ENGL 1031: Composition and Indigenous Literature in Canada II

This course is comparable to the second half of other first-year university English courses. Course requirements include reading: novels, a novel excerpt, one-act and full-length plays, and a wide range of poems. The six instructional units in this course cover a broad and exciting range and depth of literature written in English by Canadian Indigenous writers, beginning in the twentieth century. Students will develop an appreciation for both the significance of oral storytelling to contemporary Aboriginal writers as well as the diverse contributions of these writers to contemporary literature. Students will identify, analyze and discuss many literary conventions related to fiction, drama and poetry. In addition, students will receive further experience in composition and in writing critical essays, including a formal research paper.

Learning outcomes

Successful completion of this course will enable you to:

  • Describe and analyze, with literary terminology, the components and basic structures of novels, plays, and poems, using specific examples from works studied in the course.
  • Identify the influence of the oral tradition on contemporary Aboriginal writers.
  • Respond to Native writing, with an awareness of cultural and historical contexts.
  • Identify and discuss literary patterns in a novel, play, or poem.
  • Identify and analyze the contribution to the work as a whole of important passages selected from the plays and poems studied in this course.
  • Write coherent and focused critical essays, including a formal research paper, on literary texts and topics.
  • Evaluate and compare different authorial treatments of particular themes and subjects in works of different genres.

Course topics

  • Unit 1: Aboriginal Novels: Introduction to recent Native fiction, including a look at some important characteristics and beliefs shared by many Aboriginal cultures in Canada.
  • Unit 2: One-Act Plays and Oral Storytelling: Introduction to drama, with further insights into the Aboriginal tradition of oral storytelling.
  • Unit 3: Major Full-Length, Multi-Cast Plays: Examination of the first Aboriginal play that attracted wide mainstream notice and a later play that garnered similar notice.
  • Unit 4: Introduction to Native Poetry: Introduction to basic methods of explicating and analyzing poetry, and continuation of the course's study of the connection between Western forms of literature and Native orality.
  • Unit 5: Modern Poetry: Exploration of the themes and approaches of contemporary Aboriginal poets and, in particular, experiments with form.
  • Unit 6: Monkey Beach and the Literary Research Paper: Reading Eden Robinson's Monkey Beach and an introduction to the research paper.

Required text and materials

    Students will receive the following textbooks:

    1. Moses, D. D. & Goldie, T. (Eds.). (2013). An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English. (4th ed.). Toronto: Oxford UP.
      Type: Custom Reprint ISBN: 978-0-19-901753-9
    1. King, Thomas. Medicine River (Penguin Modern Classics Edition). Penguin Group (Canada), 2014.
      Type: Textbook. ISBN 9780143191148
    1. Robinson, Eden. Monkey Beach. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
      Type: Textbook. ISBN 9780676973228
    1. Dennis, Darrell. Two Plays: Tales of an Urban Indian/The Trickster of Third Avenue East. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2005.
      Type: Textbook. ISBN 9780887547720
    1. Highway, Tomson. The Rez Sisters. Calgary: Fifth House Limited, 1988.
      Type: Textbook. ISBN 9780920079447
    1. Clements, Marie. The Unnatural and Accidental Women. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005.
      Type: Textbook. ISBN 9780889225213

    Students will need to source the following on their own:

    1. Barnet, Sylvan. Reid, Gilbert. and William E. Cain. A Short Guide to Writing about Literature. 2nd Cdn. ed. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 2004.
      Type: Textbook. ISBN 9780321105691

    Audiovisual Materials:

    Thompson Rivers University, Open Learning. ENGL1031 DVD - READINGS/POETRY 2e . Note: The USB is included only in the print version of the course; in the web version, the clips of the audio and video materials are provided online. 2009, REV. 2012.
    Type: USB

Additional requirements

Print, self-paced students will need access to a computer to view a USB included in the course materials.


Please be aware that due to COVID-19 safety guidelines all in-person exams have been suspended. As such, all final exams are currently being delivered through ProctorU, which has an approximate fee of $35 involved. There will be more information in your course shell, on how to apply, if your course has a final exam.

In order to successfully complete this course, you must obtain at least 50 % on the final mandatory examination and 50 % overall. It is strongly recommended that students complete all assignments in order to achieve the learning objectives of the course. The total mark will be determined on the following basis:

Assignment 1 - Essary on Medicine River 10%
Assignment 2 - Essay on Drama 15%
Assignment 3 - Essay on Modern Poetry 15%
Assignment 4 - Research Essay on Monkey Beach 20%
Final Examination (mandatory) 40%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Primary communication is by phone if you are taking the print version of the course and through the “Mail” tool in the Learning Environment if you are taking the web version. You will receive the necessary contact information when you start your course.

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