Saving the Centre for Comparative Literature


As many readers of this blog know, Northrop Frye was the founder of the Centre for Comparative Literature.  The Centre recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary, and today, a year later, we are mourning its demise.  The University of Toronto has in effect decided that the Centre for Comparative Literature will be closed and the graduate program in Comparative Literature will be suspended, effective the end of the upcoming academic year.  All students in the program will be permitted to finish their Comparative Literature degrees, but this will also mark the end of the road for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.

I provide here a paragraph from the “recommendation” (well, it is less a recommendation, it seems, and more an order) from the University of Toronto:

The Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) has recommended that the Departments of East Asian Studies, Germanic Languages & Literatures, Italian Studies, Slavic Languages and Literatures and Spanish & Portuguese be incorporated into a proposed School of Languages and Literatures, a new unit designed to strengthen the profile of teaching and research in languages in the Faculty.  The SPC has also recommended that the Centre for Comparative Literature be transferred to the proposed School and be redefined as a Collaborative Program. The School will have a single Director and centralized administrative services; individual language groups will retain responsibility for their undergraduate and graduate programs. The specific structure and operating principles of the School will be determined through a process of consultation with academic administrators, faculty members, and other stakeholders in the relevant units.  The Dean will appoint an Advisory Committee to complete this process by December 2010.

All of our current faculty will be “returned” to their home departments despite the fact that the kind of teaching they do in Comparative Literature may very well not mesh with their home departments.  For instance, I think here of Eva-Lynn Jagoe, about whom I blogged earlier this year, who will be returned to Spanish and Portuguese, and then, of course, to the School of Languages and Literatures.

We are all shocked by this “recommendation,” and students and faculty have responded with the creation of two Facebook Groups where information is being posted about the situation as it develops.  The links for the groups are here:

Save Comp Lit at U of T:

Students  Against the School of Languages and Literatures at U of T:

It is a sad day when we witness the demise of Frye’s Centre for Comparative Literature, and yet we see the inspiring success of the Northrop Frye Festival in bringing Frye to the forefront and reminding Canadians (and the world) of just how influential and important Frye was as a public intellectual, writer, and teacher.

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