Department of English

University of Toronto


ENG198H1S L0101 T11-1
Shipwrecks and Castaways 
Professor Maxwell Uphaus

Brief Description of Course: For thousands of years, stories of disaster at sea—narratives of shipwreck and immersion, of survivors in open boats and castaways on desert islands—have been among the most widespread and popular of literary genres. Besides perennially gripping their readers, such stories provide a means of examining the natural and social forces and the ways of thinking and acting that cause seafaring disasters and enable people to cope with them (or not). In addition, these stories raise fundamental questions about the relationship between human beings and the non-human world and the line between humans and animals. In this course, we’ll explore the treatment of such questions in some great literary accounts of disaster at sea. We’ll also ask what these works have to say to us today, at a time when intensifying hurricanes and rising sea levels are making the encounter with the ocean a newly urgent topic.

Required Reading:(subject to change) Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; Joseph Conrad, “Falk” and “Amy Foster”; Gabriel García Márquez, The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor; Yann Martel, Life of Pi

First Three Authors/Texts: (subject to change) Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; Conrad, “Falk” and “Amy Foster”

Method of Instruction: Seminar.

Method of Evaluation: (subject to change) Two short essays (15% each), final essay (30%), group presentation (10%), class participation (30%).

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