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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Survival/La survie: Call for Papers

The Centre for Comparative Literature’s 25th Annual Conference

on the theme of SURVIVAL

will take place March 12th – March 15th 2015. 

See details below and on the conference website (


Centre for Comparative Literature

University of Toronto

March 12th – March 15th 2015

Keynote Addresses: Professor Christopher Fynsk (University of Aberdeen) and Professor Elizabeth Rottenberg (DePaul University)

Linda Hutcheon and J. Edward Chamberlin Lecture in Literary Theory: Professor Eric Cazdyn (University of Toronto)

Every catastrophe tests the limits of the human drive for self-preservation and exacts our prolonged negotiation with what has happened and what is to come. Estranged from traditional scaffoldings for her desires and values, the need for survival forces the individual to recognize the insufficiency of her inner resources if she is to live otherwise. Survival under the weight of loss – of faces and words, of relics and homes, of meanings and intimacies – survival in the wake of catastrophe carries the presentiment of a transfigured existence. This promise is a call that brings people together to rebuild the fragile yet necessary connections that constitute a world. We conceive of survival in diverse modes: the future of the work of art after canonicity; the ethics of testimony and witness; the precarity of the environment; the fatal effects of heteronormativity; the inheritance of cultural histories through interpretations, translations and archives; the experiences of globalization, displacement, and conflict.

            The work of art survives the moment of its canonization. Its reification in the canon endows it with fame while the stamp of periodization and genre dissimulates other ways in which it might show itself. The fixed portrait of a work that has been embalmed in the mausoleum of impotent veneration is bound up with forms of critical scrutiny that monumentalize its endurance in life. In the ritual pageant of cultural heritage, the predicament of lives trapped behind glass partitions is the catalyst for critical interventions.

            Modes of criticism have been inherited via a cultural directory that shapes and is shaped by the same means of production that have debased the afterlife of art. To counteract this process of incremental consolidation, a critique that refuses to remain complicit with fantasies of mastery must shatter the ideology of preservation at all costs. To disrupt the deceptive veneer of genealogical continuity in order to rescue the particular from the grip of conservation, critical intervention must pulverize this false image of eternity.

            The myth of nature’s cyclical longevity and infinite duration belies the omnipresent threat of its extinction. The homogenizing forces of modern technology perpetuate the myth of Earth as inexhaustible reservoir. Such factitious discourses of vitalism continue to occur at the same time as the exponential proliferation of signs of environmental destruction. By situating what passes as natural in ‘natural catastrophes’ within the larger frame of global debt structures that perpetuate the mythic cycle of guilt and compensation, an ecology of survival would reclaim the force of analysis and the future of the intellect from market capitalism.

            Strategies of privatization that preserve a complex of institutions conceal the universal subject of debt constructed by them. We must comprehend a logic in which the need to systemically change our society has been replaced with a series of economic transactions that pacify individual afflictions. Our task as thinkers of survival is twofold: to render the contours of subjectivity burdened with debt and to construe our desire in its truth.

            The foreclosure of desires and intimacies reinforces a repertoire of compulsory imitations. In this theatre of desire, parodic mimicry takes its cue from cultural norms that dictate the terms of any possible oppositional stance. Playing empty roles that determine our ways of responding in advance, we lack a sense for recognizing otherness. An ethics of testimony bearing witness to what remains of otherness must reckon with questions of survival. To renew the dead script of our social interactions, a reflection on survival is necessary.

