D-Level Course Topics

D-level courses provide opportunities for more sophisticated study and are founded on discussion-based learning, and they require some independent work on the part of the student. These courses are generally restricted in enrolment and focus on seminar discussion. You need to complete any two C-level courses in English before taking a D-level.

If you are pursuing an English Specialist or Major, you will need to take one or more D-level courses to graduate. You shouldn't necessarily wait until your fourth year of study to embark on a D-level -- you might be ready earlier, especially if you have taken a C-level course in a similar topic or thread.

Most D-level seminars are "topics" or "studies" courses, meaning that the focus, approach, and texts may change significantly from year to year. Below you will find the current descriptions of this year's D-level courses, including the specific area(s) of focus. You should always double-check the Registrar's Calendar for information about pre-requisites or recommended preparation. We also encourage you to talk to professors about D-level options and expectations.



(Click HERE for a review of Winter 2020 seminars)


ENGD18 Topics in the Long Eighteenth Century, 1660-1830: Enlightenment Orientalisms 🍁

Instructor: Anne Milne

The focus will be on eighteenth-century English readings of and representations of Persian/Ottoman (Turkish) texts and cultures. We will be utilizing and extending the cultural critical work begun by Edward Said in Orientalism in 1978. The primary texts we will be reading are Arabian Nights Entertainments (the first English translation from Antoine Galland’s French translation, 1704-6), Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters (wr. 1717-18, pub. 1763), and William Beckford’s Vathek (1786). There will be some shorter readings as well, such as poetry and excerpts from The Travels of Mirza by Abu Taleb Khan (c.1810).

Pre-1900 course


ENGD30 Topics in Medieval Literature -- King Arthur in History & Fiction 🍁

Instructor: Jonathan Brent

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have been sites of fascination, fantasy, propaganda, and social critique for over 1,000 years. This course aims to critically analyze Arthurian literature from its earliest appearances in medieval history-writing and romance to its more recent treatment by the likes of Monty Python, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Kazuo Ishiguro. The course will highlight similarity and difference in the way the idea of King Arthur has been used across time to negotiate social and political issues, from royal authority to gender and race. How did medieval readers and writers use the story of the ancient king to bolster their own claims to power? How has the Arthur story been used to deconstruct idealized, whitewashed, or otherwise distorted representations of history? How does genre affect the presentation of Arthurian material, and how does it affect reception? We will consider questions such as these, among others.

This course will be delivered online, with synchronous meetings that include lecture and, for the most part, discussion.

Recommended Preparation: ENGC29 or ENGC30

Pre-1900 course


ENGD42 Studies in Major Modernist Writers 🍁

Instructor: Garry Leonard

Advanced study of a selected Modernist writer or small group of writers. The course will pursue the development of a single author's work over the course of his or her entire career or it may focus on a small group of thematically or historically related writers.


ENGD50 Fake Friends and Artificial Intelligence: The Human-Robot Relationship in Literature and Culture 🍁

Instructor: Marlene Goldman

This course will explore the portrayal of social robots in the cultural imagination in conjunction with literary and religious myths of creation. The topic is timely in view of the pressing and increasingly uncanny facets of non-divine, non-biological creation that attend the real-world production and marketing of social robots. While the course looks back to early literary accounts of robots in the 1960s, it concentrates on works written in or after the 1990s when, according to anthropologist Sherry Turkle, western society experienced “the development of a fully networked life” and “an evolution in robotics” (xii). Instead of “simply taking on difficult or dangerous jobs for us,” as Turkle explains, “robots would try to be our friends” (xii). This course explores the ethical, psychological, and aesthetic questions raised by our contemporary “robot moment.” To track the social, psychological and imaginative issues raised by the paradigm shifts associated with the development of social robots, this course pairs films, plays, fiction, and theory about robots with an analysis of their mythical underpinnings which frequently lead back to the biblical story of Genesis and classical stories of creation, including tales of Prometheus and the human artificer, Daedalus. The course’s primary aim entails grappling with the ethical and aesthetic questions raised by imaginative portrayals of transhuman relationships. Questions to be considered in reading literature about social robots in light of these myths include: how is creation figured? What or who is created and why? Who plays God? Who serves as Eve/Adam? Who is cast as Satan? What is the locus of the Garden? Who and what does it include and exclude? What does enclosure or escape from the Garden entail? What constitutes power/knowledge? And, finally, how does a particular narrative treatment of the social robot potentially alter our understanding of the mythical intertexts and, by extension, notions of divinity, humanity, gender, animality, and relations of kinship and care.

