Spring 2024 - WL 403 D100

Contemporary World Literature (4)

Class Number: 5798

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

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

  • Prerequisites:

    60 units including two 300-level courses in world literature, English, and/or humanities.



Explores literary texts and movements emerging since the second half of the twentieth century. May focus on responses to modernism, hybrid genres, digital media or contemporary themes.


What is power, where is it rooted, and how is it sustained and perpetuated? One possible answer comes to us via the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who posited that “in modern bio-politics, sovereign is he who decides on the value or non-value of life as-such”. In this course, we will analyze literary texts where the concepts of power and sovereignty create a complex and intricate web of meaning. Power in these texts is either exclusively “owned” by a mysterious group of bureaucrats (The Palace of Dreams), secured in a totalitarian state (Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea), dispersed after a civil war (Girl at War), or contested within the realm of law and criminality (The Day of the Owl). We will closely examine the relationship between power and life, with a focus on Agamben’s Theory of the State of Exception, defined as a situation in which people are often stripped of political rights and authority seems to rise above any other rule.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:
•Broaden their knowledge of the specific sociocultural and political contexts described in the texts.
•Apply theoretical concepts to literary texts.
•Sharpen theircritical thinking skills, especially through the lens of bio


  • Attendance & Participation 15%
  • Oral Report 15%
  • Midterm 25%
  • In-Class Presentation 15%
  • Final Essay 30%



Leonardo Sciascia. The Day of the Owl (1961).
ISBN: 978-1590170618

Ismail Kadare. The Palace of Dreams (1981).
ISBN: 978-1628723236

Guy Delisle. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (2007).
ISBN: 978-1897299210

Sara Nović. Girl at war (2016).
ISBN: 978-0812986396


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.

Registrar Notes:


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