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 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 !

CFP – Tribune 4

New Semester, New Beginnings

Dear complit friends,

Kris speaking. On behalf of the student union, I welcome you to Toronto, to UofT, and to the Centre for Comparative Literature! We wish you a wonderful semester and year, and look forward to meeting you and spending time with you.

Elections happened on Friday, September 23, and so it is with teary eyes that we bid farewell to last year’s union. In my own personal name, I would like to particularly thank and congratulate Irina, our previous President, and Jeanne, my co-VP. They honestly did such a wonderful job, and the handover went as neatly as it could go, thanks to their assiduous and steadfast work throughout the year. It was such a pleasure to share last year with you.

And I am sure it will be just as great a pleasure to work with the new exec, which is as follows:

President: Andrea Ennis-Booth
Vice-President: Kristopher Poulin-Thibault
Treasurer: Matthew Larocque Coulas
GSU Representatives: Tal Isaacson, Amelia Bailey
Policy Committee, 2015-2017: Liza Futerman
Policy Committee, 2016-2018: Natasha Hay
Northrop Frye Representative: Julia Martins
Social Chair: Lily Tarba

We promise to do our best to live up to the expectations the previous team has set, and exceed them, even! I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that a lot of useful info about the union, and a variety of other things, can be found on our blog ( I have updated the different department stewards and their contact info for the year, for us TAs and CIs. As well, we have added a tab about how to request for funding from the union (, which is a new process, so please take good note of it.

Please do not hesitate to contact me or any of us for anything. We’re friendly people and we love you! We’re here for you!

Wishing you all a wonderful start to your semester. May this year bring you joy, growth, and love.

Yours truly,
Kris, your (previous and current) VP

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 (, 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:

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


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: 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: 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”

The CompLit Students’ Tribune : 1st edition in Montréal

The first edition of the  Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune, a new collaborative event co-organized by students from the Université de Montréal and the University of Toronto, took place in Montréal last Friday, January 16th, 2015. The event featured presentations by students from four universities across Canada, including four presentations by students of our Centre, Saharnaz Samaeinejad, Pushpa Raj Acharya, Karen Yaworski and Liza Futerman.

This bilingual event was created to strengthen links between young scholars of comparative literature in Canada. We had very good feedback from participants and hope to see many of you at the next edition that will take place in Toronto, in the fall of 2015.

Below are the two wonderful posters of the event (Thanks to Erwan Geffroy !!), and the schedule of the event.

To follow the project on Facebook:étudiants-de-LittCo-The-Complit-Students-Tribune/706876126049185


January 16th, 2015, Université de Montréal, Carrefour des arts et des sciences

9h30 – 10h00 : Opening – Coffee
Opening remarks : Simon Harel, director, Comparative literature department, UdeM.
Presentation of the project by the four organizers: Elise Couture-Grondin (UofT), Erwan Geffroy (UdeM), Jeanne Mathieu-Lessard (UofT), Servanne Monjour (UdeM).

10h00 – 11h30 : Session A – Moderator – Julie Tremblay-Devirieux (Université de Montréal)
Dominique Hétu (Université de Montréal) : « Les géographies du care dans certaines œuvres littéraires contemporaines ».
Saharnaz Samaeinejad (University of Toronto) : « Apocaliptic and religio-utopian writers in modern Iran ».
Pushpa Raj Acharya (University of Toronto) : « Violence and fiction in South Asia ».

11h45 – 12h30 : Reflection of research-creation
« Performative interpenetration of practice and theory in artistic research », a performance presented by Jean-Francois Boisvenue (Université de Montréal).

12h30 : Lunch

14h – 15h30 : Session B – Moderator – Élise Couture-Grondin  (University of Toronto)
Matthew Cormier (Université de Moncton) : « Comparative Literature and its Strength in Lateral Argumentation ».
Louis-Thomas Leguerrier (Université de Montréal) : « Ulysse au XXe siècle : une rencontre entre pensée conceptuelle et personnification ».
Mathieu Li-Goyette (Université de Montréal) : « Pour une réflexion ontologique de la bande-dessinée ».
Karen Yaworski (University of Toronto): « “Hey, you!” “Who, me?”: Junot Díaz’s Play with the Second Person »

15h30 – 16h : Coffee break

16h – 17h30 : Session C – Moderator – Jeanne Mathieu-Lessard (University of Toronto)
Tyler Cook (Université de Moncton) : « From Daigle’s Pour sûr to Majzel’s For Sure; cultural loss, re-appropriation and gain in the translated work ».
Rasoul Aliakbari (University of Alberta) : « Critical Transversism: A Creative Approach to Comparative Literature “in Crisis” ».
Élisabeth Routhier (Université de Montréal) : « Intermédialité, littérature comparée, et frontières médiatiques ».
Liza Futerman (University of Toronto) : « Exoticisism, Parody and Exclusion in Aleksei Fedorchenko’s Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari ».

18h: Dinner

Tribune 2015 - BoyTribune 2015 - Femme

The Complit Students’ Tribune

Call for Contributions
Comparatists: Assert yourselves!

Studies in comparative literature bring together a large community of scholars, breathing life into a discipline whose applicability continues to proliferate. Graduate students’ research projects are rich and varied, reflecting the breadth of the discipline, although lacking diffusion within the larger comparatist community. Last winter, students met to think about a possible collaboration between the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal and the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. Since then, the obvious lack of connections between graduate students from both universities, as well as from other Canadian universities, became a source of motivation for envisioning a space of encounter where we could discuss our projects on the ground of the discipline we share. The “Comparative Literature Students’ Tribune” aims at encouraging discussions between comparatist graduate students of Canadian universities. By asserting the specificity of each of the comparative literature programs in the country, we hope to identify what unites us in this field of study, and forge lasting friendships between young scholars and contribute to the ongoing conversations about the discipline in Canada. For its first edition, in January 2015, the Tribune will take place at the University of Montreal, and will be organized around the question of the spaces for comparative literature.

Occupy Comparative Literature’s Spaces

Thanks to its polyglot and multicultural specificity, Canada is a privileged space for comparatist studies. But our discipline, little known by the public at large and imperfectly identified within academia itself, suffers today from a lack of institutional recognition. Therefore, it seems urgent for us to affirm, display and reflect its presence and importance. This year, the Tribune proposes to explore the question of spaces (geographical, linguistic, theoretical, etc.) of comparative literature in Canada – spaces of convergence but also spaces of tension. Among the issues we hope to tackle:

  • How does Canada constitute itself as a comparatist laboratory?
  • In what way(s) can comparative literature take (back) its place within institutional spaces, but also within public spaces?
  • How can we consider the very space of comparative literature, at the junction of a plurality of fields – intercultural, interdisciplinary, intermedial, etc.?
  • Finally, how are the limits of these theoretical, institutional and geo-political spaces asserted, obliterated or displaced?

We invite graduate students to present their research projects at any stage of their completion through the prism of these questions. Since the Tribune wishes to be a convivial space of exchange, of discussion and of experimentation, we encourage modes of theoretical and critical expression that are original, transmedial or collaborative. Test your research projects, debate your methodological approach, perform your thesis!

We welcome your proposals (150-200 words) until October 24, 2014 at the following email address: Please specify your university affiliation and your year of study. Your presentation of 10 to 15 minutes can be either in French or English, in the medium of your choice.

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