Category Archives: Centre for Comparative Literature

Centre for Comparative Literature: A Testimonial


Brian Chappell in his blog describes giving a paper at the retirement for Linda Hutcheon and makes an appeal on behalf of the Centre for Comparative Literature here.

Money quote:

I’m writing because the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, home to some of the biggest names and ideas in the field, but more importantly, as I hope my story’s shown, to genuinely nice people who study literature brilliantly and enthusiastically for its own sake, is on the verge of extinction due to the poor economy.  I invite you, if the spirit or my story moves you, to sign this petition to help save a program whose closure would severely wound the important work we do in literary studies and set a dangerous precedent for the status of the humanities in the eyes of university administrations.

Centre for Comparative Literature Roundup of Posts and Links (2)


Last week’s roundup here.

Linda Hutcheon’s post at The Mark here.

Jonathan Allen’s report on the petition and the support of celebrated scholars from all over the world here.

Sylvia Maultash Warsh, author of a newly published novel featuring Frye as a character, offers her support for the Centre here.

A report from BlogTo here.

Maclean’s article, “Academic Vandalism,” here.

Prof. Eva von Dassow’s viral video condemning budget cuts to Liberal Arts programs here.

Ottawa Citizen‘s article on the student housing crisis that cites the closing of the Centre for Comparative Literature as symptomatic of the wider problem of funding here.

Sign the petition to save the Centre here.

Overcrowding and Underfunding


The Ottawa Citizen published an article Tuesday on the miserable state of student housing and cited the closing of the Centre for Comparative Literature as symptomatic of the broader problem of underfunding:

Every university is short of cash: Even the comparatively wealthy University of Toronto expects to shut down the Centre for Comparative Literature founded by Northrop Frye — the most famous humanities scholar this country ever produced — to save money.

The complete story here.  Sign the petition to save the Centre here.

Maclean’s: “Academic Vandalism”


Maclean’s article on the closing of the Centre for Contemporary Literature here.

An excerpt, including a quote from our own Jonathan Allan:

Students have organized a campaign called “Save Comparative Literature” that includes a petition with around 5,800 signatures, including Margaret Atwood’s. Online forums have seen an unfavourable acronym attached to the School of Languages and Literature at U of T, namely “SLLUT.”Some students see the plan as a breach of contract. “I think something that is going to be very difficult for us going on the job market is that we are the last classes for the [Centre] and that’s damaging to us,” fourth-year PhD student Jonathan Allan said. “We didn’t agree to come to the University of Toronto to become a part of some school of languages.”

Professors are similarly disappointed. Linda Hutcheon, who teaches at the Centre, although her home department is English, says that interdisciplinary studies, like comparative literature, are being threatened. “There’s no other Centre that brings people together, not only from other languages to work together, but from other disciplines, from history to sociology to the theatre,” she told Maclean’s. “Almost every school in the United States has a comparative literature department. That’s the joke.”

Frye Alert


Below is a post today at BlogTO:

News Flash

Amalgamation causes unrest at University of Toronto

Posted by Robyn Urback / July 27, 2010

Get this–uproar at a university that actually has something to do with the university!

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto has proposed sweeping changes to U of T’s largest faculty, which will see six humanities programs consolidated into one school.

The new School of Languages and Literatures is being considered as a way to offset the faculty’s $55 million of debt. The new school, or SLLUT (School of Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto, as to it is so affectionately referred on dissenting online forums), will merge the existing Italian, German, East Asian Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, and Slavic languages departments, as well as the Centre for Comparative Literature, which was founded by Northrop Frye.

Many students, as well as faculty at the University of Toronto, are opposed to the amalgamation, anticipating an intellectual “step backwards.”

“U of T used to have a reputation for being very conservative, and it’s about to have that reputation again,” said Linda Hucheon, professor at the Centre for Comparative Literature. “We will try to make a case for not getting rid of a major discipline within the university. “We’re not going down without a bit of a fight.”

Students have set up petitions, websites, and a Facebook group opposing the changes. Final approval for the new school will be sought in the fall.

Sylvia Maultash Warsh: Recreating Frye, Preserving a Legacy


Sylvia Maultash Warsh is the author of the recently published The Queen of Unforgetting.

When I was at the University of Toronto years ago, like many young undergrads, I didn’t know my own mind and somehow ended up in Psychology instead of English.  So though I was a student at U of T, I never had Northrop Frye for a professor. It wasn’t until I had to research the venerable critic for my new novel, The Queen of Unforgetting, that I realized just how much I had missed.

I had good reasons for making Frye a character in my story. I like to set my books in Toronto—my first three are historical mysteries that take place on and around Beverley Street, near the university.  For this book (not a mystery) I needed an academic superstar, and Frye was the obvious choice. My protagonist, a grad student more ambitious than most, needs a supervisor for her thesis. But not just any supervisor. She knows that a Frye protégé will have a good chance at an academic placement when the time comes.  To this end, she chooses a thesis topic that will interest him: E.J. Pratt’s epic poem, Brébeuf and His Brethren.  Pratt was Frye’s mentor and he is pulled in. For my research, I pored over many of Frye’s books and journals; I watched videotaped interviews in which he sits before the camera and gives dazzling little lectures in his famous deadpan.

He doesn’t look the part, but he was a mythic figure in his own time. Sometimes referred to as The Buddha, the shy brilliant scholar had assimilated vast quantities of literature, philosophy, art, and religion. It was this storehouse of knowledge that let him connect disparate ideas and themes into meaningful patterns. His omnivorous reading made it possible for him to cross borders and draw comparisons between cultures, and particularly their literatures.

Our world has shrunk almost beyond imagination since 1969 when Frye founded the Centre for Comparative Literature at U of T. Today’s global realities require, more than ever, broader understanding of the world around us. Through literature we recognize the similarity in the other, the stranger who looks nothing like us but who lives, loves and dies just the same, only defined by a different set of symbols. A centre dedicated to looking outward toward the other is in a unique position to forge cross-cultural and interdisciplinary ties. A university that doesn’t recognize the value of such an enterprise is in the wrong business.

Sign the petition in support of the Centre for Comparative Literature here.