What We're Up To!

This blog space features some of the exciting things in which the program's faculty and students are involved. If you are a World Literature student and you'd like to submit to this blog, please email your writeup (consider the who, what, where, when, why of your experience) and a photo (or photos!) to worldlit@sfu.ca


WL Writer in Residence Anosh Irani at York House School!

November 20, 2018

Visiting professor and World Literature Writer-in-Residence Anosh Irani talks about fiction writing at York House School. His visit to Tanja Boteju's class is part of our program's collaboration with the Vancouver International Writers Festival.

WL Writer in Residence Anosh Irani Interviewed on CBC

September 25, 2018

Anoshi Irani was interviewed on CBC's "The Early Edition" about his play, The Men in White, which was published today by Anansi Press.  The play will receive its Toronto premiere at the Factory Theatre. It opens October 18.  

His interview is during the last 10 minutes or so of the podcast: 


Puzzling over Shakespeare

by Melanie Hiepler, WL Major

September 10, 2018

The time: 8:30 am – early by summer standards.

The place: under the tents at Bard on the Beach, Vancouver’s world-renowned Shakespeare Festival.

The characters: myself, a colleague or two, and a gaggle of kids between the ages of 8 and 18.

The action: a jigsaw puzzle. Specifically, the most elaborate Shakespeare-themed puzzle you’ve ever seen (more on this later).

I spent this summer working as the Education Intern for Bard’s Young Shakespeareans program, which, pardon this shameless marketing plug, is the coolest kids’ summer program ever. For two weeks, kids get to work with professional actors to hone their acting skills, learn about and rehearse a Shakespeare play, and then present the play to their friends and family. It’s a theatre kid’s dream come true!

As Education Intern, my job involved a fair amount of administration and, as mentioned, many early mornings spent supervising our early drop-off participants before their workshops began. While the bulk of my work happened in the afternoon, it was these early-morning hours that proved to be the most meaningful part of my work days.

In those sleepy hours, when all parties present were still stifling yawns, I kept the kids busy with card games, colouring pages, and the infamous Shakespeare jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle, titled “Shakespearean Fantasy,” is really something to behold as it weaves together characters and scenes from a variety of Shakespeare’s plays. Katherine, Shylock, Juliet, and Othello, cradling a deceased Desdemona in his arms, appear in the windows and balconies of a crumbling tower. Below them, Hamlet contemplates Yorick; Prospero summons up a storm; and Timon keeps to himself in a corner. Above, fairies attend to Bottom; Richard schemes up a dastardly plot; and Antigonus carries baby Perdita through a wintery landscape.

With so many colourful scenes and characters, the puzzle never failed to be a conversation-starter for the kids. Any shyness was overcome by a need to ask questions about each character’s story. Why is Richard’s sword drawn? Why is Hamlet talking to a skull? Why is Othello holding a dead woman? And why on earth does Bottom have donkey ears?

My colleagues and I answered these questions as best we could. Conversations quickly veered to bigger topics. We talked about the consequences of hate, love, jealousy, anger, and prejudice. The anguish of losing friends and loved ones. Good and bad decision-making. Greed. Marginalisation. Materialism. Political intrigue. Crowd mentality. Redemption. These are themes I wouldn’t have expected children to understand, but they did, and with surprising clarity.

A few days into our Jr. Hamlet camp, as we were piecing together Hamlet’s chunk of the puzzle, one kid remarked that Shakespeare must have been depressed when he wrote Hamlet. After all, he reasoned, so many people die and are depressed in that play.

We told him that Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, had died a few years before Hamlet was written, and that some scholars think Shakespeare’s grief influenced the play. The kids reacted with concern and empathy for the Bard. Suddenly, they cared about a boy who died over 400 years ago, and about the grieving father he left behind. Suddenly, the play wasn’t just words written on a page or spoken from a stage, it was real, and they felt it.

On other occasions, the puzzle broached topics that were harder to answer. Try explaining Othello and Desdemona to an eight-year-old: “But if he loves her, why does he kill her?” Even adults, it would appear, are prone to jealousy and poor decision-making (an on-the-fly answer deemed unsatisfactory by the kids).

As the summer wore on and we completed the puzzle (several times), it often occurred to me that this is why we need art. Theatre, literature, music, dance, all other media: each piece tells a story about ourselves. In sharing these stories, we find opportunities to build community, to empathise, and to reflect on our world.

But these stories don’t tell themselves. As Bard’s Director of Education, Mary Hartman, is fond of saying, there is no Hamlet until someone plays Hamlet. So, go do your art. Tell your stories. Sing your songs. Paint your paintings, and act your plays. When we make and engage with art, we are given a chance to shape the world – even if it’s only for a brief moment of empathy while piecing together a puzzle.


Podcast with Dr. Ortabasi

June 22, 2018

Dr. Tristan Grunow (History, UBC) is running a series of podcasts in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration. "The 2017-2018 Academic Year sees the 150th anniversary of Japan’s 1868 Meiji Restoration, an epochal political revolution that sparked Japan’s remarkable modernization, dramatic cultural transformation, and rapid emergence onto the global stage. To mark this historic date, the Centre for Japanese Research, the Department of History, the Department of Asian Studies, and the Asian Library at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC will partner to present a year-long series of events convening scholars of Japan from around North America to interrogate Japan’s position in global history along with the place of the Meiji Restoration in Japanese historical pedagogy." In this episode, you can tune in to hear Dr. O talk about her Meiji-related research: she retells the story of folklore focusing on the works of Yanagita Kunio, and gives a comparative look at children’s literature in the Meiji Period. She and Dr. Grunow also discuss folklore themes in Japanese popular culture today, Meiji children’s education, and a comparative approach to teaching the Meiji Period.

Japan in Translation - Dr. O

Dr. O was invited to contribute a blog post to a series on "Japan in Translation" featured by the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative during May 2018. Read her post on “Japanese Literature as World Literature," here: https://glli-us.org/2018/05/19/melek-ortabasi-on-japanese-literature-as-world-literature/

4th Annual SFU World Literature Student Conference a hit and a win for organizers and attendees alike

See the write up in FASS News!

World Literature and the Post-Liberal Norm

Ken Seigneurie gave a lecture on world literature and public discourse in the Web 2.0 world at the American University of Beirut on 1 March 2018:

Within the past two decades, the most recent wave of globalization and Web 2.0 have combined to expand the realm of liberalism in space and in consciousness to beyond what its framers and supporters had ever dreamed possible. Yet the triumph of liberalism, the moral and political philosophy that stresses freedom of conscience, free speech, free markets, political pluralism and equal opportunity, presents it with its greatest challenge. Today, liberal societies must either keep the radically expanded spaces of free thought and pluralism open to extremisms of all kinds or incorporate authoritarian practices to quell them. Either way, indicators point to liberalism failing in its present form to survive its success.
This paper will argue that the post-liberal world does not have to be dystopic but it does have to deal with the imperatives of unity and diversity in new ways. Culture and politics will have to be re-constellated. In this talk, we shall explore one possibility by bringing Karl Jaspers’s mid-20th century theory of the Axial Age into conversation with the contemporary discourse of World Literature. At this crossroads of morality and culture, liberalism appears as a stage in the history of thinking about humankind’s place in the world. The major claim of this paper is that the history and practice of world literature points to a new equilibrium between the imperatives of unity and diversity that is neither liberal nor multicultural nor identitarian but axial.

WL Student Melanie Hiepler Does it Again!

Just when we thought she couldn't impress us more, she brings home the Library Undergraduate Student Award. Way to go, Mel!

Read about it here.  

WL Students Win Big in Writing Contest

January 22, 2018

WL majors Melanie Hiepler and Gabrielle McLaren took home prizes in the first Student Learning Commons Essay Contest for undergraduates. Writing is what we do!


For more information on academic writing resources (as well as to see examples of winning essays) please click here.

IWL @ University of Copenhagen: A Student's Perspective

by Anna Lenchantin

November 29, 2017

This summer I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Copenhagen to participate in this year’s Institute for World Literature summer school session. I spent the month of July in this beautiful city learning about World Literature as an academic field of study, reading interesting books and articles, and engaging in productive discussions with some of the most brilliant and lovely people I’ve ever met.

