Course Outline




Course Outline
ENGL 426 Reconciliation: creative practice from near and far

Professor: Ashok Mathur

Phone/Voice Mail: 6284
Office: OM1487 (CiCAC)
Office Hours: Tuesday, 5 to 6 pm or by appointment


Course website:

Moodle website:

Course Description Beginning with an investigation of the act of official 'apology', this course will follow with the possibilities and problematics of "reconciliation" as a form of addressing historical events in Canada and internationally. A key consideration in this course will be how writers and artists take on such historical moments with creative practices that complement and/or lend insight into existing critical analyses. As reconciliation is a wide-reaching notion, this course will touch upon numerous events in Canada -- including Residential Schools, the Komagata Maru incident, the Chinese Head Tax, Japanese Canadian internment and redress movement, the 'extraordinary rendition' of Maher Arar and subsequent developments -- as well as international conceptions of truth and reconciliation in South Africa, Northern Ireland, South America, and elsewhere. Course content will be an amalgamation of novels, plays, poetry, performance, film, critical work, and guest speakers. Reading materials will include purchased books and coursepack as well as various materials available online. Apart from core texts, students are encouraged to bring in other Canadian or international creative works that will supplement our collaborative learning process.

Educational Objectives/Outcomes This course is intended to foster awareness and understanding of the underlying conditions and circumstances that give rise to official apologies and attempts at reconciliation. Using literature and other creative practices as a focal point, this course will employ a variety of strategies and methodologies to question, critique, and discuss historical inequities and their aftermath.

Prerequisites Any two of ENGL 110, 111 or 121 in addition to third-year standing.




Available in the Bookstore:

Jack, Agnes. Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Penticton and Kamloops: Theytus Books and the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society, 2000.

Miki, Roy. Saving Face. Vancouver: Turnstone, 1991.


(Out of Print, ordering to be arranged)

Johnson, Basil. Indian School Days. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2002.

Pollock, Sharon. The Komagata Maru Incident. Toronto: Playwrights,  1978.


Coursepack: selected readings from Arundhati Roy, David Jefferess, Dave Duggan, Priscilla Hayner, Celia Haig-Brown, Sam McKegney, Wilhelm Verwoerd, and others.


Available online:

Morgan, Meeka. "Making Connections with Secwepemc Family Through Storytelling: A Journey in Transformative Rebuilding." (MA Thesis)

Rungh, 2.1-2 (section of articles) "The History of South Asian Immigration to British Columbia"

Dulai, Phinder. "A Letter to the Maru, 1914, dated 1994" Rungh 4.1-2.



Continuous Journey, dir. Ali Kazimi

Rabbit Proof Fence, dir. Philip Noyce.

A Dry White Season, dir. Euzene Palcy

Lotus Blossom Special (David Bateman performance)



The task of reconciliation is, at best, an opportunity for collaborative learning. As such, we will bring in a number of guests to talk and workshop with the class. Invited speakers will include most, if not all, of the following:

Shane Rhodes (poet, cultural worker, policy advisor, Ottawa)

Roy Miki (professor emeritus, English Literature, SFU): Japanese Canadian internment and redress movement

Phinder Dulai (poet and cultural worker):  the Komagata Maru incident

Meeka Morgan (educator, artist), Greg Young-Ing (Indigenous Studies, UBC-O), Pauline Wakeham (English Literature, UWO), and Sam McKegney (English Literature, Queens): Residential Schools

Ayumi Goto (Community Health and Humanities, Memorial U), and David Jefferess (Critical Studies, UBC-O): the theory and politics of South Africa and reconciliation



Student Evaluation


As the pedagogical methodology employed in this course is student-centred, you will have considerable latitude around the scope of your assignments. Over the course of the term, you will construct a portfolio of work -- an assessment of this portfolio will be done conjointly between the student and instructor. The portfolio will consist of core essentials, but may also include any creative or critical additions you feel add a dimension to your production in this class.


