“Fire” – 2020 Conference at the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

We invite paper proposals in English or French on any aspect of literary studies centered on fire. Possible topics might include:

  • Fire, religion, and ritual
  • Revolutionary violence and (re)creation
  • Petroculture and other fossil fuel-culture relationships
  • Indigenous environmentalism and environmental management
  • Deserts and desertification both past and present
  • Fire and the home — the hearth, cooking, warmth
  • Metaphors of fire — burnout, trailblazer,
  • Wildfires, both natural and human-caused
  • Fire and time — fire as an emergency, fire as the creeping advance of climate change
  • Fire and the Holocaust/Shoah/Porajmos
  • Fire and or as literary/artistic inspiration
  • The fires of war — guns, bombs, drones
  • The burning of cities, from Rome to Constantinople to Tenochtitlan to Sanaa
  • Book burnings, from Alexandria to post-Conquest Central America to the 20th and 21st centuries
  • Fire and death — cremation, oxidation, funerary rites
  • Nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear disasters

Abstracts of no more than 250 words, along with a title and brief biographical information, should be submitted to torontocomplitconference@gmail.com by 31 January, 2020.

Nous invitons des propositions de communication en français ou en anglais qui traitent la représentation littéraire du feu sous toutes ses formes. Plusieurs pistes de réflexion peuvent être envisagées :

  • Le feu, la religion et le rite
  • La violence révolutionnaire et l’esthétique de la (re)création
  • La « pétroculture » et d’autres relations culturelles ancrées dans l’énergie fossile
  • L’environnementalisme autochtone et la gestion écologique
  • Déserts et désertifications, d’hier à aujourd’hui
  • Le feu et la sphère domestique : le foyer, la cuisson, la chaleur
  • Métaphores et symbolique du feu: la propagation, faire un burnout, jeter de l’huile sur le feu, jouer au feu, etc.
  • Incendies – naturels et volontaires
  • La temporalité du feu: l’urgence climatique, le feu en tant qu’avertissement, un enjeu « brûlant »
  • Le feu et l’Holocauste, la Shoah, le Porajmos
  • Le feu comme inspiration littéraire et artistique
  • Le feu guerrier: armes à feu, bombes, missiles et drones
  • Les villes en feu: de Rome à Constantinople, de Tenochtitlan à Sanaa
  • Autodafés, ou la destruction des livres par le feu
  • Icinération, oxydation et rites funéraires : le feu et la mort
  • L’énergie nucléaire, les armes nucléaires, les désastres nucléaires

Les propositions de communication doivent comporter le titre de la communication, un résumé d’un maximum de 250 mots et une notice bio-bibliographique. Elles sont à envoyer à torontocomplitconference@gmail.com avant le 31 janvier, 2020.

Please find attached the CFP. Fire CFP



2020 Northrop Frye Professor

The Centre for Comparative Literature presents our 2020 Northrop Frye

Professor Anne Carson

Poetry Reading

Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, 4pm

with book signing to follow

Victoria College Chapel, 2nd floor, Room 213

Victoria University, 91 Charles Street West


Public Lecture: “Stillness”

Tuesday, February 4, 2020, 5 pm

Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street West


Anne Carson is an award-winning Canadian poet, essayist, translator, and Classics scholar.

The Northrop Frye Professor Series at the Centre for Comparative Literature brings innovative comparative scholars to the University of Toronto community.



Anne Carson’s events that week include also the

Lecture on the History of Skywriting 

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, 7:30pm – 9:00pm

The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design

1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto, ON M5S 2J5

Sponsored by the Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts. For information and tickets,



5th Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune

Dear friends,

The 5th Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune will take place at the University of Ottawa on September 25-26, and we would love to see you there! Submit your proposals for to tribunelitcomp@gmail.com by August 6. Please note that, this year, we also have an Off-Tribune on the topic in graduate students’ mental health, and we welcome proposals for one or both days! Please consult the CFP attached. 🙂

Chères amies et chers amis,

La 5e Tribune des étudiants de littérature comparée aura lieu à l’Université d’Ottawa le 25-26 septembre! Vous avez jusqu’au 6 août pour soumettre vos propositions à tribunelitcomp@gmail.com. Notez que cette année nous avons une Off-Tribune à propos de la santé mentale des étudiants de cycles supérieurs, et nous vous invitons à soumettre pour une ou les deux journées. Consultez l’appel en pièce jointe!