I fell in love with Copenhagen immediately upon my arrival at the end of June. From the quaint cobblestone streets to the colourful townhouses along the canal in Nyhavn, to the Baroque and Renaissance spires that break its otherwise horizontal skyline, Copenhagen has a unique charm that brings one in touch both with history and the realm of fantasy. Indeed, it seems to have inspired enough influential writers – such as Hans Christian Andersen and the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, among others – to suggest that there is something special about the city’s atmosphere which lends itself to creative thinking and artistic expression.


The seventh session of the IWL began on July third. For the following four weeks, the participants took part in two eight-day seminars, a colloquium group, as well as a four plenary lectures from IWL faculty and two panel sessions. Not surprisingly, the seminars, lectures, and sessions all revolved around World Literature as a rapidly developing academic field. They combined different approaches ranging from issues of globalization, multilingualism, and debates surrounding the practice of World Literature. Such challenges evolved into productive conversations addressing questions like: what is the best way to expand the scope of World Literature’s canon while maintaining a balance between the ‘world’ and the local? What role does translation play in World Literature? Interestingly, Dr. David Damrosch – the founder of the IWL – started the session off by addressing these issues in the field with his opening lecture titled What Isn’t World Literature?.

As an undergraduate student among many scholars with much more academic experience, I was quite nervous about the IWL before it began. I worried about what I would respond with when asked what my research was on, whether I would be lost in the discussions, and how I would manage the courses. However, upon arrival it soon became clear that I had no reason to be anxious. Everyone I met at the IWL was extremely kind and encouraging. I was inspired by the interesting topics of many and their dedication to their studies and speaking to these graduate students, PhD candidates, and the faculty members shed a lot of light on what academia is like. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to gain this insight from them and these conversations solidified my hopes of pursuing an academic career as well.

I discovered that I actually could keep up with the ideas shared at the IWL. Indeed, I very soon began to feel like SFU’s World Literature program had prepared me very well for this event as I recognized many of the readings assigned for the seminars from courses I had taken back home.

One memorable experience was taking Dr. Susan Stanford Friedman’s seminar titled Planetary Modernisms. To begin with, Dr. Friedman is a lovely person and a wonderful instructor. I really enjoyed this seminar; we read and discussed some great texts including one of my very favourites, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North. That wasn’t all, however: last spring semester at SFU, I took WL 401, led by Dr. Seigneurie. This class was titled Early Modernities and in it, we actually read parts of Dr. Friedman’s book Planetary Modernisms. Taking Dr. Friedman’s seminar, then, was very special – it was a very interesting experience to put a face to the scholar whose ideas we had discussed in class and to learn from her first-hand.

What with the seminars, readings, outings, and friendships made, the month of July flew by; before I knew it, it was the last day of the IWL. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. I got to know so many wonderful people whose work inspired me. Although I was sad to leave Copenhagen and the IWL behind when the time came to leave, I was happy that I could take the memories and friendships – not to mention the things I learned during the seminars – away with me. I wholeheartedly recommend participating in the IWL to any student who is interested in literature in the global context and is considering an academic career. Attending the IWL was one of the best experiences of my academic journey so far and I am beyond grateful to have had this opportunity.

Anniversary Gala Slideshow

Our 10 Years of World Lit Slideshow

World Lit's 10 Year Gala a Big Success!

November 2, 2017

You can read a fantastic write-up (and see some great pics) by Christine Lyons here.  

World Literature Alum Daniel Poirier ('11) Wins Literary Award!

October 16, 2017

Daniel, who graduated from our program and went on to earn an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College in NYC, has won the 2017 Adult Writing Contest hosted by the Vancouver Writers Fest! Past contest winners include Festival authors and many other talented writers from across Canada. The 2017 contest was judged by authors Théodora Armstrong, Chelene Knight and Sam Wiebe. He currently teaches in the English Department at Langara College.
Read his short story here: http://writersfest.bc.ca/programs/writing-contests/adult-writing-contest/

Student report: Panel on Asian Languages in the Lower Mainland moderated by Dr. O

October 24, 2017
By Debora Ross

    Dr. Ortabasi organized a roundtable for a class I'm taking, HIST 331/POL 328 "Speaking Canadian: 150 Years of Linguistic Diversity and Language Politics," taught by Nicolas Kenny and Rémi Leger. “Asian Languages in the Lower Mainland” focused on three different language communities; the Chinese, the Bangla, and the Persian communities. Some of the main themes covered during the discussion include that language is not neutral, language is important for an individual’s identity in regards to culture and heritage, power relations, as well as the issue of inclusivity and the suggestion that multiculturalism fails to integrate immigrants within the same communities as Canadians.
     In Dr. Jia Fei’s segment, we learned about the history of Chinese immigration in British Columbia.  There is a long history of Chinese immigration to Canada, with issues of exclusion and segregation such as the treatment of Chinese workers on the Canada Pacific Railway, the head tax and the Chinese Immigration Act. Fei also introduced her own research ideas which deal with language as a source of both identity and symbolic power. Through her studies, she concludes that language is not neutral and can be used positively (as a source for new identities) or negatively (as a tool for exclusion).
     In Dr. Sanzida Habib’s discussion, we learned about the history of Bangladesh and the relationship between International Mother Language Day and the country’s political formation. She suggested that the language movement in Bangladesh served as an inspiration for ILMD, since the both occurred on the twenty-first. After a summary of the country’s history and formation, Habib discussed the idea of “Ekushey”, as well as the relationship between language and identity. Like Fei, Habib suggests that language is not neutral but full of political power.
     In Ali Negahban’s section, we learned about the Persian language across three different communities. (Iranian, Afghan and Tajiki). He summarized the history of immigration and the context for the rapid influx of Persian immigration. Negahban suggests that immigrants from these countries struggle due to the language barrier that exists between communities. He notes that although translation exists, there is no communication of ideas from one place to another.
     As a whole, the main issue addressed by each speaker was the fact that the idea of multiculturalism is too simple and fails to successfully integrate immigrants within communities. Instead, each language community forms their own enclave. The discussion came up in the question period where a critique against multiculturalism arose due to the separation between the different communities and lack of intercultural communication. Another common thread across the discussions was the fact that language is not neutral and can be full of power. It was an interesting perspective not usually addressed in discussions of multiculturalism, but nonetheless important to acknowledge. I think it is important to educate everyone about the power that language has and reminds us that there is politics, identity and culture behind each language.

Anosh Irani's Bombay Black Makes its Vancouver Fringe Debut

Sept 12, 2017

Anosh Irani's play, Bombay Black, a love story between a blind man and a dancer is currently playing at the Vancouver Fringe Festival and is receiving rave reviews:

Here's an excerpt from the Georgia Straight:

"This is one of the most harrowing, unsettling, and mesmerizing plays I’ve ever seen.  Ten hours after leaving the theatre, I’m still shaken by its uniquely poetic horror, and marvelling at the complexity of what acclaimed playwright Anosh Irani weaves in Bombay Black’s dense 75 minutes."


Sad Mag:

"Director Rohit Chokhani has brought this vibrant feature to life for the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival’s Dramatic Works Series. His cast and crew have done a great service to playwright Anosh Irani’s lyrical, humorous, and somber work; fuelled with cultural depth and theatrical talent."


(tickets are currently sold out)

Sept 8, 2017

Please click on the headline above to see the SFU News' article on Dr. Ortabasi's video protesting the 45th President's travel ban.

Dr. O presents at IRSCL conference, held at York University

July 30, 2017

Dr. O presented her Digital Humanities work on children's literature, which involves using the NVivo software to build a database of childhood memoirs by authors writing about growing up at the turn of the last century. The object is to trace and analyze childhood experiences involving books and reading during the period 1870-1930 in an effort to somewhat reconstruct children's actual experience of reading at the time. Her paper was entitled “Tracking the Elusive Historical Child Reader,” and was presented at the 2017 Congress of the IRSCL (International Research Society for Children’s Literature), held at York University, Toronto, July 29-August 2, 2017.

Dr. O presents at ACLA conference in Utrecht, Netherlands

July 8, 2017

Universiteit Utrecht hosted the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association this year, for which Dr. O organized a 3-day seminar with her colleague and fellow children's literature scholar Vanessa Joossen (Universiteit Antwerpen). The panelists presented papers gathered under the topic of "Children's Literature Crossing Boundaries." Dr. O chaired and presented a paper on her latest comparative research, which examines how literature was taught in schools around the turn of the last century. Entitled "Bringing Young Readers Into the World: The Pedagogical Uses of Literature Around 1900," her paper discussed in particular the attitudes toward literature of influential educationists of the period: John Dewey (1859-1952), Ellen Key (1849-1926), and Heinrich Wolgast (1860-1920).