The organizing committee of this conference invites all contributions that respond to the need to rethink what survival means today. Possible topics for presentations include, but are not limited to:

  • Freudian death drive; the undead; the uncanny
  • Survivor’s guilt; mourning; surviving the death of others
  • The survival of the name
  • Suicide and sacrifice
  • Apocalyptic economies
  • Aesthetics of eschatology
  • Erotic foreclosure
  • Afterlife of artworks
  • Survival of/in capitalism
  • Intersection of survival and obsolescence
  • Apparitions; hauntology; revenants
  • Survival of philosophy and the humanities
  • The death of god
  • Class struggle; the nation-state; warfare
  • Surviving gender- and sexuality-based violence
  • Survivalist movements
  • Ecology; ecopoetics; anti-evolutionism
  • Consumer goods that have outlived their use (antiques; collectors)
  • Guilt and debt
  • Gentrification; architectural history; ruins
  • ‘Livability’

We invite joint proposals for panels/roundtables as well as proposals for individual talks. Proposals should be a maximum of 250 words. Individual talks should be approximately 20 minutes in duration and panels/roundtables should not exceed 90 minutes. If you are participating in a roundtable, please be prepared to speak for no more than 10 minutes in order to facilitate discussion. We request that you include a biographical statement of no more than 50 words. We prefer that all participants in panels/roundtables have been confirmed when the proposal is submitted. Our submissions deadline is October 1 2014. All proposals must be submitted via our website ( Please contact us at with any questions or concerns.

La survie

Centre de littérature comparée

Université de Toronto

12 mars – 15 mars 2015

Invités d’honneur: Professeur Christopher Fynsk (Université d’Aberdeen) et Professeure Elizabeth Rottenberg (Université DePaul)

Linda Hutcheon and J. Edward Chamberlin Lecture in Literary Theory: Professeur Eric Cazdyn (Université de Toronto)

Chaque catastrophe teste les limites de l’instinct de conservation et exige notre négociation prolongée avec ce qui s’est déroulé et ce qui est à venir. En la privant des structures traditionnelles pour vivre ses désirs et ses valeurs, le besoin de survie force la personne à reconnaître l’insuffisance de ses ressources internes si elle souhaite vivre autrement. La survie sous le poids de la perte – perte des visages et des mots, des reliques et des ports d’attache, des sens et des intimités – la survie à la suite de la catastrophe porte avec elle le pressentiment d’une existence transfigurée. Cette promesse est un appel qui unit les gens entre eux pour reconstruire les fragiles mais nécessaires liens qui font le monde. Nous concevons la survie de diverses façons : la précarité de l’environnement; les effets néfastes de l’hétéronormativité; la transmission d’histoires culturelles par les interprétations, les traductions et les archives; les expériences de mondialisation, de déplacement et de conflit.

L’œuvre d’art survit à sa canonisation. Sa réification au sein du canon lui confère la gloire, alors que le sceau de la périodisation et du genre dissimule d’autres façons dont elle pourrait se montrer. Le portrait figé d’une œuvre qui a été embaumée dans le mausolée de la vénération impotente est intrinsèquement lié à des modes d’examen critique qui monumentalisent sa pérennité. Dans le cortège rituel du patrimoine culturel, le malheur d’existences enfermées derrière des cloisons de verre est le catalyseur de l’intervention critique.

Des modes critiques ont été transmis par une grille culturelle qui construit, et est construite par, les mêmes modes de production qui ont dégradé la postérité de l’art. Pour contrecarrer ce processus de consolidation progressive, une critique qui refuse d’être complice des phantasmes de domination doit faire éclater l’idéologie de la préservation à tout prix. Pour perturber le vernis trompeur de la continuité généalogique, afin de libérer le particulier de l’étau de la conservation, l’intervention critique doit pulvériser cette fausse image d’éternité.

Le mythe de la longévité cyclique et de la perpétuité de la nature contredit la menace omniprésente de son extinction. Les forces homogénéisantes de la technologie moderne perpétuent le mythe de la Terre comme réserve inépuisable. Ces discours vitalistes trompeurs côtoient la prolifération exponentielle de signes de destruction environnementale. En situant ce qui passe pour naturel dans les « catastrophes naturelles » au sein d’un cadre plus large de structures de dettes qui perpétuent le cycle mythique de culpabilité et de compensation, une écologie de la survie récupèrerait la force de l’analyse et le futur de l’intellect accaparés par le capitalisme de marché.

