Past Courses

Page Directory


Undergraduate Courses

University of British Columbia
ENGL 244: Unreal Environments in the Renaissance
Professor: Dr. Vin Nardizzi
Winter 2019 (Term 1)

What might utopia, floral still life painting, and a knight’s quest across an allegorical landscape all have in common? This course proposes that, in different ways, each genre tries to imagine environments that are “unreal”: they do not seem to adhere in a strict way to our prevailing norms of spatial and temporal representation. What can they tell us about environmental aesthetics in Renaissance England? And why might other artist-readers in the period have tried to map some of these unreal textual environments?

Course texts will include Thomas More’s Utopia, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene(selections), John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, and an array of art (including Hieronymus Bosch, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, and Rachel Ruysch). We will supplement these primary works with shorter readings in art and environmental theory that attend to techniques of realism, Renaissance practices of observation and description, and the histories of cartography, empire, and gender. In addition to active and engaged participation, students are expected to submit two short papers and take a midterm exam; there is no final exam.

University of British Columbia
RMST 221B: Animal Reading
Professor: Dr. Juliet O’Brien
Winter 2019 (Term 1)

What does it mean to be an animal? To be a human? And what does reading have to do with anything?

Animal studies and the environmental humanities are ideas that are increasingly familiar to 21st-century readers; viewed here through the lens of some of the finest and most intriguing literary works from the premodern Romance world, with important interactions with other literatures around the whole world and influences on them, and spanning a range of forms: from short poems to encyclopaedias, from fables to bestiaries, from saints’ miracles to dramatic multimedia satires.

What, where, and when is this “Romance World I: Medieval to Early Modern” of the course title? We’ll be in places where the linguistic relatives of today’s Catalan, French, Italian, Occitan, Portuguese, and Spanish are used; our two set texts are from the 12th and the 16th centuries CE, but we’ll be talking about manuscript and multimedia cultures from the 6th century onwards … and before and after, from an “in the middle” in the sense of not being in the beginning nor in End Times … and elsewhere: potentially adventuring anywhere in a Global Middle Ages, depending on where students’ interests take us.

We will start small: listening to a frog in a 12th-century Troubadour poem in Old Occitan by Marcabru, “Bel m’es quan la rana chanta.” We will revisit this frog at the end of the course, to see how our readings have changed along the way, and how we have changed through them.

Our two set / required texts in the main body of the course are originally in 12th- and 16th-century French; through them, we will meet animals in associated works from France, Italy, and Spain (and other areas where Romance vernaculars are spoken, in a multilingual world; our 12th-c. set text, for example, is from England). There will be reading about animals, of animals, and physically on animals (through online digitised manuscripts and books in the library); shape-shifting; animals reading (and speaking, interacting, and otherwise showing evidence of sentience and thinking); and reading humans as animals (via Montaigne). Along the way, readings and student presentations may converse with—for example—wolves, dogs, foxes, bears, birds, bees, donkeys, horses, deer, cats, squirrels, rabbits, snails, unicorns, hedgehogs, lions, chickens, sheep, fish, whales, otters, beavers (and of course frogs).

All texts will be worked on in English translation, though students will have the option, if they wish, of using versions in the original (or a modernized variant) in their final projects.

Douglas College
ENGL 2116: Being Bad in the Middle Ages: The 7 Deadly Sins
Professor: Dr. Noëlle Phillips
Fall 2019

Sin. This is an ugly and historically powerful word. Ideas of sin and salvation shaped the medieval Western European worldview. The hierarchy of the seven deadly sins – those sins which would endanger one’s soul – was therefore a commonly recurring theme in medieval literature, philosophy, and theology. However, everyone knows that sin is not simply deadly; it can also be fun. The very significance and intensity of the seven deadly sins meant that they had the attraction of the taboo.

In this course, students will read a range of medieval and Renaissance texts that take a variety of approaches to the seven deadly sins: intellectual, literary, theological, dirty, funny, fearful, and artistic, to name a few. We will find out what lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy, and pride looked like 500-1000 years ago – and discuss what they look like today.

