The Bittersweet Honesty of Rachel Cusk:
The Ethical Significance of Attending and Listening

Social Sciences

Course Description

All Autumn 2020 courses will take place on Zoom. Readings will be available online and by in-person retrieval.

"For a long time I believed that it was only through absolute passivity that you could learn to see what was really there. But my decision to create a disturbance by renovating my house had awoken a different reality, as though I had disturbed a beast sleeping in its lair. I had started to become, in effect, angry. I had started to desire power..." —Rachel Cusk

Rachel Cusk has written two memoirs about the upheaval she experienced during the transition to motherhood and the subsequent dissolution of her marriage. Hailed by many as honest and truthful, they were so severely censured by some that Cusk was unable to write for a period of time. Then, after a painful hiatus, she produced a trilogy of novels widely praised as an important innovation in the writing of fiction.

This course will explore how Cusk’s recent trilogy—Outline, Transit, Kudos—relates her narrator’s discovery of a new position from which to pursue her life in the aftermath of personal turmoil. We will consider the following questions, among others: What can we discover about how to live by listening instead of talking? Might it be that we only undergo personal change indirectly, by way of a detour through our encounters with others? How can we distinguish between an attentiveness to others that is masochistically submissive and one that freely and assertively evaluates that which it observes? Does ethical discernment at times entail a dimension of power, even violence, insofar as one might notice what others don't want you to see?

Books to Purchase

    • The Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk, Harper Collins 2019 (ISBN 9781443458313)

Please note that this course has a maximum enrollment of 14 students.

Priority is given to students who pay upon registration.

For fully registered courses, a waiting list will be created. Should vacancies develop, those on the waiting list will be contacted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please note that we do not allow participants to audit courses for free.

Course Details

First Session: Monday 21 September 2020

Course Length: 12 weeks, Mondays, 6:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.

Discussion Team: Imogen Brian, David Dussault, Daniel Schouela

Degree Credit: Yes

Course Fees: 

$150.00 (standard tuition)
$100.00 (promotion for new students)

Administrative Fee:



$185.00 (standard tuition)
$135.00 (promotion for new students)

Course fees are refundable in full before the second session. After the second session, a fee of $50 for the withdrawal will be applied. Refunds will not be issued after the third session. Please note that non-attendance does not constitute a withdrawal.

Degree students, course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers should not register online. 

Degree students must schedule an appointment with the Admissions and Accreditation Committee to register for courses at

Course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers from cancelled Spring 2020 courses, should call (514) 935-9585 to pay by phone or to schedule an appointment to pay in person.

If you are a RETURNING student

If you are NEW to TMI