Spring 2021 - ENGL 115W E100

Literature and Culture (3)

Class Number: 4150

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 5:30 PM – 7:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 22, 2021
    11:59 PM – 11:59 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby



An Introduction to the study of literature within the wider cultural field, with a focus on contemporary issues across genres and media. Students with credit for ENGL 105W may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


Representation Matters: Sympathy and Identification in Literature and the Media

Calls for representation in contemporary media are often linked to the need for greater racial and cultural diversity that allows a wider audience to see themselves and their experiences reflected. These conversations highlight significant shifts over the last two hundred years, away from nineteenth-century assumptions that readers would be part of a predominantly white, middle-class reading audience. Such shifts in assumed audience have important implications for how literary works represent groups that are often marginalised, including people of colour and the working class. Historically, texts that wanted to foster sympathy for so-called “others” relied on carefully drawn moral distinctions between who deserved sympathy and who didn’t, but contemporary texts offer a wider range of possibilities for sympathetic identification.

In this course, we will explore how literature shapes culture through representation by asking not just why representation matters, but what the aims and mechanics of representation are. That is, how do narratives shape sympathy and identification? What is the difference between a sympathetic character, a relatable character, and a character you identify with? What kinds of strategies do historical and contemporary texts deploy in their representation of diverse characters and experiences, and how do those change between the 1818 publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein and the 2016 release of Ali Wong’s Netflix special, Baby Cobra?

This course will be delivered through a mix of synchronous and asynchronous modes. Each week, I’ll provide a few short, asynchronous lectures that give historical context and outline key concepts. We’ll also have between an hour and 90 minutes of synchronous class each week during the scheduled time, when we will discuss the week’s readings; because this is a writing-focused course, we’ll also use this time to workshop your writing and talk about writing generally.


  • Attendance and Participation 10%
  • Discussion Board Posts 10%
  • Essay 1: Draft and Edit (750 words) 20%
  • Final Essay (1200 words) 30%
  • Take-Home Final Exam 30%


Grading breakdown is subject to change.



All of the required books should be readily available to purchase as print and digital texts. I strongly recommend acquiring print copies, but it is not mandatory.

I will not be ordering books via the bookstore this semester. If you aren't sure where to order books, Pulpfiction in Vancouver offers 30% the list price on special orders and free local delivery and Massy Books offers free delivery across the Lower Mainland on orders over $50. If cost is a concern, some books may have limited availability as ebooks through the Vancouver Public Library. Because Frankenstein is out of copyright, you should be able to find it online (just make sure you are looking at the 1818 text).

We will be viewing one film that is available via Netflix. For those who do not have a subscription—or if you just want to watch it with other people—I will organize a class viewing using an online platform like Teleparty.


Frankenstein (1818 text), Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

The Break, Katherena Vermette

Additional readings to be made available through the course's Canvas page.

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 spring 2021 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).