Updated: May 22, 2024

Most Comparative Literature courses are taught at the Centre for Comparative Literature, Isabel Bader Theatre, 3rd floor, Linda Hutcheon Seminar Room (BT319) unless indicated otherwise below. Please click on the course code to see its description.


Instructor: S. Dowling
Time: Fall term, Wednesdays, 1-3

COL1000H is a general introduction to comparative literature, and to contemporary theory and criticism. Its purpose is to offer all incoming M.A. and Ph.D. students exposure to key issues in the discipline. Organized around the broad theme of “Bases for Comparison,” each of our meetings will explore a particular issue or problem addressed in contemporary scholarship. After briefly reviewing the history of the discipline, we will interrogate a number of the categories foundational to it: language, literature, aesthetics, theory, humanity/humanities, relation, and comparison. We will conclude by reading some exemplary new work in comparative literature, through which we will chart possible directions for our own scholarship, and new challenges for the field.

Participation: For every meeting of our course, please prepare the following: briefly outline and respond to the biggest question the author is asking in each of our texts, as well as one or two of the smaller/more local/resultant questions that the author asks. Comment on how and when these questions are posed; how/whether/to what extent they are answered; how these questions are positioned in relation to the works of other thinkers; and how the author demonstrates their relevance or importance. Because the theme of our course is “Bases for Comparison,” I recommend that you make a note of anything the text says about comparison, as well as about the kinds of comparisons it makes, and/or anything it says about comparative literature. Include any significant quotations in your document (with page numbers). Prepare this outline in writing and bring it to class every week. You will use this document for your own reference during class discussions—I will evaluate participation based on quality, not quantity. While I understand that life is complicated, please be aware of the general expectation that graduate students attend all meetings of all their courses. If you find it challenging to contribute orally or if extraordinary circumstances prevent you from attending class, you can email your document to me immediately afterwards.
Outline for class contributions: ~1-2 pages, point-form.
20% of total grade.

Keyword Essay: Choose one important critical term from our readings (e.g., freedom, human, queer, form), or a significant/interesting term from a language that you are hoping to work with during your graduate studies (e.g., genre, âcimowin, relación). Write a short essay that synthesizes about three different uses/meanings of this term in order ask a question relevant for literary scholarship. What debates, problems, or important ideas cluster around this term? What do the different meanings of this term help us to see that we otherwise might not? How has the meaning of this term shifted over time, and what might these changes tell us? Are there any issues/problems in translating this term? If so, what do these difficulties indicate? How does this term help you to understand a theoretical issue in a new way? I will offer you an array of keyword essays to consult as you are writing this paper, and you will each meet with me (at least) once during the writing process.
6-7 pages double-spaced, in Times New Roman, MLA citation style.
30% of total grade.

Seminar Paper: Your seminar paper will analyze a text of your choosing (poem, story, novel, film, artwork, etc.). The goal of your seminar paper will be to show how this text addresses or exposes a particular problem or idea discussed in critical theory. Your paper should show how the text asks its readers/viewers to consider this theoretical problem in a new or interesting way. This is a research paper: survey the existing scholarship on the text you have chosen and contextualize your analysis within this ongoing conversation. Your analysis of the text should demonstrate that the existing conversation about the text is, in some significant way, incomplete. Your paper should show how our understanding of the text is improved through your approach. In addition, please also try to show how the existing theoretical conversation could be improved by attending to texts such as the one you are analyzing. In what ways does a text like yours offer its readers/viewers a new way to think about a significant issue? You are invited to use your keyword essay as work toward your seminar paper. Each of you will meet with me (at least) once during the writing process.
20 pages double-spaced, in Times New Roman, MLA citation style.
50% of total grade.

Instructor: B. Havercroft
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 3-5

In this course, we will focus on issues that are situated at the intersection of four major trends in contemporary feminist literary studies : 1) the unprecedented interest in autobiographical writings, sparked by a profusion of the actual publication of such texts and by the development of a large body of criticism dealing with the numerous forms of life writing; 2) the rapid evolution of specifically feminist theories of autobiography (Gilmore, Smith, Watson) over the past twenty years; 3) current feminist theories of agency and subjectivity (Butler, Druxes, Mann); 4) the recent theoretical inquiry into the category of gender (Butler, Robinson, Scott), especially as it is represented in the literary text.

