Skip to main content

Curriculum and Courses

The English MA in Literatures of Modernity provides a high standard of literary education within a flexible program structure. The program’s principal goals are:

  • To provide a sustained, scholarly analysis of the literary forms of modernity, including conventional forms such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama, and less conventional forms such as digital poetics, life writing, the illustrated book, and manifestos,
  • To establish a foundation of research for PhD studies in English and related fields such as Cultural Studies or Comparative Literature,
  • To develop skills in literary studies and engagement that prepare students for a broad range of career options, and
  • To provide students with the opportunity to write a major research paper, to take up a practicum related to their program research, or to fulfill a combination of the two.
Core Structure of Program Requirements
This program is designed for completion by full-time students in three consecutive terms: Fall, Winter, and Spring/Summer.
Fall Term
  • Foundations
  • Elective Course
  • Elective Course
Winter Term
  • Professional Skills
  • Elective Course
  • Elective Course
Spring/Summer Term
  • Major Research Project or Practicum

REQUIRED COURSE:

LM8901: Foundations
In this team-taught course, students are introduced to key critical debates and theories concerning the literatures of modernity. Topics can include the study of modernity in relation to the following: the subject; science and technology; the metropolis; visual culture; gender and sexuality; ethnicity and migration; politics; others; rhetoric; the everyday and avant-garde; literary production and reception; modernity’s modernisms.

PROFESSIONAL SKILLS COURSES (PC):

Students choose 1 professional skills course from the following list of 7; a minimum of 2 PSC courses is offered in a given year. 

LM8910: Digital Publishing
This course provides hands-on experience in presenting cultural artifacts as virtual objects existing in an online environment. Students explore the theories and implementation practices of electronic scholarship in relation to the digital remediation and dissemination of physical materials such as texts, images, audio clips, and film. Topics to be addressed may include digitization, editing, metadata and markup, interface design, visualization, interoperability, and preservation.

LM8911: Literary Research Methods
Students learn to make use of a wide range of literary research methods that may include, but are not limited to, historiography, bibliography, ethnography, humanities computing, and archival theory. Students become familiar with local archival resources and accustomed to working with primary materials, including rare books and writers’ collections, as well as with digital archives.

LM8912: Modernity as a Public Event
This course allows students to work collaboratively on the organization of a public project such as a symposium, a conference, a lecture series, the launch of a scholarly website, or an exhibition related to any aspect of literatures of modernity. While the content and theme may differ from year to year, this course trains students in the planning, organizing, budgeting, advertising, and presenting of course content to the public.

LM8913: Writing as a Social Act
Two key assumptions of contemporary writing studies are that writing is both embedded within and constitutive of discourse communities, and that all writing is oriented to action: texts do things in the social world. In this course, students examine key theories and methods in writing studies from fields such as rhetoric, composition studies, genre theory, and discourse analysis, to enable them to analyze a variety of real-world texts as socially productive artefacts.

LM8914: Writing Scholarly Papers
This course equips students with the practical skills for academic writing in a range of formats, and for their work on the MRP. Students learn to develop an annotated bibliography, a research proposal, and an outline. The course also familiarizes students with computer-based reference systems and scholarly editing. Students learn to write professional abstracts, to write and present conference papers, and are encouraged to submit their work to scholarly venues.

LM8915: Writing Fiction
This course offers students theoretical and practical training in fiction writing, including genres such as the short story, poetry, and the novel, while providing training and experience in effective critical editing and feedback. Taking advantage of Toronto's vibrant cultural scene, the course helps students to enter the literary community by teaching them how to submit work for publication, encouraging them to participate in readings and book festivals, and introducing them to the publishing industry.

LM8916: Writing Literary Non-Fiction
Public culture is shaped through literary non-fiction in the form of reviews, feature articles, biography, cultural analysis, literary critique and more. This course provides theoretical and practical instruction in the craft of non-fiction writing in contemporary culture, giving students opportunities to engage critically and to produce essays in several formats. Students are introduced to different aspects of print and digital publishing, and learn the practical skills required to seek publication in diverse disciplines.

