ENGL 467* Topics in Contemporary Canadian Literature II – Aboriginal and Asian Connections in Contemporary Canadian Fiction
(Mondays 1-2:30, Wednesdays 11:30-1:00) This course is inspired by Rita Wong’s “Decolonizasian: Reading Asian and First Nations Relations in Literature” and Emma LaRocque’s “Teaching Aboriginal Literature: The Discourse of Margins and Mainstreams.” The discussion will focus on textual relations between Aboriginal and Asian Canadian fiction within the context of alternative configurations of imagined community and cross-cultural relations. Themes that we will explore include traumatized memory, decolonization, reconciliation, transracial adoption, sexualities, and perceptions of the land. Narrative modes to be examined include the gothic, storytelling, and trickster aesthetic. While some texts such as Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Café and Tamai Kobayashi’s Exile and the Heart portray relationships between those who have been racialized as “Asian” and those who have been racialized as “Aboriginal,” Joy Kogawa’s Obasan and Ruby Slipperjack’s Silent Words share certain themes and modes, and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas celebrates a new form of art with his Haida manga. In its attempt to examine the relationship between indigeneity and diaspora, the course will also be concerned with the limitations of affiliative politics. As Daniel Heath Justice observes: “the opportunities for non-Natives in Canada come as a consequence of the land loss, resource expropriation, social upheaval, and political repression of Aboriginal peoples” (“The Necessity of Nationhood: Affirming the Sovereignty of Indigenous National Literatures”). Other texts likely to be included are Kevin Chong’s Baroque-a-nova, Drew Hayden Taylor’s Motorcycles & Sweetgrass, Richard Wagamese’s Keeper’n Me, Ting-Xing Ye’s Throwaway Daughter, Lee Maracle’s Ravensong, Larissa Lai’s When Fox Is a Thousand, Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach, and Judy Fong Bates’s Midnight at the Dragon Café.
Requirements: Lots of reading, one seminar presentation, a midterm exam, and one term paper.
ENGL 873* Topics in Cndn Lit. III: "carrying the burden of peace": Exploring Indigenous Masculinities through Literature
In the language of the Kanien kehaka or Mohawk, the most common translation for the English word “warrior” isrotiskenhrakete, which means literally “carrying the burden of peace.” Kanien kehaka theorist Taiaiake Alfred explains: “The word is made up of roti, connoting “he”; sken in relation to skennen, or “peace”; and hrakete, which is a suffix that combines the connotations of a burden and carrying.” Rotiskenhrakete is not simply an identity formulation but a social role; it doesn’t so much individualize as identify connection through absorption and synecdoche; it suggests what onedoes as much who one is.
Ironically, the image of the Mohawk warrior has been mobilized in popular Canadian culture to represent forms of Indigenous hypermasculinity delinked from contemporary community concerns and absorbed into a non-Indigenous representational tradition in which Indigenous male characters vacillate among stereotypes of the noble savage, the bloodthirsty warrior, and the drunken absentee. In a contemporary moment saturated by such dehumanizing and decontextualized simulations, and at a time in which traditional Indigenous male roles and responsibilities have been obfuscated by colonial dispossession and other factors, this course will examine the social function of depictions of Indigenous masculinities in recent literature and film. We will employ masculinity theory and contemporary Indigenous literary theory to study poems, novels, life-writings, films, and oral tales by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, with an eye to how these sources represent, foment, and/or intervene in contemporary crises of Indigenous masculinity. The reading list will include works by authors like Gregory Scofield, Richard Van Camp, Jeannette Armstrong, Daniel David Moses, Tom Porter, and Joseph Boyden. Course assignments will include oral teachings and a major written project, the parameters, scope, and execution of which will be determined by the class using consensus decision-making.
This seminar explores literature’s relation to the process of globalization in general and the representation of transnational contexts in contemporary Canadian fiction in particular. Transnationalism has become fundamental to debates about literature as scholars wrestle with the interrelated phenomena of economic globalization, migration, and global travel. What are the connections among literature, nationalism, and cultural identity in the context of ever-expanding transnational relations? How is the intersection between the local, the national, and the transnational imagined in Canadian fiction? The increasingly transnational character of Canadian writing also raises questions about the creative, intellectual, institutional, and political conditions that shape it and about identity formation and citizenship. In addition to examining the relationship between the national and the transnational and between postcoloniality and globalization in novels including Gurjinder Basran’s Everything Was Good-By, Catherine Bush’s The Rules of Engagement, Maggie Helwig’s Between Mountains, Tessa McWatt’s Step Closer, Kerri Sakamoto’s One Hundred Million Hearts, and Madeleine Thien’s Certainty we will turn to transnational, globalization, and hemispheric studies for answers to these questions. Requirements:
Students will be required to make one seminar presentation, participate in seminar discussion, and write a final paper of 15–20 pages.