Literature, Pedagogy and Decolonisation

The Jackman Humanities Institute and the Centre for Humanities Research presents a symposium on Literature Pedagogy and Decolonization, November 16-18, featuring literature professors and graduate students from the University of Toronto and the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, reflecting on how we teach and what we are doing when we teach literature.

This symposium will bring together professors of literature, canonical, indigenous, or postcolonial, to reflect on questions of pedagogy, from the individual lesson to what it means to teach literature. Over the last two years demands for far-reaching decolonization by students have turned South African campuses into contested spaces, as students have challenged the exclusionary nature of the higher education system and its practices in ways that have tested the assumptions, affiliations and positions of even the most progressive academics. In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Report has made us aware of the injustice that lies at the heart of Canadian society and calls us all to action. As teachers of literature this is a call to re-examine our understanding of ourselves and what we do in the classroom. But this is also a moment characterized by the corporatization of the university. The humanities appear to be under threat not only from above but also from below by forces that do not appreciate the values of critical distance and alternative imaginings that literature and its study foster. At the same time students are different: they do not share the same cultural background, grew up with new technologies, and suffer from anxieties that we do not always understand. The symposium is premised on the belief that teachers of literature in both places have many things in common—the forces we are responding to are global in nature—but we will learn best by listening to each other’s local stories and personal experience.

As part of the symposium David Palumbo-Liu of Stanford University will deliver a keynote address, entitled “Worlding the University.”

This symposium is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. Attendance is open. All who are interested in these questions are welcome. Attached please find a program.

For more information please contact Neil ten Kortenaar at

Co-sponsored by the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape