Upper-Level Courses 2021-22

For most upper-level courses, the prerequisite is six credits of second-year English, third-year standing, or by permission of the instructor. See prerequisites for individual courses.

Fall 2021

CourseCourse DescriptionDegree RequirementProfessor
History of Critical TheoryLiterature and CriticismCarpentier
Topics in Children’s & YA Literature
Literature and CultureDoughty
Topics in Post-Colonial LiteratureLiterature and CultureSmith
Topics in Canadian Literature
Literature and CultureTorkko
 344Topics in ShakespeareLiterature and Traditions, pre-1700 Crover
 348Topics in 18th-Century LiteratureLiterature and Traditions, 1700-1900Hagan
Topics in Television Narrative Word and ImageMasson
Research MethodsLiterature and CriticismFinigan 

Spring 2022

CourseCourse DescriptionDegree RequirementProfessor
Advanced Professional Writing  Literature and WritingDoughty
 314Modern Critical TheoryLiterature and CriticismStephens
Topics in Environmental LiteratureLiterature and CultureArmstrong 
Topics in World Literature
Literature and CultureThompson
Topics in West Coast LiteratureLiterature and CultureMoosa
Topics in Indigenous LiteratureLiterature and CultureWatkins
Topics in Medieval Literature Literature and Traditions, pre-1700Crover 
Topics in 19th-Century Literature Literature and Traditions, 1700-1900Burgoyne 
 398Film StudiesWord and ImageWatkins

Note: Any course descriptions or reading lists here are tentativeCheck back for updates.

Course Descriptions: Fall 2021

ENGL 312: History of Critical Theory

Professor Sally Carpentier


This course will begin with the Ancient Greeks and examine major literary critics up to the 20th century. It will survey historically significant theoretical issues and their underlying assumptions, their changing definition of literature and criticism, and the specific interrelationships among politics, poetics, and philosophy at a given time. 

Delivery Mode: Attendance for this course will be asynchronously online; however, I will provide an option for F2F (Nanaimo or Cowichan campuses) or Zoom workshops as the course material requires.

ENGL 329: Topics in Children’s and YA Literature: Multi-species Entanglements in Young People's Literature

Professor Terri Doughty


As youth activists like Greta Thunberg lead calls for action on climate change, species extinctions, and ecological crises, there has also been greater attention to the treatment of these issues in young people's literature. Ecocriticism, Animal Studies and Critical Posthumanism have been productive tools to explore how literature for young people addresses human and more-than-human interactions and challenges the speciesist assumption of human superiority to or separation from nature. We will explore a range of picturebooks, graphic narratives, and novels that ask interesting questions about multi-species entanglements and human relations to the land. Some of our texts may include Burnett, The Secret Garden; Potter, The Tale of Two Bad Mice; Flett, Birdsong; Tan, Tales from the Inner City; Browne, Little Beauty; Almond and McKean, Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf; Beskow, The Flowers' Festival; Torday, The Last Wild; Lawson and Smith, Sidewalk Flowers; Qitsualik-Tinsley, Why the Monster?; Bar El, Audrey (Cow); Nilsson, Ice Sea Pirates; Haig and Gravett, Evie and the Animals.

A Note on Delivery: This course is being offered in Blended Asynchronous format. I will hold regular classes each week on campus, but I will also be running the course through VIULearn and posting audio files from class sessions. Students may attend fully in person, fully online, or in a combination of those.

ENGL 333: Topics in Post-Colonial Literature: The Personal is Political

Professor Toni Smith



By 1914, historians estimate that colonial expansion had led to almost 85% of the world being under European control.  By the late 20th century, though, almost the entirety of the colonial system had been transformed and dismantled.  In the midst of that transformation and since, authors from previously colonized territories have been investigating and theorizing the ways that colonial governments wielded power over their citizens.  Post-colonial novels tell stories of the personal impacts colonialism had on individuals, families, and cultures, and also share stories of resistance and resourcefulness in the face of harsh, restrictive policies.  Join us to read novels from the 1970s-2000s, written by authors from South Asia, Africa, Latin America, and North America that explore the complex ways that the personal and political intersect.   

ENGL 334: Topics in Canadian Literature: Atlantic Canadian Literature

Professor Deborah Torkko



Texts that are candid, accurate, sometimes funny, sometimes grim, but always deeply felt and powerfully moving, written by writers who are fascinated with things Atlantic Canadian – the geography, the cultural ways of knowing, the customs, the Gaelic language, the music, the ceilidhs and the kitchen table – comprise the focus of this course. What is commonly called Canadian Literature started in the Maritime Provinces, and while some of its most important and beautiful works were written here, they have been peripheral to most of the history of Canadian literature. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland comprise a distinctive and vital literary region, nonetheless, and one that has garnered increased critical attention since the publication of Janice Kulyk Keefer’s landmark study Under Eastern Eyes: A Critical Reading of Maritime Fiction (1987). This course will explore a representative selection of works for how they communicate the complex social, economic, and cultural realities which shape the lives of the region’s inhabitants. Family, community, ethnicity, migration, socio-economic deprivation, and geography constitute themes central to our discussions. We will explore the complex interplay between family generations, sea and land, life and death, personal memory and communal memory, mythic past and present day, truth and fiction. We will develop skills in describing and critiquing the fiction’s aesthetic and social complexities and consider the place of an Atlantic-Canadian literature within a Canadian literary mainstream.


