Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.


Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Lorraine York


Office: Chester New Hall 304

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23739

Office Hours: Thursdays 3:30-5 pm

Course Objectives:

Description of the Course

This course offers a survey of Canadian literary culture: one that sees literature as constantly in conversation with the social: history, politics, geography, visual culture. Rather that distilling a list of essentially “Canadian” characteristics of this literature, however, the focus will be on how the rich diversity of Canadian writing, past and present, complicates and enriches what we conceptualize as “Canadian Literature.” In particular, this course will emphasize and explore the diversity of ethnicity, race, gender, sexualities, class, among other relations of power, in Canadian literature. Here are some of the questions we will pose and discuss:

  • How is the history of Canada as a colonial and colonizing nation reflected (and reflected upon) in the literature?

  • How does Canadian literature engage with the multiple traditions—Indigenous, European, Caribbean, American, to name just a few—that have shaped and influenced it?

  • How have specifically Canadian contexts of literary production—publication, performance, government policy and funding—shaped this literature?

  • To what extent is Canadian literature a transnational literature? That is, what is the nature of Canadian literature’s relations to global issues and histories?

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Textbooks

Cynthia Sugars and Laura Moss, eds. Canadian Literature in English: Texts and           Contexts. Volumes 1 and 2. Pearson. ISBN: 9780321313621 (vol 1) and    9780321494009 (vol 2)

Fred Wah. Diamond Grill. 10th Anniversary edition. NeWest Press. ISBN          9781897126110

Dionne Brand. What We All Long For. Vintage Canada. ISBN 9780676976939

Richard Wagamese. Indian Horse. Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 9781553654025

Jeff Lemire. Collected Essex County. Top Shelf. ISBN 9781603090384

Wajdi Mouawad. Scorched. Playwrights Canada. ISBN 9780887549267

Klyde Broox. My Best Friend is White. McGilligan Books. ISBN 9781894692137

John Terpstra. Brilliant Falls. Gaspereau. ISBN 9781554471232

Esi Edugyan. Half-Blood Blues. Harper-Collins. ISBN 9781443433471

Esi Edugyan. Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home. University of Alberta.

            ISBN 9780888648211

Avenue to Learn site for the Course: will contain powerpoints and other course materials plus separate sections managed by your TAs for your tutorials

Method of Assessment:

Assignments, Weighting, and Due Dates


Diagnostic Essay: 3 double-spaced pages, hard copy due in tutorial (and on the week of September 22: 5%

First-term Essay: 6 double-spaced pages, hard copy due in tutorial (and on the week of November 17: 20 %

Response paragraphs in tutorial: 15%

Tutorial attendance: 5%

Second-term Essay: 10 double-spaced pages, hard copy due in tutorial (and on the week of March 16: 30%

Final exam: 25%

Explanation of Assignments:


Diagnostic essay: This short piece of writing allows your TAs and myself to see a sample of your writing, and it allows you to gain an idea of the marking standards in the course before you submit a longer piece of work. Format: MLA style (see details here: ). You will write on this topic:

  • Choose a visual text of some sort (eg. photograph—including one of your own—illustration, film still) and discuss how it reflects or otherwise comments on issues raised in one of the texts studied in the first couple weeks of term


Response Paragraphs in Tutorial: every week you will be responsible for writing a brief, one-paragraph response to the works under discussion in tutorial that week. Your TA will let you know whether the paragraph that week should be a general response to the work under discussion or a response to a specific question that the TA poses. TAs may assign a general paragraph on some weeks, a paragraph responding to a specific issue on other weeks, or may choose to do entirely one or the other type of response each week. These paragraphs are designed to enrich the discussion in tutorial that day, and you will be responsible for speaking from your response paragraph during tutorial. As a result, they are due in hard copy in the tutorial.  They may not be submitted by email and they may not be submitted any time before or after the tutorial. TAs will assess the responses by giving them one of 3 grades: 0 (not submitted); 1 (submitted); or 2 (exceptionally good work).


First-term essay: You will write an essay on one of these questions:

  • Choose one of the art works by a Canadian-based artist in the McMaster Museum of Art’s exhibition, “This is Me. This is also Me,” opening on November 6th. Relate that work of art to issues explored in 1 or 2 texts studied in the course this term.

  • Choose 1 text from either volume 1 or volume 2 of the Moss and Sugars anthologies that we have not and will not read on this course. Relate it to a specific concern or issue in Canadian culture or history that we have been discussing. OR compare it to another work we have read, as a treatment of a specific concern or issue in Canadian culture or history.


