Spring 2021 - WL 204 D100

Rights and Activism in Literature (3)

Class Number: 6373

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 3:30 PM – 5:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 22, 2021
    3:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, 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.

PLEASE NOTE: The asynchronous components for this course will be made available by the instructor via Canvas; students will view them before the synchronous portion of class. Students are expected to be present and on time during the live (synchronous) portion of class, which will take place via Zoom on MONDAYS from 3:30 pm-5:20 pm.


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%



Additional reading material will be made available by the instructor via Canvas.

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.

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).