Paul Watkins

Location: Nanaimo, 345/103
Class Hours: Tuesday 2:30-5:20 pm
Office Hours: Monday 2:45-3:45 pm;  Tues/ Thurs 1-2
Phone: Local 2118
Office: 359/ 101

“But the old pattern can change, and, as the Human Rights Tribunal said the other day, ‘The time is now.'” -Chief Erwin Redsky on the occasion of the visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

This course offers three renowned novels (along with music, film, and poetry) from the nascent canon of Canadian multicultural literature in English. From the perspective of the Other, this course will examine how cultures regulated to the margins resist and write back to the Empire about their cultural experiences. We will begin the course with a contemporary (and arguably postmodern) Native perspective from Thomas King that delves deep into Canada’s colonial past, present, and future. Next, we will read Victoria-based author Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues, which is about Americans, Afro-Germans, and Jews playing jazz in Nazi Germany. We will end the course with Joy Kogawa’s astonishing Obasan, which deals directly with the interment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. These texts are engaged with the communities from which they write, and they are largely concerned with the task of bringing greater cultural awareness to society. For these reasons, these texts are also about reconciliation. Ultimately, this course will offer you new ways to reflect and engage with how we fundamentally approach literature and culture. Not only will you develop an awareness of the relationship between literature and culture, you will observe how broader struggles for voice, agency, and social justice are integral to the discussed literature and a more equitable vision of Canada.


  • Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (HarperPerennial)
  • Esi Edugyan, Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen)
  • Joy Kogawa, Obasan (Puffin Classics)


Participation 5%
Close Reading (600-750 words) 15%
Open Book In-Class Essay on Green Grass (approx. 750 words) 15%
Quiz on Half-Blood Blues 10%
Essay Workshop 5%
Research Essay (1500-1750 words) 30%
Final Exam 20%

Bonus Assignment +2%

Assignment Breakdown:

  1. Participation (5%)

Since discussion is an important part of this class, active participation and critical thinking about the assigned reading is fundamental to the course. Careful and engaged reading will allow you to achieve success and will prepare you to pose questions, raise problems, and engage with your peers during class discussions. I am an ardent advocate for the dialogical process of pedagogy, and believe that my students should have an equal opportunity to express their opinions with their peers and instructors.

  1. Close Reading (15%): Due Sept 27th 

A close reading (explication) is a nuanced and thorough analysis of a literary text. A close reading functions to bring out the nature and interrelations of a text (such as allusion, diction, images, and sound) in order to illuminate a given passage or work. The act of close reading is an explication: explicate coming from the Latin explicare, meaning “to unfold, to fold out, or to make clear the meaning of.” On our 2nd meeting I will hand out three potential passages from Green Grass, Running Water. You will choose one and provide a 2-3 paragraph close reading of that given passage. This assignment will encourage close listening and will teach you the valuable skills of deciphering diction and incorporating textual evidence, as you engage in the act of synthesis. An example of a strong close reading will be uploaded to D2L.

  1. Open Book In-Class Midterm (15%): Oct 4th 

There will be an in-class essay on Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water. Details will be provided in class.

  1. Quiz (10%): Nov 1st

There will be one closed book quiz on Half-Blood Blues involving short answer questions and a two-paragraph written response on a select passage.

  1. Essay Workshop (5%): Nov 22nd  

You will come to class with the introductory paragraph that will provide your essay’s projected argument (with a thesis). You will also include an outline (in point form with topic sentences) that shows a critical engagement with secondary criticism. We will go over the expected format in class. You must also provide a works cited list of four to five sources that extend beyond the assigned readings for the course. You do not need to include any of these sources in your final essay, but they should clearly pertain to your argument and/or focus. Your outline must still adhere to proper style (MLA/ APA). You will take this outline to class for a workshop in which you will give and receive feedback and advice from fellow students. We will cover best practices in class leading up this assignment. At the end of that class, I will sign copies of your marked up workshop, which you will then attach to your final papers.

  1. Essay (30%): Due Dec 6th 

The Research Essay will be around 5 pages in length, not including a Works Cited list. You are required to actively engage with three secondary sources in the body of this research paper—course material does not count. Please note that although secondary research is a necessary component of this assignment, your own ideas and engagement with these resources, rather than your ability to perform and incorporate research, will be graded. More detailed instructions, as well as possible topics, will be provided. I will be grading this assignment based on well-formulated and focused arguments. You are encouraged to write an essay on a topic of your own choosing.