Readings & Films:

Louisa Hall, Speak (2015; ISBN 978-0-06-23910-9)
Isaac Asimov, I, Robot (1967, reprint 2013)
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Carel Capek, R.U.R. (1923, reprint Dover 2001)
Ex Machina
West World (HBO series)
Blade Runner
Her (available via Criterion)
Marjorie Prime


ENGD55 Literature, Politics, Revolution: Climate Futures 🍁

Instructor: Christine Bolus-Reichert

The writer Paul Kingsnorth’s entire career, until recently, had been taken up with fighting to save what was left of wild places. But as he explains in Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays (2017), mainstream environmentalism is failing, because it’s doing nothing to change how we think. In his view, that’s what stories can do, so we need to tell different stories. This course focuses on how stories about our climate future will help to shape it, the ones we read (memoirs, essays, and speculative fiction by Kingsnorth, Amitav Ghosh, Sonali Deraniyagala, Octavia E. Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot, and Doreen Vanderstoop) and the ones we write over the twelve weeks of the course: a “world-building” project in which students tell stories about their own climate futures.

Students’ contributions to the project will take whatever literary/artistic/critical form they feel will best express their vision of adaptation and survival. In addition to the seminar project, students will write four short reading responses over the course of the term and lead seminar one time (highlight part of the reading and pose three discussion questions to the class).

This course will have an IN-PERSON section and an ASYNCHRONOUS online section. Face coverings and social distancing are required for all students attending in person; in-person attendance is recommended, but not required.




ENGD26 Independent Studies: Creative Writing: Poetry 🍁❄️

ENGD27 Independent Studies in Creative Writing: Prose 🍁❄️

ENGD28 Independent Studies in Creative Writing: Special Topics 🍁❄️

The three creative writing independent study courses are taught by creative writing faculty — please see the Calendar for enrollment requirements and procedures.


ENGD02 Teaching Academic Writing: Theories, Methods and Service Learning 🍁❄️

Instructor: Maria Assif

This yearlong course explores the theories and practices of teaching academic writing, mostly in middle and secondary school contexts as well as university writing instruction and/or tutoring in writing. Through its 60-hour service-learning component, the course also provides student educators the practical opportunities for the planning and delivering of these instruction techniques in different teaching contexts. This is a great opportunity for students looking for practical applications to theoretical concepts, teaching-related opportunities in Canada and abroad, and courses aligned with the upcoming joint program in English and Teaching (2020-2021). Students in ENGD02 will gain an inter-disciplinary approach to writing and a service-learning component that helps foster connections with the larger community.

If you're considering a career in teaching, you might also want to check into the Combined Degree Program with OISE's Master of Teaching.


ENGD98 Senior Essay & Capstone Seminar 🍁❄️

Instructor: Yulia Ryzhik

An intensive year-long seminar that supports students in the development of a major independent scholarly project. Drawing on workshops and peer review, bi-monthly seminar meetings will introduce students to advanced research methodologies in English and will provide an important framework for students as they develop their individual senior essays. This course is strongly recommended if you're thinking about pursuing graduate studies in English.

Depending on the subject area of the senior essay, this course can be counted towards the Pre-1900 requirement. Also, please see the Registrar's Calendar for enrollment requirements and procedures.




ENGD05 Diasporic-Indigenous Relations on Turtle Island ❄️

Instructor: Karina Vernon

In this course we consider the possibilities opened up by literature for thinking about the historical and ongoing relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people on the northern part of Turtle Island (the Iroquois, Anishinabek and Lenape name for North America). How does literature written by both diasporic and Indigenous writers call upon readers to act, identify, empathize and become responsible to history, to relating, and to what effect? Students will have the opportunity to consider how literature can help address histories of colonial violence by helping us to think differently about questions about land, justice, memory, community, the environment, and the future of living together, in greater balance, on Turtle Island.


ENGD19 Theoretical Approaches to Early Modern English Literature & Culture: Early Modern Sexualities ❄️

Instructor: Urvashi Chakravarty

What does it mean to speak of (a) 'sexuality,' and what might it mean to think of sexualities as historically constructed, shaped, or prohibited? What is the relationship of 'sexuality' to desire, practice, embodiment, or identity? In this course, we shall read a number of early modern texts alongside critical work on gender, sexuality, and queer theory to address a series of questions: how our understandings of gender, sexuality, and queerness historically constructed and contested? How do we (re-) conceive of the role of acts or identities in articulating gendered, embodied, and/or sexualized selves? How do we ensure that we are reading intersectionally in our lines of inquiry? How might the field of early modern studies not only respond to but also inform work in sexuality studies? And how might these questions cast new light on matters of race, nation, empire, and colonialism; religion and theology; the environment and ecocriticism; class and capitalism; family and kinship? 

