You are now in the main content area

Literatures of Modernity (MA)


Located in Toronto’s vibrant core, this one-year English MA affords students diverse learning opportunities. Innovative courses investigate modernity in literature from cultural, historical, and global settings. Students can pursue a major research paper, work as a teaching or research assistant, and complete a placement at a literary or cultural institution. Graduates have completed PhD studies worldwide and work in fields such as writing, publishing, and teaching.

Degree awarded: MA

Administered by: Faculty of Arts

Literatures of Modernity graduate program website

 (PDF file) Literatures of Modernity graduate program calendar 2023-24

Course Code Degree Requirements: Master of Arts Credits


Major Research Paper OR Practicum






One Professional Skills Course



Four elective credits


Professional Skills

Course code Course name Credits


Digital Publishing



Literary Research Methods



Modernity as a Public Event



Writing as a Social Act



Writing Scholarly Papers



Writing Fiction



Writing Literary Non-Fiction



Course code Course name Credits


Science, Literature, and Art



Interfaces: Open Topic



Literary Theories



Studies in 18thC Literature and Culture



Rise of Children’s Lit



Genders, Sexualities, Humans






Modernism and Auto/Biography



Studies in 19thC Literature and Culture



Modernity and Identity



Modernity’s Others



Modernity and the Visual: Image and Text



New Directions: Open Topic



Diasporic Modernities



Politics and American Writing



Psychoanalysis and Literature



Early Modern Literature and Culture



Studies in Rhetoric



Unreal Cities


Major Research Paper
The student researches and writes a 35-40-page paper under the supervision of a faculty member. The MRP should be a sustained exploration of a theoretical question. An MRP should involve original approach and research, a critical review of literature in the field, as well as a synthesis of different points of view. The standard evaluation is that of an article in a refereed academic journal and commensurate with other English MA program requirements.
The MRP will be evaluated by the supervisor and a second reader, normally also from the same program or another relevant graduate program. This is a Milestone. Pass/Fail

LM8902 Practicum
The Practicum allows students to apply their theoretical knowledge to a practical experience at institutions such as literary magazines, journals, and agencies, libraries, museums, exhibitions, and literacy programs. Students also enroll in a Practicum seminar. Evaluation is based on the external supervisor’s evaluation, and a portfolio based on the work undertaken in the practicum. All components must be satisfactory for a student to pass. Evaluation may involve consultation with the on-site supervisor. Pass/fail

LM8901 Foundations
In this team-taught course, students are introduced to key critical debates and theories concerning the literatures of modernity. Topics can include the study of modernity in relation to the following: the subject; science and technology; the metropolis; visual culture; gender and sexuality; ethnicity and migration; politics; others; rhetoric; the everyday and avant-garde; literary production and reception; modernity’s modernisms. Pass/fail

LM8910 Digital Publishing
This course provides hands-on experience in presenting cultural artifacts as virtual objects existing in an online environment. Students explore the theories and implementation practices of electronic scholarship in relation to the digital remediation and dissemination of physical materials such as texts, images, audio clips, and film. Topics to be addressed may include digitization, editing, metadata and markup, interface design, visualization, interoperability, and preservation. 1 Credit

LM8911 Literary Research Methods
Students learn to make use of a wide range of literary research methods that may include, but are not limited to, historiography, bibliography, ethnography, humanities computing, and archival theory. Students become familiar with local archival resources and accustomed to working with primary materials, including rare books and writers’ collections, as well as with digital archives. 1 Credit

LM8912 Modernity as a Public Event
This course allows students to work collaboratively on the organization of a public project such as a symposium, a conference, a lecture series, the launch of a scholarly website, or an exhibition related to any aspect of literatures of modernity. While the content and theme may differ from year to year, this course trains students in the planning, organizing, budgeting, advertising, and presenting of course content to the public. 1 Credit

LM8913 Writing as a Social Act
Two key assumptions of contemporary writing studies are that writing is both embedded within and constitutive of discourse communities, and that all writing is oriented to action: texts do things in the social world. In this course, students examine key theories and methods in writing studies from fields such as rhetoric, composition studies, genre theory, and discourse analysis, to enable them to analyze a variety of real-world texts as socially productive artefacts. 1 Credit

LM8914 Writing Scholarly Papers
This course equips students with the practical skills for academic writing in a range of formats, and for their work on the MRP. Students learn to develop an annotated bibliography, a research proposal, and an outline. The course also familiarizes students with computer-based reference systems and scholarly editing. Students learn to write professional abstracts, to write and present conference papers, and are encouraged to submit their work to scholarly venues. 1 Credit