Tribune 5 – CFP-Appel à communication

Cfp: 4th Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune

Dear All,

The 4th Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune will take place in Toronto on November 17, and we would love to see you there ! Submit your proposals for 10-minutes presentations to tribunelitcomp@gmail.com by August 21 !

Allô à tou.t.e.s !

La 4e Tribune des étudiants de lit.comp. aura lieu à Toronto en novembre ! Vous avez jusqu’au 21 août pour soumettre vos propositions (pour des présentations de 10 minutes). Écrivez-vous au tribunelitcomp@gmail.com !

CFP – Tribune 4

Complit Social

Join us this Friday for the very first Complit Social (tentatively called CHOMP – ask Andrea 😉 ), brought to you by Andrea, Liza, and me, and supported by the course union. Come and make history with us!

We plan to make this a regular event, that will keep happening throughout summer as well as when the academic year starts again! Bring your sexy selves and enjoy the company of wonderful people that you may not even know are wonderful despite being in the same program! We shall play games, create, chat, craft, listen to music, read poetry, while snacking and drinking tea — whatever your heart desires.

Let us not be swallowed up whole by the black hole that is academia! We are so much more than that :). So let us use this space to bond over things other than the work (in a narrow sense) we produce! Fight the loneliness and the competitiveness that is fostered by the university setting, and let us build a community that will unite us in our diversity. We’re all struggling, but we’re all in this together, so let’s kick back, chill, and enjoy our Friday afternoons in a space free of judgment and pressure.

This is a comp lit event, but people in LCT and other departments are very welcome



arnold33cloud copy

As part of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute training network, The University of Guelph hosted the first series of workshops on topics related to digital humanities research and teaching in Summer 2015. Two out of three initially advertised workshops ran for four days (May 19-22) alongside additional events that took place after class. Highlights of these additional talks and panels included “Emergent Modes of Digital Scholarship”, a talk presented by Susan Brown, Professor of English at the University of Guelph, as well as a keynote address by Jennifer Roberts-Smith, Associate Professor of Drama and Speech Communication at the University of Waterloo, with the attention-grabbing title “Your Mother is Not a Computer: Phenomenologies of the Human for Digital Humanities.” Running simultaneously, “Developing a Digital Exhibit in Omeka” and “Topic Modeling for Humanities Research” were workshops that had attracted a great deal of attention. The enrolment numbers would not be surprising to anyone who is aware of the buzz that the DH has caused in recent years. As was expected, some of the participants had attended workshops or talks about digital humanities before, bringing working knowledge and/or skills to the table. Others, including myself, would get their feet wet for the first time. Both workshops promised hands-on experience with the field.

The first day the large crowd of participants gathered in McLaughlin library and was composed largely of scholars coming from outside as well as inside Canada. After Susan Brown’s welcoming remarks in which she drew our attention to the coincidence that May 19th was also the Day of DH (https://dh.fbk.eu/events/day-dh-2015), we moved to the classrooms where the workshop sessions were held. During the introductory session, Susan Brown also created a hashtag (#DHatGuelph) that the participants with a Twitter account could use on their feed.

I had signed up for the workshop on topic modeling which was led by Adam Hammond, Michael Ridley Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Guelph, and Julian Brooke, Postdoctoral Fellow in Computational Linguistics in the Computer Science Department at the University of Toronto. During the first day of the workshop, Adam introduced us to MALLET, an open source data/text mining toolkit which we downloaded online. Later on he walked us through this popular topic-modeling package by demonstrating how to create commands for building topic models. As a total stranger to coding or any sort of computational technique, my first encounter with the mathematics of topic modeling was messy and frustrating. Luckily, Adam’s clear and well-paced instructions helped me keep up with the process that basically consisted of a chain of well-curated commands. Our mission became clear by the end of the first day: we shall put together a corpus large enough to benefit from topic modeling. From the start, Adam encouraged us to think about a scholarly project that would harness topic modeling. To explore the toolkit and see how it works, I concentrated on Mathew Arnold’s body of works on literary criticism, digital copies of which were readily available. The second day we continued building our corpuses with a focus on individual topic assignments. Behind topic modeling, Adam told us, lies a crooked assumption that every word token has exactly one topic associated with it. In layman’s words, it is the assumption that when a writer sits down to write, every word she uses, she uses for a topic. According to this logic, we could expect data mining packages like Mallet to help us discover hidden thematic patterns in large collections of text by locating words that tend to co-exist in multiple contexts. The third day Julian and Adam introduced us to RStudio, a programming language that entails more advanced topic modeling procedures. That day we fiddled with using RStudio and plowed through the commands that demanded our meticulous attention. As promising as it is, topic modeling is also a process fraught with complications that are not always easy to foresee, thus requiring a high degree of patience and concentration.

