Fall 2020 - ENGL 453W D100

Aboriginal Literatures (4)

Class Number: 4952

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 12:30 PM – 4:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    Two 300 division English courses OR formal declaration in the creative writing minor with one 300 division English course. Strongly recommended: At least one First Nations Studies course. Reserved for English honours, major, joint major, minor and creative writing minor students.



The intensive study of selected works of aboriginal writers. May be organized by author, genre, or critical approach. Students with credit for ENGL 453 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


English 453W: At the Crossroads: Indigenous and Black Writings in Canada

Recent discussions have drawn attention to the points of connection between Indigenous decolonization and Black social justice movements. Efforts have been made to reveal how the making of the Americas and the establishment of a settler colonial social order have depended upon the expropriation of land on the one hand, and the appropriation of labour, bodies, and lives on the other. Just as important have been the warnings not to assume that the problems and solutions that have been offered in these very different debates are transferrable across communities. While conversations about place, belonging, and embodiment have unfolded very differently in Black and Indigenous studies to date, the cultural production in question continue to attest to these intersecting histories. Yet the challenge to build viable critical frameworks that compare histories of occupation and resistance remains an urgently needed and relatively underthematized thread in critical discussions. In this course you will read the work of contemporary Indigenous writers, including Leanne Simpson, Marie Clements, Katherena Vermette, and Billy-Ray Belcourt, in relationship to work by Black writers such as Dionne Brand, Wayde Compton, and Juliane Okot Bitek, as they strive to make connections across differences as well as to assert a politics of difference, urging readers to pay close attention to cultural and social specificities.


·       to read, interpret, and creatively engage with texts by Indigenous authors in relationship to texts by Black authors
·       to understand significant developments and movements in Black and Indigenous literary studies
·       to analyze texts and films across a range of genres and media
·       to synthesize and evaluate a range of critical approaches to literature, particularly Indigenous literary nationalism, Black diaspora, anti-racist coalition-building, decolonization, and resurgence.
·       to recognize complex relationships between texts and contexts (historical, social, cultural, literary)
·       to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of Indigenous and Black literary and cultural production in a variety of forms and formats.


  • Participation, Attendance (Virtual), low-stakes writing 15%
  • Short Paper 15%
  • Presentation 15%
  • Final Project: Proposal 10%
  • Final Project: Final Draft 30%
  • Take Home Exam 15%



Please purchase Katherena Vermette's book The Break. It is available in print and digital copies, but it is only available in print at SFU Library. It is also available electronically through the Vancouver Public Library (vpl.ca), and may be available as ebook at other local libraries. It is also available at many local bookstores and as a kindle book through amazon or other outlets. 

Marie Clements's play Burning Vision and Juliane Okot Bitek's book of poetry, 100 Days, are available electronically at SFU library.

All other readings will be available electronically through Canvas.


Marie Clements, Burning Vision
ISBN: 978-0889224728

Juliane Okot Bitek, 100 Days
ISBN: 978-1772121216

Katherena Vermette, The Break
ISBN: 978-1487001117

A selection of secondary readings will be available on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).