Congratulations to our former WLSU president on her convocation!

The Men in White

Nadeem Phillip as HASAN and Sanjay Talwar as BABA in THE MEN IN WHITE. (Photo Cred: Emily Cooper Photography)

World Literature Writer-in-Residence Anosh Irani's play THE MEN IN WHITE has been nominated for three Jessie Richardson Awards: Outstanding Original Script, Best Actor in a Lead Role (Nadeem Phillip), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sanjay Talwar) in the Large Theatre Category.

The play was produced by the Arts Club Theatre in February 2017. 

WL Students at MEICON 2017!

by Rhiannon Wallace - April 6, 2017

(photo: Rhiannon and Samaah Jaffer)

This weekend I had the honour of presenting at the Middle East and Islamic Consortium of British Columbia’s ninth annual Student Conference, hosted at SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business in Vancouver. I presented my paper on Miskawayh’s influential work The Refinement of Character, and was happy to receive thoughtful questions and feedback both during the panel and afterward during the lunch hour. I was also fascinated by my fellow students’ research; I attended only some of the numerous panels addressing a wide variety of subjects, and including students from SFU as well as the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington. I was very pleased to see my fellow World Literature and International Studies student, Samaah Jaffer, receive this year’s Andrew Ripping Essay Prize for her excellent paper entitled "Anti-Islam Muslims and the Islamophobia Network: Questioning the “experts” in the media." In addition to its student presentations, the conference featured a concert by incredible musicians Amir Eslami Mirabadi and Hamin Honari. Many thanks to organizers and to the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures for hosting an informative, meaningful and very successful conference!

Research in Action - Student Post

Photo credit: Shiraz Ramji

March 16, 2017

by Rhiannon Wallace

On March 8 I had the opportunity to present Dr. Ortabasi’s and my research on children’s literature at Researching the Globe, one of the events of the 2017 SFU Public Square Community Summit. The theme of the event was “Who Needs Canada?” and the goal was to showcase SFU-based research projects that have an impact in the world. Presenters discussed their research with each other and with visitors during the poster and storytelling sessions. I was excited to present my poster on children’s literature and the importance of childhood reading, and inspired to hear about some of the other amazing research happening at SFU.

Initially, I was nervous that I would have trouble explaining the significance and potential impacts of our research, which was so different from that of the presenters on either side of me, one of whom was working in food waste management and one of whom was developing a system for more environmentally responsible air conditioning. As it turned out, fellow researchers and other visitors who approached me were happy to discuss the importance of literature, especially in childhood, and I was interested to hear their own thoughts and experiences with reading. I was also excited to hear what other researchers are doing at SFU, from promoting a more sustainable economic model for the fashion sector to conducting studies on student experiences of isolation at the university and proposing possible solutions. The variety of projects was incredible, and it was encouraging to see the positive impact that research of all disciplines can have on the world.


More Recognition for Anosh Irani's The Parcel

March 14th, 2017

World Literature Writer-in-Residence Anosh Irani is nominated for a BC Book Prize.  His novel, The Parcel, about a retired transgendered sex worker in Bombay's red light district, is a finalist in the fiction category -- for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.  Winners to be announced April 29th.  The novel was also chosen as one of the best books of the year by the Quill and Quire, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail.


Identity AND Inclusion

Jan 4, 2017

By Ken Seigneurie

If world literature is, as many of us believe, part of a broader contemporary movement toward cross-cultural awareness and appreciation of difference, then the Kwanzaa celebration begun in 1966 was a pioneer. An African American “celebration of family, community and culture,” Kwanzaa blends poetry, music and dance in a joyful effort to instill ethical values and respect for self, ancestors and others.

From 26 through 31 December 2016 at the Apollo Theatre in New York, the African American community of Harlem commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the first Kwanzaa: https://twitter.com/ApolloTheater/status/815211338247131136/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

The event cast into relief many of the accomplishments and values of the community in this most historic site for the African American community. At the same time, the event reached out to other communities of the North American community. Especially successful was a dual music-dance number between the “Forces of Nature” and the “Silver Cloud Native American Singers and Dancers” .

Kwanzaa, born in the wake of the Watts riots in 1966, manages to formulate a clear call for identity AND inclusion, which one could do worse than to consider as a description of the mission of world literature.

More Good News for The Parcel

Dec 7, 2016

Anosh Irani's novel, The Parcel, has been selected as one of the Books of the Year by the Quill & Quire, and as a Globe 100 Best Book of the Year.


Anosh’s Fall Lecture an Evening to Remember

November 9, 2016

Even though the U.S. Presidential election was happening the same night, Anosh was still able to pack the house. Speaking with Dr. O about his new novel, The Parcel, Anosh offered some fascinating insights into what it took to write this gritty and moving story about a retired transgender sex worker in Mumbai’s Kamathipura district. Eighty to ninety guests were treated to a short reading from the novel, which was shortlisted both for the Governor General’s Award and for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize. After finishing up with a number of great questions from the audience, everyone retired to a catered reception down the hall. Missed it? You can purchase Anosh’s book at just about any bookstore around town. A wonderful event, and a great occasion to remember that words do matter.

2016 Vancouver Writer's Fest

Nov 1, 2016

by Ken Seigneurie

We were proud to see our World Literature Writer in Residence, Anosh Irani, reading from his most recent novel, The Parcel, at the prestigious “Literary Cabaret” of the Vancouver Writers Fest on October 21st. Anosh played a principal role in the sheer delight that was this year’s Literary Cabaret.

Writers read from their work to deftly arranged musical accompaniment featuring the highly accomplished band, “Poetic License.” For Anosh’s reading, the band also included musicians playing various Indian musical instruments. The reading along with the music created an atmosphere redolent of the tragic spaces depicted in Anosh’s novel.

Anosh in SFU News!

Nov 1, 2016

A great write up by Diane Lucklow can be seen here.

Dr. O Invited to University of Washington

October 22, 2016

Dr. Ortabasi was one of six scholars invited by the University of Washington’s Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema, and Media to participate in a two-day symposium entitled “Teaching World Literature: Debates, Models, Pedagogies.” In an effort to help the department rethink its undergraduate curriculum, she and Chad Allen (University of Washington), David Damrosch (Harvard), John Burt Foster (George Mason), David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford), Nirvana Tanoukhi (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers) were asked to present on their work in developing curricula, teaching, and research in World Literature. Dr. Ortabasi presented two talks, entitled “Collaboration and the Art of Doing More With Less,” which highlighted creative ways of bringing students a rich WL curriculum, and “Trees, Waves, and Rhizomes Under the Microscope,” which emphasized her pedagogical interest in translation theory and practice. It was a great opportunity to meet new colleagues and old friends at her alma mater!


Anosh's The Parcel Up For Prestigious Awards!

Oct. 6, 2016

World Literature Writer-in-Residence Anosh Irani's new novel, The Parcel, is a finalist for the 2016 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor-General's Literary Award.  

Here's what the Writers' Trust jury said about the novel:

"Set amid the raucous swirl of Bombay’s Kamathipura Red Light District, The Parcel is a searing indictment of the sex trafficking industry and a compassionate portrait of a troubled but resilient community. In Madhu, the transgender, retired prostitute at the heart of the novel, Anosh Irani has created a powerful yet flawed character to steward the reader through difficult, often disturbing material. Her struggles—with her past, with the legacy she might leave behind—are rendered with honesty and grace. Harrowing, enraging, unexpectedly humorous, and also profoundly sad, The Parcel is a haunting work of fiction that illuminates the ways in which history, both political and personal, pervades the present day."

— 2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury Lauren B. Davis, Trevor Ferguson, and Pasha Malla

Look Who's Popping Up In the FASS Magazine!

September 30, 2016

Our very own Ken Ip has been profiled in the September issue of the F@SS e-magazine! Check it out here.

Lyre Issue 7: Launched!

September 21, 2016

Lyre Issue 7 looks great, thanks to the editorial executive commitee, contributors, and many others. Anna Lechintan, Ken Ip, Kelsey Wilson, Mel Hiepler, Elda Hajdarovac and Rhiannon Wallace are handing the reins over to Iulia Sincraian, Alex Harasymiw, Jaiden Dembo, Ken Ip, Amy Kim, and Reynold Chaudhury for Issue 8. Come pick a copy of the beautiful 2016 issue -- we have some in our hallway rack. And contact Alex and Iulia, our new co-editors-in-chief, if you'd like to get involved. You can find their contact info on the Lyre's web page. We're looking forward to how the Lyre, our very own WL student mag, continues to grow! This year's theme was "Language and Identity." What will it be in 2017?