Pacific University Oregon
ENGL 340: Estrangèd Woods; or, Theatre and the Environment
Professor: Dr. Elizabeth E. Tavares
Fall 2019

To survey fundamentals of genre, dramaturgy, and theatre studies criticism, this course explores the ways in which performance constitutes an environmental act. Organized into three units is a schedule of plays and other readings from a range of periods and perspectives. Some of these plays take place in nature, some are explicitly about ecology, and in some the environment becomes a political agent. To consider the spatial and material aspects of theatre, the class will attend a professional production in Portland (Macbeth), on campus (Orlando), and then students will have the opportunity to seek out and review a performance of their choosing. By developing a series of three interlocking essays that culminate in a final portfolio, students will have the opportunity to analyze a particular dramatic oeuvre and employ a specific theoretical lens as a means to interrogate the relationship between dramatic form and our environment.

University of British Columbia
ENGL 393: Natural History in the Anthropocene
Professor: Dr. Vin Nardizzi
Winter 2019 (Term 2)

In a widely-read essay, Dipesh Charkrabarty observes that “anthropogenic explanations of climate change spell the collapse of the age-old humanist distinction between natural history and human history” (Critical Inquiry 2009, 201). What, exactly, does Charkrabarty mean here by “natural history”? In pursuing this question, we’ll explore the history of this genre in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny and works by Francis Bacon, Margaret Cavendish, Thomas Browne, and Gilbert White, to get a sense of natural history’s goals, its adjacent fields of inquiry (antiquarianism, collections of wonder, experimental science, and encyclopedism), and its practitioners. We’ll then be in a position to assess this genre’s persistence in popular, artistic, and scientific writings about the Anthropocene, which is the new (and highly contested) name for our current geological epoch. Some of this writing even dates the emergence of the Anthropocene to the early seventeenth century. More broadly, we’ll want to ascertain how this body of writing incorporates and updates for the Anthropocene natural history’s abiding goals. Our primary readings here will include Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero, and Robert S. Emmett’s Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene (2018).

In addition to active and engaged participation, students are expected to submit three short papers; there is no final exam.

University of British Columbia
ITAL 403 (cross-listed with ITST 413): Within the Universe, the Universe Within: Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy
Professor: Dr. Daniela Boccassini
Winter 2019 (Term 1)

Undoubtedly the best-known among all poems written in the Italian language during the last seven hundred years, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy takes us on a most unusual journey. We begin our travels quivering with the wayfarer at the outskirts of a ghastly dark forest, and we end up basking in the blissful light of a cosmic embrace. What makes such a change of perspective possible? It is the journey itself, answers Dante, who in his visionary exploration of “the beyond” is taught by his teachers, Virgil and Beatrice, how fearlessly to plumb the abysses and expanse of the human psyche.

From exile to reintegration, from wretchedness to felicity, this is the story of a process of inner transmutation, whose liberating power has touched countless readers over the ages and across cultures. More than ever today Dante’s poem is apt to teach us, “on the wings of the night,” how progressively to uncover the vastness that lies hidden within every single atom of our own self, and of the universe that surrounds us.

In the words of Pope Francis (2014), Dante is “a prophet of hope, herald of the possibility of redemption, liberation and the profound transformation of every man and woman, of all humanity.” As such, he “still has much to say and to offer through his immortal works to those who wish to follow the route of true knowledge and authentic discovery of the self, the world and the profound and transcendent meaning of existence.” In order to do this, Dante walks a very thin line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, the path taken by visionaries of all times and spiritual traditions.

Dante’s cosmic perspective is more powerfully inspiring today than ever, witness the exemplary role his journey played in shaping the worldview of C. G. Jung, the father of analytical psychology, at the beginning of the 20th century, and at the other end of that same century, the “wild sacred” vision of Thomas Berry, the father of spiritual ecology. It is indeed as a “wounded healer”, as a “modern shaman”, and even more compellingly perhaps as an ante litteram ecologist and activist of the world-soul that Dante asks to be understood today — once shattering vision within the boundaries of society’s legitimizing and self-serving needs.

