Graduate Seminar Listings 2019-20

Below are the Graduate Seminars being offered throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Fall 2019

Instructor: Dr. Suzanne Matheson

Topic: Walking and the Landscapes of British Romanticism

Leslie Stephen argued that the literary production of the late eighteenth-century was due “in great part, if not mainly to the renewed practice of walking”. This seminar will test his premise by examining walking as an image, position and strategy within Romantic poetry and prose. Drawing upon a diverse body of poetry, essays, travel narratives and journals -- the work of authors such as John Clare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, William Hazlitt, John Keats and Charlotte Smith, as well as lesser-known travel writers and tourists -- we will consider the ways in which walking challenged aesthetic, social, cultural and political mores in the period. Several critical studies of Romantic pedestrianism, along with topographical, geographical and historical materials, will be consulted to provide a material context for our discussions. The relationship between walking, talking and writing, the aesthetic implications of moving through a landscape on foot, and the ways in which walking was theorized in the period will be discussed.

Pre-requisites: A previous course in Romantic Literature or permission of the instructor.

Required Texts:

•Walking Coursepack by CSPI to be available through UW bookstore

•Frederic Gros, A Philosophy of Walking. Trans. John Howe. London: Verso, 2015.

•Jeffrey C. Robinson, The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image. Rpt. Illinois: DalkeyArchive: 2006.

•Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Penguin, 2001.

•Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. P.Woof. Oxford:Oxford UP, 2002.

Instructor: Dr. Carol Davison
Topic: Gothic Monsterpieces, 1790s-1890s

Course Description

In this seminar, we will examine and critically anatomize the makeup and development of the figure of the monster in the genre of the Gothic novel across a century. As Gothic monsters literally “show forth” cultural fears and fantasies and, as Joseph Conrad insightfully maintains, “fashions in monsters do change,” substantial attention will be paid to socio-historical and cultural contexts. With an eye to assessing the viability of various critical approaches to the subject, a cross-section of historical and theoretical/critical essays on such issues as cultural teratology (a burgeoning critical field) and the figure of the double will be considered in relation to the ideological and artistic make-up of the monsters under examination. In all instances, attention will be paid to the complex nature of subjectivity, voice, and agency in each novel in relation to how each protagonist/monster is constructed and positioned in terms of such categories as class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation. As classic “monsterpieces” often dialogue with each other and constitute an ideologically and generically hybrid tradition of their own, consideration will be given to intertextual relationships — formal, technical, thematic, and ideological — in the thirteen novels under examination. Topics for discussion will include issues of genre, authorial narrative strategies, subjectivity and voice, the role of society/religious community/nation, the monster’s relationship to national identity formation (is there a specifically Scottish contribution to this tradition?), the monster and modernity (a shorthand term for broad social, political, economic, technological, and cultural transformations), and the monster in relation to death and changing cultural attitudes towards death.

Tentative Assignments and Grading

Each student must present a 30-minute seminar (with short Q&A) on an assigned primary source and one 10-15-minute presentation (with short Q&A) on an assigned critical secondary source. Written assignments consist of a conference abstract, two 5-page critical commentaries on novels studied, one 3-page critical article/chapter reviews, a summary of the seminar presentation, and final 15-page essay and annotated bibliography. Each written assignment must deal with a different novel. Students are encouraged to read as many of these novels as possible over the summer and are expected to come to each seminar prepared to provide feedback on the weekly readings and seminar presentations.

Primary Texts

Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796)

Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya; or The Moor (1806)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)

Charles Robert Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer (1822)

James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla (1871-2)

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

H.Rider Haggard, She (1887)

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

Marie Corelli, The Soul of Lilith (1892)

Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan (1894)

H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)

Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)

Richard Marsh, The Beetle (1897)

Instructor: Dr. Susan Holbrook

TOPIC: Stein and Steinians

While often under-read, Gertrude Stein has inspired a great many 20th-century and contemporary North American writers. Our aim in this course will be twofold: 1. to examine the range of Stein’s poetics through close reading of her works and attendant criticism and 2. to investigate the work of writers particularly motivated by Stein’s innovations. What have they learned from her? How might they extend and exceed the promise of her poetics? How do their texts reorient our own Steinian readings? In his introduction to The Yale Gertrude Stein, Richard Kostelanetz posits the “absence of visible influence upon subsequent women writers.” This course includes the works of four women writers “visibly influenced” by Stein, one associated with the Harlem Renaissance and four with contemporary innovative writing. Through the incorporation of contextual materials such as letters and poetic statements, we will address questions about how writing communities circulate and translate influence.

Tentative Assignments and Grading:

Seminar presentation 30%

Two response papers (500 wds. each) 20%

Seminar contribution 20%

Final Paper based on seminar (4000 wds) 30%

Primary Texts:

Gertrude Stein, Writings 1903 –1932.

Ernest Hemingway, The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway.

E. E. Cummings, Selected Poems.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying.

Nella Larsen, Passing.

Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems.

Nicole Brossard, Mauve Desert.

bp Nichol, As Elected.