Summer in the City of a Hundred Spires

Sept 20, 2016 - by WL student Melanie Hiepler

On June 15th, 2016, I hauled my backpack off the carousel at Václav Havel Airport in Prague, the Czech Republic, and headed to Arrivals, completely unaware of the learning curve that awaited me in the next four weeks. I was in Prague to take part in Charles University’s month-long Eastern and Central European Studies summer program, and was soon to discover that Prague is, in a word, magical.

Since ECES squished an entire 13-week semester into 4 weeks, each class met 9 hours per week, which makes it sound like I spent all my time in Prague in the classroom. Au contraire, my friend. These classes were designed to get students out into the city, to walk Prague’s tangled mess of streets (seriously though, even the locals admit to getting lost sometimes), to breathe the air that is saturated with deep, raw history (cheesy but true). As a sheltered West-Coaster, Prague was an eye-opening experience for me. In the wake of several centuries of Austro-Hungarian occupation, then Nazi German occupation, then Communist occupation, identity has historically been, and still is, a big question in Czech society. (I would recommend some Kafka or Jirásek and a brief glance through a 20th Century history book if you’re not up to speed with the topic at hand). In short, there is nothing quite like learning about the Communist occupation of Czechoslovakia from a woman who experienced it as a teenager. Nor is there anything quite like going on a walking tour of the city with your prof, who casually points out various sites of historical importance – revolutions, elections and coups, defenestrations (please note the plural tense), victorious battles against invading Crusader armies – and ties them all into his lecture.

Field trips were a major part of the ECES experience. My Urban Semiotics class regularly stopped in at various art exhibitions around the city, spent a few hours at the Kafka museum, and had us record a Czech song of the revolutionary underground at a professional recording studio run by my professor’s family. The social psychology class I took saw us spend an entire seminar at a local yoga studio for our module on stress management. The course I took on Prague in literature made frequent excursions to the sites mentioned in our texts, allowing us to walk the places and understand for ourselves how history and literature have repeatedly reinterpreted the events that took place there. Astounding.

Academics aside, the city itself is an experience. It’s the little things, like waking up every morning in a (very) Soviet-style dorm building to the sound of the military orchestra practising across the street. Or walking to class through the castle grounds. Or getting lost in the winding streets amid pastel-coloured buildings. Or wandering Malá Strana after dark in search of Trdelník, a life-changing cinnamon sugar-coated pastry reminiscent of Beaver Tails or Elephant Ears. Or learning very quickly that it is not advisable to run anywhere in Prague, because the cobbles are so darn slippery. In spite of Prague’s overwhelming history, the city invites people to explore and experience it on their own terms and in their own time. I came away with a better understanding of how the region’s history shapes the Czech Republic’s current political and social situations, and gained a deeper respect and concern for the social issues that my home society faces. My time in Prague was an experience that could be described as “world literary”, in the sense that it afforded me an opportunity to gain insight into a way of life that differs from my own West-Coast Canadian one. ECES was a summer well-spent; I only wish that it had been longer.

For curious souls looking to satisfy some wanderlust and get academic credit at the same time, more information about ECES can be found at http://eces.ff.cuni.cz/.

WL Alumna Bonnie Tulloch Wins HUGE PhD Scholarship at UBC!

Sept 20, 2016

Incoming PhD student Bonnie Tulloch awarded Killam Doctoral Scholarship

The Killam Doctoral Scholarships are provided each year from the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fund for Advanced Studies and are awarded to the top doctoral candidates in the annual Tri-Agency/Affiliated Fellowships competition. These scholarships provide up to $30,000 per year plus a $2,000 research travel allowance over a two-year term.

Congratulations Bonnie!

New Publication from our Writer in Residence!

Sept 9, 2016

Anosh Irani's new novel, The Parcel, is about a retired transgender sex worker in Bombay's red light district.  He discusses his latest work with Piya Chattopadhyay on CBC's The Current:


Students on the WL Experience

August 23, 2016.

Reflecting on Otherness, the Second World War, and Mercy in Kraków

Abby Zaporteza, WL Major

August 18, 2016

This past July, I attended an international pilgrimage and conference in Kraków, Poland called “World Youth Day” with a group of other young adults. The two-week event included cultural immersion, enriching talks, and lots of walking. We also had opportunities to visit renowned historical sites such as Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Kraków, where Schindler’s List was filmed.

Following the event, my group went on a number of day-trips. One of these trips involved an unforgettable visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp. To put it simply, I was unprepared for the haunting experience of witnessing the site of one of the most horrendous genocides in history. It was poignant to juxtapose our trip to Auschwitz with our recent attendance at an international event centred on the theme of mercy. The next day, we visited the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine, a Polish national monument. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe himself is said to have visited in the late 18th century, and has a salt carving erected in his honour outside of the mine’s Weimar chamber.

Amidst impeccable Polish hospitality, erratic weather, streets crowded with international delegates, and more stops for ‘lody’ (Polish for ‘ice cream’) than I can recall, my two-week trip to Kraków allowed me many ways to reflect on l’autre and the human capacity for both compassion and cruelty.

On the Institute of World Literature, 2016

August 17, 2016

Ken Ip, WL major

Between the 20th June and the 14th July, I attended Harvard’s Institute for World Literature. For four weeks, I, along with other students from around the world, learned about the intricacies of the field and about emerging ideas from both well-established and young, bold academics.

The program consisted of two seminar sessions, eight days each, with a colloquium component and a series of four lectures and two panel sessions. As expected, these were all centered on World Literature but varied widely depending on the speaker of the day. Even so, all seemed to support the notion that the emerging field of World Literature can be defined in a multitude of cooperative ways. It was interesting to see this idea play out in the scholarly presentations that had roots in postmodernism and comparative literature; in other words, in fields that form the roots for World Literature but from which it seeks definition.

As an undergraduate student attending an event very much directed to graduate students and faculty members, I experienced some shock. Fellow participants would ask – “what are you researching for your dissertation?” – much like an undergraduate student might ask about another’s major. Classes were also small, with about twenty-five individuals per seminar and up to fifteen in each colloquium group. Most interestingly, I was able to put faces to some of the names that have appeared under the titles of class readings in the past few years. To be able to speak with academics from around the world in this context greatly expanded both to my knowledge of theories within world literature and of the prospects available in intellectual life.

The setting, too, played a role in this sense of expansion – the Harvard campus at Cambridge pays homage to traditions while retaining a very current sense of its prestige. There are departmental buildings, specialized lecture theatres, museums, and a set of rather famous libraries, all distributed across lively streets and serene courtyards. Surrounding these are residential neighbourhoods, independent shops and sights for tourists and locals alike.

One of the most interesting landmarks on the Harvard campus is in the central courtyard – Widener Library. On its seven floors and in its 57 miles of shelves there are several million books in a world-famous academic collection. Regrettably, I was unable to spend much time there, though I was able to scan a few texts based on personal interest, as well as browse through some very unusual collections.

Another notable experience I had with Harvard’s collections was a dinner held in the Museum of Natural History, where there were many fossil, gem and mineral specimens in addition to taxidermy displays. Having long held a deep interest in rocks and minerals, I found the choice of venue for the kickoff fascinating. It was quite an odd experience – a dinner amongst these exhibits amongst a host of literary scholars.

Beyond the campus, Boston was a very memorable and lively place as well – especially leading up to the Fourth of July celebrations. From intricately arranged collections at the Isabella Gardner Stewart Museum to a chance visit to the army ranger speeches at Faneuil Hall, the city had more than enough to see during a month-long stay. I found to my joy that many of the locals in Boston are happy to recommend one sight or another to see.

Having returned home, I find myself thinking ahead:

During most of the session, several of the participants – myself included – formed a poetry reading group that I found immensely enjoyable and towards which I have submitted some pieces for a collection we are hoping to publish.

I found the two panels, on academic publishing and jobs, to have further cemented my desire to work in academia. While I have a long path ahead, I found quite a bit of clarification on what to expect as I get closer towards graduate level education.

Finally, I suspect I will be looking to travel again soon – I had forgotten what a joy it is to discover a new place through its sights and people. Boston was a marvelous destination, and the Harvard campus in Cambridge surpassed my expectations.

