Spring 2023 - ENGL 431W E100

Seminar in Indigenous Literatures (4)

Lost Islands

Class Number: 3956

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    AQ 5035, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Sophie McCall
    1 778 782-4866
    Office: AQ 6112
    Office Hours: Thursdays 3:00 - 4:00 pm
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units or two 300-division English courses. Strongly recommended: At least one Indigenous studies course.



Advanced seminar on selected works by Indigenous writers. May be organized by author, genre, or critical approach. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught. Writing.


Lost Islands of the Salish Sea

In several stories, both written and oral, contemporary and historical, set at the complex meeting-points of river, sea, and land at this delta we now call Vancouver, there is a striking invocation of “lost islands.” “The Lost Island” is the title of one of Mohawk writer E Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)’s stories published in the 1911 collection, Legends of Vancouver, based on a series of stories told to her by Squamish storytellers Chief Joe Capilano (Sahpluk) and Mary Agnes Capilano (Lixwelut). One hundred years later, Black Canadian writer Wayde Compton wrote a story with the same title. Stó:lō writer Lee Maracle in “Goodbye, Snauq,” recounts the loss of a sandbar, Snauq, rich with marine and plant life, and the subsequent manufacturing of Granville Island for commerce, industry, and later tourism. Still more “lost islands” of the Fraser River delta are remembered by Elder Larry Grant of the Musqueam Nation in the documentary film, c’əsnaʔəm: the city before the city (2017), directed by Kainai filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers in collaboration with the Musqueam First Nation.

This course will examine a variety of texts and films by Black and Indigenous authors, set at the complex meeting-points of river, sea, and land, and ask how to retrieve these stories of “lost islands” while remaining critical about the fact that these islands are not lost, but reflecting settler-colonial stealings of land, cultural authority, languages, bodies, and authorship. What does it mean to live and work on unceded, ancestral Coast Salish Territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), Kwikwitlem (Coquitlam), and Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) peoples, and how can we meaningfully acknowledge these responsibilities through our practices of research, writing, and reading? How to bring into dialogue the work of Indigenous and Black authors and build comparative methods that grapple with intersectional histories of resistance and solidarity? Acknowledging the land we stand on as the basis of how we build understanding, as well as an acknowledgement of one’s positionality, are key practices we will explore in this class.


·       to read, interpret, and creatively engage with texts by Indigenous authors
·       to understand significant developments and movements in Indigenous literary studies
·       to analyze texts and films across a range of genres and media
·       to synthesize and evaluate a range of critical approaches to literature, particularly Indigenous literary nationalism, decolonization, self-positioning, and resurgence.
·       to recognize complex relationships between texts and contexts (historical, social, cultural, literary)
·       to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of Indigenous literary and cultural production in a variety of forms and formats.


  • Short paper (1500 words) 20%
  • Reading journal/personal history scrapbook 20%
  • Participation (attendance, discussion, informal writing) 15%
  • Group presentation 10%
  • Final Paper Proposal 10%
  • Final Paper (2500 words) 25%



Please note that an electronic copy of Wayde Compton's The Outer Harbour is available in the SFU Library. I encourage you to buy your books from the Indigenous owned and operated bookstores, Iron Dog Books (https://irondogbooks.com/) or Massy Books (https://www.massybooks.com/). Iron Dog carries second hand books too. Please allow 2-3 weeks for making special orders.

We will also read essays and/or short stories or poems by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Warren Cariou, E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), J.S. Matthews with August Jack Khahtsahlano, Deanna Reder, Greg Younging, Lee Maracle, Tiffany Lethabo-King, Wayde Compton, Joanne Leow, Jean Barman, Alix Shield, and others. I will provide PDFs of these on Canvas.


Wayde Compton, The Outer Harbour
ISBN: 9781551525723

Jordan Abel, NISHGA
ISBN: 978-0771007903

Tommy Orange, There There
ISBN: 978-0771073038

Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return
ISBN: 978-0385258920

Cecily Nicholson, Towards the Poplars
ISBN: 9780889228566


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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 website 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