Second-term essay: You will write on one of these questions:

  • Choose one work of art produced in the McMaster Museum of Art (from either the permanent collection or special exhibitions) that was produced in Canada, and relate it to issues arising from several texts studied on this course (ie, 1 longer work and 2-3 shorter pieces such as poems, short stories).

  • Discuss 1 longer work on the course (eg novel, graphic novel, play) and 2-3 shorter pieces (poems, short stories, etc), in terms of a broader context that you have thought about in the course so far (eg. politics, historical issues, literary movements, global debates, social issues). This discussion needs to be specific rather than a collection of loosely general observations.


Expectations of Essays:

  • write in a grammatically proper, error-free style

  • follow MLA style (directions at end of course description)

  • draw upon secondary sources if you wish but make those sources truly secondary to your own critical argument

  • have a clear thesis or organizing argument

  • write in paragraphs that are logically consecutive

  • do not exceed or fall short of the length requirement

  • fully reference secondary sources in accordance with Academic Integrity policies


These are the grading expectations of the department and this course:

First Class (A+, A, A-): Excellent. The essay thoughtfully develops an interesting thesis or shows a sophisticated understanding of concepts under study. The student is in command of the topic and shows some originality and enthusiasm in discussing it. The essay is well organized, convincingly argued, and clearly expressed --

a pleasure to read. It is virtually free of errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation, and uses the conventions of scholarly documentation correctly.

Second Class (B+, B, B-): Very Good to Good. A competent, accurate treatment of its topic but not as sophisticated as essays in the A range. The essay is well written and has a clear thesis or shows a good grasp of concepts under study. Essays at the bottom of this range may not have fully digested the material, and may lean uncritically on secondary sources. The organization is good and the sentences are all comprehensible. There are few errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation. The essay follows standard conventions of scholarly documentation.

Third Class (C+, C, C-): Good to Fair. A fairly basic or superficial treatment of the question or a fuzzy comprehension of concepts under study. The thesis is unclear, or trivial, or undeveloped. Much of the essay is summary or paraphrase, with only occasional analytical comment. There may be inaccuracies; essays at the bottom of this range may rely exclusively on secondary sources. The essay is disjointed; some sentences may be convoluted and incomprehensible. There may be mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as carelessness about scholarly documentation.

Credit (D+, D, D-): Poor. Has serious inaccuracies or inconsistencies. The student has some grasp of the topic, but not much. Where sources are cited, they tend to be misused or misinterpreted. The student may express opinions, but does not support them with evidence or argument. The essay lacks coherence, is unclear, and has many errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Failure (F): Below University Standards. A serious misunderstanding or inability to grasp basic concepts. The essay is disorganized, obscure, full of grammatical errors, and difficult to understand.


Schedule of Readings for the Lectures:

Key: readings in the anthologies are identified as either A1 (Sugars and Moss Anthology Vol 1) or A2 (Sugars and Moss Anthology Vol 2)

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

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:

Schedule of Readings for the Lectures:

Key: readings in the anthologies are identified as either A1 (Sugars and Moss Anthology Vol 1) or A2 (Sugars and Moss Anthology Vol 2)

September 4:             Introduction: “Souvenir of Canada”


8                                  Canadian Literature is…


                                    A1: Brian Maracle, “The First Words” (1)

                                    Thomas D’Arcy McGee, “Protection for Canadian Literature”                                        (305)

                                    A2: Chief Dan George, “A Lament for Confederation” (251)

                                    Russell Smith, “Why Do We Struggle with What Makes                                                   Canadian Literature?”(supplied by me in lecture; on Avenue)


11                                Roughing It in the Colonies


                                    A1: Susanna Moodie, selections from Roughing It in the Bush                                        (211-227)

                                    A1: Catherine Parr Traill, from The Backwoods of Canada (196-                                                208)


15                                Indigenous Lands, Treaties, Promises


                                     A1: Joseph Brant/ Thayendanegea, “Letter to Capt. Green”                                           (145)

                                    A1: George Copway/Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, From Life, History                                                    Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (240)


18                                African-Canadian Presences

                                    A1: Mary Ann Shadd, “From A Plea for Emigration” (246)


22                                Urbanization, Appropriation


                                    A1: Isabella Valancy Crawford, “The City Tree,” “The Camp of                                                   Souls” (341-45)