I wholeheartedly recommend this experience to any student in the World Literature program at SFU, especially those intending to pursue graduate studies. The combination of the joys of travel and the productive discourse at the IWL are a major landmark in my academic journey thus far.

White Ravens at the Book Castle

The White Ravens Festival is an international children's book festival held every two years at the beautiful International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. Dr. O attended the festival for the first time two years ago, but this time she had the honour of interviewing British children's book author Paul Stewart (see photo). Stewart, a prolific author of fantasy and science fiction for young people, was really fun to talk to and gave us insight into how he works. Dr. O recommends The Edge Chronicles, an engrossing series set in (on?) the "Edge," a lively  and complex fictional world filled with all kinds of interesting characters and creatures. The illustrations, by artist Chris Riddell, are quirky, imaginative, and as central to the books as the story. Who knows? Perhaps we can convince them both to visit Vancouver some time.

Dr. O in Düsseldorf, Germany

June 27, 2016

This past weekend, Dr. O presented a paper entitled “Nationalist Texts With International Appeal: Or, the Strange Tale of Children’s World Literature at the Extended Fin de Siècle” at Other Europes: Migrations, Translations, Transformations, MLA International Symposia: Translating the Humanities. Her paper explored the conflict between nationalism and internationalism in children’s literature by examining how well known texts written for children around the turn of the last century actually embodied this apparent paradox. Specifically, she investigated how texts written explicitly for a young domestic (national) audience were disseminated to foreign (international) audiences through translation. The books under discussion were Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868), Edmondo De Amici’s Cuore (Heart, 1886), and Selma Lagerlöf’s Nils Holgerssons underbara resa (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, 1907) (see original cover, right)

4 Dora Award Noms for Anosh's Play!

May 30, 2016

Factory Theatre's production of Bombay Black by Anosh Irani received 4 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations: OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, OUTSTANDING DIRECTION, OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE FEMALE and OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN. The awards were announced Monday 30th May. Kawa Ada, who played Apsara in the production, won Best Actor at the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards.  


Burnaby Festival of Learning

May 3, 2016

WL students Ken Ip, Iulia Sincraian, and Abby Zaporteza offered a "World Literature Mini-Conference" session as part of the Festival activities held on the Burnaby campus. Dr. O introduced the student panel and moderated. The Burnaby high school students who attended learned about student research and  some fun ways to prepare for the experience of asking questions in university classes!


The Conference Hustle with Dr. O

April 5, 2016

Dr. Ortabasi had a double-header conference weekend at the end of March, giving one presentation at the Association for Asian Studies in Seattle, and another at a conference at the University of British Columbia on "Transcultural Perspectives in Italian Studies."

Her presentation in Seattle on April 1, part of a panel on children's participation in magazine culture in Japan, was entitled "Children as Readers, Children as Writers in Modern Japanese Children’s Magazines." She talked about how the magazine Eisai shinshi (Genius magazine, 1877-1901) created a community of young writers who would go on to form the next generation of Japanese intellectuals. The panel was a blast, with good attendance and lots of Q & A. Here are photos of her fellow panelists and the audience!

On April 2, she hopped on the Quick Shuttle to get up to UBC, where she "gatecrashed" an Italian studies conference to present on the translation of an Italian children's classic into Japanese. Widely used as a language-learning text during the late 19th century, and eventually adapted into an anime (animated feature) in 1976, Edmondo de Amicis' Cuore (1886) found a receptive audience in Japan, a place beyond even De Amicis’ own extensive travels. It was huge fun to connect with colleagues she wouldn't normally meet. She looks forward to new conversations (and help in deciphering Italian texts). 

2nd Annual WL Undergraduate Conference: A Success!

April 8, 2016

On April 7, the long-awaited conference took place, organized by Dr. Mark Deggan and a 32-student committee! After some opening words, we broke into two rooms for two sets of fascinating student panels. We are so proud of the research and professionalism that was on display, and look forward to many more conferences to come. For more details on the program, please see the official Conference web page [link here]. Thank you to everyone involved for a job excellently done.

Dr. Yamini-Hamedani at ACLA 2016!

March 30, 2016

Azadeh Yamini-Hamedani presenting her paper on "Heidegger and the Iranian Revolution" as part of the "Heidegger Today?" panel at the 2016 American Comparative Literature Association held at Harvard University, March 17-20.


Ken Ponders: How does a Local Text Go "World”?

March 11, 2016

I’ve now spent two weekends at a friend’s chateau north of Paris and the preternatural feeling of living in a story has never left. But which story?

Raray is a 18th century chateau constructed according to the theme of the hunt. Statuary of deer, boar, hunting dogs and an ornamental door, “Diana’s Gate” leading into the forest, all evoke a storied tradition of the hunt – “Tally ho!” and all that.  This is not the kind of hunting we do in North America, which often implies a very different intertextual environment, maybe an intimate parent-offspring outing under the auspices of a neo-Romantic ethos and a food-on-the-table practicality. La chasse à courre brings together dozens of riders, hunting hounds and hangers on, like me, who observe. Hunting with hounds is, of course, highly controversial and I make no case for or against it; I note only that it is deeply embedded in a culture.

More to my point, in 1945 the French poet, playwright and filmmaker Jean Cocteau saw another story in the chateau. Raray for Cocteau was the ideal setting for a film based on a story by an obscure 18th century writer, Madame Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, and that story was none other than La Belle et la Bête (“The Beauty and the Beast”). Why did Cocteau choose this story? What did he see in the chateau that stimulated his imagination? These questions go to the heart of intertextuality and translation from one medium to another. His responses transformed a sentimentalized local tale into world literature.

Cocteau approached the owner of the chateau who agreed to let him film there, asking in return only that Cocteau pay a certain sum that would go to the villagers who were suffering through a postwar poverty that ravaged the countryside.

Filming was difficult. Raray was a fully functioning farm at the time and the sounds of cows, geese and chickens couldn't be filtered from the soundtrack. Elaborate scaffolding had to be built around some statuary that stood fifteen feet off the ground. In the end, Cocteau made a beautiful film, transforming the chateau into a brooding, baroque dream-space. Compare, for example, the photos I took of sites around the chateau with stills from La Belle et la Bête. Cocteau uniquely “stories” the chateau for his theme of love, sacrifice and redemption. The film came out in 1946, and acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic swept La Belle et la Bête to instant classic status, which it retains to this day, inspiring numerous other works and, of course, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Azadeh Speaking @ Hellenic Studies' Conference

March 1, 2016

Azadeh Yamini-Hamedani delivered a lecture on "Empire, World Literature, and the Iranian Revolution" at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies' conference at SFU on Friday, February 26. Her talk explored the ways in which Iranian intellectuals in the 1950s and 1960s engaged with world literature to challenge dominant discourses around technology and power.

Travelling Theory - Dr. Patrick Imbert Visits WL300

On March 1, 2016 Dr. Patrick Imbert, distinguished University Professor and holder of the University Research Chair in Socio-Cultural Changes at University of Ottawa, visited our World Literature 300 class on "Travelling Theory." He delivered a fascinating talk on "Comparing the American: blending theories and cultural space." His visit sparked a fascinating in-class discussion around identity, narrative, and multiculturalism.

Below is his self-description of the talk:

Comparing the Americas: blending theories and cultural space.
Twenty years ago, comparing Canada and the rest of the Americas was not
common and certainly not fashionable. What leads to creating a new field?
Or a new perspective? Finding historical justification? Yes, such as the
fact that  for instance, William Perkins travelled  from Canada to
Argentina in the 19th century and published his diary there, or that the
French aristocrat Xavier Marmier travelled from Canada to Argentina and
published his journal plagiarizing parts of Facundo by Sarmiento
(something not seen by those who studied Marmier and have no knowledge of
Sarmiento). But the main point is to find a theory, which will allow one
to detect similar exclusions, attractions and problematics. Greimas and
his theory of narrative and René Girard and his theory of exclusion
provided this framework.  Through this connecting together a corpus with
theories originating in different locations and based on different
aprioris, I will show how one can create new perspectives in the literary
and cultural fields, and how  perspectives shift and are displaced.

