English 362/951 19th-Century Studies (Summer 2020)

UBC Summer 2020 Term 2 (July-August); TTh 6:00-9:00 p.m. Buchanan B210

Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

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Ghosts are Real (So are Vampires): 19th-Century Gothic Terror and Horror

“Ghosts are real, this much I know” – Edith Cushing, Crimson Peak

“There are such beings as vampires; some of us have evidence that they exist” – Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula

Whether we take Edith Cushing or Abraham Van Helsing at their word, the 19th-century Gothic revival certainly emphasized possibilities for terror and horror in tales of the supernatural. However, these interventions of spectral and un-dead beings often take place in the recognizable present; they speak to its anxieties. Perhaps they speak to ours as well, given our recent fascination with Neo-Victorian representations of the 19th century, such as Penny DreadfulFrom HellCrimson Peak, etc. We will bring a chill to summer evenings as we examine stories addressing issues of gender and sexuality; class, race, and culture; realism and the supernatural; urban and rural settings, all in a century known for developments in science and technology, social upheaval, and a veneer of respectability, yet with monsters lurking in closets and under beds.

Our focus will also permit consideration of the boom in publication of popular literature in a variety of formats, as well as the rise of the professional writer during the 19th century. Core texts tentatively include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, and short fiction by authors including (but not limited to) M.R. James, Margaret Oliphaunt, Charlotte Riddell, Elizabeth Gaskell, E. Nesbit, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Evaluation will be based on two short essays and a term paper, participation in discussion (both in class and on the course’s Canvas site), and an essay-based final examination.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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English 110/MA1 Approaches to Literature (Summer 2020)

UBC Summer 2020 Term 1 (May-June); MW 1:00-4:00 p.m. Buchanan B315

Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

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Literary Monsters and Monstrous Literature

Rey: “You are a monster.”
Kylo Ren: “Yes, I am.”
– Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world” – Richard III 1.i

What is a monster? We know monsters from myths and legends, folktales, horror fiction and film. We know their variety: the grotesque, the beautiful, the terrifying, the pitiable, the sports of nature and the forces of evil. Dragons, werewolves, vampires, zombies, Frankenstein’s Creature, Dorian Gray, the Joker, many of the characters in The Walking Dead or Penny Dreadful: they’re everywhere, from under the bed to the battlefield, and right into a great deal of literature. Which leaves us here: in this section of 110 we’ll focus on how literary texts across the genres use representations of monstrosity to say a variety of things.

We’ll look at excerpts from William Shakespeare’s Richard III (a play that both meditates on villainy and ambition, and demonizes its subject for Tudor audiences), then at Ian McKellen’s 1995 film adaptation, which shifts the setting to an alternate-reality 1930s England where fascism takes hold. Other core texts include Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as selected poetry and perhaps short fiction.

Evaluation will be based on two short essays and a term paper, participation in discussion (both in class and on the course’s Canvas site), and an essay-based final examination.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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Invisible to Visible: Symposium & Publication Exhibition of Contract Faculty Work at Congress 2019

CongressPoster_V4

Click the link to open the poster as a PDF; the Symposium will take place on June 4. My presentation, “‘Like a real girl: gaze, gender, and synthetic humans in Gothic science fiction” will develop the paper I gave on May 2 at Gothic Feminism 3: Technology, Women, and Gothic-Horror On-Screen, at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.

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English 364/001: 19th-Century Studies (September 2019)

19th-Century Studies – Term 1 MWF 12:00-1:00 p.m. – Gisèle M. Baxter

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Ghosts are Real (So are Vampires): 19th-Century Gothic Terror and Horror

“Ghosts are real, this much I know” – Edith Cushing, Crimson Peak

“There are such beings as vampires; some of us have evidence that they exist” – Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula

Whether we take Edith or Van Helsing at their word, the 19th-century Gothic revival certainly emphasized possibilities for terror and horror in tales of the supernatural. However, these interventions of un-dead beings often take place in the recognizable present; they speak to its anxieties. Perhaps they speak to ours as well, given our recent fascination with Neo-Victorian representations of the 19th century, such as Penny DreadfulFrom HellCrimson Peak, etc. As we journey into the dark days of autumn, we will address issues of gender and sexuality; class, race, and culture; realism and the supernatural; urban and rural settings, all in a century known for developments in science and technology, social upheaval, and a veneer of respectability, yet with monsters lurking in closets and under beds.