Lyn Hejinian, My Life.

Harryette Mullen, Recyclopedia.

Sina Queyras, Lemonhound.

Winter 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Stephen Pender

TOPIC: Histories of Experience: The Essays of Michel de Montaigne

“If my mind could gain a firm footing, I would not make essays; I would make decisions; but it is always in apprenticeship, and on trial”: in the midst of “Of Repentance,” in which he argues that he portrays “passing, not being,” Montaigne courts the unstable, tentative nature of his form. The term ‘essay’ derives from the French noun essai, a ‘test’ or a ‘proof,’ and still retains vestiges of essayer, a verb that means ‘to attempt, endeavour, or probe.’ Although Aristotle, Seneca, and others establish many of its conventions, perhaps the first full examples of modern essays in European literature are Montaigne’s Essays (1580, 1586; first Englished by John Florio in 1603). Despite his ironic warning — “reader, I am myself the matter of my book; you would be unreasonable to spend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject” — this seminar will explore the entirety of Montaigne’s text, with a particular focus on the ways in which he represents experience, in which the Essays themselves mark the appearance of the ‘modern self.’ We then pursue the essay in early modern England, and consider the contemporary afterlife of the genre.

Tentative Evaluation

In addition to diligent and engaged class participation, students are responsible for five pieces of work during the seminar: [1] weekly response papers to questions and issues related to the readings; [2] an brief analysis of a recent article on our topic, in which you summarise and situate the author’s main arguments; [3] an oral report; [4] a conference paper presentation at a colloquium organised by the instructor; and [5] a research paper of publishable quality.

Sample Texts

Montaigne, The Complete Essays, trans. D. Frame (Stanford, 1958 [1580])

Francis Bacon, The Essays, or Counsels Civil and Moral, ed. B. Vickers (Oxford, 1999 [1597])

Sir William Cornwallis, Essayes (London, 1600)

Owen Felltham, Resolves (London, 1623)

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Nicole Markotic

TOPIC: “Speechless & Tongue-tied: The Mute Protagonist in Children’s Literature”: Disability, Deafness, Muteness, and Representations of Silence in Children’s Literature

I propose a course on children’s books that feature mute protagonists. Too often, when adults speak of “silent” children, they refer to metaphorical instances of children divested of agency, often prevented from telling their stories. But, there exist a plethora of stories about children who for various reasons (emotional, physical injury, trauma-related, or inherited disability) remain silent. While critics acknowledge that “children are othered, disenfranchised, and muted in similar ways” to women by patriarchal discourse and non-Westerners by Orientalist discourse, such a reading of muteness as only metaphorical leaves out the representative experience of characters who cannot – literally – speak.

In this seminar, we shall examine representations of deaf, Deaf, and mute characters in Children’s Literature, paying particular attention to how the notion of “disability” as a corporeal marker overlaps with and permeates the identity politics of Deaf culture. We shall look at the large corpus of disability and Deaf theory, ultimately applying these theories to books that reconfigure picture book characters and teen identity through this cultural corporeal marker.

Rather than invoking and working against the traditional didactic that “children should be seen and not heard,” in this course we shall explore stories that foreground mute characters. Given a recent IRSCL cfp that notes, “silence can be linked to what is left unsaid and that which is explicitly censored,” what role might an emphasis on the lacunae of representational portrayals of mute characters play in children’s literature? In addition to various cultural, historical, stylistic, and genre contexts, this course will increase students’ abilities to write and talk knowledgeably about children’s literature, and with critical insight and facility.


Students will be asked to give a formal presentation during term, worth 20% of the course grade. Participation in class discussions will count for 20%. Written assignments include a short 500-word proposal aimed at a children’s lit or disability conference cfp, will be worth 10%; and the final term paper (14-19 pp) is worth 50%.


Reading material may include the following: a course-pack of critical essays; selected fairy tales; graphic novels & picture books; junior reader books, and young adult fiction

Fall 2019 & Winter 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Louis Cabri


This two-term Creative Writing Seminar is an advanced writing workshop focusing on process, development and completion of new and original writing. It aims to encourage technical and stylistic variety in the art of language, including methods related to editing and to skills of reading as a writer. Students are invited to discover what writing means on their own terms within a supportive context of reader response and a framework of antecedent literary example. Workshop participation and attendance are fundamental to the goals of the course.

Tentative Assignments and Grading

Conducted primarily as a workshop, students write and submit their writing for peer and instructor response on a regular schedule, and prepare critical, constructive and detailed feedback on each other’s work. Readings and assignments will be required, including formal presentations. Grading will be based on all writing and presentations and on ability to read critically and participate in class discussions.

Required Readings

Seminar participants will be required to read a number of books and essays in a variety of genres. Some of these books will be selected during the term with input from workshop participants.


Students applying to the Literature and Creative Writing Program submit, with their application, a portfolio of representative creative work (20-25 pages) for faculty evaluation. Students in English who are not enrolled in Creative Writing are still eligible to be considered for this course on the basis of their submission of a creative writing portfolio. Please see the Department for details.