Wednesday, July 21, 2010

University of Toronto Kills Comparative Literature. Action Needed!

The University of Toronto has announced the "disestablishment" of the Centre for Comparative Literature as of July 1, 2011. The Centre, founded in 1969 by Northrop Frye and the premier site for the study of comparative literature in Canada, will no longer be able to admit students to the PhD or MA degrees. It will be reduced to a collaborative, non-degree-granting program in a School for Languages and Literatures.

The reasons given have to do with budget and a feeling that Comparative Literature is no longer needed because other departments now teach theory. The latter argument-that the Humanities have caught up to Comparative Literature as it were-ignores the many ways that Comparative Literature as a discipline and the Centre at Toronto have developed new methodologies for exploring the exchange and cross-border circulation of arts, thoughts, writings and cultural practices. The students that the Centre has attracted are some of the most intellectually engaged, creative, and committed students in the university. They work on genuinely transnational and interdisciplinary projects that would not be possible in any of the language departments.

This disastrous course must be averted for the sake of literary studies and interdisciplinary studies in Canada. I am writing to ask if you would be willing to sign the petition:

and to circulate this request. Please check out the website:

Would you also be willing to write a letter to President David Naylor of the University of Toronto, registering your concern at these proposed events. If you could speak briefly to the importance of Comparative Literature as a discipline, that would be very valuable.

If you do send a letter, please send a hard copy as well as an e-mail. Hard copy to:

President David Naylor,
University of Toronto
Simcoe Hall, room 206
27 King's College Circle Toronto M5S 1A1.

E-mail to

Please copy the e-mail to the provost Cheryl Misak ( and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, Meric Gertler ( and to the Centre for Comparative Literature (

Please circulate this request.

Thank you very much

Neil ten Kortenaar, director, Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

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