulness.
Shakespeare and Nature
In Keywords, Raymond Williams famously observes, “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language” (219). Later in the entry on “nature,” after quoting several excerpts from Shakespeare’s King Lear, Williams remarks that the “complexity of meaning” exemplified in these passages “is possible in a dramatic rather than an expository mode” (222). Taking Williams’s cue, we shall explore in this seminar what it is exactly that drama, as an aesthetic form, can make evident about the full nature of “nature”; in so doing, we will, of course, aim to test Williams’s claim. Shakespeare’s plays and poems (King Lear, Pericles, Richard III, and the so-called “procreation sonnets”) will comprise the bulk of our readings. We shall frame them with shorter works of prose and poetry by Bacon, Montaigne, Hooker, Hobbes, Descartes, Spenser, Sidney, Ovid, Donne, and Herbert.
ENGL 491A, Senior Honours Seminar – Research (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Patricia Badir
Shakespeare in the Wilderness: 100 Years of Shakespeare in Canada
2016 is the quarter centenary year of Shakespeare’s death. This seminar will use this forthcoming occasion as an opportunity to look back over 100 years of Shakespearean production in order to think about how the motives of Shakespearean aesthetics have shaped, and continue to shape, Canadian academic and cultural institutions. We will combine the reading of Shakespeare’s plays (those most frequently performed in this time period) with archival and secondary material. We will consider the English travelling companies; local community theatre and Little Theatre productions; regional theatre productions; Shakespeare societies and clubs and we will look at the rise of the big Festivals (including Stratford and Bard on the Beach). We will also explore the relationship between the formation of English Departments in Canadian Universities and the rise of the sub-discipline of Shakespeare Studies in Canada and in the UK and the US. In other words, this project is a critical and commemorative endeavor that understands the quartercentenary as an advantageous moment in which to consider the role Shakespeare has played in the foundation of English studies in the academy broadly defined.
We will also think about the relationship (most poignantly defined by Northrop Frye) between a particularly Canadian ethos that seeks to anchor culture, and thus the culture of the academy, in a ecological aesthetic that remains fundamental to the twenty-first-century university. This is a pressing problematic to engage; indeed, UBC’s most recent vision document articulates a relationship between “place” and “promise” by means of a photograph that locates professors and students on a precipice, over a beach, gazing out onto the ocean, under stormy skies (http://strategicplan.ubc.ca/the-plan/). If one regards this image in the Shakespearean, mid-First-World-War contexts this course is proposing, these figures might as well be Gloucester and King Lear less stripped of their tragic (and, of course, romantic) registers than the institutional banner-head first suggests.
Students will be encouraged to attend sessions at the Shakespeare Association of America Conference that is scheduled to be held in Vancouver in the Spring of 2015.