Spring 2024 - ENGL 355 D100

Canadian Literatures (4)

Class Number: 7671

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Tue, Thu, 10:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units or two 200-division English courses.



Study of selected works of Canadian literature, including Indigenous, diasporic, and settler texts. May draw from a variety of methods, critical debates, regions, and historical periods. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught.


COURSE TITLE: Canadian Literature during the polycrisis

In The Parrot and the Igloo: Climate and the Science of Denial, David Lipsky describes the nefarious activities of a US government official in the Bush administration of the late 1980s: “Phil Cooney is the man who rewrote the climate reports. He'd get a paper from the EPA, from the United States Climate Change Science Program, then set to work dismantling it. He was the dreamy humanities professor who is able to pick apart a poem, see through its surface sense, mine the rich seam of ambiguity below. Under Cooney's pen, yes was replaced by maybe, potentially nudged aside will.” What Lipsky’s analysis demonstrates is the power of the very thing we study in literature classes. Cooney used the power of textual analysis for evil: in this class, you will learn that English literature is the best training possible to fight not only climate change, but anti-Black racism, settler colonialism, and, why not, COVID-19. This class examines Canadian literature in the time of the “polycrisis,” or the pile-on of war, climate disaster, racism, pandemic and colonialism that characterizes the present epoch. We will watch Jeff Barnaby's 2019 Indigenous horror film Blood Quantum (available online thru the SFU library or through streaming services) and seek to understand its cinematic structure, its anti-reconciliation tropes, its political efficacy. We will then turn to Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For (2005), a novel that writes Toronto as not the destination of global flows, but as the object of diasporic desire. We then encounter a third genre, poetry, and read Lisa Robertson's 2022 collection Boat, which revisits the Vancouver writer's archive of notebooks and crafts a luminous journey through memory, the page, and language. We then turn to Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale, by Matt Hern, Am Johal, and Joe Sacco, which offers a non-fiction/graphic novel exploration of the role of Canada’s “petro-state” in contributing to anthropogenic climate change: the Anthropocene. We will also read short fiction that continues our critique of a white supremacist, settler-colonial literature: Saeed Teebi’s short story “Her First Palestinian,” Kaie Kellough’s metafictional “La question ordinaire et extraordinaire,” and stories from Sam Wiebe's anthology of crime fiction, Vancouver Noir. Black literature, feminist poetry, pulp fiction, cli-fi and Indigenous horror: make no mistake, these are concerns that we find in Canadian literatures today, but it is also by reading (and watching) literature, by engaging with the language, tropes, and poetics of form, that we learn about those texts and, in so doing, learn about ourselves, as reading subjects.


To use literary-critical skills to advocate for climate justice


  • Poetry review 10%
  • Group presentation 20%
  • Attendance & participation 10%
  • Term paper 40%
  • online discussion and rabbit hole 20%



Vancouver Noir, ed. Sam Wiebe

Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale, by Matt Hern, Am Johal, and Joe Sacco

Boat, by Lisa Robertson

What We All Long For, by Dionne Brand

(please order these books from a local bookstore: Pulpfiction, Iron Dog, Massey Books, Paperhound - they are not ordered thru SFU bookstore)

Blood Quantum, dir. Jeff Barnaby (available thru SFU library, Crave, Netflix)


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