2018 Edited Collection

"The Trail was Lost in a Gully," by E. M. Ashe, in Seton-Thompson, 104.

A Woman Tenderfoot by Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

In 1900, young American suffragist Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson published her first book, an account of her extended 1897 camping trip in western regions of the United States and Canada. This chapter contextualizes A Woman Tenderfoot within Canadian literature and within the genre of travel writing that was so popular at the time. It then suggests several theoretical approaches for reading A Woman Tenderfoot more closely.

Slogans for the 21st Century by Douglas Coupland.Photograph by Lena Vasilkuva / transmediale, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, via Flickr.

Douglas Coupland’s Generation A: Storytelling in a Digital Age

Douglas Coupland’s 2009 novel Generation A exposes and probes core cultural anxieties related to isolation, mass commercialism, and environmental destruction—threats that feel imminent in our current digital world. As you study Generation A, look beyond this surface to consider how the thriller narrative is linked to the novel’s larger concern with storytelling. Because, ultimately, the novel is a story about storytelling, structured as five interconnected narratives, each with embedded “campfire” stories the characters tell each other. In the end, the characters’ sharing of stories is integral to the novel’s outcome.

Herb Wyile's article in issue 161/162 of Canadian Literature. Canadian Literature.

Discovering Implicit Motivations in Canadian Literature Scholarship

When your instructors guide class discussion toward particular topics, or set assignment questions that encourage you to think about particular issues, they are implicitly teaching you what is of current interest in this field. As they guide your reading and thinking, they are inviting you to join the scholarly community in its ongoing conversation about pressing topics in Canadian literature studies. This chapter similarly invites you to further understand and participate in this scholarly community by highlighting some of the most frequently recurring and characteristic motivations that inspire professional scholars to make their arguments in this field. It explores how these motivations shape the development of articles in the field. And it will invite you to consider adopting these motivations in your own essays, or to see how you may have already started adopting them—perhaps even without realizing it.

Alice Munro as Western University’s Writer in Residence in 1974. As a student at Western, Munro published her first stories in Folio, the school’s undergraduate English journal, in 1950 and 1951. Comms staff [Western University], CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr.

An Introduction to the Short Story in Canada: Reading Alice Munro’s Who Do You Think You Are?

This chapter introduces the short story as a literary genre, and discusses the short story cycle as a particularly important genre in Canada. It offers some suggestions for analyzing short stories from print culture and feminist perspectives, and it turns to Alice Munro’s 1978 short story cycle Who Do You Think You Are? as a case study in putting these perspectives to work.

A word cloud ("Wordle") of the words used within this chapter. Lucia Lorenzi, 2018.

Literary Censorship and Controversy in Canada

This chapter introduces you to literary censorship in Canada, looking both at positions taken by Canadian scholars on the practice of censorship and its effects, as well as at specific examples. We will analyze controversies around three texts to better see how the censorship of Canadian literature works in practice: Timothy Findley’s The Wars (1977) and Beatrice Culleton Mosionier’s In Search of April Raintree (1983) provide examples of censorship where the authors themselves were involved in contesting or responding directly to critics in their texts; Raziel Reid’s When Everything Feels Like the Movies (2014) provides an example of a contemporary attempt to strip a novel of its literary award on the basis of its allegedly controversial content.

The city of Nogales is divided in two by the Mexico-US border. This photograph shows the Mexican side, commemorating those who have died trying to cross into the United States.  Jonathan McIntosh, “Wall of Crosses in Nogales,” 2009. CC BY 2.0, via Flickr.

Canadian Literature and the Canada-US Border

This chapter introduces Canadian literature’s relationship to the field of Canada-US Border Studies. In what we might call Canadian “border texts,” the border features prominently, if variably. The Canadian nation is a contested space, a site of struggle over political and cultural values between groups with diverging interests. Canadian border texts reveal the border as a site of struggle, too, figuring differently from different people’s perspectives. In analyzing these literary texts, we see that at times—for some people—the border appears porous and permeable, and at other times—for other people—impenetrable.

Historic Joy Kogawa House in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, BC. Raymond Kam, 2017.

Joy Kogawa’s Obasan

Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan (1981) is a powerful narrative about a woman’s attempt to understand her familial past and the historical and cultural legacies she has inherited as a Japanese Canadian. Decades after its first publication, Obasan still captures the attention of many readers and is widely taught in schools, colleges, and universities in Canada. The novel has also received a great deal of critical attention—there are a number of book chapters and articles on Obasan. This chapter serves as an introduction to the novel and some of the scholarly conversations that surround it. In particular, it explores the important and interrelated themes of silence and speech, and memory and history; and it suggests some strategies for close-reading the novel.

Dionne Brand at the panel "The Political Poem," organized by Fred Wah. Pearl Pirie, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr.

Dionne Brand: No Language is Neutral

Dionne Brand’s No Language Is Neutral (1990) is a set of poems that can be understood as a meditation on migration. The book addresses the theme of movement from one location to another as it describes a journey from the Caribbean to Canada. In doing so, it outlines (and asks questions about) a conception of identity that is influenced by movement, dislocation, and variability. The following sections of this chapter summarize some scholarly debates that have taken place around No Language Is Neutral and outline some strategies for interpreting how Brand treats the experience of migration and related topics.

Croc Magazine (1979-1995) published many Quebecois cartoonists during its run. Public Domain, via Wikimedia.

Comics and Canadian Literature

Some of the most significant names in Canadian literature—people like author Margaret Atwood and poet bpNichol—have throughout their careers played with comics as part of their larger body of work. Literary scholars have often paid attention when “serious” writers engage in comics, such as Carl Peters in his collection bpNichol Comics, or Reingard M. Nischik’s attention to Atwood’s comics in her Engendering Genre. But how do we analyze comics produced in Canada by comics creators? We now see comics appearing more frequently in college and university courses, including in Canadian literature classes. Yet the history, scholarship, and language of literary study do not always neatly transpose onto the world of comics. This chapter is designed to introduce new comics readers to the history of creating and evaluating comics in Canada and to the practice of reading them as scholars.

Canadian Mosaic Wall. Tim Van Horn, 2013, via Wikimedia.

Official Multiculturalism’s Funding of Canadian Literature: The Writing and Publications Program

In this chapter, we will explore how “official multiculturalism”—that is, multiculturalism as a federal government policy in Canada—has influenced the writing and publishing of Canadian literature. While you have likely already thought about multiculturalism as part of the social context within which Canadian literature circulates, or about which Canadian authors write, official multiculturalism has also supported the production of Canadian literature itself. This chapter will introduce you to the history of the Writing and Publications Program (WPP), through which Canada’s federal multiculturalism directorate provided funding for literature from the 1970s-1990s.