The seminar will begin with a critical study and problematization of the principal concepts outlined in these four theoretical groupings. We will then proceed with close readings of several works of contemporary life writing, drawn from the French, Québécois and German literary contexts, emphasizing the diverse textual strategies by which female autobiographical subjects are constructed and, in turn, make a claim to agency. In many instances, textual subjects merge both fact and fiction in an effort to become subjects-in-process, subjects with multiple facets that challenge androcentric theories of the supposedly unified, sovereign autobiographical subject ( Gusdorf ), while juxtaposing the personal, the political and the social in their texts. Notions such as the relational self, the writing of trauma and illness, performativity in autobiographical writing, the « death » of the subject and the author, and the problematics of memory (personal, historical, cultural, etc.) will be examined. While the focus will be on various forms of women’s life writing, we will also analyze one male author’s AIDS diary, not simply to further investigate the gendered basis of all writing, but also to examine the particular forms of agency mobilized in autobiographical accounts of illness.


Brossard, Nicole.  Journal intime ou voilà donc un manuscrit (Montréal : Les Herbes Rouges, 1998 [1984]).  English translation : Intimate Journal, or, Here’s a Manuscript; followed by Works of Flesh and Metonymies (Toronto : Mercury Press, 2004).

Ernaux, Annie.  La Honte (Paris : Gallimard, 1997).  English translation : Shame, trans. Tanya Leslie (New York : Seven Stories Press, 1998).

Guibert, Hervé.  À l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la vie (Paris : Gallimard, 1990).  English translation : To The Friend Who Did Not Save My Life, trans. Linda Coverdale (London : Quartet Books, 1991).

Wolf, Christa.  Kindheitsmuster (Berlin/Weimar : Aufbau Verlag, 1976).  Two English translations exist : 1) Patterns of Childhood, trans. Ursule Molinaro and Hedwig Rappolt (New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984; and 2) A Model Childhood, trans. U. Molinaro and H. Rappolt (New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980).

N.B. The original German edition and English translations of Kindheitsmuster are available in the University of Toronto libraries, or you may order your own copy.  English translations of Ernaux’s, Brossard’s and Guibert’s texts are available in the U. of Toronto libraries, or you may order your own copies.  See the course schedule document (to be distributed at the first meeting of the class) for further details.

A series of complete bibliographies dealing with the various different theories to be analyzed in this course will be distributed at the first
meeting of the seminar. Students are advised to prepare for the course by doing some preliminary readings :
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York : Routledge, 1990).
———. Bodies That Matter : On the Discursive Limits of « Sex » (New York : Routledge, 1993).
———. Excitable Speech : A Politics of the Performative (New York : Routledge, 1997).
Druxes, Helga. Resisting Bodies : The Negociation of Female Agency in Twentieth-Century Women’s Fiction (Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1996).
Eakin, Paul John. How Our Lives Become Stories : Making Selves (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1999).
Felski, Rita. Beyond Feminist Aesthetics : Feminist Literature and Social Change(Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1989).
Gilmore, Leigh. Autobiographics : A Feminist Theory of Women’s Self-Representation(Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1994).
Gusdorf, Georges. « Conditions et limites de l’autobiographie », in Günter Reichenkron and Erich Haase (eds.), Formen der Selbstdarstellung : Analekten zu einer Geschichte des literarischen Selbstporträts (Berlin : Duncker and Humblot, 1956) : 105-123. (English translation in James Olney, 1980).
Lejeune, Philippe. Le pacte autobiographique (nouvelle edition augmentée) (Paris : Seuil, 1996 [1975]).
Mann, Patricia. Micro-Politics : Agency in a Postfeminist Era (Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1994).
Olney, James (ed.). Autobiography : Essays Theoretical and Critical (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1980).
Smith, Sidonie. A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography : Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1987).
——. « Performativity, Autobiographical Practice, Resistance », a/b : Auto/Biography Studies, Vol. 10, no. 1 (spring 1995) : 17-33.
Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson (eds.). Women, Autobiography, Theory : A Reader(Madison : The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).
Watson, Julia. « Toward An Anti-Metaphysics of Autobiography », in Robert Folkenflik (ed.), The Culture of Autobiography : Constructions of Self-Representation (Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1993) : 57-79.

