Fall 2021 - ENGL 355 E100

Canadian Literatures (4)

Creative Collaborations

Class Number: 6469

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    WMC 3535, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 20, 2021
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    AQ 4130, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units or two 200 division English courses.



Study of selected works of Canadian literature, including Indigenous, diasporic, and settler texts. May draw from a variety of methods, critical debates, regions, and historical periods. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught.


Creative Collaborations: Boundary Crossers in Canadian Literatures

This course will examine the work of contemporary Indigenous and Black writers in Canada who work across genres and disciplines, who collaborate with other artists and writers, and whose complex cultural productions work intertextually and intermedially at the seams between text, film, and visual art. These writers and artists are boundary-crossers, drawing on traditions of storytelling, witnessing, and history-telling, and underlining fluid connections across text, image, and sound. Not only do they work across genres, but they also work in other artistic disciplines and engage collaboratively with artists in other fields.

For example, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg writer, scholar, musician, and oral historian. Some of her short stories and poems in Islands of Decolonial Love and This Accident of Being Lost are arranged as musical lyrics, and they are also the inspirations for films, including Amanda Strong’s Bidaaban and Cara Mumford’s Leaks. Acholi poet Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek, in writing her book of poetry 100 Days, posted one poem a day on social media for 100 days, in tandem with photographer Wangechi Mutu, who likewise posted one photograph a day, to remember both the victims and the survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Katherena Vermette (SFU Department of English’s Writer in Residence in Fall 2021) is a fiction writer, poet, graphic novelist, and documentary filmmaker. We will read her novel, The Break, her book of poetry, River Woman, her graphic novel, A Girl Called Echo, and we will watch her co-directed film, This River. Nisga’a poet, photographer, scholar, and visual artist Jordan Abel not only creates visually striking poems using techniques of erasure which have been described as “word carvings,” but he has also created works at the intersections of photography, poetry, autobiography, and carving. Finally Métis Dene playwright, filmmaker, and multi-media artist Marie Clements has stunned audiences with her visually rich and sensual plays and films and, like many of the writers we are examining in this course, has worked across cultures, languages, and continents, finding kinship with Indigenous peoples across the globe.

In working across genres, disciplines, languages, and continents, and in working collaboratively with other artists in other fields, these writers address the ethics of speaking for others in representing the ongoing impacts of settler colonial violence, appropriation, and extraction; they draw attention to the difficulty of speaking for others while building relationships across differences in language, cultures, races, and genders; and their work is devoted to respecting and upholding the sovereignty of the stories with which they work. Not only will we “study” boundary-crossing works at the intersections of writing, film, visual art, and music. In addition, we will challenge ourselves to produce creative-critical projects that incorporate other media. We ourselves will become the “boundary-crossers” whose work we are reading.


·       to read, interpret, and creatively engage with texts by BIPOC and Euro-Canadian settler authors based in Canada
·       to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of Canadian literary and cultural production in a variety of forms and formats.
·       to analyze texts, films, and visual arts across a range of genres and media
·       to synthesize and evaluate a range of critical approaches to literature, in particular relating to decolonization, self-positioning, writing diasporas, and Indigenous resurgence.
·       to recognize complex relationships between texts and contexts (historical, social, cultural, literary)


  • Short paper (1500 words) 20%
  • Seminar Presentation 15%
  • Final Paper (2500 words) 30%
  • Participation 15%
  • Reading journal / personal history scrapbook 20%



Important Note: The SFU Bookstore is scrambling to adjust to in-person courses and may not be a reliable source for the required books. Please consider ordering the books from your local bookstore. Please check out the Indigenous-owned bookstore Iron Dog Books (https://irondogbooks.com/). At this time (June 2021), Vermette's The Break, Vermette's A Girl Called Echo, Juliane Okot Bitek's 100 Days (also available online at SFU Library) ,and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's Islands of Decolonial Love are currently available in store. You may special-order Marie Clements's The Edward Curtis Project and Jordan Abel's The Place of Scraps - please allow a minimum of 20 days. Other reliable independent bookstores in Vancouver are Massy Books--also 100% Indigenous owned and operated--Pulp Fiction, and Book Warehouse.

Shorter readings and links to films/videos will be available on Canvas.


Katherena Vermette, The Break
ISBN: 978-1487001117

Jordan Abel, The Place of Scraps
ISBN: 978-0889227880

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love
ISBN: 978-1894037884

Juliane Okot Bitek, 100 Days (also available SFU Library online)
ISBN: 978-1772121216

Katherena Vermette, Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo (Vol 1)
ISBN: 978-1553796787

Marie Clements, The Edward Curtis Project
ISBN: 978-0889226425

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 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware 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.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.