Adam used Moby Dick as a sample corpus during the workshop. Seeing a literary text on the screen as a variable and working on it through commands felt alienating at first, but as we moved along, it became clear to me that computational techniques such as topic modeling to study “big data” could facilitate humanities research. Mallet, RStudio and others are new ways of pursuing research in the field of literary studies. They are promising resources that can be tapped into with the right dose of curiosity, patience, and attention.

On the last day of the workshops the participants from both workshops gathered in one of the classrooms for a show&tell event. Some of the participants shared their word clusters and thematic discoveries that they had obtained at the end of the topic modeling process. Interesting questions and ideas that are worth pursuing were raised during this event. Applying topic modeling technique to journals decade by decade in order to see the prominent topics picked up by each decade is one of these ideas that grabbed my attention, as someone whose research extends into archives, albeit moderately.

While I was at the University of Guelph, I also attended a tour of the library archives, which includes a large range of collections from a Canadian Cookbook Collection to Landscape Architecture. Historical Collections at the University of Guelph hold at least seven core collections. One of these collections, the Scottish Studies Collection, is the largest one outside the United Kingdom. In the archives one can also find Lucy Maud Montgomery’s (1874-1942) personal library and belongings, diaries, book manuscripts, and needle work. Montgomery was one of Canada’s most prolific writers, and she is famous for her Anne of Green Gables series. (Google recently commemorated Anne of Green Gables with a doodle on November 30th, which was Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthday: https://g.co/doodle/qdp2dr)

With no previous background in digital humanities, I had concerns when I signed up for Digital Humanities@Guelph Summer Workshops. Although some of my concerns such as my lack of experience working from the command line proved to be valid, my overall experience with the topic modeling process was thought-provoking. When I examined the word clusters that I had garnered through topic modeling Mathew Arnold’s works of literary criticism, I found the frequency and proximity of certain words in clusters quite telling. The word rhythm appearing in the same cluster with the word ear, and sharing the same boldness and size, or the word class appearing with aristocratic and middle, might not seem all that unexpected. Nevertheless, when we consider these occurrences alongside more bewildering word pairs such as modern and interesting, these words could prove to be revealing in regard to the discussions surrounding the use and value of poetry not only in Arnold’s views but also in English literary circles of the late 19th century. There is surely a lot of fodder for a comparatist in this scheme.

The workshop was designed to tackle the practical task of getting good results from topic modeling technique and lived up to the expectations on that front. Indeed, the Digital part of Digital Humanities was successfully covered by the instructors. Yet, the Humanities part was missing in the sense that the critical implications of computing in humanities wasn’t integrated into the overall discussions. I believe addressing the impact of computation as a humanities question would put the Digital into a better perspective. Apart from that, I highly recommend DH@Guelph Summer Workshops to humanists who would like to venture into digital humanities work or improve their knowledge in the field.

Nefise Kahraman

Thoughts on the Passing of Professor Svetlana Boym (1966–2015)

Dear Colleagues,

I read with sadness the brief update Neil forwarded to us about the death yesterday of Svetlana Boym. Without knowing any details of the circumstances of her death, this comes as a big surprise. Professor Boym was an active artist and scholar, and not at all at the age where one expects such news.

Regardless, I would like to share a few words about Professor Boym, her work and her relationship to the Centre for Comparative Literature. Many of you will remember that Professor Boym was the keynote speaker for our Comp Lit colloquium “Explosive Past, Radiant Future,” of which I was an organizer. I remember well her lecture at
that colloquium as well as her stimulating participation in the panels and other events of the weekend. She also shipped much of her most recent work as part of an art and photography exhibit connected to the colloquium. She was very committed to the intersection of art and scholarship as with that of theory and practice.

She was also a delightful presence in any setting, as comfortable in spirited debates over the meaning of Putinism as she was lecturing on Benjamin or leading group singing of folk tunes at the closing reception.