Written Response to a Theoretical Article: 15%
Oral presentation  (30 minutes) :  25%
Research paper (20 pages max.) : 50%
Participation in class :                   10%

N.B. The participation mark will be based not only on regular attendance at the seminar, but also on ACTIVE participation in class discussion

Instructor: J. Ross
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 1-3

This course will examine the dynamics of cultural exchange between Muslims, Jews and Christians in medieval Iberia as manifested in the literatures produced by each group. Beginning with an introduction to theories of alterity and postcolonialism and their relevance to the medieval past, the course, through readings of Hebrew (in translation), Arabic (in translation) and Castilian literary sources will consider the way ‘others’ are represented, as well as the ways in which cultures come into contact in these texts through adaptation or hybrid literary forms. The course will move from Islamic Spain where cultural cross-fertilization produced such innovative, hybrid forms of poetry as the muwashshahat in Arabic with their accompanying Romance jarchas, and Jewish poets like Todros Abulafia who struggled to define himself and his writing within the dominant Arabic literary culture, to Christian Spain where the complex models of literary translation and transmission placed Arabic models at the centre of European intellectual culture. The course will follow the trajectory of Spanish history as Muslims and Jews were assimilated, converted or expelled by exploring the dynamics of conversion in poetry written by converted Jews in the 15th century and the domestication of the ‘other’ in such 16th-century Castilian texts as the Abencerraje. In addition to texts already mentioned, other readings may include Shem Tov’s Moral Proverbs, selections from the romances, and Juan Manuel’s El conde Lucanor. A reading knowledge of Spanish is required.

This course explores the cross-fertilization of cultures and literatures in medieval Iberia, a focus that is central to the mandate of Comparative Literature. The study of Hebrew, Arabic, Castilian and Latin literatures in the Spanish Middle Ages is more usually carried out in separate departments of Spanish, Near and Middle Eastern Studies or Medieval
Studies. The offering of this course through Comparative Literature enables a much fuller and richer exploration of medieval Iberian literary culture.

Seminar participation: 20%
Response Notes: 30%
Presentation: 15%

Instructor: J. Ricco
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 10-12

This seminar examines some of the principal themes in the work of Roland Barthes over what were to be the last three years of his life. Prompted and enabled by the recent publication and translation of his lecture courses at the College de France (in particular Th e Neutral; and Th e Preparation of the Novel), and the mourning diary that he kept in the wake of his mother’s death, the course seeks to understand the central importance of the notion of the neutral, the experience of mourning, the evidence of photography, and the notations on homosexual erotics in Barthes’ writing and teaching from his Inaugural Lecture at the College on January 7, 1977 to his seminal book on photography, Camera Lucida. Other texts by Barthes that we will discuss include: Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes; and Incidents. In addition, we will read critical works on Barthes by Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, D.A. Miller, Diana Knight, Eduardo Cadava, Geoff rey Batchen and others.


  1. Preparation for, and participation in, weekly seminar meetings (10%)
  2. Leading 1 class discussion of reading assignment (10%)
  3. Weekly critical response papers (15%)
  4. Presentation of Research Project (15%)
  5. Research paper: approx. 20-25 pages (5,000-6,500 words); fully annotated with bibliography, (50%)

Instructor: A. Sakaki
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 10-12