LM8915 Writing Fiction
This course offers students theoretical and practical training in fiction writing, including genres such as the short story, poetry, and the novel, while providing training and experience in effective critical editing and feedback. Taking advantage of Toronto's vibrant cultural scene, the course helps students to enter the literary community by teaching them how to submit work for publication, encouraging them to participate in readings and book festivals, and introducing them to the publishing industry. 1 Credit

LM8916 Writing Literary Non-Fiction
Public culture is shaped through literary non-fiction in the form of reviews, feature articles, biography, cultural analysis, literary critique and more. This course provides theoretical and practical instruction in the craft of non- fiction writing in contemporary culture, giving students opportunities to engage critically and to produce essays in several formats. Students are introduced to different aspects of print and digital publishing, and learn the practical skills required to seek publication in diverse disciplines. 1 Credit

LM8931 Science, Literature, and Art
This course examines the connection between science, art, and literature. Students investigate how scientific narratives have influenced art and literature, and how they may be seen as works of literature. Potential topics include: the historical interaction of science and art; “pseudo-science” such as alchemy and witchcraft; conflicts between humanist and scientific values; and the implications of recent scientific developments such as the patenting of DNA and advances in the technology of cloning. 1 Credit

LM8932 Interfaces: Open Topic
In this course, students examine the interrelationship between literatures of modernity and other art forms such as painting, photography, film, and music. Probing the formal, aesthetic, and sensory innovations of modern systems of representation, students investigate how the written word takes up and responds to the ideas, techniques, and representational strategies already present in other arts. The focus of the course may change from year to year. 1 Credit

LM8933 Literary Theories
Students undertake an in-depth examination of critical theories relevant to the study of literature and modernity, and to the rich and complex intersections of modernity and theory. The course may focus on a survey of theories, or on a particular movement or topic, such as: Russian Formalism and New Criticism; semiotics; reader-response theory; structuralism and post-structuralism; new historicism; postcolonialism; gender and queer theories; postmodernism; theory “after” theory. 1 Credit

LM8934 Studies in 18thC Literature and Culture
The eighteenth century was a period marked by tensions and crises connected to the transition into modernity – between, for example, tradition and progress, passion and reason, sensibility and rationalism. The period saw the emergence of new aesthetic and literary forms, of radical political and Enlightenment thought, and of the modern form of identity known as individualism. Students are introduced to a variety of works including poetry, drama, and the new genre of the novel. 1 Credit

LM8935 Rise of Children’s Literature
Students trace the emergence of the modern category of childhood from the later eighteenth century through the ‘Golden Age’ of nonsense and fantasy in the Victorian period, taking into account literature written for child readers, pedagogical theories, medical and scientific writings on childhood, and legal and political discourses. Students examine writing for–and ideas about–children, in relation to contemporary theories of childhood and to the field of childhood studies more generally. 1 Credit

LM8936 Genders, Sexualities, Humans
This course enables students to explore the changing relationship between being human and being sexual during the modern era. Topics may include: diverse perspectives on the modern body; the genders of literary genres; virtual sexualities, non-human sex, gender politics and animal rights; technology; and the place of the natural in queer aesthetics. The course familiarizes students with theories and methodologies such as genre studies, performativity studies, feminism, eco-theory, queer theory, masculinity studies. 1 Credit

LM8937 Modernisms
Recent theorizing has moved away from a monolithic understanding of Anglo-American modernism to consider a plurality of modernisms expressing multiple forms of experimentation across genre, gender, sexuality, race, and nation. In this course, students investigate some of the variants of literary modernism including the avant-garde, women’s modernisms, the Harlem Renaissance, Canadian modernisms, and others. Topics may include urbanization, new technologies, war, expatriate experiences, and the formation of modernist canons. 1 Credit

LM8938 Modernism and Auto/Biography
This course examines auto/biography within the context of modernist aesthetics and culture. Students consider how life writers drew on advancements in psychology, registered shifts in assumptions about gender and sexuality, and experimented with literary forms in order to offer new ways for conceiving of, and depicting, the human subject. In so doing, these writers heralded a uniquely modernist tradition of life writing. Authors studied may include Gosse, Freud, Strachey, Woolf, Brittain, Nin, and Glassco. 1 Credit