Her published work, and in particular the two books “Common Places” and “The Future of Nostalgia,” has been instrumental in my own intellectual development. I can scarcely think of a scholar who has done more to bring humanities-based approaches (as distinct from those of the social sciences) to bear on questions of “everyday life” of ordinary people.

Anyone who knows Professor Boym’s work will also know of her preoccupation with the relationship of the past to the future, and vice versa.

As most of you will know, a number of her photographs hang on the walls of our Centre as reminders of the time she spent with us and as visual representations of the matters with which her work is concerned. May it long be so.

–Ryan Culpepper

Website: http://www.svetlanaboym.com/
Obituary: http://slavic.fas.harvard.edu/news/memoriam-professor-svetlana-boym

2nd edition of the Tribune

The Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune is pleased to announce the Call for proposals for its 2nd edition !

Invitation to participate in:

The Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune – 2nd edition

30 October 2015

University of Toronto

Comparatists: Assert yourselves!

The Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune is a space of encounter for graduate students to share their research projects while reflecting on their discipline. The first edition took place in January 2015 at the Université de Montréal, and gathered students from four Canadian institutions who presented their research in French and English, in a variety of formats.

For its second edition, to take place at the University of Toronto on October 30, 2015, the Tribune encourages comparatist students to present their projects in an original and concise format lasting 10 minutes, so as to promote exchanges, debates and discussions. The Tribune is a privileged space to test unconventional modes of presentation and to explore the development of one’s PhD or MA thesis or any other project.

The Tribune particularly encourages presentations that:

  • Offer a synthesized look at the conclusions or the structure of a research project;
  • Define the limits or shortcomings of a research project, potentially proposing some possible solutions;
  • Describe the theoretical, methodological, institutional or practical difficulties encountered during research;
  • Explore a different mode of communication (in this case, your proposal should describe the format of your presentation);
  • Develop a critical reflection on the current practices of communicating research in academia;
  • Analyze the current context and challenges of comparative literature.

We welcome your proposals (100 to 200 words), however original and experimental, until 15 August 2015 at the following email address: tribunelitcomp@gmail.com. Please specify your university affiliation and your year of study. Your presentation of a maximum of 10 minutes can be either in French or English (or both!), in the medium of your choice. The selection will be announced by the end of August.

Invitation à participer à :

La tribune des étudiant-e-s en littérature comparée – 2ème édition

30 octobre 2015

Université de Toronto

Comparatistes : Affirmez-vous !

La Tribune des étudiant-e-s en littérature comparée est un espace de rencontre permettant aux étudiant-e-s de deuxième et troisième cycles de partager leurs projets de recherche tout en réfléchissant aux enjeux de leur discipline. La première rencontre, en janvier 2015 à l’Université de Montréal, a réuni des étudiant-e-s de quatre universités canadiennes, qui ont présenté leurs recherches en français et en anglais, dans des formats variés et selon des approches de tout genre. !

Pour sa deuxième édition, qui se tiendra à l’Université de Toronto le 30 octobre 2015, la Tribune encourage les étudiant-e-s comparatistes à présenter leurs projets dans un format original et concis de 10 minutes, afin de promouvoir les échanges, les débats et les discussions. La Tribune est un lieu privilégié pour venir tester des modes de présentation non conventionnels, et pour se questionner sur le développement de sa thèse, de son mémoire ou d’autres projets parallèles.

La Tribune encourage particulièrement les présentations qui :

  • Proposent un regard synthétique sur les conclusions ou la structure d’un projet de recherche;
    Définissent les limites ou lacunes d’un projet de recherche, en proposant ou non des pistes de solutions;
  • Décrivent les difficultés théoriques, méthodologiques, institutionnelles et pratiques rencontrées au cours de recherches;
  • Explorent un mode de communication différent (dans ce cas, votre proposition devra décrire la forme que prendra votre présentation);
  • Développent une réflexion critique sur les formats académiques de diffusion de la recherche;
  • Analysent le contexte actuel et les défis de la littérature comparée.

Nous attendons vos propositions (100 à 200 mots), aussi originales et expérimentales soient-elles, pour le 15 août 2015 à l’adresse suivante: tribunelitcomp@gmail.com. Veuillez préciser votre université de rattachement et votre cycle d’étude. Votre présentation, d’un maximum de 10 minutes, pourra être prononcée en anglais ou en français (ou les deux !), dans le médium de votre choix. La sélection sera communiquée au plus tard le 30 août.

Continue reading “2nd edition of the Tribune”