Using the Library and Doing Research Part 1:
Using the Library and Doing Research Part 2:
  1. Final Exam (20%): TBA

Part I: Passage Analysis / Part II: Essay

Bonus Assignment (+2%)

You have the opportunity to attend a presentation or public lecture on campus and provide a 1-2 paragraph précis of that talk.

After the talk you are to write a two paragraph précis of that talk and its themes. You can relate the talk and reading to discussions in class and you might also discuss the style of the presenting as well. How did the presenter organize their material? What techniques did they use for gaining audience rapport, including imagery, verbal signposts, and appropriate non-verbal messages? Did the presenter respond to audience questions effectively?  Were there aspects of the talk that could have been more successfully presented, and if so, why? You may attend the Gustafson Poetry Lecture on the evening of October 27th, or you may attend an Arts and Humanities Colloquium talk ( I am presenting on Nov. 25th on a talk entitled, “Hogan’s Alley Remixed: Learning through Wayde Compton’s Poetics.”All talks are free and open to the public. Your assignment is due by noon to the Assignment folder in D2L by Monday, November 28th.



Sept 6

Introduction to Course
·      Short Lecture on Literature and Culture
·      Go over syllabus
·      Introductions
Sept 13 Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (GGRW)
·      Thomas King, “You’ll Never believe What happened”; audio
·      GGRW 1-15
·      See Reading Notes by Jane Flick.
Sept 20 ·      GGRW 16-144
·      On intertextuality & Allusions (The Simpsons: here & here).
·      Armstrong, “Disempowerment of […] Native Peoples” (D2L)
·      Start Reel Injun
Sept 27 ·      GRRW 144-312
·      Midterm Prep
·      Close Reading Due
·      Finish Reel Injun
See Perception by KC Adams.
·      Halloween Costumes 
Oct 4 ·       GRRW 312-441 (Finish Book) and discussion
·       On Coyote
·       Midterm [In class essay] (4-5:20 pm)
Oct 11 ·     STUDY DAY, no class
Oct 18 ·      Esi Edugyan, Half-Blood Blues (1-65)
·      Lecture: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany
·      Book Review.
·      Berlin Wall coverage.
·      Edugyan reading.
·      Viewing: Ken Burns, Jazz (first 13 mins) 
Go over Thesis Statements

Oct 25 ·      Half-Blood Blues (66-193)
·      Listenings: Peterson; Johnson, “Crossroad Blues”
·      Viewing: Ken Burns, Jazz: 
(The Gift, 1-15:06); (Our Language, 10:50-13:28)
·      Listening: Armstrong’s “Heebie Jeebies”
·      Topics for Research Paper

Nov 1 ·      Half-Blood Blues (194-end of book)
·     Listening: Armstrong, “West End Blues
·      QUIZ
Nov 8


·      Wayde Compton, Performance Bond,
Poems: “JD”; “Declaration of the Halfrican Nation”; To Poitier”; “The Essential Charley Pride”; “Illegalese: Floodgate Dub”; “Performance Bond”; “Ghetto Fabulous Ozymandias”
·      Compton’s “Mixed Race and Schizophonophilia” (See D2L)
·      Compton Reading, Halfrican
·      Listenings: Charlie PridePoitier’s Oscar Speech
·      Viewing: Hogan’s Alley Documentary
Nov 15 Joy Kogawa, Obasan (1-108, Chapters 1-13)
·     Kogawa, “What do I remember of the Evacuation
·     Kogawa, “Where There’s a Wall
·     Selected clips from To Be Takei [8-15; 26-28; 54:30-57:20]
Poem, Good Bones
·     Trump video
Nov 22 ·      Essay Workshop (2:30-3:40)
·      Obasan (109-227, Chapters 14-22)
·      Listening: Fort Minor, “Kenji
·      Muslim Registry and Letter from Camp.
Nov 29 ·      Obasan (228-353, Chapters 23-39)
·      Read the short “Memorandum” at the end of Obasan

Dec 6 ·      Exam Review
·      ESSAY DUE
·      Movie Day