Portfolio core elements:

Response statements

Description of Participation and Group Work

Term Project

(Additional elements may include creative writing, art work, research notes, interview transcriptions, or any other item you feel complements your learning process in this course)



Your portfolio is worth 100% of your grade, but the general breakdown is yours to ascertain. For instance, some students feel that they have put far more time into response statements than anything else, so rather than assigning only a small portion of their grade to this, they may want that work to be seen as their major contribution. In general, however, the instructor and student will look at the portfolio holistically, rather than as discrete components, and together will determine what grade to assign.


Assignment Details:

Response statements: each week there will be a number of 'texts' to consider, including critical articles, creative works, film and video, guest speakers, and other work brought in by the instructor and class members. Each student should write a minimum of eight response statements over the term addressing this work. These response statements are not formal essays, but should be written on/about some of the material of the given week, and should reflect a critical awareness of the learning process. For instance, a good response statement might outline three elements of a critical article that provided insight for the student in the context of the course, mapping how these elements are useful in the learning process. A strong response statement is not merely a judgement or opinion (i.e. "I liked this work because it made me laugh") but critically self-reflexive ("I found myself laughing at the stereotyped characters, so that made me think about how such devices work to undercut mainstream narratives..."). A response statement need not be lengthy -- often a typed page or two can suffice -- nor do they need to be exhaustive, trying to encapsulate an entire three-hour class, but they should be something that focusses on a particular element of the readings, guest lectures, class contexts, and shows how you are developing that.

Description of Participation and Group Work: Rather than have a separate entry for participation and group work, these elements are combined since they are related. In this one-page narration, describe how you have participated (were you comfortable with your contributions? could you have done more, differently?) and what that experience has given to you and others. In terms of group work, describe the dynamic and how you felt you and others contributed to your group -- amount of work, helpfulness to one another, how you learned, etc.

Term Project: A senior level English literature class usually requires one term essay involving relatively engaged research and a cogent argument, often resulting in a 2500-word paper. You may choose to do such a term paper or any other project that involves a similar amount of time in research/production. This might be a creative endeavour like a video or artwork, or it may be a series of writings that do not compile into a single paper. The idea here is to allow you to use your expertise from your educational background to produce work that is important to you. 

Additional Elements: When comprising a portfolio, many students find they want to include additional material to illustrate the type of work put into the course. The advantage of such additional elements is that they can be very informal (sketches, rough outlines), unfinished pieces of work (eg. an abstract for a conference paper), or related obscurely to the course (eg. a video project that you are editing for a poli-sci class) as they are not intended to be final/polished products. Additional elements are not required, but they can help you to articulate a vision for your portfolio.



Use of Technology


There will be considerable use of the internet, through the class website and/or through WebCT, depending on student needs. Some reading material will only be available on the Web.


General Syllabus: (subject to change or redirection)


Sept. 9             Intro

Sept. 16           Group construction, dynamics. Core articles on reconciliation: Hayner, Verwoerd, Roy.

                        Guests: Ayumi Goto and Shane Rhodes

Sept. 23           Komagata Maru / Viewing of Continuous Journey / Guest: Phinder Dulai

Sept. 30           Residential Schools + Stolen Generation

Oct. 7              RS + SG cont'd

Oct. 14                        Viewing Rabbit Proof Fence

Oct. 21                        Chinese Head Tax

Oct. 28                        South Africa TRC: Viewing A Dry White Season (additional class to be scheduled)

Nov. 4             Canada: race/gender/sexuality: Viewing Lotus Blossom Special

Note: Special Panel proposed for Nov. 10 featuring

Meeka Morgan, Greg Young-Ing, Pauline Wakeham, Sam McKegney, David Jefferess.

Nov. 11           Remembrance Day (no class):

Nov. 18           Symposium: Groups A, B, C

Nov. 25           Symposium: Groups D, E, F