ELECTIVE COURSES (EC):

Students choose 4 elective courses from the following list of 20; a minimum of 7 courses is offered in a given year.

LM8931: Science, Literature, and Art
This course examines the connection between science, art, and literature. Students investigate how scientific narratives have influenced art and literature, and how they may be seen as works of literature. Potential topics include: the historical interaction of science and art; “pseudo-science” such as alchemy and witchcraft; conflicts between humanist and scientific values; and the implications of recent scientific developments such as the patenting of DNA and advances in the technology of cloning.

LM8932: Interfaces: Open Topic 
In this course, students examine the interrelationship between literatures of modernity and other art forms such as painting, photography, film, and music. Probing the formal, aesthetic, and sensory innovations of modern systems of representation, students investigate how the written word takes up and responds to the ideas, techniques, and representational strategies already present in other arts. The focus of the course may change from year to year.

LM8933: Literary Theories
This course affords students an in-depth examination of critical theories relevant to the study of literature and modernity, and to the rich and complex intersections of modernity and theory. The course may focus on a survey of theories, or on a particular movement or topic, such as: Russian Formalism and New Criticism; semiotics; reader-response theory; structuralism and post-structuralism; new historicism; postcolonialism; gender and queer theories; postmodernism; theory “after” theory.

LM8934: Studies in 18th Century Literature and Culture
The eighteenth century was a period marked by tensions and crises connected to the transition into modernity  between, for example, tradition and progress, passion and reason, sensibility and rationalism. The period saw the emergence of new aesthetic and literary forms, of radical political and Enlightenment thought, and of the modern form of identity known as individualism. Students are introduced to a variety of works including poetry, drama, and the new genre of the novel.

LM8935: Rise of Children’s Literature
Students trace the emergence of the modern category of childhood from the later eighteenth century through the ‘Golden Age’ of nonsense and fantasy in the Victorian period, taking into account literature written for child readers, pedagogical theories, medical and scientific writings on childhood, and legal and political discourses. Students examine writing for — and ideas about — children, in relation to contemporary theories of childhood and to the field of childhood studies more generally.

LM8936: Genders, Sexualities, and Humans
This course enables students to explore the changing relationship between being human and being sexual during the modern era. Topics may include: diverse perspectives on the modern body; the genders of literary genres; virtual sexualities, non-human sex, gender politics and animal rights; technology; and the place of the natural in queer aesthetics. The course familiarizes students with theories and methodologies such as genre studies, performativity studies, feminism, eco-theory, queer theory, masculinity studies.

LM8937: Modernisms
Recent theorizing has moved away from a monolithic understanding of Anglo-American modernism to consider a plurality of modernisms expressing multiple forms of experimentation across genre, gender, sexuality, race, and nation. In this course, students investigate some of the variants of literary modernism including the avant-garde, women’s modernisms, the Harlem Renaissance, Canadian modernisms, and others. Topics may include urbanization, new technologies, war, expatriate experiences, and the formation of modernist canons.

LM8938: Modernism and Auto/Biography
This course examines auto/biography within the context of modernist aesthetics and culture. Students consider how life writers drew on advancements in psychology, registered shifts in assumptions about gender and sexuality, and experimented with literary forms in order to offer new ways for conceiving of, and depicting, the human subject. In so doing, these writers heralded a uniquely modernist tradition of life writing. Authors studied may include Gosse, Freud, Strachey, Woolf, Brittain, Nin, and Glassco. 

LM8939: Studies in 19th C Literature and Culture
With its experiences of industrialization and urbanization, globalization and immigration, human and animal rights movements, and advances in science and technology, the long nineteenth century conceived of itself as a decisive break from the past. Yet, the paradoxes of modernity's engagements with the past can be seen in this period’s cultural forms, including architecture, painting, literature, and journalism. Drawing on a range of cultural expressions, students investigate the politics and poetics of nineteenth-century texts.

LM8940: Modernity and Identity
Modern literature and culture probes the notions of autonomous selfhood and stable identity. In this course, students explore modern identities and the practice of writing with a particular focus on the intersections of race and gender, culture and ethnicity. Topics may include: identity, displacement and assimilation; traditions and transitions; diasporic identities; class and ethnicity; memory and identity; and creativity and resistance.

