Pre-1900 Courses

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.


❄️WINTER 2020 PRE-1900 COURSES❄️

Click HERE for Fall 2019


ENGB28 Charting Literary History II ❄️

Instructor: Yulia Ryzhik

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.”


ENGB32 Shakespeare in Context I ❄️

Instructor: Urvashi Chakravarty

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.


ENGB39 Tolkien’s Middle Ages ❄️

Instructor: Kara Gaston

This course considers the relationship between modern fantasy and medieval literature through the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. A professor of medieval literature at Oxford, Tolkien used his academic research to develop the mythology, language, and literature of Middle Earth. This course will survey both Tolkien's writing, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the medieval poetry that inspired it, from Old English heroic epic to Welsh folklore. Throughout, we will consider how and why the middle ages offer such compelling material for 20th and 21st century fantasy.


ENGC27 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.


ENGC33 Deceit, Dissent, and the English Civil Wars, 1603-1660 ❄️

Instructor: Yulia Ryzhik

This course focuses on poetry, prose, and drama written in England between the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603 and the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, in a cultural milieu that was as rich in literary achievement as it was intellectually and politically votile. These tumultuous years, which witnessed the outbreak of the Civil Wars, the execution of King Charles I, and the establishment of a republic in England, also produced some of the most innovative works in English literature. Primary attention will be given to the evolution of literary forms and genres and to the polemical work done by literary texts to challenge structural, stylistic, and social conventions. We will focus on the close analysis of texts by writers such as Francis Bacon, John Donne, Ben Jonson, Aemilia Lanyer, Mary Wroth, George Herbert, Thomas Hobbes, Margaret Cavendish, Andrew Marvell, and John Milton, among others. As we read, we will examine how these writers grappled with fascinating questions about scientific investigaiton, the relationship between God and humanity, and the nature of introspection and self-understanding, and contributed to seventeenth-century debates concerning personal and political sovereignty, censorship, religious toleration, gender and social hierarchies, nationhood, and race.


ENGC38 Novel Genres: Fiction, Journalism, News, and Autobiography, 1640-1750 ❄️

Instructor: Anne Milne

The novel as a literary genre isn’t a given: it was invented and cobbled together from a myriad of disparate literary and popular forms. If you are intrigued by this, hop on and take a ride with us into what is probably the grooviest of all historical literary periods: The Restoration and early eighteenth century. We’ve got revolution, great fires, syphilis, smallpox, plagues, parties, story-telling sultans, cuckolds, and old-skool rappers, all rockin’ to the beat of Grand Master George Friedrich. Can you Handel it? Despite an early start time in the middle of a twenty-first-century Scarborough winter, we will be walking (mostly indoors), making (mostly writing for the web & 3D printing), performing (Restoration comedy, anyone?) reading and writing (it is, after all, an academic English course on the early, early novel): Milton, Bunyan, Pepys, Dryden, Defoe, Behn, Wycherley, Haywood, Pope, Swift, Montagu, Arabian Nights, Hogarth, and much more…(though not really too much more: it won’t wear you out or anything…).


ENGC48 Satire ❄️

Instructor: Yulia Ryzhik

An investigation of the literatures and theories of the unthinkable, the reformist, the iconoclastic, and the provocative. Satire can be conservative or subversive, corrective or anarchic. This course will address a range of satire and its theories. Writers range from Juvenal, Horace, Lucian, Erasmus, Donne, Jonson, Rochester, Dryden, Swift, Pope, Gay, Haywood, and Behn to Pynchon, Nabokov and Atwood.


ENGC90 Topics in Classical Myth and Literature ❄️

Instructor: Laura 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.


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.


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.


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.



🍁FALL 2019 PRE-1900 COURSES🍁

ENGB06 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.


ENGB27 Charting Literary History I 🍁

Instructor: Urvashi Chakravarty

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.


ENGB30 Classical Myth & Literature 🍁

Instructor: Laura Jane Wey

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


ENGB35 Children’s Literature 🍁

Instructor: Christine Bolus-Reichert

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.


ENGC10 Studies in Shakespeare 🍁

Instructor: Laura 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.


ENGC25 Victorian Poetry & Prose 🍁

Instructor: Christine Bolus-Reichert

An introduction to the poetry and nonfiction prose of the Victorian period, 1837-1901. Representative authors are studied in the context of a culture in transition, in which questions about democracy, social inequality, the rights of women, national identity, imperialism, and science and religion are prominent.


ENGC29 Chaucer 🍁

Instructor: Kara Gaston

Selections from The Canterbury Tales and other works by the greatest English writer before Shakespeare. In studying Chaucer's medieval masterpiece, students will encounter a variety of tales and tellers, with subject matter that ranges from broad and bawdy humour through subtle social satire to moral fable.


ENGC35 Imagined Communities in Early Modern England, 1500-1700 🍁

Instructor: Urvashi Chakravarty

A study of the real and imagined multiculturalism of early modern English life. How did English encounters and exchanges with people, products, languages, and material culture from around the globe redefine ideas of national, ethnic, and racial community? In exploring this question, we will consider drama and poetry together with travel writing, language manuals for learning foreign tongues, costume books, and maps.


ENGC42 Romanticism 🍁

Instructor: Anne Milne

A study of the Romantic Movement in European literature, 1750-1850. This course investigates the cultural and historical origins of the Romantic Movement, its complex definitions and varieties of expression, and the responses it provoked in the wider culture. Examination of representative authors such as Goethe, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, P. B. Shelley, Keats, Byron and M. Shelley will be combined with study of the philosophical and historical backgrounds of Romanticism.


ENGD14 Topics in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 🍁

Instructor: Yulia Ryzhik

Topic: Shakespeare and Satire

We will read several of Shakespeare's plays in the context of early modern satirical traditions, their sources, influences, and afterlives. To what extent did Shakespeare engage with contemporary debates over the form and function of satire--particularly the fashionable formal verse satire, with its cultivated harshness and obscenity? How do his plays compare with the more overtly satirical dramas of his contemporaries and rivals? We will consider satire from a theoretical perspective, especially in relation to hierarchies of class, race, and gender, and will interrogate the ability (or inability) of satire to address social injustice. Through plays such as As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida, Othello, King Lear, and Timon of Athens, we will see how Shakespeare puts diverse satirical modes into conversation and develops his own satirical strategies.