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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

ENGL 4321: Modern Canadian Fiction

Like all literature courses, this course aims to make students feel at home among good writers and their writing; in particular it is meant to encourage a lifetime of enjoying Canadian fiction and criticism. Students learn to recognize the stylistic fashions that distinguish the periods of Cana¬dian writing since the 1920s. By exploring novels and short stories published between 1920 and the present, the course acquaints students with major Canadian authors, the record of Canadian life that their works have laid down, their penetrations of a wider human experience, and the ques¬tions of literary judgment that they raise, notably the question of realism. The chosen texts address questions not only about writing, but also about Canadian concerns of regionalism, mythology and identity, and multiculturalism.

Learning outcomes

After successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the development of literary nation building in English Canada from the late 1960s.
  • Summarize key issues and themes addressed in Indigenous literature and cultural commentary about that literature during the 1980s and 90s.
  • Summarize key issues and themes related in multicultural literature and the role of that literature in the larger national tradition.
  • Describe the changing significance of the landscape and technology in Canadian literary studies since the late 1960s.
  • Describe connections between Canadian literature and society and, in particular, issues that affect writers: constructing a national identity, multiculturalism, Indigenous identity, and history and storytelling.
  • Analyze the way works of fiction develop arguments to criticize or reinforce arguments and values in society, such as the representation of identity and the authority of historical narratives.
  • Describe the significance of different genres of writing in the field of literary studies, including literary criticism, cultural and political commentary, and authors' writing about the writing experience.
  • Synthesize multiple critical arguments about a work of fiction.
  • Summarize works of cultural and political commentary.
  • Complete close textual analysis of selected excerpts from the works and explain the significance of the passage.
  • Analyze literary techniques such as point of view, narrative structure and voice and characterization.

Course topics

  • Unit 1: The National Coming of Age
  • Unit 2: The Politics of Storytelling
  • Unit 3: Multicultural Canada
  • Unit 4: The Land and the Environment

Required text and materials

The following materials are required for this course:.

  1. Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2009.
    Type: Novel. ISBN 978-0-307-39798-0
  1. Boyden, Joseph. Three Day Road. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2005.
    Type: Novel. ISBN 978-0-14-305695-9
  1. Coupland, Douglas. Generation A. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2009.
    Type: Novel. ISBN 978-0-307-35773-1
  1. Kamboureli, Smaro, ed. Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literatures in English. Don Mills, ON: Oxford UP Canada, 2006.
    Type: Novel. ISBN 0-19-542288-0
  1. King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. Toronto: Harper Perennial, 1993.
    Type: Novel. ISBN 978-1-55468-525-7
  1. Laurence, Margaret. The Diviners. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1974.
    Type: Novel. ISBN 978-0-7352-5281-3
  1. Ondaatje, Michael. In the Skin of a Lion. Toronto: Knopf, 1987.
    Type: Novel. ISBN 978-0-394-28182-7

Students require the following e-textbook, which can be purchased directly from VitalSource.

  1. Barnet, Sylvan and William. E. Cain. A Short Guide to Writing about Literature. 12th Edition. Toronto: Pearson, 2012.
    Type: E-Textbook. ISBN: 9780133887426


Please be aware that should your course have a final exam, you are responsible for the fee to the online proctoring service, ProctorU, or to the in-person approved Testing Centre. Please contact with any questions about this.

To successfully complete this course, students must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course, and 50% or higher on the final mandatory exam

Assignment 1 – Analysis Essay 10%
Assignment 2 – Synthesis Essay 15%
Assignment 3 – Research Essay 20%
Assignment 4 – Media Project 20%
Final Exam (mandatory) 35%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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