Eng 486: Haunting and Canadian Literature

Years after completing my undergraduate degree, the special topics courses I took still resonate with me. Which is why I greet our annual slate of special topics courses with enthusiasm tinged with disappointment–they are so compelling, but I can’t take them. This is how I feel about Dr. Veronica Austen‘s English 486 course, scheduled for Fall 2016 on “Hauntings in Contemporary Canadian Literature.” As Dr. Austen writes:

“Despite Earle Birney’s claim it’s only by our lack of ghosts / we’re haunted’ (‘Can.Lit’ lines 16-17), ghosts and other hauntings permeate Canada and its literature. Birney’s statement, after all, which was rooted in an assumption that Canada was too new to have ghosts, denies that Canada has a valid history and by extension, covers over the legacies of colonialism.

This course will allow us to do some CanLit ghostbusting as we look to the trope of haunting as an expression of the lingering effect of trauma. How do ghosts and other forms of haunting suggest the existence of unhealed, or even unknown/unknowable wounds? How do hauntings represent a pursuit of justice? Hauntings represent an encounter with the past and often are a manifestation of nostalgia, mourning, and/or melancholia. As such, to experience haunting is to be affected by the past and confront its persistent presence; as we will see, this experience can result in debilitating stagnation and/or in a transformative movement forward.”


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