Spring 2022 - WL 204 D100

Rights and Activism in Literature (3)

Class Number: 7563

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    SWH 10075, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 14, 2022
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    RCB 6125, Burnaby



Focuses on literary responses to political oppression, censorship, displacement, terrorism or warfare. Thematic interests may include human rights, gender inequality, racism or class exploitation. Breadth-Humanities.


“Equality lies only in human moral dignity [...] Let there be brothers first, then there will be brotherhood, and only then will there be a fair sharing of goods among brothers.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s compelling quote from his masterpiece The Brother Karamazov makes evident the need to recognize an inviolable dignity in all humans for the greater good of society. This quasi-utopian assumption, however, is commonly violated during times of war or of political repression. In this course, we will study and trace human rights and activism as articulated in the works of authors from diverse cultural backgrounds and by analyzing different literary genres: from poetry to the memoir; from the autobiographical novel to the Latin American testimonio. Topics we will broach throughout the semester include the right to education, gender inequality, indigenous rights, as well as censorship.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Form and articulate ideas regarding human rights as presented in literary texts from around the world.
  • Write cogently on topics such as education rights, gender inequality, indigenous rights, as well as censorship.
  • Gain an understanding of how literary responses to oppression have served as powerful tools in different eras and in various parts of the world.


  • Participation 10%
  • Oral Report and 5-page Report 20%
  • Midterm 15%
  • Final essay (10-pages) 25%
  • Final Exam 30%



Ciges Aparicio, Manuel. On Captivity: A Spanish Soldier's Experience in a Havana Prison, 1896-1898.

Menchú, Rigoberta. I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Yousafzai, Malala. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.

Additional reading material will be provided by the instructor.

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 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this 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 spring 2022 term.