Events Calendar
Mar 22 - Apr 12
10:30 - 12:30
Modern Canadian Literature
short courses

Dates: 22, 29 March; 5, 12 April 2019

Fridays: 10.30 – 12.30

Course code: 18TON375

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Questions of identity, history and legacy are common themes in the literature of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and the rise in cultural nationalism in Canada from the 1970s has contributed to a vibrant and diverse literary output engaging with these discourses. This course will look at texts by four well-known Canadian writers whose works look at some of these ideas in a way that could be described as 'postmodern'.

We will begin by looking at Margaret Atwood, one of Canada's most prominent writers. Her novel Alias Grace, first published in 1996, won the Canadian Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. A novel of historical fiction, it engages with questions relating to identity and women's history, using the metaphor of quilt-making as a motif to examine the multiplicity of stories which need to be examined in order to arrive at a form of truth. Michael Ondaatje is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian author, whose novel The English Patient similarly looks at the ways in which histories are constructed and engages with the idea of national identity which is so prominent in late 20th century Canadian writing. The Stone Diaries by American-born Canadian Carol Shields is a fictional autobiography which won the 1993 Governor General's Award for Literature. Through this text we will interrogate the idea of autobiography and consider the ways in which postmodern writers explore the overlap between fiction and biography. The course ends with a selection of short stories by Nobel prizewinner Alice Munro, whose work has been described as having revolutionized the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time.

Required reading

Week 1: Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

Week 2: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Week 3: Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries

Week 4: Alice Munro, selected short stories (handout)

 Additional information

This course is suitable for beginners, intermediates or advanced students.

This course allows you to spend time exploring a subject for interest, among like-minded people, without formal assessment.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • understand the concept of the 'postmodern' in literature and ways in which this is expressed in selected texts.
  • engage with the various socio-political and national concerns which go towards the creation of a 'Canadian' literature.
  • interpret literary texts in a critical way, illustrating arguments with carefully chosen examples.
  • demonstrate knowledge through the construction of critical arguments and present and defend those arguments.

    About the tutor

    Sarah Anthony studied for her Masters degree with the Open University specialising in postcolonial nineteenth century literature. For the last 12 years she has taught undergraduate students and adult learners in courses ranging from Shakespeare to the postmodern. She currently teaches for the University of Kent and the WEA.


    United Kingdom



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