This course will look at six metropoles (Berlin, London, Paris, New York, St. Petersburg, Shanghai) from the perspectives of Japanese visitors such as Mori, Natsume, Nagai, Yokomitsu, Tanizaki, Gotô, Tawada, and Horie, and from those of natives and immigrants (e.g., Benjamin, Döblin, Nabokov, Woolf, Conrad, Rilke, Pushkin, Gogol, Shi). Those writers’ accounts of cities in the span of time between the late nineteenth century and late twentieth century are inflected by the itineraries of their movement before and after their experience of the cities and by their peripatetic as well as optical experience of urban spaces of varied historical, social, material and geopolitical conditions. They reveal cities not as cartographical spots but as sites in the traffic of bodies and sensations. The readings (all assigned are available in English, with additional materials to be introduced by the instructor) shall be arranged in such a way that participants can compare each city’s literary mediations by variably invested observers. Accompanying theoretical, critical and photographic texts (e.g., Apter, Atget, Benjamin, Brandt, Brassaï, Burgin, de Certeau, Doisneau, Gleber, Maeda, Ronis, Walker) shall define a conceptual framework for each session.


Class Participation 10% (each week’s performance shall be assessed accumulatively)
Response Papers 20%
Oral Presentation 10% (once during the semester)
Term Paper 60%

Instructor: J. Zilcosky
Time: Fall Term, Wednesdays, 3-5

When the German-English writer, W.G. Sebald, began publishing in the late 1980s, readers reported never having read anything like him. What made his writing so unusual? Was it the unpredictable appearance of grainy photographs only tangentially related to the text? Was it the relentless blurring of fact and fiction, especially through autobiographical narrators, often named “Sebald”? Was it the flatly melancholic depiction of exile? Was it the mystery of genre: Were these autobiographies, novels, collages, travelogues? Or was it Sebald’s paradoxical style: postmodern self-reflection portrayed in elaborate nineteenth-century sentences, including one that extends for over seven pages?

In this course, we will search for “Sebald,” first by considering how his texts without apparent precursors indeed had them: the autofictions of Jorge Luis Borges, the periscopic monologues of Thomas Bernhard, and the photo-embedded stories of Alexander Kluge. We will then dive into Sebald’s great prose fictions – Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz – examining his revolutionary style and the recurrent themes it describes: the unreliability of memory, the catastrophic history of humankind, and the conundrums of a non-Jewish German son of a Wehrmacht officer writing about the Shoah.

These themes touch on contemporary theoretical discourses surrounding trauma, war, postmemory, text-image, and autofiction. We will examine how these theories illuminate Sebald’s and vice versa: how his fiction prefigures such conceptual “discoveries.” By participating in own translations, Sebald likewise anticipates aspects of translation theory.

At the end of the course, we consider Sebald’s influence – following his early death in 2001 – on seminal contemporary writers such as Patrick Modiano, Rachel Cusk, and Jenny Erpenbeck.

Final Paper: 50%
In-Class Presentation: 20%
Critical Summaries: 15%
Overall Class Participation: 15%

Instructor: R. Comay
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 1-3
Syllabus, please consult with Comparative Literature for course location

This course will be devoted to reading Freud’s case histories. We’ll be paying close attention to the unstable relationship between the theoretical and the clinical registers in Freud’s text, with particular emphasis on the psychoanalytic concepts of transference, resistance, repetition, working-through, “construction in analysis,” and the end-of-analysis. In addition to the major case studies — Dora, Anna O, Little Hans, Schreber, Wolfman, Ratman –we will also consider the snippets of Freud’s own auto-analysis (e.g. the “specimen dream” in the Interpretation of Dreams, the Autobiographical Fragment, and other first-person texts, including Freud’s early correspondence with Fliess). Our reading of the primary texts will be accompanied by recent theoretical and critical engagements with the case histories, including Jacques Lacan, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Jacques Derrida, Jacqueline Rose, and Eric Santner.