Writers studied may include Joan Clark, George Elliott Clarke, Michael Crummey, Frank Parker Day, M.T. Dohaney, Tessie Gillis, Sue Goyette, Kenneth J. Harvey, Rita Joe, Alistair MacLeod, Lisa Moore, Donna Morrissey, Alden Nolan, David Adams Richards, Anne Simpson, Sue Sinclair, John Steffler, Michael Winter, among others.

ENGL 344: Topics in Shakespeare: Shakespearean Stewardship: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Professor Sarah Crover

In the early modern period, husbandry, or what we would consider today “stewardship,” was just as likely to be related to “the administration and management of a household; domestic organization,” as it was to gardening and land management (OED). Thus, any examination of household management in the period necessarily presupposed wider questions about nation and governance of the land. William Shakespeare’s era, much like our own, produced unsettled and unseasonable weather, crop failures, disease, food shortages, and an unpredictable socio-economic climate in early modern England. As a result, Shakespeare was writing during a time of great anxiety about what it meant to be a good steward on both the local and the national level. This course will examine the link between bad stewardship, environmental (both “natural” and human-caused), and political catastrophe in seven plays across the full range of genres Shakespeare employed: comedy, history, tragedy, and romance. Plays under consideration may include Richard IIA Midsummer Night’s DreamKing LearThe TempestThe Merry Wives of WindsorThe Winter’s Tale, and Antony and Cleopatra. This course aims to give students a comprehensive understanding of the historical context of the plays and a critical introduction to the theoretical discipline of ecocriticism.

ENGL 348: Topics in 18th-Century Literature: Adventures in the Novel

Professor Sandra Hagan



As a relatively new narrative form, the novel finds its origins in the dynamic publishing industry of the eighteenth-century.  One of the novel’s early forms is adventure fiction, responding to the reading public’s thirst for stories about travel.  In this class, we will explore the boundaries of adventure writing, considering who is authorized for adventure and how those on the margins come to challenge those boundaries.  We’ll also consider the fluid relation between fiction and non-fiction as a context for the development of the novel.


Texts may include Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, and Burney’s Evelina.

ENGL 394: Topics in Television Narrative: Black Mirror

Professor Cynthea Masson


According to a New York Times review, “Black Mirror is hands down the most relevant program of our time, if for no other reason than how often it can make you wonder if we're all living in an episode of it” (Poniewozik*). Given world events of 2020-21 and the necessary shift of our lives to a multitude of online environments, that statement may resonate more emphatically with us now than it did when originally penned. Thus, the Fall 2021 iteration of ENGL 394 will focus on the critically acclaimed, award-winning, technology-focused, dystopian science fiction television series Black Mirror. Each week, participants will watch one episode, read (at least) one scholarly article, and prepare assigned exercises for discussion. Course content emerging from the conjunction of episodes and articles will include topics such as technology and the body; digital cultures; narrative structures; audience agency; and various facets of television studies. Episodes will not be screened during class; students will be expected to access and watch scheduled episodes on their own time. Class time will comprise a combination of lectures, discussions, and peer-centred workshops. If online delivery is required, class time will be divided between asynchronous video lectures and synchronous discussion-based workshops.


*Poniewozik, James. “Black Mirror Finds Terror, and Soul, in the Machine.” New York Times (Online), 20 Oct. 2016.



A full list of required episodes (available via Netflix) and articles (available via VIU library databases) will be provided within the official course outline. For now, here are a few examples of potential weekly episode/article pairings:

  • Bandersnatch / Nada Elnahla (2020) “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and How Netflix Manipulates Us, The New Gods”
  • “Be Right Back” / Sarah Artt (2018) “‘An Otherness that Cannot Be Sublimated’: Shades of Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful and Black Mirror.”
  • “Hated in the Nation” / Andreas Graee (2020) “Swarming Sensations: Robo-bees and the Politics of the Swarm in Black Mirror.”

ENGL 480: Research Methods

Profesor Theo Finigan 

"... the coming of a scholar of the future, a scholar who, in the future and so as to conceive of the future, would dare to speak to the phantom."

- Derrida, Archive Fever 

In this course, students will develop their literary studies research skills via an engagement with the archive. The object of much theorization in recent years, the archive may be thought of as at once a physical (and virtual) space in which academic work takes place, a theoretical concept that enables and conditions knowledge production, a suggestive metaphor for explorations of history and articulations of identity, and a bureaucratic institution that undergirds political and social power.