The World Lit Co-Op Experience

by Alicia Blimke, WL Minor

January 28, 2016

Hoping to add more skills to my resume, I spent last term scouring job postings looking for a Co-op position. Eventually, I was hired for my current position as Program Coordinator at the SFU Thelma Finlayson Centre for Student Engagement (TFCSE). A large component of the role involves marketing and communications support for Student Central. This includes managing the unit's social media presence and, in particular, outreach to first-year students. Outreach on social media, networking with stakeholders and composing reports each demand a different style of communication. The variety of writing that students are exposed to in World Literature, as well as the breadth of assignments, from essays to poetry to research, have given me the flexibility to comfortably adapt to new styles of communication. As Coordinator at the TFCSE, I am also responsible for creating reports and analyzing data. This provides an opportunity to increase technical, program-specific skills, such as proficiency in Excel. An understanding of how to conduct data analysis in Excel, as well as knowledge of how to effectively promote a message through social media are skills that are increasingly in demand in every field, including in the publishing, research and journalism industries. Additionally, the TFCSE is an initial point of contact for students who are interested in getting more involved at SFU. Experience with the World Literature Student Union, The Lyre Magazine and other World Literature initiatives has expanded my understanding of engagement opportunities across SFU's diverse campuses. Ensuring that students find ways to volunteer and engage with campus groups is important to creating a sense of community at SFU. I was originally interested in the position because of the opportunity to increase my project management and analysis skills, building on the soft skills developed through my studies. So far, I have found the role to be an enlightening window into the workings of university administration and am excited to continue learning from this position in the months to come.

Anselm Kiefer's Literary Imagination (at least Ken thinks so!)

My wife returned from an exhibition recently and described it as full of dark colors, jagged edges, rusty metal and bits of hair and dead wood. Did I want to see it? “No thanks, I’ve had quite enough post-apocalyptica for one day” -- no joke. She began watching a Youtube of the artist, Anselm Kiefer and I glanced at it out the corner of one eye from time to time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUQuhoqTKtg

Particularly relevant for world literature is the centrality of literature for Kiefer. Notice at the center of the bruise colored “sunset”: a book. At the center of the roiling cosmos (that is also evocative of a forest!): burned books. What is a wedding dress but a condensation of stories? Nature is depicted via the book. Even dead sunflowers full of seeds sprout from an old printing press. Much of Kiefer’s work is a dialogue with writers: Michelet, Heidegger, Genet, Celan, and with ideas and myths from books: German mythology, Lurianic Kabbala, the book of Genesis, Judaism. Books not only filter our world; the ideas therein are at the center of our cosmos such as it is, Kiefer seems to be telling us.

More than one friend had told me about the recent exhibit on Kiefer, "Anselm Kiefer, l’alchimie du livre" [Anselm Kiefer, The Alchemy of the Book] at the Bibliothèque nationale de France from 20 October 2015 to 6 February 2016, but even though the exhibit was located on another floor of the same building where I was working, I was busy and couldn’t be bothered. Yet seeing the video on Kiefer, I was hooked. Born in Germany in 1945, Kiefer spent his childhood literally playing in ruins. As the victors in that war and the inflictors of much destruction, most of us don’t think all that much about post-war Germany. Kiefer, who says the artist imposes order on chaos, lives out this credo as he imposes order on a burned, rusted and ruined world. It reminded me of Joseph Beuys’s work and I saw later that Kiefer had studied with Beuys.

Dispatch from Ken

Having recently returned from Istanbul, it was a shock to see a familiar and convivial site suddenly transformed into a spectacle of carnage in the wake of last week’s bomb: http://www.juancole.com/2016/01/istanbul-explosion-overview-of-this-years-surge-in-terror-attacks-in-turkey.html

I asked the obvious question: What do the perpetrators seek to achieve? Fear and withdrawal. The withdrawal of those who are targeted into their personal, social or political selves. Why? Because the bombers, having so reduced their own humanity, demand a similar withdrawal from everybody else. They have suffered, the argument goes, so now the world must suffer.

A better question: What do they want the rest of the world to withdraw from? In response, let’s go back to Istanbul, to a place close to the site of the bomb’s destruction. No, not a rug emporium, restaurant, hotel or souvenir shop, but a modest book shop. In it is featured a proud display of world literature – many of the same books you’ll find in Jakarta, Beirut, Paris, Buenos Aires, Kinshasa and Shanghai. The display contains no “Global Lit” schlock; rather books written by those who have striven, most often under difficult conditions, to speak about suffering. Yes, the selection features lots of European white males, but it would be a mistake to concentrate on who is writing to the exclusion of what is being said and to whom. The writers of these books are united by their courage to write, their confidence in the human mind to understand, their faith in readers to grasp truths, and their hope that societies can change. The Istanbul bombers want the rest of the world to withdraw from all this into despair just as they have themselves.

World literature doesn’t presume to offer a ready-made solution to humanity’s problems; it doesn’t even puff itself as a “resistance,” but those attuned to it may find in world literature courage, confidence, faith and hope.

Anosh Irani's Bombay Black 

The accolades keep coming! The Globe and Mail has selected Anosh's play as one of the top ten plays of the year.

Oral Storytelling: World Lit Style

For Anosh Irani's creative writing class (WL330 - Fall 2015), students were asked to tell a story without the use of a script.  It could be a personal anecdote or completely fictional.  The results were deeply personal, at times hilarious and moving.  Here are two brave storytellers, Eli Herbert and Stephanie Hefti, who have agreed to share their tales.  Enjoy. 

Student Profile: Rhiannon Wallace, World Literature and International Studies

Check out Rhiannon's student profile in the F@SS Magazine in the November 2015 issue! 

BOMBAY BLACK by Anosh Irani

A love story between a blind man and dancer, the play is currently running at Factory Theatre, Toronto, until December 6th. 

WL's Writer-in-Residence, Anosh Irani, just made a quick trip to Toronto to attend a performance of his play, Bombay Black, which is currently running at Factory Theatre, Toronto, until December 6th. 
The play was reviewed in the Toronto Star, and is a Critic's Pick in the Now newspaper.

WL @ the Student Learning Commons: Thirteen Shuffling Steps to an L&W Consultation

By Ken Ip, WL major

November 6, 2015

1) Shuffle frantically into the library
2) Punch in a door-code
3) Enter the Peer Educator common room
4) Sit down at a computer, checking appointments
5) Shuffle frantically to an appointment.

The above is the typical start of a shift at the Student Learning Commons (SLC) as a Learning and Writing (L&W) volunteer in the Peer Education program. The frantic shuffling might be exclusive to me, though.

I have been volunteering there for three semesters and counting, and have found it to be quite an intriguing experience. The work there centers itself on being free and friendly peer-based help. What this boils down to is structured yet informal conversations between a peer educator and a client. These conversations can be assignment-based in Writing consultations, or on general academic strategies in Learning consultations.

6) Listen to the student’s concern. Ah, they wish to work on a paper this time. It’s their first? Excellent.
7) Let the student explain their paper. It’s critical argumentation they want to develop. That can certainly be a topic to work with.
8) After making a few resource recommendations (the professor, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Library website…), walk the student to the writing resource wall. There should be quite a few useful handouts here.

Inherently, this is an engagement that is beneficial to both parties. The volunteer gains the opportunity to converse with a wide variety of students, as well as access to specialized resources and workshops. Clients gain in conjunction to this constructive, confidential critiques that contribute towards their academic technique and help build confidence. Additionally, getting leads towards further resources and information sources is always a bonus.

9) Walk the student through a short outlining exercise. Their topic is Plato’s notion of the philosopher king. Haven’t heard of it – but that’s perfectly fine. See if the student’s explanation and technique are clear.

As a student in World Literature, however, this exposure to a wider breadth of paradigms and approaches is incomparable in its value. I have, through my role as a peer educator, had students explain to me narratives of scientific pursuit, of engineering marvels, of curious social phenomena and of texts I would never have heard about. I contribute in exchange those aforementioned critiques and leads towards additional resources, all towards the ideal of building up long term skills on the part of the client. It can hardly be described as anything other than a symbiotic relationship.

10) End the consultation with a handshake and a smile. It was a good talk, and the student client is happy.
11) Don’t forget to give them a feedback form
12) Shuffle frantically back to the common room
13) File the client report. Job done.

If the above should sound appealing to the reader, information on the role of a Peer Educator can be found here.

Postings generally open near the end of the Spring semester, and are run through the SFU MyInvolvement site.

