English (ENGL) 491

Directed Studies in Literature (Revision 3)

ENGL 491 Course Cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: ENGL 211 and ENGL 212 or equivalent, plus two senior English courses and permission of the professor is required.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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ENGL 491 is not available for challenge.

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** Note: To request permission to register in this course, and to discuss topic ideas, please contact the course coordinator. If you are registering through the financial aid office, you must still contact the course coordinator to seek permission, even if your financial aid has been approved. Please allow plenty of time to discuss topic ideas before your registration deadline.


Students in ENGL 491 complete an extended research and writing project under the direction of a professor. The topic for the project will be determined by consultation between the student and the professor.

The course is designed for students who want to pursue a particular topic of study in literature, cultural studies, or both. The primary course text, Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, introduces key issues and possible approaches within the area of cultural studies.

Students may wish to focus on a specific question within cultural studies or a particular set of texts or practices. For example, students might develop a critical analysis of oil company advertisements, consider the representation of race or gender within Hollywood superhero movies, analyze representations of climate change in comic books, or consider the representation of cross-cultural encounters in Star Trek.

Students may also choose to study more traditional areas of literature, to engage with new literary texts or theoretical approaches, to undertake a study in comparative literature, or to take on interdisciplinary topics. For example, students may use the course to focus on the works of a major author or to investigate a particular aspect of a historical period within the development of English literature. Students could research a topic from the works of Chaucer (1342–1400), Shakespeare (1564–1616), John Dryden (1631–1700), George Eliot (1819–1880), or Virginia Woolf (1882–1941). Students may wish to study the work of a contemporary American playwright, a Canadian poet, an Australian novelist, or an Indigenous author, as well as works from other media such as film or opera. Interdisciplinary projects might combine literary or cultural studies with approaches from sociology, history, or other areas.

For creative writing students, ENGL 491 can also be used to develop an extended creative project such as a novel.

While the choice of topic is flexible, it may be limited by the research and teaching interests of the faculty in the Centre for Humanities. Students are encouraged to exercise imagination and creativity in the project that they propose and to develop a topic that is significant, compelling, and speaks to their particular interests.


Early on in the course, students will complete a project proposal that includes the goals, procedures, and deadlines for completing the different phases of the work. The course of study will normally culminate in the production of a major scholarly paper.

There are three specifications on scholarly projects for this course:

  1. Projects must include the study of at least one literary or cultural text or problem.
  2. Projects must be acceptable to the professor who works with the student.
  3. Project results must be presented in a formal essay written in Standard English.

In the case of a creative writing project, your professor will discuss your intended project with you in order to establish expectations for the form, length, and other details.


To receive credit for ENGL 491, you must achieve a minimum grade of 50 per cent on each assignment and a composite course grade of at least D (50 percent). The weighting of the course assignments is as follows:

Activity Weight
Assignment 1: Detailed Project Proposal 10%
Assignment 2: Progress Report 10%
Assignment 3: Finished Research Paper 70%
Assignment 4: Complete Bibliography 10%
Total 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Barker, Chris, and Emma A. Jane, editors. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. 5th ed., Sage, 2016.

A print version of the eText may be available for purchase from the publisher through a direct-to-student link provided on the course website; you can also acquire the textbook on your own if you wish.

Other Materials

All other materials are available online; this includes a study guide, a student manual, and a writing guide.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, July 12, 2017.

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