The core text list will tentatively include John Polidori’s The Vampyre, Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Margaret Oliphant’s The Library Window, and short fiction from The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories (we may even look at a few excerpts from the genuine penny dreadful serial, Varney the Vampire). We will consider the evolution of academic critical responses (as well as popular reaction) to such texts, and the way in which such texts have shaped the way we think about and visualize the 19th century. Evaluation will be based on two short essays, a term paper, and a final examination, as well as contribution to in-class and Canvas-based discussion.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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English 243/001: Science Fiction and Fantasy/Speculative Fiction (September 2019)

Science Fiction and Fantasy/Speculative Fiction – Term 1 MWF 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Gisèle M. Baxter

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The Posthuman Prometheus: Frankenstein’s Legacy in the Artificial Humans of Speculative Fiction

“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachael to Deckard, Blade Runner

The near-future and alternate-reality landscapes of literary and popular culture are often terrifying places, and have been since Gothic and dystopian impulses intersected in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley’s landmark tale evokes dread in the implications of Victor’s generation of a humanoid Creature; this dread echoes in the creatures haunting recent speculative fiction: clones, androids, artificial intelligences, cyborgs. Such texts conjure questions of gaze (why are these creatures so often attractive young women presented as the object of male desire?), rights, research ethics, and fear, in the realization that these creatures are, ultimately, not human but posthuman, yet often more sympathetic than their makers. You will write two short essays, a term paper requiring secondary research, and a final examination, and will contribute to in-class and online discussion.

Core texts tentatively include Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the Wachowskis’ The Matrix: The Shooting Script, Madeline Ashby’s Vn, and either Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, Final Cut edition) or Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve); another core text or film may be added. A list of supplementary recommended texts will be supplied (from The Island of Dr. Moreau to Ex Machina and beyond), and online readings will be put in Library Course Reserves.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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English 110/034 Approaches to Literature (January 2020)

Approaches to Literature – Term 2 (034: TTh 2:00-3:30 p.m.) – Gisèle M. Baxter

Canvas login | My website

Literary Monsters and Monstrous Literature

Rey: “You are a monster.”
Kylo Ren: “Yes, I am.”
– Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world” – Richard III 1.i

What is a monster? We know monsters from myths and legends, folktales, horror fiction and film. We know their variety: the grotesque, the beautiful, the terrifying, the pitiable, the sports of nature and the forces of evil. Dragons, werewolves, vampires, zombies, Frankenstein’s Creature, Mr. Hyde, the Joker, most of the characters in Penny Dreadful: they’re everywhere, from under the bed to the battlefield, and right into a great deal of literature. Which leaves us here: in this section of 110 we’ll focus on how literary texts use representations of monstrosity to say a variety of things.

We’ll look at excerpts from William Shakespeare’s Richard III (a play that both meditates on villainy and ambition, and demonizes its subject for Tudor audiences), then at Ian McKellen’s 1995 film adaptation, which shifts the setting to an alternate-reality 1930s England where fascism takes hold. Other core texts include Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as selected short fiction and poetry.

Evaluation will be based on two or three essays, participation in discussion (both in class and online), and an essay-based final examination.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

 

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English 100/016: Reading and Writing About Literature (January 2020)

Reading and Writing About Literature – Term 2 TTh 12:30-2:00 p.m. – Gisèle M. Baxter

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Haunted Houses

“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”

The Devil’s Backbone (dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

Where is the fascination, even when the deepest mysteries of the universe are being scientifically unlocked, in stories of haunted houses? What accounts for the lure, and even the enjoyment, of tales of terror and horror, even in the 21st century? This course examines the Gothic influence in texts where collisions of past and present, and implications of the uncanny, allow fascinating investigations of social codes and their transgression.