Graduate Courses

University of British Columbia
ENGL 510B: Medieval Humans and Beasts
Professor: Dr. Mo Pareles
Winter 2019 (Term 1)

As Cary Wolfe observed in 2003, regarding animals as moral nonentities is the epistemological requirement for reducing human others to animal status. Much medieval cultural production seems to rebuke humanist narcissism: in premodern literature we see hybrid human-animal saints, birdsong drowning out human speech, and wild predators as moral actors. But other literature—for instance, Middle English devotional poetry in which the child Jesus gleefully turns Jews into pigs—demonstrates that medieval authors were also well-versed in species denigration as a racial, religious, and sexual cudgel.

This graduate medieval studies seminar examines the boundary between humans and beasts, interrogating how racial, sexual, and other forms of difference overlap with human-animal difference in medieval literature and culture. We will also consider when and how questions of sovereignty and subordination, linguistic difference, disability, childhood, and queerness become affiliated with the bestial, and how both violence and eroticism use the beast as figure and alibi. Also of concern to us will be the relationship between animal studies and medieval studies, and the place of medieval animal studies vis-à-vis ecocriticism, critical race theory and decolonial studies, and other potentially overlapping disciplines.

Primary texts may include Old English riddles, the alliterative Middle English Siege of Jerusalem, the Early South English Legendary, Marie de France’s Bisclavret, Gerald of Wales’s History and Topography of Ireland, Marco Polo’s Description of the World, hunting manuals, and homoerotic love poetry. Theoretical texts will include work by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Mel Y. Chen, Bénédicte Boisseron, Karl Steel, Peggy McCracken, Kari Weil, and Tavia Nyong’o.

University of California, Davis 
ENL 232: Allegory, the Unthinkable, and the More-than-Human in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1596) and Amoretti
Professor: Dr. Tiffany Jo Werth 
Winter 2020 

Modern readers might think of Edmund Spenser as the author of one of England’s longest poems writ, as Ben Jonson quipped, in “no language.” An unfinished work, it praises Queen Elizabeth I, memorialized as Gloriana, Belphoebe, Cynthia, or the “Faerie Queene.” Yet while the poem seemingly shadows this human monarch, she barely appears and its world teems with what cultural geographer Sarah Whatmore terms more-than-human life: a “clownishe” and elfin knight, a mournful tree, an unfriendly dragon, false avatars, a crafty shape-shifting hermit, a resourceful dwarf, an iron man, gender-bending heroines, giants and a blatant beast, within an interwoven plot that tells of two rivers in love, a sea deity who sulks, graces and angels who disappear, self-guided lances, a headstrong horse and a happy human-cum-hog. This course explores the limits of literary modes such as allegory, the poetics of lyric, and the long form of the early modern romance alongside questions that stretch the meaning of “human.” Together, we will analyze Spenser’s “worlding” that anticipates many recent posthumanist theories (ecofeminism, the Chthulucene, game theory, geontologies, and other unthinkables).


Graduate Courses

University of California, Davis 
ENGL 246: Literature and Alchemy
Professor: Dr. Tiffany Jo Werth 
Winter 2019 

The seventeenth-century was an exciting time to live. One dynasty died out (theTudors) and another was beheaded (the Stuart); religious reform sparked civil war that pitted fathers against daughters, neighbors against neighbors; scientific speculation refigured nature; the very fabric of knowledge and being—matter and its elements—was split open to new interpretation. In short, all was, as Donne famously remarks, called “into doubt.” This course aims to study the creative energies such turmoil unleashed.  Our controlling metaphor will be the form of knowledge known as alchemy, a discipline which aims to transform not only base metals into gold but to figure the spiritual and psychological transformation of the individual. Its principal esoteric and religious symbolism enriches culturally important topics as diverse as early modern eroticism, natural philosophy, early science, spiritual elevation, technological experimentation, and, of course, the poetic imagination.

 We will study selected works of seventeenth-century poetry and/or prose, with a particular attention to close reading (literary devices and themes) and range from the metaphysical poems of John Donne to the ‘atomic’ poems of Margaret Cavendish.


