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Pre-1900 Courses

Gothic arches and medieval text artifacts

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 2021, or HERE for a review of the Winter 2021 courses.


☀️ SUMMER 2021 PRE-1900 COURSES ☀️

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 important literary texts in English that retell classical myths.


ENGD89 Topics in the Victorian Period ☀️

Instructor: TBC

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.


? FALL 2021 PRE-1900 COURSES ?

ENGB06 Canadian Literature to 1900 ?

Instructor: Karina Vernon

An examination of Early American literature in historical context from colonization to the Civil War. This introductory survey places a wide variety of genres including conquest and captivity narratives, theological tracts, sermons, and diaries, as well as classic novels and poems in relation to the multiple subcultures of the 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.

ENGB27 is a required course for our English Specialist, English Major. You can explore our degree requirements and routes through the program HERE.


ENGB31 The Romance: In the Quest of the Marvelous?

Instructor: Kara Gaston

A study of the romance a genre whose episodic tale of marvellous adventures and questing heroes have been both criticized and celebrated. This course looks at the range of a form stretching from Malory and Spenser through Scott and Tennyson to contemporary forms such as fantasy, science fiction, postmodern romance, and the romance novel.


ENGB32 Shakespeare in Context I?

Instructor: Yulia Ryzhik

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.


ENGC31 Medieval Travel Writing?

Instructor: Kara Gaston

Long before the travel channel, medieval writers described exciting journeys through lands both real and imagined. This course covers authors ranging from scholar Ibn Battuta, whose pilgrimage to Mecca became the first step in a twenty-year journey across India, Southeast Asia, and China; to armchair traveller John Mandeville, who imagines distant lands filled with monsters and marvels. We will consider issues such as: how travel writing negotiates cultural difference; how it maps space and time; and how it represents wonders and marvels. Students will also have the opportunity to experiment with writing their own travelogues.


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

Instructor: Anne Milne

An examination of generic experimentation that began during the English Civil Wars and led to the novel. We will address such authors as Aphra Behn and Daniel Defoe, alongside news, ballads, and scandal sheets: and look at the book trade, censorship, and the growth of the popular press.


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 response it provoked in the wider culture. Examination of representative authors such as Goethe, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, P. B. Shelley, Keats, Byron and Shelley will be combined with study of the philosophical and historical backgrounds of Romanticism. 


ENGD48 Studies in Major Victorian Writers?

Instructor: Christine Bolus-Reichert

Advanced study of a selected Victorian 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.


❄️ WINTER 2021 PRE-1900 COURSES ❄️

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.”


ENGB31 The Romance: In Quest of the Marvelous ❄️

Instructor: Joel Rodgers

A study of the romance a genre whose episodic tale of marvellous adventures and questing heroes have been both criticized and celebrated. This course looks at the range of a form stretching from Malory and Spenser through Scott and Tennyson to contemporary forms such as fantasy, science fiction, postmodern romance, and the romance novel.


ENGC10 Studies in Shakespeare ❄️

Instructor: Yulia Ryzhik

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.


ENGC21 The Victorian Novel ❄️

Instructor: Sonja Nikkila

In many ways, reading novels from the first decades of Victoria’s reign (1837-1860) is like being a stranger in a strange land. People dressed differently, spoke differently, and on some very crucial points (including gender, race, and religion) thought quite differently from us. On the other hand, these novels continue to be among the most widely read works of literature even today, and some Victorian modes of thought (especially on class, work, and wealth) are uncannily familiar to 21st century eyes. We will explore novels by Charles Dickens, Anne Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot (alongside modern film adaptations) in hopes of reconciling the contingency and specificity of the period with the veins of universality and timelessness running through these narratives.


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.


ENGC37 Literature and Culture, 1750-1850 ❄️

Instructor: Anne Milne

An exploration of literature and literary culture during the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. We will trace the development of consciously national culture, and birth of the concepts of high, middle, and low cultures. Authors may include Johnson, Boswell, Burney, Sheridan, Yearsley, Blake, and Wordsworth.


ENGC39 The Early Novel in Context, 1740-1830 ❄️

Instructor: Anne Milne

A contextual study of the first fictions that contemporaries recognized as being the novel. We will examine the novel in relation to its readers, to neighbouring genres such as letters, nonfiction travel writing, and conduct manuals, and to culture more generally. Authors might include Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Burney, Austen and others.


ENGD14 Topics in Early Modern English Literature ❄️

Instructor: Urvashi Chakravarty

An advanced inquiry into critical questions relating to the development of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature and culture. Focus may include the intensive study of an author, genre, or body of work.