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


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

5 Great, Cheap Places to Eat

phd090909sWhere does a poor grad student go when he or she just can’t face the hot dog stand and the food trucks outside of Robarts?  Well, we have some suggestions for you! 

Banh Mi Boys, at 392 Queen St. West (Queen and Spadina) and 399 Yonge Street (Yonge and Gerrard), has fantastic French- and Vietnamese-influenced sandwiches for as little as $3.49.  The bread is fresh and crispy, and the unique combination of flavours is delightful.  One sandwich will give you energy for a whole afternoon of papers or, if you’re not facing quite as much heavy work, eat half and share or keep the other half.  It’s definitely enough to split.  There are also bao sandwiches, which are smaller and made with steamed bread, if you’re looking for something lighter.  For those who don’t want the bread, BMB also has entree salads for under $10.  The bright and fun decor is bound to inspire writing, and when you’re snowed under with marking, you can call for delivery.


Pizza Pide is a little farther away, at Gerrard and Pape (949 Gerrard Street East), but is worth the travel time.  The highest price on their menu is $9.99, and the pides are freshly baked and big enough for two people.  You may not want to share, though.  The left-overs taste great when popped into a toaster oven the next day.  With a variety of topping combinations, any palate will be pleased.  The combination pide, in which every slice is different, will make the most insatiably curious customer happy.  All are served with a large helping of onion, tomato, pickled peppers, parsley, and lemon.  You may also want to try their Sour Cherry juice!


Drop by El Gordo Latin American Food Court in Kensington Market (214 Augusta Ave.) for a variety of Latin American foods, all affordable.  For $10, choose three giant empanadas from a wide selection, served warm or cold.  Mexican food enthusiasts can enjoy $5 tacos, $9 ceviche, and $2 aguas frescas, while the Jamaican pasta-and-jerk counter usually serves a lunch special for under $5.  The court also houses an arepa counter and a pupusa counter.  If you’re having trouble deciding between all these great options, or you have a sweet tooth to satisfy, enjoy the chocolate and churros, freshly made.  The only drawbacks to the Court are its small space, which means limited seating, and its vulnerability to frozen pipes in the winter, which means no chocolate or other hot drinks when it’s really cold.


Schnitzel Queen at 237 Queen St. East (Queen and Sherbourne) is, I’m told, a schnitzel-lover’s delicious dream.  Schnitzel sandwiches and dinners are all under $10 and are served in a variety of combinations.  The crispy schnitzels can be topped with the more traditional sauerkraut, potato salad, and roasted onion, or, for the more adventurous, sweet and sour chilli sauce.  The green storefront stands out from the brick building around it, so it’s not too hard to find, and the interior has a homey atmosphere that will make Robarts and the seminar room seem far, far away.


Lastly, Nazareth Bar at Ossington and Bloor (969 Bloor Street West) is known as one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto.  The huge servings will satisfy two people for under $12 and are worth the wait at this small, family-run business.  The assortment of different dishes, all served on injera, are fun to try, both with and without meat, and, although I’ve not tried them, I’ve heard the tibs are delicious.  The negatives are that it’s cash-only, there are long line-ups, and the service is quite poor.  The earlier you come, the better, and don’t plan for a quick dash in-and-out between reading articles.  This is more of a just-finished-something-and-want-to-relax place.


Please add more great, cheap places to eat in the comments section!


Have time on your hands? Need more things to do in a week? Check out some Calls-for-Papers and go to a conference or two in exotic locales (or in Rochester, NY).

Of course, the first place to look is the American Comparative Literature Association. Paper proposals are due by November 1st, 2012. http://www.acla.org/acla2013/

The UPenn CFP listings are probably the most comprehensive humanities listing, and include calls for journals and volumes, as well as for conferences: http://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/

Complit has a new executive!

Here is Executive Council for 2012-2013:

President: Catherine Schwartz
Vice President: Jeanne Mathieu-Lessard
Treasurer: Amelia Baer
GSU Rep: Nefise Kahraman
Northrop Frye Rep: Toshi Tomori
Policy Committee (2012–2014): Matteo Scardellato

CUPE Unit 1 Steward–English
CUPE Unit 1 Steward–Cinema Studies: Kate Sedon
CUPE Unit 2 Steward–Victoria

Get Involved! Elections! And more!

Elections! Pub Night!

On Friday, September 21 at 5pm (following COL1000), the Comp Lit Course Union Elections will take place in the VIC Carrels (Basement of Victoria College). The term for all positions is 1 year (with the exception of the policy committee rep, who serves for two years). Please go wild with nominations (nominations should be sent to the GCOMPLIT or can be left in the comments section below). No experience is necessary!

1. The course union is a great way to get involved with activities around campus. Please feel free to email any of the incumbents if you have any questions (for a list, see the ABOUT section)
Positions Available:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Treasurer
  • GSU Rep
  • Northrop Frye Rep
  • Policy Committee (2012–2014)
  • CUPE Unit 2 Steward (you must work for Victoria to hold this position)

For more information, check out the descriptions of duties in the Constitution.

2. GEC:
The Graduate Education Council, which meets approximately twice a semester, is a great place to begin your involvement in governance at the U of T. It’s an advisory council, so it’s recommendations aren’t binding. However, sitting on the GEC will give a student the idea of what is going on in the university, and especially, issues that might affect them or other graduate students. The meetings are only two hours, and adjourn on time (this is a rarity.) It’s a great opportunity to meet students from other departments, from the GSU, and faculty/administrators. Successful members of the A/S council, the Governing Council, and the GSU mostly got their start as GEC representatives. Email Adleen (adleen.crapo [at] utoronto.ca) if you have any further questions about the GEC.

GEC forms will be available on the following website as of the 5th of September. http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/governance/gec/elections.htm

3. PUB NIGHT. Come by for a minute, an hour, or stay all night. We buy the food–the rest is up to you.