Spring 2024 - ENGL 493W D100

Seminar in Special Topics (4)

Class Number: 5049

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

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

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units or two 300-division English courses.



Advanced seminar. May be organized by author, genre, period, critical approach, or other criteria. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught. Writing.


(Post)colonial Ecocriticism

Imperialist and capitalist projects are deeply entwined with the environment. This relationship is reflected in and refracted through literary and cultural texts. What material and symbolic legacies have been left by Empire in the lands, waters, air, and lives of communities who were or continue to be colonized? How, who, and what must we read in a time of climate emergency?

This course is clustered around the powerful and mutable tropes of plantation, extraction, infrastructure/development, and ruins/reparations. We will read (post)colonial texts and theories that take up the centrality of the ecological. We will consider how ideologies of development, imperialism, conquest, racial capitalism, and the “natural” have shaped and challenged views of the environment in (post)colonies and settler colonies.

Texts include books by Amitav Ghosh, Dionne Brand, Kate Beaton, and Patricia Grace; digital projects by Anna Tsing and Charles Lim; films, documentary, and music. We will also read theorists and scholars like Katherine McKittrick, Donna Haraway, Leanne Simpson, Zoe Todd, Rob Nixon, Ann Laura Stoler, and Deborah Cowen.


At the end of the class, students will be able to demonstrate they know how to

  • read literary works from a range of genres and identify major and minor themes and literary techniques in the works
  • understand and describe the general field of postcolonial ecocriticism
  • define terms relevant to literature in general, and postcolonial ecocriticism in particular
  • use a scholarly database such as the MLA (Modern Language Association) International Bibliography to find and identify peer-reviewed secondary sources
  • analyze and write an abstract of a peer-reviewed essay
  • prepare a research plan, including an annotated bibliography
  • write English literature research essays using five to eight peer-reviewed secondary sources; as you write, combine existing information with original thought and analysis.


  • Participation 10%
  • Three reading responses 15%
  • Essay 1 20%
  • Research proposal and annotated bibliography 15%
  • Essay 2 30%
  • Final oral presentation 10%



Required readings will not be available at the SFU bookstore. Please support your local independent or used bookstores or purchase the texts online. Digital copies of the texts are permitted. Some of these texts are also available through the SFU WAC Bennett Library and the public library system. Other shorter readings will be available on Canvas or via the SFU library (links embedded in the syllabus).



Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement (2016)

Dionne Brand, Inventory (2006)

Kate Beaton, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (2022)

Patricia Grace, Potiki (1986)


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