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ENGLISH 4VL3 Violence, Lit. & the Archive

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Nadine Attewell


Office: Chester New Hall 311

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24492

Office Hours: W 10.30 – 11.20 & 2 – 3.20; and by appointment

Course Objectives:

By the end of the course, students will be able to 1) analyze specific texts by contemporary anglophone writers and visual artists with attention to the contexts of their production, publication, and reception; 2) discuss theories of memory, historiography, and the archive as these are elaborated in artistic works as well as by scholars of transatlantic studies, critical migration studies, settler colonial studies, Indigenous studies, and feminist, queer, and critical race studies; 3) reflect on the relationship between (aesthetic) form and politics; 4) and develop their ideas about texts in both informal discussion situations and clear, well-argued, well-theorized, and well-supported essays.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

The primary texts will consist of the following books (all have been ordered for purchase from the bookstore): Deborah Miranda's Bad Indians (2013); Renée Sarojini Saklikar's Children of Air India (2013); Velma Demerson's Incorrigible (2004); Graham Swift's Shuttlecock (1981); and Marlene Nourbese Philip's Zong! (2008). We will also discuss Cheryl Dunye’s 1997 film The Watermelon Woman and Sara Davidmann’s 2015 photographic work Ken. To be Destroyed (both of which will be shown or distributed in class). Finally, we will read essays and book chapters by a range of scholars and writers, including Arjun Appadurai, Tina Campt, Teju Cole, Henrietta Fourmile Marrie, and Tina Takemoto, which will be made available for download through A2L.

Method of Assessment:

Discussion Questions (2 @ 5% each): 10%

Discussion Starter Exercise (includes a 5 page response): 20%

Archive Assignment (5 pages): 15%

Major Project Proposal and Bibliography: 15%

Major Project (a 10 to 12 page critical essay with other options available): 30%

Attendance and Engagement: 15%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

The penalty for submitting written work late is two percentage points a day (including weekends), unless students can provide a legitimate reason for their lateness (i.e. illness or family emergency). Students should not hesitate to speak with the instructor in cases where they believe they are likely to be late in submitting an assignment. 

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

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 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 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:




Marlene Manoff, “Theories of the Archive” [A2L]; Henrietta Fourmile Marrie, “Who Owns the Past?” [A2L]; Teju Cole, “The Digital Afterlife of Lost Family Photos” [A2L]


Dionne Brand, “Blues Spiritual for Mammy Prater” [A2L]; Keith Piper, Ghosting the Archive [A2L; to be viewed at home]; Jackie Kay, “See-Saw” [A2L] ; Arjun Appadurai, “Archive and Aspiration” [A2L] Tina Campt, from Image Matters (1-9; 86-91) [A2L]


Ann Stoler, from Along the Archival Grain (31-53)[A2L]; Nadine Attewell, “Reading Closely” [A2L]


Deborah Miranda, Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir


Mid-term Recess


Adele Perry, “The Colonial Archive on Trial” [A2L]; archive assignment due


Renee Sarojini Saklikar, children of air india; Angela Failler, “Remembering the Air India Disaster” [A2L]


Velma Demerson, Incorrigible


Interracial Intimacies: Sex and Race in Toronto; [A2L] Elise Chenier, “Sex, Intimacy, and Desire” [A2L]


Graham Swift, Shuttlecock; draft abstract due


Andy Quan, “Carry On” [A2L]; Sara Davidmann, Ken. To be destroyed; Jo Spence and Patricia Holland, “History, Memory, and the Family Album” [A2L]; Leah Sandals, “When a Private Trans Archive Becomes Public Art” [A2L]            


Cheryl Dunye dir., The Watermelon Woman [in-class viewing]; Tina Takemoto, “Looking for Jiro Onuma” [A2L]; revised research proposal due


Marlene Nourbese Philip, Zong!