Director's Welcome

World Literature now at the Burnaby Campus!

Founded in 2007, The World Literature Program was until recently housed at SFU’s Surrey campus. As of this fall, the mountain is our official home. We are thrilled to be here, and look forward to forging new friendships. Personally, as the incoming Director of the Program, I’m excited to start working with colleagues and students on pursuing the many opportunities SFU’s main campus has to offer. Stay tuned to to see what we’re up to!

If you have ever wondered who we are, what World Literature is about, and why to study it, I’ve got some easy answers for you.

WHO? All our instructors are specialists in different languages and literatures, and we bring that comparative expertise into the classroom. For example, I work on Japanese, German, and Anglophone literatures and am currently engaged in a research project on children’s literature in translation. When I enter the classroom, I offer insight into those linguistic traditions and others by mindfully teaching literature in translation. More about me and our other instructors can be found here. Our students are dynamic, curious, socially engaged, multilingual and/or interested in other languages, articulate, and passionate about literature from all over the world. We have an active Student Union, and a student-run journal, Lyre.

WHAT? There is indeed a LOT of literature in the world, and there is no question of covering it all. What we focus on instead is providing students with the tools necessary to negotiate the global literary landscape and their own position in it: openness, wonder, critical thinking, self-reflexivity, and an awareness of the centrality of translation to all human interaction, whether literary or otherwise. The results of being in this learning environment are compelling: you may find yourself identifying with characters widely separated from you in time, space and idiom; or wondering why so many writers from different parts of the world have turned to literature as a form of political expression; or noticed that it is often authors exiled from their own countries who become the most influential. And that is just the beginning. You can take a look at our fascinating courses here.

WHY? The eye-opening experience of encountering world literature is not only fascinating: it’s a necessary part of growing up in an increasingly complex world. We all talk about globalization, but that does not mean that the world has become homogeneous, the same all over. Nor does it mean that English is spoken everywhere. Just look at our own neighbourhood! The Census Bureau reports that “[i]n Vancouver, almost half the population has a mother tongue that is not English.” This means that we are a diverse bunch, and while we live pretty happily together, there is plenty of room to improve communications across the whole range of human interaction. Our students learn to dislocate themselves from the center of their own world, so that they can better negotiate the one we all live in together. In the World Literature Program, that’s how we see our role in “engaging the world.”

Curious? Come by the 5th floor of the AQ and pick up some course outlines or talk to our advisor  …and see you in class!


Melek Ortabasi

Director, World Literature Program

September 1, 2015