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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
September 27, 2016
Canadian Excellence


PhD in English and Film Studies

Program Fields and Requirements

The PhD in English and Film Studies provides graduate course offerings and faculty expertise in Literary and Film Studies. The PhD in English and Film Studies allows students to pursue specialized research in the major periods, movements and theoretical approaches to British, American, or World Literatures in English, to pursue specialized research in Film Studies, or to take advantage of the rich intellectual and theoretical confluences between Literary and Film studies. The major fields of specialization represented by current faculty research interests include Gender and Genre Studies, Post-Colonial and Diaspora Studies, Textuality, Media, and Print Studies.

English Studies broadly requires critically informed analysis of literary works in a variety of genres — prose fiction, poetry, drama, new media — from diverse cultural, national, and historical contexts from the beginnings of English literature to the postmodern period.  The aim of such study is to enhance critical acuity in graduate students through methods of analysis, theoretical models, and practical experience in writing and oral expression; to understand how the work functions in itself, and also how the work participates in the life of its culture.  The graduate program involves the study of the cultural, historical and political contexts in which literatures in English are produced; and the theoretical frameworks (literary, sociological, linguistic) that facilitate analysis. 

Film Studies involves the critical exploration of cinematic texts as art and entertainment, as well as the industries that produce those texts and the audiences that consume them.  Although only a little over one hundred years old, the medium of film has already been transformed through the emergence of new media forms from video to digital.  Despite changing modes of reception — especially the proliferation of individuated viewing technologies — film has retained its cultural dominance into the 21st century.  Film Studies as a discipline includes a range of theoretical approaches and methodologies from formalism to feminism and historicism to cultural studies. 

A student may focus on a particular genre, period, movement, nation, or theory.  Graduate courses examine a wide variety of issues (such as form, identity, gender, sexuality, class, race,  genre, historical, economic, and cultural contexts) and stress the acquisition of critical skills (close reading, rhetorical or representational strategies, theoretical approaches, aesthetic evaluation), as well as ethical awareness, political and social engagement (in scholarship, pedagogy, within the academic institution, the local and global community).  Courses reflect the intersection of faculty research and teaching interests, including topics such as culture and nation, women’s literature, memory, feminist film theory, and indigenous writing and filmmaking. 

The special opportunity provided by the department at Wilfrid Laurier University allows students to take advantage of the rich intellectual and theoretical confluences between literary and film studies in our faculty and graduate courses.  Film and literature intersect in fruitful ways; the theoretical, critical, and analytical skills students acquire in the program enable them to engage with important issues that pertain to both literature and film, such as representation, aesthetics, narrative, adaptation, gender, identity, structure and genre.

In examining the various contexts in which literature and visual narratives are produced, graduate work serves to preserve and produce collective and cultural memories — to recall, as much as possible, the function of texts not just at the present moment, but at the moment of their creation, to understand how specific genres, lexicons, and styles function within very different historical periods and social communities.  Students are also involved in professionalization through teaching, conference presentations, research assistantships, committee work, and the practical application of new media and classroom and research technologies.

Ultimately, the combination of pedagogy and practical experience within the program will enable graduate students to become not only more informed readers of literary and filmic texts of all kinds, but to be prepared for careers in teaching and research, as part of — or independently of — the academic profession. 

Fields of Specialization

  • Studies in Gender and Genre
  • Nation, Diaspora, Culture
  • Textuality, Media, and Print Studies

1.  Studies in Gender and Genre

The specialization in gender and genre emerges from the intersection of two broad conceptual areas within literary and film studies.  In the wake of feminist theory and criticism, performance theory, masculinity studies, cultural studies, and queer theory, gender is recognized as a crucial factor in the production, circulation, and consumption of literary, filmic, and other cultural discourses.  Genres, recognized and defined by particular cultures or communities, serve to shape, identify and make legible social discourses and otherwise amorphous representations.  Theorizing and exploring genre in literary, cinematic, historical, performative, psycho-social, and political contexts, the field incorporates a range of inquiries and methodologies that situate the cultural construction of gender and sexuality in relation to the genre in which these constructions appear.

Faculty working in gender and genre studies include: Andrea Austin, Kofi Campbell, Kathryn Carter, Viviana Comensoli, Maria DiCenzo, Tamas Dobozy, Philippa Gates, Russell Kilbourn, Tanis MacDonald,  Leslie O'Dell, Mariam Pirbhai, Markus Poetzsch, Anne Russell, Lynn Shakinovsky, Katherine Spring, Eleanor Ty, Robin Waugh, James Weldon, Lisa Wood.

2.  Nation, Diaspora, Culture

Literary and filmic works, visual and oral narratives contribute to one's sense of belonging to an "imagined" community, whether to a domestic family, to a socio-cultural or religious group, or to a broader ideological and political system, such as a nation or an empire.  In addition to national literatures and films from Britain, Canada, and the United States, the field explores contemporary debates and theoretical developments in post-colonial, global, minority, indigenous, and diasporic studies (including Asian, Caribbean and African).  Theoretical, cultural and historical concerns include those of war, imperialism, settlement, slavery, race, hybridity, mobility, globalization, human rights, and gender.

Faculty working in nation, diaspora, culture include: Sandra Annett, Kofi Campbell, Kathryn Carter, Jing Jing Chang, Tamas Dobozy, Jennifer Esmail, Madelaine Hron, Ute Lischke, Tanis MacDonald, Ken Paradis, Mariam Pirbhai, Lynn Shakinovsky, Eleanor Ty.

3.  Textuality, Media and Print Studies

Textuality is a discursive practice that valorizes text as context, and examines the modes of cultural production and consumption through which ideologies are disseminated, normalized or contested.  Films and literary works are best read in awareness of their historical, cultural, and discursive milieus.  In literary studies, these range from the Medieval, Early Modern to postmodern periods; in film studies, from early, classical to contemporary films.  The field invokes the postmodernist principle that the meanings of a text or a film constitute themselves through reflexive processes of origin, configuration, response, interpretation, and reinterpretation.  Scholarly activity in this area can include such varied approaches as aesthetics, translation, adaptation, intertextuality, structural codes and conventions, editing, performance analysis, transmission, circulation, and reception of manuscripts, scripts, and other kinds of texts, source study, stylistics, semantics, semiotics (verbal, visual, aural, gendered); and discourse analysis.

Faculty working in textuality, media, and print studies include: Sandra Annett, Andrea Austin, Viviana Comensoli, Maria DiCenzo, Jennifer Esmail, Philippa Gates, Madelaine Hron, Russell Kilbourn, Ute Lischke, Leslie O’Dell, Ken Paradis, Markus Poetzsch, Anne Russell, Katherine Spring, Robin Waugh, James Weldon, Lisa Wood.