ENGL 372 -001

Canadian Literature
Sheila Giffen
Term 1
TTh, 2:00 PM-3:30 PM

Writing the Remedy: Illness and Healing in Contemporary Canadian Fiction

This course analyses narrative responses to illness and disease in contemporary Canadian fiction. We’ll look at how authors engage illness in myriad ways: narrating the body, diagnosing the diseased society, and even enacting forms of sickness within the text itself.  These creative speculations unsettle normative ideas of health, illness and the body: rather than view sickness only as a negative condition to be escaped, authors explore how states of unwellness can be a source of creativity and connection, and the basis for powerful social bonds. The course will also provide an introduction to theories of ‘biopolitics’: a set of ideas that describe how modern state power controls people at the level of their biological existence. Critical accounts of biopolitics will orient our approach to theorizing biomedical citizenship, the immunological body and the entanglements of sex, race and kinship.

The course will be anchored in close analysis of three Canadian novels with supporting references to poetry and performance art. We’ll consider how literature and creative expression engage disease in ways that are formally experimental. How do surreal dreamscapes, spiritual life-worlds and speculative fictions allow writers to explore forms of care, healing and survival that counter the devaluation of life under biopower? If the biomedical language of disease tends to individualize illness, how do fiction writers explore embodied experience as relational and interdependent? In pursuing these questions, we’ll consider how disease is entangled with global capital, histories of colonial violence and the racialization of medicine.

Course readings (subject to change) may include: Lee Maracle, Ravensong (1993), Larissa Lai, Tiger Flu (2018) and Ian Williams, Reproduction (2019) as well as shorter readings and texts by Leanne Simpson, Michel Foucault, Rebecca Belmore, Frantz Fanon, Ed Cohen, Susan Sontag, Paula Treichler, Audre Lorde, Gayatri Spivak, Dian Million and Priscilla Wald.

As the Faculty of Arts has determined that all BA courses will be offered online in Fall 2020, this course will go ahead using a combination of asynchronous (recorded/text/online) materials and synchronous (real-time) classes in our designated timeslot.