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ENGLISH 4HL3 Canadian Holocaust Novels

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Roger Hyman

Email: hymanr@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 302

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23732


Office Hours: Tuesday 2:30-3:30pm, Thursday 1:30-2:30

Course Objectives:

This course will examine selected Canadian novels that respond to the Holocaust. We will also discuss some of the aesthetic and ethical issues involved in such responses, in particular the notion of “ethical criticism.”


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts: (With the exception of the Myers article, these are available at Titles, the university bookstore.)
Myers, D.G. “Responsible for Every Single Pain: Holocaust Literature and the Ethics of Interpretation” (online)

Henry Kreisel, The Betrayal. (Coursepack)

Henry Kreisel, “The Homecoming” in The Almost Meeting and Other Stories.

Mavis Gallant, “The Pegnitz Junction” in “The Pegnitz Junction” and Other Stories.

Phyllis Gotlieb, Why Should I Have All the Grief. (Coursepack)

A. M. Klein, “Gloss Gimel” from The Second Scroll.

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces. 

Alison Pick, Far to Go


Suggested Secondary Reading:

Alvarez, A. “The Literature of the Holocaust.” Beyond All This Fiddle. London: Allen Lane, 1968: 22-33.

Carroll, James. Constantine=s Sword. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Friedrich, Otto. "The Kingdom of Auschwitz". Atlantic Monthly, v. 248, no. 3 (Sept. 1981): 30-60.

Hyman, Roger. Aught From Naught: A.M. Klein=s The Second Scroll. Victoria: ELS, 1999.

Langer, Lawrence. The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975.

Neuman, Shirley, ed. Another Country. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1985.

Rosenfeld, Alvin H. A Double Dying. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.

Roskies, David. Against the Apocalypse. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.


Method of Assessment:

Assignments and Evaluations:  

Presentation:                                        15%

Participation:                                        20%

First Essay:                                           30% (8 pages; assigned September 20, due October 11.)

Second essay:                                     35% (12 pages assigned October 18, due November 15.)

Each class will begin with an informal round-the-table discussion of your impressions of the day’s reading; each student is expected to contribute. Participation marks will be partially based on these discussions. 

Essays: Students are expected to design their own essay topics, and to let me know what they are planning to do. I will, of course, be more than happy to assist in the process.


Class Presentations: Each student is expected to do one class presentation, and to hand in his or her notes for that presentation. The notes may be in point form and should be about two typed pages in length. The presentations may be formal or informal, and should be between 15 and 20 minutes in length. Biographies of authors are not desirable. Close attention should be paid to the specifics of the text, or to the way the text relates to other materials on the course. It is essential that the presentation involve the seminar in discussing and questioning the text. To that end, it is expected that room for questions is designed into the presentation, and that a “heads-up” to the key points of the presentation’s subject matter be distributed to all seminar members a couple of days prior to the presentation.  Presentations may be used as the basis for essays. Sign-up sheets for presentations will be posted on my office door on the first day of class.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:



September 6:                                        Introduction: historical overview; aesthetic and ethical issues.

September 13 and 20:                        The Myers article; The Betrayal

September 27:                                      “The Homecoming”; Pegnitz Junction

October 4:                                             “The Pegnitz Junction”

October 10-16                                      Reading Week

October 18:                                           Why Should I Have All the Grief

October  25 and Nov. 1:                     “Gloss Gimel”

November 8 and 15:                           Fugitive Pieces   

November 22 and 29:                        Far to Go

December 6:                                         Wrap up

Other Course Information:

Note 1: In the event of class cancellations, students will be notified on Avenue and the English Department Website.  It is your responsibility to check these sites regularly for any such announcements.

Link: http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~english/  (Department)

Link: http://avenue.mcmaster.ca/  (avenue to learn)

 Note 2: E-mail Policy

All e-mail communication sent must originate from the student's own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.

Note 3: Students will be requested to complete a online course evaluation at the end of the course.