Spring 2020 - WL 402 D100

Stories of Modernity (4)

Class Number: 6976

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 3535, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    60 units including two 300-level courses in World Literature, English, and/or Humanities.



Modernity, defined as “rapid, traumatic change across social, political, technological and artistic realms,” has arguably occurred the world over at various times. This course examines how literature has reflected and inflected the emergence of modernity in two or more cultures since the 14th century.


Liberalism is a moral and political ideology based on the conviction that a rational, self-creating individual is the most meaningful unit of social organization and that society should therefore promote freedom, equality and tolerance among individuals. These ideas are at the heart of modernity and look like the fount of all that’s sweet and good, but what if the world doesn’t want to be a better place? This course will trace the development of liberalism and anti-liberalism in European and Arab contexts with the aim of understanding these two stories of modernity via a canonical 19th century English novel of liberalism and three mid-20th century Egyptian novels that implicitly respond to it. Students may connect (or not) their theoretical interests in, e.g., political science, postcolonial studies, gender studies to liberalism for their final paper.


Students successfully completing this course can expect to:

  • Articulate connections between the cultural realm (novels, poetry and film) and political ideology
  • Understand the historical contexts that led to the rise of liberalism and non-Western anti-liberalism
  • Write cogently on the relationship between literature and liberalism
  • Acquire experience speaking publicly on the intersections between cultural and political fields


  • First essay (5 pages) 20%
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Final project proposal, oral report ad paper (10 pages) 10% + 10% + 25%
  • Critique 10% + 5%



The instructor will provide a few short articles on liberalism and anti-liberalism. Students are expected to purchase the following:

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Penguin Classics, [1861] 2002.
ISBN: 978-0141439563

Mahfouz, Naguib. Midaq Alley. Translated by Trevor LeGassick. New York: Anchor, [1947] 1991.
ISBN: 978-0385264761

Cossery, Albert. Proud Beggars. Translated by Thomas W. Cushing. New York: New York Review of Books, [1955] 2011.
ISBN: 978-1590174425

Ghali, Waguih. Beer in the Snooker Club. London: Serpent’s Tail, [1964] 2010.
ISBN: 978-1846687563

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