Evaluation: Class presentation with write-up 30%, participation 10%, final paper 60%


Instructor: R. Bai
Time: Spring term, Thursdays, 11-1

This course examines new forms of textualities and textual practices that are emerging in the digital era. It highlights an understudied dimension of the text, i.e. the medium that forms its material and technological infrastructure such as scroll, codex, book, CD, e-book, the Internet, and smartphone. The course starts with a historical investigation into the printed text and print culture. Then it moves on to the question of how digital technologies shape reading and writing as well as other text-based cultural practices. While the course revolves around the mediality of the text, it distances itself from technological determinism by stressing the facts that digital technologies are always embedded in and shaped by historically specific political, social, and cultural conditions. This course is designed for students who are interested in questions and issues related to literary production in the digital era and more generally the materiality of the text. Theoretical and scholarly works we will engage with in this course include, but not limited to, Understanding Media: Extensions of Man (McLuhan, 1964), The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Adrian Johns, 2000), Writing Machines (N. Katherine Hayles, 2002), Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (Jay David Bolter, 2001), Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media (Mark Hansen, 2006), The Interface Effect (Alexander R. Galloway), The Language of New Media (Lev Manovich, 2002), Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies (Noah Wardrip-Fruin, 2009).

Class participation (15%)
Discussion leader (15%)
Response Essay 1 (35%)
Response Essay 2 (35%)

Instructor: A. Komaromi
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 1-3

This course considers the formation of publics and public intellectuals, according to some leading theorists, asking: how do we adapt theoretical tools and insights to changing conditions and challenges within a globalized modernity?

A survey of theory and literary texts from western, Soviet and other sources will allow us to examine the concept of the “public” as a fragile construction within democratic society. We will consider how publics and subjects within them may be constituted through shared texts, private reading and public interventions, media, and social networks. Students will be encouraged to think critically about dichotomies of public vs. private, author vs. reader, and producer vs. consumer. We will aim to foster awareness of the potential for autonomy and a critical stance toward power in historical contexts and in the contemporary world of globalized networks and media. We will apply critical scrutiny to concepts of filiation and affiliation, citizenship and representation, asking what public reading means for the past and future of democracy. Readings may include selections from Jurgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Edward Said, Michael Warner, as well as literary readings from Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Walt Whitman, George Orwell, Russian futurists, Soviet nonconformists, and others.

You are encouraged to read in the original language(s) other than English where you can and to bring insights based on that reading into discussion.

Participation – 15%
Reading Responses – 20%
Proposal and Annotated Bibliography (for Final Essay) – 20%
Final Essay – 45%

Instructor: J. Zilcosky
Time: Spring term, Mondays, 3-5

In this course, we will examine literary representations of trauma from the early nineteenth century (the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars) to the aftermath of World War I, when “shell shock” brought trauma irrevocably into the public eye. We will begin by examining the discourse of unrepresentability and doubt in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century medical literature, especially in Freudian psychoanalysis: if we can find no somatic source for trauma, how do we know that it exists? We will then investigate how the literature of this period – “modernism” – both reacted to and helped to shape this discourse. Rarely focusing explicitly on traumatic events, this literature only hints at traumatic occurrences – foregrounding instead the problem of representability at the heart of the modern age. Just as the traumatized body no longer points back to a physical pathology, so too does language itself seem to be severed from the object it aims to describe.

We will read literary and theoretical texts by writers such as Freud, Kafka, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W. G. Sebald, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Jean Laplanche, Catherine Malabou, Shoshana Felman, and Cathy Caruth.

Final Paper: 50%
In-Class Presentation: 20%
Critical Summaries: 15%
Overall Class Participation: 15%

Instructor: E. Cazdyn
Time: Fall term, Wednesdays, 1-3

This seminar will be dedicated to one philosopher and to one artist from different national situations and different historical generations. We will carefully work through the corpus of each figure and experiment with creating unlikely connections. In the process, we will question the boundaries of philosophy and art as well as the limits and possibilities of comparison. The idea is this: what kind of connections-comparisons (and what kind of theory of comparison) will emerge when we dedicate to two figures at the same time—even though these two figures have no obvious connections and have, most likely, never been thought together. Example pairings include the French philosopher Alain Badiou and Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul or American literary theorist Fredric Jameson and Japanese dancer Min Tanaka. For the Fall 2024, we will focus on the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro and either American conceptualist artist Dan Graham, Canadian artist Michael Snow, French filmmaker Claire Denis, Korean-American artist Nam June Paik, American artist Bruce Nauman, or American novelist Octavia E. Butler.  Check in over the Summer to confirm.