Undergraduate Courses

University of British Columbia 
ENGL 553: 
Anthropocene: Nomenclatures, Histories, Criticism.
Instructor: Dr. Vin Nardizzi
Winter 2017

We live in an epoch that scientists have named the Anthropocene. But what, exactly, is that? This seems a question with an easy, if devastating, answer: the era of “man-made” (and irreversible) geologic change. In an effort to elaborate the complexities embedded in this answer, this seminar will introduce students to the multidisciplinary literatures that have recently and increasingly constellated around this designation. We shall examine scientific accounts that aim to establish (and ratify) the origin of the Anthropocene and to predict its global effects on climate and sea levels. We shall also read scholarship that critiques the underlying assumptions about the Anthropocene. We shall explore alternate nomenclatures for it (Anthrobscene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene) as well as the different narratives that these designations condense. And, finally, we shall take a semester-long view of the forms and formats that criticism has taken in response to the Anthropocene to measure, insofar as we can, whether this epoch is also changing the way scholars are conducting and communicating research.

Simon Fraser University
ENGL 410W: Topics in Early Modern English non-dramatic Literature

Fall 2017
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.

Graduate Courses

University of British Columbia
ENGL 510: Eco-critical Approaches to Early Literature: Beowulf.

Fall 2017
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.

Huntington Library and Simon Fraser University
Field Course in Renaissance Literature/ENGL
 831, Studies in Renaissance Literature
Renaissance Reformations: religion, print, and the natural world
Summer 2017
Instructors: Dr. John Craig & Dr. Tiffany Werth

Image: Creation by Lucas Cranach the Elder. From the Original Luther Bible, 1534.

The invention of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into English changed how people understood and interacted with the world around them. As religious doctrine splintered into competing truth claims, observation of the natural world, what Brian Ogilvie calls a “culture of describing,” gained momentum. The term “nature” and the human relationship to the non/human realms of animal, vegetable, and mineral as well as that of the supernatural realm (gods, demons, angels, saints) came under scrutiny. This course explores how the three forces of an emergent technology (print), church reform, and the “new philosophy” would redefine the early modern human engagement with his/her environment. Viewing the Renaissance as a key moment in the long history of environmental narratives, the course aims to consider how seemingly recent concerns about the anthropocene may have roots reaching back to the world of Renaissance literature.

Situated within the ongoing SFU / UBC Oecologies’ research collective (, this course will introduce students to early modern British literature at a graduate level and to archival research in early print and manuscript materials at the Huntington Library, as well as encourage students to engage with the provocative ways in which premodern culture imagined its interpellation with the creaturely and non/human world.

This course has two segments: Introduction to Huntington Library Archives (field module held at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA): 21 – 28 May, & Simon Fraser University summer session 26 June  – 7 August 2017


Undergraduate Courses

University of British Columbia
ENGL 110, Approaches to Literature – Imagining Nature

Fall 2016
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).

University of British Columbia
ENGL 490, Literature Majors Seminar (3 credits)

Cli-Fi: Climate Fiction, or How Do We Witness Disaster?
Spring 2017
Instructor: Dr. Robert Rouse

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?

Graduate Courses

University of British Columbia
ENGL 502A-002, Studies in Criticism (3 credits) – Ecocriticism

Instructor: Dr. Robert Rouse
Fall 2017

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.

Simon Fraser University
ENGL 830, Studies in Medieval Literature (3 credits)
The Black Death and the Literature of Medieval England

Instructor: Dr. David Coley

John Froissart’s terse summation of the fourteenth-century plague pandemic, “in 1347 a third of the world died,” turns out to bean 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 inEngland.”

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 Parlement 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.


Undergraduate Courses

Simon Fraser University
ENGL 410W, Topics in Early Modern English Non-Dramatic Literature (4 credits)
Singing Shepherds: The Pastoral Poet in the English Renaissance

Instructor: Nathan Szymanski

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.

University of British Columbia
ENGL 490, Majors Seminar – Literature (3 credits)
Some Versions of Renaissance Pastoral

Instructor: Dr. Vin Nardizzi

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.

Graduate Courses

University of British Columbia
ENGL 512A, Middle English Studies (3 credits) – The Material (of) Medieval Literature 

Instructor: Dr. Robert Rouse

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.


Undergraduate Courses

ENGL 491A, Senior Honours Seminar – Research (3 credits)
Shakespeare in the Wilderness: 100 Years of Shakespeare in Canada

Instructor: Dr. Patricia Badir

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 ( 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.

Graduate Courses

University of British Columbia
ENGL 515A, Shakespeare (3 credits) – Shakespeare and Nature

Instructor: Dr. Vin Nardizzi

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.

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