Les stratégies de privatisation qui préservent un complexe d’institutions cachent l’être assujetti à la dette universelle qu’ils ont construit. Nous devons comprendre la logique au sein de laquelle le désir de changement systémique de notre société a été remplacé par une série de transactions économiques qui pacifient le malheur individuel. Notre tâche comme penseurs de la survie est double : rendre visible les contours de la subjectivité accablée par la dette, et interpréter notre désir dans sa vérité.

La saisie des désirs et des intimités renforce le répertoire d’imitations compulsives. Dans ce théâtre de désirs, l’imitation parodique suit l’exemple des normes culturelles qui dictent les termes de toute attitude d’opposition. En jouant des rôles vides qui déterminent à l’avance notre façon de répondre, il nous devient impossible de reconnaître l’altérité. Une éthique du témoignage attentive à ce qui reste de l’altérité doit prendre en compte un questionnement sur la survie. Pour renouveler le scénario mort de nos interactions sociales, une réflexion sur la survie est nécessaire.

Le comité d’organisation du colloque invite les contributions qui répondent au besoin de repenser ce que la « survie » signifie aujourd’hui. Les sujets possibles de présentations peuvent inclure, mais ne sont pas limités à : 

  • La pulsion de mort freudienne; les morts-vivants; l’inquiétante étrangeté
  • La culpabilité du survivant; le deuil; survivre à la mort des autres
  • La survie du nom
  • Le suicide et le sacrifice
  • Les économies apocalyptiques
  • Les esthétiques de l’eschatologie
  • La survie des oeuvres d’art
  • La survie du capitalisme / La survie dans le capitalisme
  • Le recoupement de la survie et de l’obsolescence
  • Les apparitions; l’hantologie; les revenants
  • La survie de la pensée critique et des sciences humaines
  • La mort de dieu
  • La lutte des classes; l’État-nation; les conflits armés
  • Survivre à la violence liée au genre et à la sexualité
  • Les mouvements survivalistes
  • L’écologie; l’« écopoésie »; le créationnisme
  • Les biens de consommation qui ont survécu à leur utilité première (antiquités; collectionneurs)
  • La culpabilité et la dette
  • L’embourgeoisement; l’histoire architecturale; les ruines
  • L’habitabilité

Nous invitons les propositions, d’un maximum de 250 mots, pour des ateliers ou tables rondes, ainsi que pour des présentations individuelles. Les présentations individuelles seront d’environ 20 minutes, et les ateliers ne devraient pas dépasser 90 minutes. Si vous participez à une table ronde, veuillez être préparé-e-s à ne pas parler plus de 10 minutes afin de favoriser les échanges. Nous vous prions d’inclure une biographie d’un maximum de 50 mots avec votre proposition. Nous préférons que tous les participant-e-s des ateliers et tables rondes aient été confirmé-e-s lors de la soumission des propositions. La date de tombée est le 1er octobre 2014. Toutes les propositions doivent être soumises sur notre site ( N’hésitez pas à nous contacter à pour toute question.

Fin-de-siècle at the End of Term, or How to spice up your finals by channelling the 1900s.



The Centre for Comparative Literature is hosting an end-of-term party this coming Friday. This year, we are paying homage to the 1900s (the intelligent person’s Roaring Twenties: comparably ostentatious, yet not as overdone). Before you shrink away from too much commitment: have no fear. There is no need for accurate period attire (although an occasional fascinator will certainly be welcome). Here’s five ways to partake in the Gay Nineties vibe without much effort:

1. Think of a poem by some poète maudit you love or had loved, and email it to Catherine or Irina, so it can be shared with and appreciated by your peers.

2. Dwell on Proust. Talk to someone who is taking Rebecca Comay’s Proust course. If you yourself are in Rebecca Comay’s class, you’re thinking about Proust all the time anyway.

3. Exercise total abandon in the writing of essays. As Fan, our incoming MA student, once suggested: write essays about things that excite you, bother you and will not let you go.

4. Instead of taking TTC, stroll to the University. If it’s too far, stroll anywhere, anytime. You may be super busy, but that’s no reason to not enjoy being a human being in this city.