Assignments: Will likely involve a seminar presentation, short reflection papers, and a final essay.

Instructor: H. Bahoora
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays, 1-3

This seminar provides an overview of scholarship in the spatial humanities, with a focus on the ways that theorizations of space and place have informed aesthetics, culture, and politics. The “spatial turn” in critical theory designates an increased focus on space, place and spatiality across various disciplines to emphasize a geographic dimension as an essential aspect of the production of culture and experience. In the first half of the course, we will read seminal theorists of space whose work reinserted spatiality as essential to the discursive constructions of the categories of modernity and postmodernity. We will then examine how their challenges to historicism transformed understandings of the space-time experience of global capitalism and provided frameworks for expanded and revised theorizations of colonialism and imperialism, gender and sexuality, urbanization and architectural history, geocriticism and ecocriticism, and literary studies. We will investigate how the spatial turn has in recent decades resulted in attempts to map new historical geographies of literary production, and we will consider the methodological implications the spatial turn has had on the transformation of theoretical interventions in literary studies, particularly in postcolonial theory. Authors will include Gaston Bachelard, Michel Foucault, Henri Lefebvre, Frantz Fanon, David Harvey, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Jean Rhys, Tayeb Salih, Nuruddin Farah, Amitav Ghosh, Assia Djebar, and Mahasweta Devi.

Attendance/Participation: 20%
Three Response Papers: 30%
Final paper proposal: 10%
Final Paper: 40%

Instructor: C. James
Time: Spring term, Thursdays, 1-3

Over the last four decades, a growing body of literary works which specifically engage the aftermath of political conflict has been produced by writers from different societies across the globe. Emerging from the space of horror left by ethnic, religious, intra-state and /or border conflicts, these works highlight the significant role that literature can play in the negotiating of peace and resolution of conflict. In addition to participating in the process of attenuating conflict and building peace, post-conflict literatures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries become crucial in rebuilding filial, social and communal relations. Significantly, post-conflict literatures also serve as conduits through which diasporic communities negotiate politics of identity and belonging with ‘home’ territories.

In this course we will study post-conflict narratives from Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Darfur, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic and Colombia. Drawing on recent theoretical conceptions of conflict geography, biopolitics and necropolitics, we will examine issues such as religious and state violence, violations of human rights, trauma, genocide and post-traumatic memory. But we will also be examining the therapeutic potential of imaginative literature as well as its role in facilitating processes of truth and reconciliation. Additionally, the course analyzes the variety of creative strategies employed by the different genres within post-conflict literatures (memoir, autobiography, autofiction, science fiction, crime drama) to make sense of the past and map a new future.

In exploring post-conflict literatures, we will draw on ideas from a wide range of thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Achille Mbembe, Antonio Negri and Sylvia Wynter, among others. The main texts for study will include Wendy Erskine Sweet Home (2019) [Ireland], Steven Galloway The Cellist of Sarajevo (2009) [Bosnia and Herzegovina – Canadian Author], Scholastique Mukasonga Our Lady of the Nile (2014) [Rwanda], Chinua Achebe There Was A Country (2013) [Nigeria], Evelio Roserio The Armies (2009) [Colombia] and René Philoctète Massacre River (2008) [Dominican Republic].

Attendance and Participation: 10%
Class Presentation [plus written version]: 30%
Final paper: 60%

Instructor: Z. R. Mian
Time: Spring term, Mondays, 1-3

This course will trace the emergence of World Literature as an integral subfield of contemporary literary studies, from the mid-20th century to the present. Contentiously depicted as either the antithesis or ideal of comparative scholarship, World Literature evokes less a singular approach than it does fecund questions concerning literary institutions, circulation, translation, and pedagogy. We will train a literary-sociological lens on the metropolitan production of World Literature while attending to new approaches that stress the latter’s subjective constitution.

