Pre-1900 Courses

Pre-1900 text and architecture

Our department is committed to studying English literature in context, as texts indeliby connected to their cultural, regional, and historical moments of production. We also want our students to have a rounded and grounded experience of literature from different times and spaces, and a sense of the traditions and narratives of English literature as a discipline. For that reason, Specialists and Majors must take the historical survey courses ENGB27 and ENGB28 (which, as B-level courses, are also open to anyone), and are also required to take a certain number of courses with predominantly pre-1900 content.

The designation "Pre-1900" actually covers the vast majority of time that English has been around (let alone the millennia covered by "literature" as a broader category), and includes a wide variety of topics, texts, and areas of focus. We know that the idea of studying English from a past time can be daunting, but we encourage you to start exploring the trove of options as soon as you can in your undergraduate career. This page includes all the current pre-1900 courses offered for the year, and we encourage you to contact professors if you have any questions about content or expectations. Please also remember to check the Registrar's Calendar for any pre-requisites or recommended preparation.

Click HERE for Fall 2023, or HERE for a review of the Winter 2024 courses.



ENGB06H3 Canadian Literature to 1900

Instructor: Karina Vernon

A study of Canadian literature from pre-contact to 1900. This course explores the literatures of the "contact zone", from Indigenous oral and orature, to European journals of exploration and discovery, to the works of pioneer settlers, to the writing of the post-Confederation period.


ENGB27H3 Charting Literary History I

Instructor: Kara Gaston

An introduction to the historical and cultural developments that have shaped the study of literature in English before 1700. Focusing on the medieval, early modern, and Restoration periods, this course will examine the notions of literary history and the literary “canon” and explore how contemporary critical approaches impact our readings of literature in English in specific historical and cultural settings.


ENGB32H3 Shakespeare in Context I

Instructor: Heidi Craig

An introduction to the poetry and plays of William Shakespeare, this course situates his works in the literary, social and political contexts of early modern England. The main emphasis will be on close readings of Shakespeare's sonnets and plays, to be supplemented by classical, medieval, and renaissance prose and poetry upon which Shakespeare drew.


ENGC10H3 Studies in Shakespeare

InstructorLaura Jane Wey

An in-depth study of selected plays from Shakespeare's dramatic corpus combined with an introduction to the critical debates within Shakespeare studies. Students will gain a richer understanding of Shakespeare's texts and their critical reception.

Pre-1900 course


ENGC26H3 Drama: Tragedy 

Instructor: Laura Jane Wey 

An exploration of major dramatic tragedies in the classic and English tradition. European philosophers and literary critics since Aristotle have sought to understand and define the genre of tragedy, one of the oldest literary forms in existence. In this course, we will read representative works of dramatic tragedy and investigate how tragedy as a genre has evolved over the centuries.


ENGD89H3 Topics in the Victorian Period 

InstructorSonja Nikkila 

Topics vary from year to year and might include Victorian children's literature; city and country in Victorian literature; science and nature in Victorian writing; aestheticism and decadence; or steampunk.




ENGB28H3 Charting Literary History II 

Instructor: Sonja Nikkila 

An introduction to the historical and cultural developments that have impacted the study of literature in English from 1700 to our contemporary moment. This course will familiarize students with the eighteenth century, Romanticism, the Victorian period, Modernism, and Postmodernism, and will attend to the significance of postcolonial and world literatures in shaping the notions of literary history and the literary “canon.”


ENGB28H3 is a required course for our English Specialist, English Major. You can explore our degree requirements and routes through the program HERE.


ENGB30H3 Classical Myth and Literature 

InstructorLaura Jane Wey 

The goal of this course is to familiarize students with Greek and Latin mythology. Readings will include classical materials as well as important literary texts in English that retell classical myths.


ENGB33H3 Shakespeare in Context II 

Instructor: Jude Welburn

A continuation of ENGB32H3, this course introduces students to selected dramatic comedies, tragedies and romances and situates Shakespeare's works in the literary, social and political contexts of early modern England. Our readings will be supplemented by studies of Shakespeare's sources and influences, short theoretical writings, and film excerpts.

Pre-1900 course.


ENGB35H3 Children's Literature 

Instructor: Ryan Stafford

An introduction to children's literature. This course will locate children's literature within the history of social attitudes to children and in terms of such topics as authorial creativity, race, class, gender, and nationhood. 


ENGC22H3 Victorian Popular Fiction 

InstructorChristine Bolus-Reichert 

A study of popular fiction during the Victorian period. This course examines the nineteenth-century emergence of genres of mass-market fiction, which remain popular today, such as historical romance, mystery and detective fiction, imperial adventure, fantasy, and science fiction.



ENGC27H3 Drama: Comedy 

Instructor: Laura Jane Wey 

An historical exploration of comedy as a major form of dramatic expression. Comedy, like its more august counterpart tragedy, has been subjected to centuries of theoretical deliberation about its form and function. In this course, we will read representative works of dramatic comedy and consider how different ages have developed their own unique forms of comedy.


ENGC90H3 Topics in Classical Myth and Literature 

InstructorLaura Jane Wey 

This course pursues the in-depth study of a small set of myths. We will explore how a myth or mythological figure is rendered in a range of literary texts ancient and modern, and examine each text as both an individual work of art and a strand that makes up the fabric of each given myth.