5. Get yourself to the Centre at 4:30 on Friday and bask in the ready-made Belle Epoque atmosphere (created on a budget but with much enthusiasm).


How to survive conferences with JOY

As many of you know, conferences can be hugely exciting and enjoyable experiences. They are a wonderful opportunity to meet new colleagues, to network, to share your work and ideas with others. At the same time, they can be absolutely exhausting! So here are a few tips for surviving this year’s conference JOY/LA JOIE.

  1. Plan ahead: have a look at the program in advance. You won’t be able to see everything,  so pick the panels that you are most interested in. At the same time, make sure to give yourself a break here and there throughout the day, to get a breath of fresh air, to sit quietly, or simply to chat to old and new friends.
  2. Plan ahead, part 2: if you need to print your talk or any handouts, make sure to do it the day before! The conference committee has listed some local copy shops at the bottom of the Travel Information page.
  3. Plan ahead, part 3: Make sure you’ve checked the most recent version of the program, just in case your presentation time has changed! This is the building you’re looking for, Victoria College (commonly referred to as Vic). Alumni Hall is on the main floor, and registration will be in the main foyer. The Victoria Chapel is on the second floor. (Washrooms are in the basement).  victoria_winter
  4. Fuel yourself: make sure to keep yourself fuelled up! Whether that means caffeine (there will be coffee and tea available throughout the conference), or your favourite energy bar, or an apple, keep something handy. (Light lunches will also be available in the Vic foyer.)
  5. Hydrate: Bring a water bottle, and keep it filled. There are a few water fountains hidden in corners of Victoria College, and there will be pitchers of water at the refreshment tables.
  6. Prepare to Network: bring business cards if you have them, and regardless, be ready to engage with your colleagues.
  7. Emergency supplies: your conference experience can be easily ruined by little things (a painful pair of shoes, a headache, a missing adapter). Pack your bag/briefcase the night before your presentation with the essentials:
      – an extra copy of your paper (hard copy and/or on a flash drive and/or email it to yourself)
      – power adapter/video adapter for your laptop (if you’re going to be using it)
      – a comfortable pair of shoes (especially if you’re wearing new dress shoes!)
      – headache pills/allergy pills, chapstick, makeup
  8. Layers: this Toronto winter has been a cold one outside, but inside tends to be pleasantly warm. Make sure to wear layers to keep you comfortable.
  9. Have fun and enJOY yourself!

Have any other ideas on how to get the most out of conferences? Post them in the comments below!

2013 Northrop Frye Professor, Jacques Rancière

The Centre for Comparative Literature presents

two public lectures by
2013 Northrop Frye Professor


5 pm, Sept. 26: Politics of Time, Time of  Politics

5 pm, Sept. 27: The Politics of  Fiction

Isabel Bader Theatre

University of Toronto, 93 Charles Street West, Toronto

These events are sponsored by Victoria University

Jacques Rancière, professor emeritus at the Université de Paris (St Denis) and faculty member at the European Graduate School, is one of the most read and most influential philosophers writing today.  No scholar working in the fields of politics, aesthetics, the philosophy of education, or the philosophy of history, can afford to ignore his work. But Rancière is also at the forefront of rethinking the nature of the scholar and the public intellectual along democratic and activist lines. Among his many works are Reading Capital (1968), The Nights of Labor: The Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth-Century France (1989), The Ignorant Schoolmaster; Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation (1991), The Names of History; On the Poetics of Knowledge (1994), On the Shores of Politics (1995), Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy (1998), The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible (2004), The Philosopher and his Poor (2004), The Flesh of Words (2004),The Future of the Image (2007), Hatred of Democracy (2007), The Aesthetic Unconscious (2009), The Emancipated Spectator (2009), Aesthetics and its Discontents (2009), Mute Speech (2011), The Politics of Literature (2011), andStaging the People: The Proletariat and his Double (2011).

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] if you have any further questions about the GEC.

GEC forms will be available on the following website as of the 5th of September.

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