Given the multiple, overlapping lenses through which the archive can be viewed, this course will explore what this thing—place, concept, metaphor, ideology—means for our scholarly activity through readings representing a wide range of genres (literature, literary criticism, critical theory, archival studies) and aesthetic modes (historical fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction, experimental prose poetry). We will also consider the significance of the archive in relation to a variety of important critical-theoretical discourses, including postmodernism and deconstruction, Afrofuturism and Black feminist theory, Indigenous studies and queer theory. But this course will also encourage us to interrogate the borders between these established intellectual categories by putting in conversation texts that blur the lines between "scholarly" and "creative" discourse, "theory" and "literature," while the readings, discussions, lectures, and assignments will ultimately invite us to think critically about some of the assumptions that underpin working in the academy today.

As well as reading, thinking, and writing about the archive as concept and metaphor, students will get to explore how working in and with archives (e.g. VIU Library Special Collections) might form part of their ongoing scholarly practice. More generally, with input from VIU Research Librarians, this course aims to provide students with a solid grounding in the fundamentals of literary studies research.

Required Texts:

Don DeLillo, Libra (1988)

Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (1995)

Alexis Pauline Gumbs, M Archive: After the End of the World (2018)

(Additional readings will be provided as PDFs on VIULearn.)

Course Descriptions: Spring 2022

ENGL 304: Advanced Professional Writing

Professor Terri Doughty


This course is designed as a bridge between the world of school and the world of work. It provides an opportunity for you to build an e-portfolio of writing you can use in your post-graduate job search. The course will comprise some lecture content but mostly discussion and workshopping. We will explore case studies to review standards of professionalism, discuss ethics in research and professional communication, and do a term project on grant application writing. If provincial health guidelines make it feasible, there will also be a community-based writing assignment that will involve completing a writing project for a local non-profit organization or business. No matter what your professional interests are, you will be able to shape assignments to fit them. There is not an assigned textbook for the course, but if you do not already have one, you may want a good general guide to business communication, such as Findlay and Locker's Business Communication NOW.

ENGL 314: Modern Critical Theory

Professor Melissa Stephens  

A survey of literary theory including Russian Formalism, Structuralism, New Criticism, Marxism, Feminism, Post-Colonialism, Post-Structuralism, and others. Each theory may be examined for its assumptions, applications, and textual strategies. This course will introduce the tools of criticism and a wide range of critical dispositions. 

ENGL 325: Topics in Environmental Literature: North American Wilderness Narratives, 1903-2006

Professor Clay Armstrong

This course will explore a range of works inspired by raw experiences in the natural world, or what Walt Whitman called “Nature without check, with original energy.” We begin with traditional literary works from people like Jack London and Willa Cather before seeing the evolved wilderness narratives of mid-century, when the fiction is largely displaced by creative non-fiction and becomes more closely aligned with the science of conservation. From Farley Mowat and Eric Collier to Annie Dillard and Edward Abbey, students will read from literatures that call to protect specific North American Wilderness areas. We’ll finish by examining more recent non-fiction writing focused on the experience of individuals trying to escape back into what William Faulkner described as “an old dead time.”

ENGL 327: Topics in World Literature: World Indigenous Literatures

Professor Dawn Thompson


This course will consider works of literature by Indigenous writers on at least five continents.  Although specific circumstances vary widely, as the United Nation Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (2007) declares, Indigenous Peoples around the world share histories of colonization and dislocation, as well as struggles for human rights and self-determination. There are also remarkable similarities in their relationships to the land, despite how utterly different the lands they live on may be. And the vital role of language and art in connection to that land is also a shared phenomenon. This introductory exploration will offer a glimpse into these issues through works of literature published during the “Postcolonial” era.

ENGL 331: Topics in West Coast Literature

Professor Farah Moosa

An examination of the literature of British Columbia and the West Coast of North America. Topics may include orality, fusion literatures, Indigenous literatures, exploration and travel, settlement and expansionism, environmentalism, regionalism, politics, culture, identity, and others.

ENGL 332: Topics in Indigenous Literature

Professor Paul Watkins

ENGL 332: Indigenous Lit

ENGL 340: Topics in Medieval Literature

Professor Sarah Crover

A study of medieval literature within the broader social, political, philosophical, and cultural contexts of the age. Topics may include chivalry, courtly love, Arthurian tradition, mysticism, allegory, alchemy, theology, and others. The focus may be on a single author or genre.

ENGL 350: Topics in 19th-Century Literature

Professor Daniel Burgoyne 

English 350 course description.

ENGL 398: Film Studies

Professor Paul Watkins

ENGL 398 Film Studies

Generic course descriptions for all English courses are in the VIU Program and Course Calendar.