2015-16 Teaching

Undergraduate Courses

Please note: if you are wait-listed for one of my classes, check your Dalhousie email regularly (or set it up to forward to an account you keep good tabs on). I monitor waiting lists until the first day of class. When spaces open up, I give wait-listed students permission to register on a first-come, first-served basis. If your turn comes, I will email you to let you know. Permissions to register from the waiting list expire in three days, so if you miss this notification, you will lose your spot on the waiting list and in the class. Once classes begin, your best shot of getting any available space is to show up for class.


English 1010, Introduction to Prose and Fiction (Fall 2015)

English 1010 Syllabus (Fall 2015) DRAFT (some details may change before the official start of classes)

In this section of English 1010 we will study examples of prose and fiction that illustrate the power of language, when artfully deployed, to surprise, move, anger, persuade, and entertain us. Because reading and writing have never been just (or even primarily) academic exercises, we will focus especially on works that address important social, moral, and political questions, paying close attention to how good writers use literary and rhetorical strategies to further their ideas and achieve their effects. You will be challenged to engage actively and critically with our texts through debate, discussion, and writing of your own. The course objectives are, first, to enhance your love of reading, and second, to provide you with the skills, vocabulary, knowledge and experience to express and support well-informed opinions about what you read, whether in or out of class.

Plans for the 2015 version of this class are still tentative; check this web page again later this summer for updates, including a draft syllabus.

Book List

English 1010 Broadview Bundle (packaged and sold together):

The Broadview Introduction to Literature: Short Fiction

The Broadview Introduction to Literature: Literary Non-Fiction

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (Broadview edition)

 Carol Shields, Unless

Likely Requirements:

 Formal Writing Assignments           45%

Reading Journals and Tutorials       20%

3 Quizzes @ 5 % each                          15%

Final Exam                                          20%

Total                                                    100%

 A detailed syllabus including a full schedule of readings and assignments and information about course policies will be available on our Blackboard site; registered students will have access by the end of August.


English 2040, Mystery and Detective Fiction (Winter 2016)

E. M. Forster wrote, “‘The king died, and the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and the queen died of grief’ is a plot.  ‘The king died, and no one knew why the queen died until they discovered it was of grief’ is a mystery, a form capable of high development.”  To that I would add, ‘The king died, and the queen died, and everyone thought it was of grief until they found the puncture wound in her throat’—now that is a murder mystery, and that too is capable of high development.  (P. D. James)

 From historical to clerical, from academic to urban, from culinary to equestrian, from regional American to vintage English—today, mystery and detective fiction comes in every imaginable variety.  In this course we will look at the origins of the genre in the 19th century and then trace some of its developments in the 20th century.  We will consider formal issues, such as the conventions, limits, and possibilities of a genre premised on secrets and lies; we will look at what these fictions say, directly or indirectly, about meaning, knowledge, law, justice, gender, society, and morality; and we will ponder the ethics of finding crime entertaining.

Plans for the 2016 version of this class are still tentative; check this web page again in the fall for updates.

Reading List

 Classic Crime Stories (Dover Thrift Edition)

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, The Terrorists

Ian Rankin, Knots and Crosses

Sara Paretsky, Indemnity Only

Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

 Likely Course Requirements:

In-Class Writing & Worksheets: 10%
Midterm Exams: 2 @ 25%
Final Exam or Paper: 40%

 A detailed syllabus including a full schedule of readings and assignments and information about course policies will be available on our Blackboard site; registered students will have access by December 2015.

VF Frontispiece

English 3031, The 19th-Century British Novel From Austen to Dickens (Winter 2016)

In this course we will study British novels from the first half of the nineteenth century. During these decades, authors experimented with both the form and the subject matter of fiction as they transformed the novel from a generic upstart into the century’s dominant literary form.  Broad issues our discussions are likely to engage include the relationship of the present to the past, of the individual to society, and of the individual to modern institutions and systems (such as government, law, religion, or industry); problems of self-discovery and identity; questions of love, marriage, and morality; questions of gender, class, and race; and the role of the artist, especially the novelist, and of literature, especially the novel, in investigating, articulating, and affecting all of these issues.  At all times, our primary concern will be to read our books closely and revel in them—to understand, analyze, and appreciate their richness and variety of form, language, and content. To this end, we will pay careful attention to textual detail as well as to these larger themes and patterns. Our readings are long; you should be prepared to put in enough time to read them attentively. But they are also delightful, so your effort will be heartily repaid in pleasure. Regular, well-informed, and enthusiastic class participation will be encouraged; regular, well-informed, and enthusiastic writing will be required.

Plans for the 2016 version of this class are still tentative; check this web page for updates in the fall.

Reading List (these novels have been ordered in Oxford World’s Classics editions)

 Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Thackeray, Vanity Fair

Brontë, Jane Eyre

Gaskell, Mary Barton

Dickens, Hard Times

Likely Course Requirements

Reading Journal (15%)

Mini-Midterms (20%)

Short Essay (25%)

Long Essay or Final Exam (40%)

A detailed syllabus including a full schedule of readings and assignments and information about course policies will be available on our Blackboard site; registered students will have access by December 2015.

Graduate Courses

GE Durade

English 5450, George Eliot (Fall 2015)


Though she lacks the wide recognition and popularity granted today to Jane Austen, or even to her nearer contemporary Charles Dickens, a case can be made that George Eliot is a novelist of greater relevance to our own time than either, as well as one who has made more substantial contributions to intellectual history and to the development of the novel (and the theory of the novel) than perhaps any other 19th-century novelist. Eliot’s unconventional beliefs and scandalous lifestyle made her for much of her life an outcast from her family and from the society that came, paradoxically, to revere her.  In this seminar we will read a number of Eliot’s novels along with selections from her essays and criticism. We will focus on her intellectual, philosophical, and aesthetic contributions to nineteenth-century literature and on her changing status in the public and critical eye, from wildly popular novelist to sibyl and sage in the Victorian period, and from dreary moralist to revered intellectual in our own. Along with the usual range of academic approaches to her work, we will explore ways her work reaches or is interpreted for a wider readership today: this may include television adaptations, such as the BBC Middlemarch; recent novels that rework her characters or themes, such as Diana Souhami’s Gwendolen or Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love; or popular non-fiction such as Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch.

Required Reading:

George Eliot, Adam Bede; The Mill on the FlossMiddlemarchDaniel Deronda; one of Felix Holt or Romola

Other Reading: To Be Determined

Further details about this seminar, including a complete reading list, information about course requirements, and a detailed schedule will be available in July or August. Students wishing to read ahead can’t go wrong by starting on any of the four novels listed above.

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