Spring 2024 - ENGL 209 D100

Race, Borders, Empire (3)

Class Number: 5750

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Mon, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    12 units or one 100-division English course.



Examines how literature and language work to reflect, perform, complicate, and critique constructions of race, ethnicity, and national and diasporic identities and spaces. May draw from post-colonial approaches, critical race theory, and Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies. May be further organized by historical period, genre, or critical approach. Breadth-Humanities.


Caribbean Women’s Life-Writing 

In this course, we will explore life-writing—a term encompassing a variety of personal narrative forms such as autobiography, memoir, and travel writing—produced by Caribbean women. We will consider several questions: how do Caribbean women's life narratives represent the impact of colonization, slavery, and indentureship, and what insights do these narratives offer into the region's historical context? What role does gender play in shaping their experiences? How do Caribbean women's life narratives reflect transnationalism and diaspora as well as their impact on identity and belonging? And to what extent do these narratives illuminate the intersections of personal identity and collective history in the Caribbean?

The Caribbean region, shaped by its history of colonization, slavery, and indentureship provides a dynamic context for an array of cultural influences, and serves as a microcosm that reflects both historical and contemporary manifestations of imperial exploitation. By examining the life-writing of Caribbean women, we will encounter different representations of the experiences of Afro-, Indo-, and mixed race Caribbean peoples. Together, we will discuss how these writers contend with issues of identity, self-expression, and resistance within the ever-shifting context of empires and borders, ultimately illuminating the intersections of gender, race, culture, and colonial history.


  1. Students will gain a deep understanding of the historical context of the Caribbean region, with a particular focus on the impact of colonization, slavery, and indentureship.
  2. Students will learn to critically analyze the role of gender in shaping the experiences of Caribbean women, and how it intersects with other factors such as race and culture.
  3. Students will develop critical thinking and analytical skills. They will learn to critically evaluate primary sources and literary scholarship. 
  4. Students will enhance their writing skills, including the ability to construct clear and cohesive paragraphs, as well as craft effective introductions and thesis statements.
  5. Students will learn to integrate scholarly research with close reading of literary texts.


  • 5-Step Paragraphs (3 x 5%) 15%
  • Crafting Introductions and Thesis Statements (2 x 5%) 10%
  • Combining Scholarly Work with Close Reading (2 x 5%) 10%
  • Research Essay (1500 words) 20%
  • Auto/biographical Project 25%
  • Participation 20%



Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince [available online]

Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging

Gaiutra Bahadur, Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture 

Lorna Goodison, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island 

Tessa McWatt, Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging 


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