COL5152H will acquaint graduate students with key debates in the study of World Literature. We will compare early models offered by Damrosch, Moretti, and Casanova with new work by Hayot, Beecroft, and others. How does a “literary ecology” differ from the “world republic of letters,” and what intellectual commitments configure the world in terms of “significant geographies” rather than as one “literary world system”? We will work through such macro-concepts by foregrounding specific historical debates. We will, for example, reappraise the Ngugi-Achebe debate on the language of African literature through recent work by Jeyifo and Mukoma. Paraliterary institutions such as UNESCO and the university will form significant sites of inquiry as we turn to Brouillette, English, Huggan, Shapiro, and others. The question of translation and the pedagogical stakes of world literature will be brought into focus through Spivak, Venuti, and Apter. We will conclude this comprehensive overview by engaging the contemporary emergence of Global Englishes through scholarship by Anjaria, Joshi, Walkowitz, and Saxena. Students will leave this course acquainted with the full range of methods and debates shaping the study of World Literature today. They will also have developed a considerable appreciation of the long-term constitution of the field.

Research paper: 35%
Research Proposal: 15%
Participation: 25%
Review presentation: 25%

COL5153H LYRIC: POLITICS AND POETIC FORM (not offered in 24-25)
Instructor: M. Nyquist
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays, 3-5

Of the three large literary genres (epic, drama, lyric), lyric poetry tends to be the least studied; it also often triggers anxiety.  In this course, students will learn to identify a variety of lyric poetry’s sub-genres and formal features.  We will explore questions such as, what are some of the ways in which historical and political contexts matter? How do poetry’s rhythmical and musical elements manifest themselves, if at all? What social positions or ideological formations are associated with specific sub-genres or forms? In what ways have poets from marginalized communities eschewed or appropriated conventional sub-genres or poetic forms?  How have new forms of media contributed to debates about “formalist” and “anti-formalist” positions? To make this manageable, we will focus on (1) early modern and contemporary poetry (2) pastoral poetry, the sonnet, and elegy (3) Euro-colonial and post-colonial contexts. Students will be selecting many of the poems to be studied in class; if they were written in languages other than English, they will be accompanied by translations. 

For students of literature, lyric poetry is often radically under-studied, leaving prospective instructors and writers without the knowledge needed to understand, interpret, teach, or write lyric poetry. This course provides an excellent introduction to central formal features and literary debates. Students with advanced expertise will find many new contexts in which to experiment and learn.  

Course Objectives
•Learn to reflect on a wide variety of issues relating to the writing and study of lyric poetry
•Acquire the ability to identify a variety of poetic sub-forms and features
•Develop a sense of the historically and culturally specific features of a given set of poems
•Develop ability to analyze innovative appropriations of existing sub-genres, forms or poetic features

Method of Evaluation
Two co-facilitations (25%)
Participation (25%)
Two exercises (10%)
Short essay of 1000 words (15%)
Final essay of approximately 3000 words (25%)

Instructor: A. Motsch
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 10-12

Marcel Mauss’ now “classic” essay on gift exchange inspired many debates in sociology, literature, critical theory, philosophy, anthropology and beyond. Theorizing the gift as a social and symbolic practice, as a fundamental way of establishing social relationships, Mauss’ essay allows us to rethink what constitutes an object, what is implied in the exchange of objects (and words), what is the role of such exchanges, and which kind of exchange speaks to what kind of social relationship and type of society. What is a gift, a commodity, a work of art, a fetish, a money transaction? How does the gift move from “primitive” to “modern” societies? Which socioeconomic models privilege gift exchange? What is the role of the gift in oral societies? Can speech be theorized as a gift and what does it mean “to give your word” to someone? What does it mean “to give life”?