Course Features: Readings in early modern literature will include works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Donne; we shall also read foundational and current critical work in gender, sexuality, queer, and trans studies.

Note: Pre-1900 course


ENGD29 Chaucer's Early Works ❄️

Instructor: Kara Gaston

Advanced study of Chaucer’s early writings, from The Book of the Duchess to Troilus and Criseyde. Consisting of dream visions, fantastic journeys, and historical fictions, these works all push beyond the boundaries of everyday experience, depicting everything from the lifestyles of ancient Trojans to a flight through the stars. This course will explore the forms and literary genres that Chaucer uses to mediate between the everyday and the extraordinary. We will also consider related problems in literary theory and criticism, considering how scholars bridge the gap between our own time and the medieval past.

Note: Pre-1900 course


ENGD48 Studies in Major Victorian Writers ❄️

Instructor: Sonja Nikkila

In this seminar we will be diving into Charlotte Brontë's most famous novel, and then pushing it through the looking-glass as we investigate how different adaptations offer us different reflections on the themes, questions, and problems contained in the original 1847 text. We will explore how Jane Eyre has been translated into television and film, and also how other authors have responded to the "poor, plain, obscure and little" governess in their own works. The seminar format will encourage students to develop, discuss, and ultimately present their own ideas about how to "read" and "re-read" Jane Eyre.

Readings: Jane Eyre, alongside a selection of 20th century and contemporary re-visions, including the Gothic Rebecca (by Du Maurier / Hitchcock), Jasper Fforde's madcap alternate reality detective novel The Eyre Affair, Patricia Park's Re Jane (the tale of a biracial Korean-American growing up in Queens in the 1980s), a neo-Victorian riff on British Imperial identity and Sikh culture in Jane Steele (by Lindsday Faye), and Sharon Shinn's full-fledged off-planet science fiction retelling, Jenna Starborn.

Note: Pre-1900 course


ENGD60 Topics in American Prose ❄️

Instructor: Neal Dolan

Scholarship Kids: Self-formation through Literacy in 20th-Century American Memoirs, Novels, and Short Stories

Many prominent American writers of the twentieth century were the first person in their families, over many generations, to acquire advanced literacy. This experience, as documented in a range of remarkable memoirs, novels, and stories published unto the present, has been represented as vastly liberating, but also often acutely painful. It seems to entail both an exhilarating expansion of horizons and a difficult uprooting. In this course we will read a selection of such works in an effort to further our understanding of the affectively ambivalent process of socialization into the modern American-liberal symbolic. We will be especially interested in depictions of what Habermas calls “context shattering” – crisis moments in which the achievement of advanced literacy causes the “spellbinding authority” of long-established traditions to be demystified, destabilized, and perhaps transcended. Habermas argues that such “shatterings” are necessary stages in a forward path towards real human moral and political progress. We will ask whether these works support Habermas’s outlook. May we read the dis-embedded selves painfully achieved and powerfully described in these American bildungs-narratives as figures of human enlightenment and emancipation? Might these works thus provide secondary symbolic orientation and cohesion for members of dispersed, individualistic, liberal communities no longer gripped and bound by archaic solidarities?

Readings will include:

Richard Wright, Black Boy (1937) - memoir
James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955) - essay
Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman (1957; 2015) - short novel, first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird
Henry Louis Gates, Colored People (1994) - short memoir
James Farrell, My Days of Anger (1943) or a couple of short stories, or Young Lonigan
Alice McDermott, After This (2006) - novel
from Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory (1983) - short memoir
Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina (1992) - memoir
Tara Westover, Educated (2018) - memoir
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2009) - novel


ENGD91 Avant-Garde Cinema ❄️

Instructor: Garry Leonard

An exploration of Avant-Garde cinema from the earliest experiments of German Expressionism and Surrealism to our own time. The emphasis will be on cinema as an art form aware of its own uniqueness, and determined to discover new ways to exploit the full potential of the “cinematic."


ENGD95 Creative Writing as a Profession ❄️

Instructor: SJ Sindu (Sinduja Sathiyaseelan)

A practical introduction to the tools, skills and knowledge-base required to publish in the digital age and to sustain a professional creative writing career. Topics include: the publishing landscape, pitching creative work, and employment avenues for creative writers. Will also include a workshop component (open to all genres).