The Art of Conscience in France since 2000

"Graphisme contemporain et engagement(s)" is an exhibition on the poster art of social activism since the year 2000 that is currently on display at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France where I do my work. I took some photos of the various posters on display (nobody said I couldn't!) and thought they might make a good addition to the WL Blog. Since all of the posters I chose deal with cross-cultural issues, they intersect with the concerns of the world literature classroom. Some of the posters are self-explanatory; others require a reading knowledge of French.
Other observations:
- They may also be viewed as indicative of French social consciousness -- the emphasis in one on gastronomy could hardly have come from an Anglo-North American culture.
- Interestingly for those of us who have at least a fleeting familiarity with the French poster art of the 1960s through 1980s, these posters tend to be more discursive and sophisticated in terms of the messages affirmed. By the same token, they are a little less pithy.
- Most of the posters in the exhibit take it for granted that French party politics is a mugs’ game, so they are more interested in issues than personalities, which is congruent, I think, with contemporary attitudes toward politics in North America.

-- Ken Seigneurie

Anosh on CBC Radio 

North by Northwest with Sheryl MacKay

(Anosh starts at the 14 min mark)

Playwright and novelist Anosh Irani talks books in the next instalment of Shelf Life, where people talk about special books in their lives. Anosh's favourite childhood books included Indian and American comic books and the Grimms' Fairy Tales. The book that changed his life was A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. The book he loves to lend is the novella, Chess by Stefan Zweig.


WL Student Charles Mao on the Value of an Arts Education

October 21, 2015

As an extension of the upcoming FASS Forum: What is the Value of an Arts Education?, undergraduate students Charles Mao and Emiko Newman participated in the FASS Forum’s Undergraduate Competition on Wednesday, October 21st.

The Life and Times of a WL Research Assisant - Bennett’s Darkest Secrets

by Rhiannon Wallace

Oct 15, 2015

            As a literature research assistant, I thought any “searching” I had to do would be straightforward; just a matter of finding a few library books. Little did I know the perils that lurk on the campus of my very own university, in the Bennett Library. In the past few years I have entered this imposing fortress on numerous occasions. The ominous feeling has always been there, but I always attributed it to pre-midterm jitters. The truth remained hidden until I discovered last week that one of the books I needed was in the Lam Graduate Research Centre. It seems the graduate students lead a different life than we humble undergrads do. While we have been climbing up endless flights of stairs in search of research material, grad students have been descending to the mysterious first level of the library to access books so special, so important, that they have their very own collection. Imagine the naïve nonchalance with which I accepted the librarian’s instructions: “The Road to Gundagai is downstairs in the Lam collection. Come back up if you need help.”

            Help, I scoffed to myself with the misguided arrogance of an arts student who thinks Econ 105 will be just like Math 11. I’ve been navigating libraries since I was eight years old. Little did I know.

            In searching for the Research Centre, I had the impression that it did not want to be found. I headed down to the first level, where a small sign directed me around a corner and through a dark doorway. I entered a room full of what appeared to be bookshelves, except that they were pressed together with no aisles between them. “Mobile compact shelving,” the library called it; but I suspected that that wasn’t the whole story. Why had these books been locked in -- what powerful secrets were lurking in the cracks? I found my call number. The next step was, of course, to open the aisle between the shelves. In front of me were three buttons: one green, one white and one red. The red button was labelled “EMERGENCY.” My gut instinct told me that I should leave it well alone. So I was shocked when the instruction sheet -- a document that also mentioned lasers and listed an unsettling number of safety procedures -- told me to press that exact button.*

            It had to be a trap.

            Was someone trying to frame me, perhaps by making me set off some sort of alarm? Had I wandered into a section of the library that was not meant for my prying eyes? What happened to sneaky undergraduates who tried to access graduates’ books? The only person I could have asked was a guy at the far end of the room, studying silently at a desk. Probably a grad student, no doubt in possession of all the secrets of the Research Centre. If he couldn’t already see that I was an interloper, I definitely didn’t want him to find out. Nor did I want to go back upstairs and ask the librarian for her assistance; to admit defeat was unthinkable, and already the third floor felt worlds away.

            It was then that I heard the noise: wheels being rolled down the hall toward me. I summoned my courage, swallowed my pride and asked the man with the cart, “Could you help me to open these shelves?”

            As it turns out, nothing horrible happens when you press the red button. The only thing hiding between the rows is, in fact, a bunch of books. When I emerged on the third floor, The Road to Gundagai in one hand and student card in the other, the Lam Graduate Research Centre seemed like nothing more than a very useful collection of literature. Any connections I had made in my head to the Hogwarts library’s Restricted Section now seemed unfounded and preposterous. And as far as I can tell from reading it, Graham McInnes’ autobiography is just a regular book. But one thing I do know: there must be a reason why certain volumes, ones that seem no different from those on the fourth or fifth floors, are locked between automated shelves in the graduate collection. “Saving space,” they’ll tell us. “Special research projects,” they’ll say. But some of us are not so sure.

* If you ever find yourself in the Lam Centre, please don’t trust my interpretation of the instructions.

Anosh's New Play - Reading Nov 7, 2015

On Saturday November 7th, Visiting Professor and World Literature Writer in Residence Anosh Irani will have a public reading of his new play at the Arts Club Theatre (BMO Theatre Centre) at 7.30 pm.  
Admission is free.
Address: 162 West 1st Avenue


The Men in White
By Anosh Irani

Mom’s 4: WTF
 By Mom’s the Word Collective
 Two public readings and a talkback
 Saturday, November 7, 7:30–10:30 PM
 BMO Theatre Centre, Studio A

The Men in White

 By Anosh Irani

Set in present day India and Canada, The Men in White is the story of two brothers, Abdul and Hasan, who are passionate about cricket. Abdul lives in Canada and works a kitchen and Hasan is still in Bombay, working at a chicken center. When the cricket club that Abdul plays for in Vancouver is on a major losing streak, the members of the club agree to sponsor Hasan as a “tourist” to play for them. The Men in White is about how home can be found in sport, the alienation that one feels in a new land, and how old wounds can stay hidden for years, then suddenly strike like snakes.

Anosh Irani's Public Lecture a Big Success!

Anosh Irani's second public talk as World Lit's Writer-in-Residence was extremely well-attended and received!

"Dialogue: The Language of the Unheard" tackled the role that dialogue plays in fiction, film, and drama. Attendees filled the lecture theatre, with standing room only at the back.

Ken est à Paris!

Ken Seigneurie has been in Paris for three weeks, living as most do, in rather tight quarters and being reminded that comfort is not everything – far from it, in fact. Daily work at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is complemented by enjoying the city’s wide cultural life:

Three photos:
1) Attending a friend’s vernissage.

2) The city’s literary life seems devoted to world literature. On a Saturday night in the Montparnasse entertainment section of the city, a bookshop prominently displays a collection apparently devoted to world authors.

3)  Scheduled to give a talk at a three-day conference at the University of Paris IV organized by what must be the world authority on digital humanities, Milad Doueihi.

Finally, Ken has begun a blog at kseigneurie.com and at some time in the unspecified future vows to write regularly!

FASS Connections Mentorship Program

October 1, 2015

"The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) Connections Mentorship program is a faculty-based initiative connecting new FASS undergraduate student mentees with senior FASS student mentors.Our mission is to provide SFU FASS students enriching and supportive connections to increase their sense of belonging and well-being, helping them thrive in this vibrant campus community."

Two of our brightest World Literature majors, Kelsey Wilson and Roberta McMorran, have made themselves available as peer mentors in this excellent program. We're very proud of the work that they're doing to promote World Literature and enrich student engagement.

The Glamorous Life of a Research Assistant

by Rhiannon Wallace

September 29, 2015

When I was accepted as a research assistant for Dr. Ortabasi in the World Literature Program, I didn’t know what exactly the position would entail. Dr. O. reassured me that she would have me doing meaningful and educational research work ... thank goodness because I had had visions of myself as Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, delivering coffees and obnoxiously chasing after famous writers for copies of their unprinted manuscripts. The only redeeming point in that vision was that I got to be Anne Hathaway. But of course, Dr. O. has told me that she sees this position primarily as an opportunity for me to learn the skills I want to learn. My work is largely independent, but she is there to support me in the research I do for her. She has already been very helpful, showing me fantastic online resources that I never knew existed, and answering any questions I have.

I am currently looking at autobiographies of people who were children between 1870 and 1930, with a particular focus on their experiences of reading and literature during that time. One of my immediate challenges is trying to take notes efficiently and to skim for relevant information when the books I’m reading are so interesting. Les Motsby Jean-Paul Sartre is one of my favourites so far (I’m reading the English translation and finding the matching passages in the original text). His insight into his own childhood mind is at times merciless but, I think (at least according to my own memories of childhood), disturbingly accurate.