Core texts include Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger, and The Others (dir. Alejandro Amenábar). Through readings in current criticism and theory, we will develop strategies for textual analysis in literary and cultural studies. We will also consider the difficulty, if not impossibility, of reaching a “fixed” or consensus reading of any text. You will write two short essays, a term paper requiring secondary research, and a final examination, and will contribute to in-class and online discussion.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

 

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English 301/001: Technical Writing (January 2020)

Technical Writing – Term 2 TTh 9:30-11:00 a.m. – Gisèle M. Baxter

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Now with added grammar! While 301 is not a course in remedial grammar, this section will provide both online Canvas-based writing resources and a two-week series of classroom-time workshops, designed to help identify writing and proofreading problems, and to provide strategies to address them.

English 301: Technical Writing examines the rhetorical genre of professional and technical communication, especially online, through analysis and application of its principles and practices. You will produce a formal report, investigating resources and/or concerns in a real-life community, as a major project involving a series of linked assignments. This project will involve the study (and possibly practical application) of research ethics where human subjects are involved (e.g. in conducting surveys or interviews).

Think of this course as an extended report-writing Boot Camp: intensive, useful preparation for the last phase of your undergraduate degree, as you start applying to professional and graduate programs, and for the years beyond of work and community involvement. Note: this is a blended course, with both classroom and online components and requirements. Technical Writing is closed to first- and second-year students in Arts, and cannot be used for credit towards the English Major or Minor.

Course Text:

  • Lannon et al, Technical Communications, 7th Canadian Edition, Pearson, 2017. (Hard copy and e-text versions are both available and acceptable.)
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English 243/951: Science Fiction and Fantasy (Summer 2019)

UBC Summer 2019 Term 2 (July-August); MW 6-9 p.m. Buchanan D316

Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

Canvas login | My website

The Posthuman Prometheus: Frankenstein’s Legacy in the Artificial Humans of Speculative Fiction

“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachael to Deckard, Blade Runner

The near-future or alternate-reality landscapes of literary and popular culture are often terrifying places, and have been since Gothic and dystopian impulses intersected in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley’s landmark tale evokes dread in the practical and ethical implications of Victor’s scientific generation of a humanoid Creature; this evocation echoes in the simulacra that haunt recent speculative fiction: clones, androids, artificial intelligences, cyborgs. Such texts conjure questions of gaze (why are these creatures so often attractive young women presented as the object of male desire?), of rights, of research ethics, and of fear, in the realization that these creatures are, ultimately, not human but posthuman. We will consider the perspectives both of the makers, who dread lost control over their creations, and of their offspring, as they discover what they are, in texts that often invite identification with the creature more than the maker, even as they suggest that humans’ time may well be ending.

Tentative Core Text List:

  • Grace L. Dillon, ed. Hive of Dreams: Contemporary Science Fiction from the Pacific Northwest
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818 edition)
  • Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott (Final Cut edition)

1-2 other texts will be added, possibly including a graphic novel.

A list of supplementary recommended texts will be supplied (from The Island of Dr. Moreau and Brave New World to Ex Machina and Blade Runner 2049, and beyond) on the course’s Canvas site. As well, material (as much as possible full text online) will be put on Library Reserve.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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English 301/001: Technical Writing (January 2019)

Technical Writing – Term 2 TTh 9:30-11:00 a.m. – Gisèle M. Baxter

Don’t let the name fool you: this is not a course in remedial grammar! Technical Writing examines principles and practices of communication in various professional contexts (mostly online). You will produce a formal report, investigating resources and/or concerns in a real-life community and making recommendations for improvement or solution. Production of this report will involve the study (and possibly practical application) of research ethics where human subjects are involved (e.g. in conducting surveys or interviews). Think of this course as an extended report-writing Boot Camp: intensive, useful preparation for the last phase of your undergraduate degree, as you start applying to professional and graduate programs, and for the years beyond of work and community involvement. This is the description posted on the English Department website; keep checking this blog for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements. Note: this is a blended course, with both classroom and online components and requirements.While technical competence in writing is required, the course will not cover grammar and mechanics (though it will provide lots of writing resources on its Canvas site). Technical Writing is closed to first- and second-year students in Arts, and cannot be used for credit towards the English Major or Minor.

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