25                                Pastoral, Meet Urban


                                    A1: Charles GD Roberts, “Canada” (354) “The Tantramar                                                          Revisited” (356)

                                    A1: Archibald Lampman “The City of the End of Things” (417)


29                                Controlling Acts and Speaking Back


                                    A1 D.C. Scott, “The Onondaga Madonna” (427); “The Indian                                                                  Act” (321)

                                    A2 Armand Garnet Ruffo, ““Poem for Duncan Campbell Scott”                                                              (648) 


October 2,6                Performing Indigeneity


                                    A1: Pauline Johnson, “A Cry from an Indian Wife” (395) “The                                       Cattle Thief” (398)  “The Corn Husker” (400)  “Canadian Born”                                                (400)


9                                  Urban Modernity


                                    A1: Jessie Sime, “Munitions!” (485)


Thanksgiving: No lecture on October 13


16                                Suffrage…For Some

                                    A1: Nellie McClung, From Purple Springs (524), “Speaking of                                                     Women” (533)


20                                Modernism à Montréal

                                    A2: F. R. Scott, “The Canadian Authors Meet” (85), “Laurentian                                                 Shield” (87); A.J. M. Smith “The Lonely Land” (both versions 96,                                   97)


23                                Modernist Ethnicities

                                    A2: A.M.Klein, “Heirloom” (152); “Indian Reservation:                                                    Caughnawaga”  (158), Earle Birney, “Can. Lit” (117)                                                       “Anglosaxon Street” (114)


27                                Feminist Modernisms


                                    A2: Dorothy Livesay, “Day and Night” (164), “Bartok and the

                                    Geranium” (168), P.K. Page, “The Stenographers” (193)

Mid-term Break: No lecture on October 30


November 3               From Citizens to “Enemy Aliens”


                                    A2: Muriel Kitigawa, From This is My Own (182)

6                                  The Sixties, Man


                                    A2: Leonard Cohen, “The Only Tourist in Havana Turns His                                          Thoughts Homeward” (375); “Suzanne” (378)

10                                Non-Indigenous Dreams of Indigeneity

                                    A2: Al Purdy, “The Country North of Belleville” (274),                                                    “Wilderness Gothic” (276), “Lament for the Dorsets” (277)


13                                Sixties Politics; Looking Backwards


                                    A2: Margaret Atwood, “It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers”                                       (438), From The Journals of Susanna Moodie” (441-445)

17,20                          Not the Indian You Had in Mind

                                    A2: Thomas King, “Borders” (580); film, “I’m Not the Indian

                                    You Had in Mind” (available at: )

24, 27, Dec 1              The Swinging Doors of Belonging I


                                    Wah, Diamond Grill; A1 “The Chinese Immigration Act” (336)

Term 2


January 5                   The City and the Nation I

                                    A2: Dennis Lee, From Civil Elegies (465)


8, 12, 15                     The City and the Nation II

                                    Dionne Brand, What We All Long For

19                                History Lessons I

                                    A2: Jeannette Armstrong, “History Lesson” (597); Marilyn                                                         Dumont, “The White Judges” (643), “Circle the Wagons”                                                            (646)


22, 26, 29                   Who Owns Hockey? I

                                    Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse

February 2, 5, 9         Who Owns Hockey? II

                                    Jeff Lemire, Collected Essex County

12                                History Lessons II

                                    A2: Alice Munro, “Meneseteung” (336)

Mid-Term Break: February 16-20. No lectures this week.

23, 26                         Transnational Traumas I

                                    Wajdi Mouawad, Scorched


March 2, 5                  Dub!

                                    Klyde Broox, My Best Friend is White

                                    (Klyde Broox visiting the class on the 2nd)

9                                  The Swinging Doors of Belonging II

                                    A2: Madeleine Thien, “Simple Recipes” (695)


2, 16                          Highways that Become Footpaths

                                    John Terpstra, Brilliant Falls

                                    (John Terpstra visiting the class on the 16th)

19, 23, 26                   Transnational Traumas II

                                    Esi Edugyan, Half-Blood Blues

30                                Unsettled Belongings

                                    Esi Edugyan, Dreaming of Elsewhere

April 2, 6                    Review


Other Course Information:

 Tutorial Participation: Tutorials start exactly one week after the first day that classes begin. Students are expected to attend every tutorial and to be prepared to discuss the material. In second term (Jan-April), tutorials begin immediately the first week of the semester.