ENGL 3270.03: Contemporary Canadian Literature: Crossing the Line

Posted in Canada, Course Offerings, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2012-02-26 02:10Z by Steven

ENGL 3270.03: Contemporary Canadian Literature: Crossing the Line

Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Summer 2007

Dr. C. Dawson

Our study of contemporary Canadian literature will be loosely divided into three sections, each organized around the idea of “crossing the line.” In the first section the line under consideration will be the border that defines this country. By way of example, our discussion of Tom King’s wonderfully funny story “Borders” might draw on his argument that the 49th parallel is a “figment of somebody else’s imagination.” Likewise, our readings of Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill and Wade Compton’s 49th Parallel Psalm might involve a consideration of the ways they each use the metaphor of border crossing to understand their mixed-race identities.

In the second part of the course we will study a number of stories and poems about characters who are seen to have “crossed a line” in the sense that they have acted in a way that is widely perceived to be transgressive or taboo. Here, for example, we might compare the representation of sexuality in texts as different as Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness, a rock-infused Mennonite coming-of-age story, and Timothy Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage, a post-apocalyptic allegory set on Noah’s Ark.

In the final section, the line that is “crossed” has to do with genre. While building on our earlier discussions of race, nationality, and sexuality in contemporary Canadian literature, we will focus on works by Dionne Brand and Anne Carson, both of whom ostentatiously mix genres—poetry, fiction, autobiography, travelogue, opera!—with great effect.

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