Brief Description of Course: Just walk the streets of Toronto, and it is clear that we live, study, and work in a global city. It is easy to forget that the place we encounter every day is the result of centuries of transnational and global history. With our location in Toronto—and its connections to this history—as our inspiration, this course explores how authors have used literature to respond to, imagine, and make sense of a global and transnational world. As we read a novels, poetry, and drama, we’ll travel to and from a wide variety of places. Some will be close to home and set during our time, like a university classroom or a suburban home in Scarborough. Others will be far away: an a neighbourhood in northwest London, a nightclub in the Dominican Republic, a small college town somewhere in the United States, the bustling streets of Calcutta; the boroughs of New York. We’ll see the past and future, from our province when aboriginal peoples and colonials in the nineteenth century, to a haunted house in Ohio during the 1870s, to an eerie version of our possible days to come. We’ll think about events on small and large scales: a global health care crisis; migrating to new places; a mother struggling with dementia; slavery and colonialism; environmental disasters and food shortages; war both then and now; and the relationship between science and art. We’ll meet time travelers and ghosts, university first-years and their professors, opera singers and poets, struggling parents and searching teenagers. Along the way, as we read, discuss, and write, we’ll reflect on a series of questions on literature and its place in our time: How does literature examine a transnational and global past, present, and future? What is literature’s unique place in this world? What does literature teach us about our connections to the past, and how we might connect with each other in the present?
Fall Term: Allen Ginsberg, “Supermarket in California” (1955); Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985); Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987); Tony Kushner, Angels in America (1993); Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), Souvankham Thammavongsa, Light (2014)
Winter Term: Junot Diaz, A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007); David Chariandy, Soucouyant (2008); Keith Barker, Chris Hanratty, Shira Leuchter and Jordi Mand, The Speedy (2014); Mona Awad, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (2016); George Saunders, Tenth of December (2014); Zadie Smith, “The Embassy of Cambodia” (2014); Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2006)
First Three Authors/Texts: Allen Ginsberg, “Supermarket in California”; Don DeLillo, White Noise; Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies; Toni Morrison, Beloved