LM8939 Studies in 19thC Literature and Culture
With its experiences of industrialization and urbanization, globalization and immigration, human and animal rights movements, and advances in science and technology, the long nineteenth century conceived of itself as a decisive break from the past. Yet, the paradoxes of modernity's engagements with the past can be seen in this period’s cultural forms, including architecture, painting, literature, and journalism. Drawing on a range of cultural expressions, students investigate the politics and poetics of nineteenth- century texts. 1 Credit

LM8940 Modernity and Identity
Modern literature and culture probes the notions of autonomous selfhood and stable identity. In this course, students explore modern identities and the practice of writing with a particular focus on the intersections of race and gender, culture and ethnicity. Topics may include: identity, displacement and assimilation; traditions and transitions; diasporic identities; class and ethnicity; memory and identity; and creativity and resistance. 1 Credit

LM8941 Modernity’s Others

Students engage with some of the key questions in postcolonial studies, and in particular with the representation of the Other in discourses of modernity. Topics change from year to year and may include: the figure of the Muslim, the (postcolonial) queer subject, the “primitive” other, and the relationship of the Other to narratives of progress, time, and history. Readings are drawn from a range of literary and "popular" texts, including feature and documentary films. 1 Credit

LM8942 Modernity and the Visual: Image and Text
The visual turn that profoundly marked the modern period required new techniques of observation and fresh paradigms for reading. Students undertake an in-depth study of verbal-visual relations in various historical contexts, from the late eighteenth century to the present. The focus of the course may be on one or a combination of the following: the graphic novel; poetry and painting; literary galleries and annuals; technologies of print, book production, and illustration; new media poetics. 1 Credit

LM8943 New Directions: Open Topic
This course allows students to conduct in-depth study into new scholarly directions in literatures of modernity, through the investigation of a single author, topic, or literary movement. Topics are set by the instructor and change from year to year. 1 Credit

LM8944 Diasporic Modernities
This course initiates a dialogue between modernity and the central concerns of diasporic theories and literatures, including language, history, subjectivity, and identity. Students examine diasporic "irruptions” into Western conceptions of modernity to determine how diasporic cultures and experiences reshape contemporary assumptions and fictional practices. The focus of the course will change and may be on any one, or combination, of diasporic cultures, including Caribbean, African, and South, West, and East Asian. 1 Credit

LM8945 Politics and American Writing
Emerson challenged American artists to create works that would articulate and sustain a native culture worthy of the United States’ rising presence in the modern world. Fragmentation, migration, and unprecedented intercultural contact — key features of modernity itself — exert considerable pressure on the ongoing politics of American writing. In this course, students address such topics as cultural nationalism, race and American identity, migration and immigration, and the interplay of literature and history. 1 Credit

LM8946 Psychoanalysis and Literature
The theorization of the unconscious and the techniques of psychoanalysis first developed by Freud exert a profound influence on modern literature, as do interpretations of Freud’s work. Although modern authors have often explicitly been mindful of psychoanalytic insights, literary criticism has deployed psychoanalysis as a tool in order to understand literary characters, narrative styles, reader-reception, and authorship itself. In this course, students investigate texts by such writers as Freud, Klein, Lacan, Laplanche, Kristeva, and Felman. 1 Credit

LM8947 Early Modern Literature and Culture
The course explores the birth of modernity in the flourishing literary and artistic cultures of the Renaissance. Across various European contexts, students examine such topics as individualism, global exploration and imperialism, the rise of Protestantism, tensions between religion and science, the evolution of the monarch and the state, changing conceptions of gender and sexuality, and new forms of theatre, visual and performing arts. Writers and artists studied may include Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Montaigne, Shakespeare and Milton. 1 Credit

LM8948 Studies in Rhetoric
While “rhetoric” commonly refers to empty or deceptive speech (“mere rhetoric”), in contemporary practice rhetoric forms an intellectual tradition and mode of critical praxis focused on the study of persuasion and action in discursive situations. Students learn about rhetorical theory and criticism by focusing on special topics in rhetoric, such as poetics, public discourse, and medical/scientific discourse, enabling them to trace how textual interactions are shaped by intersecting attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and motives. 1 Credit

LM8950 Unreal Cities

The metropolis has been central to the experience of modernity for millennia. Students explore such topics as the literary representation of architecture and space, the cosmopolitan imagination, the gender of cities, nostalgia, the divided city, the racialized and gendered city. The course may be organized historically or it may focus on the literature of a particular city or on the city within a specific literary movement such as Romanticism, Realism, or Modernism. 1 Credit