LM8941: Modernity’s Others
Students engage with some of the key questions in postcolonial studies, and in particular with the representation of the Other in discourses of modernity. Topics change from year to year and may include: the figure of the Muslim, the (postcolonial) queer subject, the “primitive” other, and the relationship of the Other to narratives of progress, time, and history. Readings are drawn from a range of literary and "popular" texts, including feature and documentary films.

LM8942: Modernity and the Visual: Image and Text
The visual turn that profoundly marked the modern period required new techniques of observation and fresh paradigms for reading. Students undertake an in-depth study of verbal-visual relations in various historical contexts, from the late eighteenth century to the present. The focus of the course may be on one or a combination of the following: the graphic novel; poetry and painting; literary galleries and annuals; technologies of print, book production, and illustration; new media poetics.

Some students in this course have, in previous years, chosen to complete a Creative Project that allowed them to apply their knowledge of Victorian visual culture and the book arts. Last year, professor Lorraine Janzen also created a project and participated in the class presentation at the Arts and Letter Club. Using a variety of media and methods, students and professor visualized a Victorian text in material form, then wrote an Artist's Statement articulating the rationale behind their choices of text, layout, illustration, typography, and media. Their creative work and artists' statements are published here by permission.

LM8943: New Directions: Open Topic
This course allows students to conduct in-depth study into new scholarly directions in literatures of modernity, through the investigation of a single author, topic, or literary movement. Topics are set by the instructor and change from year to year.

LM8944: Diasporic Modernities
This course initiates a dialogue between modernity and the central concerns of diasporic theories and literatures, including language, history, subjectivity, and identity. Students examine diasporic "irruptions” into Western conceptions of modernity to determine how diasporic cultures and experiences reshape contemporary assumptions and fictional practices. The focus of the course will change and may be on any one, or combination, of diasporic cultures, including Caribbean, African, and South, West, and East Asian.

LM8945: Politics and American Writing
Emerson challenged American artists to create works that would articulate and sustain a native culture worthy of the United States’ rising presence in the modern world. Fragmentation, migration, and unprecedented intercultural contact  key features of modernity itself  exert considerable pressure on the ongoing politics of American writing. In this course, students address such topics as cultural nationalism, race and American identity, migration and immigration, and the interplay of literature and history.

LM8946: Psychoanalysis and Literature
The theorization of the unconscious and the techniques of psychoanalysis first developed by Freud exert a profound influence on modern literature, as do interpretations of Freud’s work. Although modern authors have often explicitly been mindful of psychoanalytic insights, literary criticism has deployed psychoanalysis as a tool in order to understand literary characters, narrative styles, reader-reception, and authorship itself. In this course, students investigate texts by such writers as Freud, Klein, Lacan, Laplanche, Kristeva, and Felman.

LM8947: Early Modern Literature and Culture
The course explores the birth of modernity in the flourishing literary and artistic cultures of the Renaissance. Across various European contexts, students examine such topics as individualism, global exploration and imperialism, the rise of Protestantism, tensions between religion and science, the evolution of the monarch and the state, changing conceptions of gender and sexuality, and new forms of theatre, visual and performing arts. Writers and artists studied may include Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Montaigne, Shakespeare and Milton.

LM8948: Studies in Rhetoric
While “rhetoric” commonly refers to empty or deceptive speech (“mere rhetoric”), in contemporary practice rhetoric forms an intellectual tradition and mode of critical praxis focused on the study of persuasion and action in discursive situations. Students learn about rhetorical theory and criticism by focusing on special topics in rhetoric, such as poetics, public discourse, and medical/scientific discourse, enabling them to trace how textual interactions are shaped by intersecting attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and motives.

LM8950: Unreal Cities
The metropolis has been central to the experience of modernity for millennia. Students explore such topics as the literary representation of architecture and space, the cosmopolitan imagination, the gender of cities, nostalgia, the divided city, the racialized and gendered city. The course may be organized historically or it may focus on the literature of a particular city or on the city within a specific literary movement such as Romanticism, Realism, or Modernism.