As I read and admire other people’s memoirs, I find myself wondering how my own autobiography would look. I can’t help feeling that I would be a bit less candid than most of these writers. I don’t know what it is about French writers in particular, but they manage to find things inside themselves -- and by extension in the rest of us -- that most regular people aren’t really willing to unearth (thanks a lot, Sartre and Beauvoir). The autobiography of my childhood would probably be half the length of theirs, with all the uncomfortable bits left out. Highlights would include the time I won a public speaking contest, and an alphabetical list of my stuffed animals’ names. On no condition would I mention the startling revelation I had when I was ten years old, that I -- no never mind, I don’t want to talk about that. My book would most likely be unnecessarily wordy (to distract from the lack of revealing or embarrassing content), highly contrived, painfully boring and somewhat self-deprecating but only in a mundane, self-serving sort of way (see what I so cleverly did there?). Honestly (and I don’t think I’m the only one), it would take a lot of courage for me to find and share the more interesting things about myself and my life. So really it’s probably best that somebody else write an unauthorized biography for me when I become famous.

A more relevant question that keeps coming to me, in part because some of the books directly acknowledge it, is this: how reliable are memoirs as factual accounts of childhood? The authors are recalling actions, situations and thoughts from long ago; of course they can’t remember everything. The relatively small collection of childhood memories that remains to an adult author is filtered further through the writing, editing and publishing processes. Authors might find more meaning in past events than those events necessarily warrant (if I can even make that judgement), or remember their childhood selves interpreting things in a way that really only came to them later. Most of the authors have likely forgotten about events that were crucial to their development. And like anyone else, writers can be somewhat self-serving or self-deprecating, or both. Despite having once been children, these authors are no longer operating with the minds of children, and this gap probably creates inaccuracies. The same would be true of an adult writing on behalf of a child, or even an adult editing, publishing or reading a child’s work. I discussed this difficulty with Dr. O. the same fateful day that she revealed to me the difficulty of using the office scanner (you can guess which of the two is actually more difficult).

These are some of the thoughts that come to mind as I continue to do the best student job I could wish for. I’m excited to keep reading!

IWL Conference - Part Two (Sept 4, 2015)

by Iulia Sincraian


I can't believe it's already been a little over a month since the conference has ended-  it feels like just yesterday I was walking to the University of Letters in Lisbon, for our daily seminars and meetings. I came back to Vancouver with lists of recommendations, with authors and theorists, and in the time since I've gotten back, I've been able to explore some of the things that sparked my interest while I was in Lisbon.

But it hasn't all been academic- I've been in touch with some truly wonderful people, who I am very grateful to have gotten the chance to meet.
I am so excited for future conferences and other research opportunities, and would highly recommend this conference to anyone who has a love for literature.

Vienna, Summer 2015

Dr. Yamini-Hamedani, looking for undiscovered gems for a sourcebook on Austromarxism at the Austrian National Library as part of the Berkeley-Tubingen-Wien-Harvard Working Group during summer 2015.

International Gothic Association Annual Meeting, 28 July - 1 August


World Literature instructors Maria Ignacia Barraza and Mark Deggan presented on a sponsored panel at the International Gothic Association Annual Meeting in Vancouver. Maria, who also conceptualized and organized the panel, presented a talk entitled "“Ernesto Sabato’s On Heroes and Tombs: The Father Figure’s Acts of Transgression and the (Im)possibility of the Cleansing of Past Sins." Mark spoke on “ de mystiek der zichtbare dingen ”: Eco-Performativity, East Indies Gothic, and de Stille Kracht." John Whatley, who also teaches for World Literature, was the organizer of the conference. Kudos to everyone!


WL Student Attends 5th Annual Institute for World Literature Conference in Lisbon, Portugal (July 2015)

By Iulia Sincraian

In February of this year, I found out that I was accepted to attend the fifth annual Institute for World Literature's Conference, hosted by Harvard University and the University of Letters in Lisbon, Portugal. From then until I actually left, I had been busy selecting my seminars, looking over the lecture plans, doing readings and preparing presentations for the seminars and affinity group. I was incredibly nervous- a month before leaving, we all received a list of participants, and I was the only undergraduate there. Plus, finding a place to live had been a real adventure- because Lisbon gets a lot of tourists over the summer, there was a shortage of places to rent, especially for an entire month.

The first day of the conference was packed with registration, an opening reception, lectures, tours, and a closing reception. David Damrosch, the head of the institute for world literature, gave the first lecture, and it was incredible. I had been expecting a very dry and academic presentation, but it was very engaging.
Overall, it has been a lot less daunting than I was expecting. I was expecting something well over my level of comprehension, but it hasn't been that way at all. The seminars have been manageable, the texts interesting, the professors very engaging and the participants friendly. It is has been, so far, an incredible experience.

I am amazed at how diverse literary research can be, and how much there is to study. Research is, in itself, a creative process. Out of the 157 participants here, everyone I met was focusing on something at least slightly different. It has been very inspirational for me to see just how much you can do with a degree in literature, and how much
freedom it grants in exploring what you're passionate about.

I am so happy to be here, to enjoy this gorgeous country with all of these wonderful people.

Dr. Ortabasi at Meiji Gakuin University

On April 8, Dr. Ortabasi addressed colleagues in The Faculty of International Studies at her hosting university in Yokohama on the subject of her research project, in particular her study of childhood reading experiences as they are portrayed in the autobiographies of Meiji and Taishô period elites.

Not Beyond Our Ken

In keeping with his interests in Arabic literature, Ken Seigneurie's translation of a novelized biography by Rashid al-Daif has just appeared from University of Texas Press under the title What Makes a Man? Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin  http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/books/aldwap

On April 30 Dr Seigneurie will also give an evening lecture at Columbia University's Institute for Comparative Literature and Society: “Humanities in Today's University: The Elegiac in Modern Arabic Literature” 

Dr. O at the National University of Singapore

Dr. Ortabasi was in Singapore on March 23rd at the invitation of the Japanese Studies Department. She gave a talk entitled “In Search of Lost Worlds: Meiji and Taishô Period Elites Remember Their Childhood Reading," in which she discussed child memoirs written by Japanese intellectuals born between 1870 and 1930.




Dr. O Interviews Stephen Snyder


Dr. Melek Ortabasi has done a great interview for the SCBWI Japan Translation Blog with prominent translator Stephen Snyder about his translation of Confessions by Kanae Minato. This book won an Alex Award for a YA book that appeal to teens.

This interview has everything (but spoilers!), including background on how the book was translated and tidbits about a few other books, too.





February 10 & 11, 2015

Dr. Ortabasi gave two invited talks at Stanford University. The first talk was a discussion of Ortabasi's recently published book,  The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation, and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio  (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014). The second was a presentation of her new research on translation and world children's literature, entitled "World Literature in the Nursery, 1870-1930."

Event poster.

Dr. O Interviewed

Fall 2014

Dr. Melek Ortabassi recently completed an interview in reference to her newly published book by Harvard University Press titled The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio. She covers quite an array of topics as the interview progresses, touching on her intial interest in Japanese literature, to the subject of her book Yanagita Kunio, and to one her favorite topics, translation.

The interview can be listened to here.

Dr. O Travelling!

Fall 2014

Since September, Dr. O has moved base camp to Yokohama, Japan, where she is being hosted by Meiji Gakuin University.  While in Japan, she is doing research at various libraries on the history of translated children's literature.  She often visits the lovely International Children's Library in Ueno, which as large holdings in international and Japanese children's literature.  She recently met up with Japanese colleagues whom she got to know at the "book castle" in Munich, and also attended a workshop held by the Japan chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  It was an honour to meet Cathy Hirano, Lynne Riggs, Alexander O. Smith, and Juliet Winters Carpenter, whose translations of children's (and other) literature she has had the pleasure of reading and teaching!

Summer 2014

This summer, Melek Ortabasi has been doing research at the International Youth Library (Internationale Jugendbibliothek) in München (aka Munich), which is housed in a beautiful restored 15th century castle. At the "Book Castle," Dr. Ortabasi has been combing the Library's store of historical children's books in order to find sources for her new project, tentatively entitled "The World Republic of Childhood: Translation and Children's Literature, 1870-1930."

Pictured here from the top are the lovely Blutenburg Castle, the comfortable desks in the castle's reading room, staff and other visiting researchers, and a reading from July's White Ravens Festival, a biennial celebration of contemporary children's literature from all over the world.