Gift exchange is fundamental to all societies and these social transactions are consequently ubiquitous in any discourse relating to human beings. Some authors, cultural critics and philosophers have spent considerable effort to think about such questions in a variety of media and in many different artistic forms. Gide’s novel The Counterfeiters and Bataille’s essay on excess, along with all the literature on emerging capitalism by the likes of Balzac and Dickens, all the “rags to riches” stories and the literature on sacrifice in literature and anthropology, shine immediately in a different light. Never short of relevance, Mauss’ essay lends theoretical depth to contemporary debates on Settler-indigenous relations which inevitably turn to issues of gift exchange to rethink social relations and cultural exchanges.

This course will work through some theoretical readings and contrast them with primary examples mostly from literature, film and cultural studies, but also from anthropological and socio-political theory as well as the current debates in the wake of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation commission. The texts do not limit themselves though to any single period, nor to any particular national or theoretical tradition.


Instructor: J. LeBlanc
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 3-5

“In my view, text and image complement, rather than supplement, each other; since reference is not secure in either, neither can compensate for lack of stability in the other. Because both media are located on the border between fact and fiction, they often undercut just as easily as they reinforce each other.” (T. Adams).

In the autobiographical and historiographic narratives chosen to explore the various ways in which text and image can interact with and reflect on each other, the writers use a highly metalinguistic discourse to discuss the problems of self-referentiality in language and in images in order to reflect on the use of images, paintings and sketches in their visualizations and articulations of selfhood. Edward Ardizzone, Annie Ernaux, Frida Kahlo and Jacques Poulin, all express an awareness of the auto-bio-graphical self as decentered, multiple, fragmented and divided against itself in the act of observing and being. The use of paintings, drawings, figures of ekphrasis and photos (portraits and self-portraits), operate as visual supplements (illustrations) and corroboration (verification) of the autobiographical subjects and their narratives. The introduction or the description of images in autobiographical and fictional autobiographical texts problematizes the status of the autobiographical genre, the complexities underlining the referential, representational, mimetic relationships between self-images and life-writings, etc. The study of theoretical texts pertaining to autobiography and self portraiture (paintings, drawings and photographs) and the relationship between words and images will serve as a basis for our analysis of Ardizzone, Ernaux, Kahlo and Poulin’s autobiographical and historiographic narratives.


Ardizzone, Ed. Diary of a War Artist. Fragments of this illustrated diary will be distributed in class. It will be studied in conjunction with the artistic production of E. Ardizzone conserved at the IWM in London. Copies of images will be distributed.

Ernaux, Annie. The years. Fragments of her illustrated diary published in Écrire la vie will enhance our study of Ernaux’s expansive use of photographic ekphrasis within her memoire.

Kahlo, Frida. Intimate Diary. English translation of her personal diary initially published in Spanish. This illustrated life-narrative will be studied in conjunction with Kahlo’s numerous painted self-portraits.

Poulin, Jacques. Volkswagen Blues. This illustrated text will be studied through historical documents pertaining to indigenous cultures referenced by Poulin.


A more detailed theoretical bibliography will be provided.
– Adams, Timothy D. Light Writing and Life Writing. Photography in Autobiography. University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
– Doy, Gen. Picturing the Self: changing views of the subject in visual culture. London: I.B.Tauris, 2005.
– Gombrich, E. H. Art and Illusion: A Study of the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
– Hughs, Alex and Andrea Noble. Phototextualities: Intersections of Photography and Narrative. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 2003.
– Kim, Yeon-Soo. The Family Album. Bucknell University Press, 2005.
– Lejeune, Philippe. Je est un autre. Paris: Seuil, 1980.
– Louvel, L. (Jean-Pierre Montier, Littérature et photographie. Rennes, PUR, 2008.
– Mitchell, W.J.T. The Languages of Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
– Olney, James. Studies in Autobiography. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
– Sontag, S. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1977.

One essay: 65%
One presentation: 20%
Participation: 15%

*Please note that students are invited to work on a corpus of their choice for their final essay and presentation. However, a comparative study including one of the primary texts listed (Ardizzone, Ernaux, Kahlo, Poulin and Barthes) should be used if one chooses to use another text which is not featured in our list of primary texts.

Updated: June 4, 24