History & Culture

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.

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.

The MV Empire Windrush. Photograph by Royal Navy official photographer [Public domain]. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Diaspora Studies and Canadian Literature

When traced to its Greek roots, the term “diaspora” means to scatter about, to disperse. Imagine dandelion seeds on the wind: this image is often used to introduce students to the concept of diaspora. Indeed, dandelion seeds are a common symbol for departments, journals (including Canadian Literature), book series, and conferences that specialize in or incorporate diaspora studies. Analyzing the image of dandelion seeds on the wind is a good way to begin thinking about the complexities and nuances that inform readings of diasporic literature.

“Unidentified Black family portrait.” Tintype, Alvin D. McCurdy fonds. Archives of Ontario F 2076-16-4-8 (I0024785).

Indigenous and Diasporic Intersections in Canadian Literature

Indigenous and diasporic texts are often taught in the same Canadian literature classes and have shared concerns with race, displacement, identity, and community. That said, literary scholars rarely place these literatures in dialogue with one another. This chapter offers guidance for those trying to see, discuss, and research the connections between these two bodies of literature.

Front page of The Globe, December 2, 1845.  via Wikipedia .

The Periodical Press: Newspapers, Magazines, and Literary Culture in Early Canada

The book tends to get a great deal of focus in contemporary Canadian literary culture: literary awards, national reading programs such as Canada Reads, university courses, even, tend to place the book at the centre. And yet, in the nineteenth century, it was the periodical press—magazines and newspapers—that drove Canada’s cultural life. This chapter, using the writing career of Isabella Valancy Crawford as a case study, explores the importance to readers and writers alike of periodical publishing in early Canada, and the profound role it played in shaping a national literary culture at that time.

Montreal nightlife. Favourite roadhouse for men-about-town clientele is Ruby Foo's, which specializes in Chinese food, 1951. Reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada (Weekend Magazine collection/e005477035)

What is “Restaurant Literature”? Depictions of Chinese Restaurants in Canadian Literature

This chapter identifies a growing body of Canadian literary works depicting Chinese restaurants as sites and sources of narrative, and seeks to answer a series of questions. What are the characteristics of the genre of restaurant literature? What are the key texts—those responsible for shaping, reshaping, and innovating this genre? What historical contexts have influenced this genre’s development? This chapter looks closely at a representative selection of restaurant literature in order to explore ways in which authors have written Chinese restaurants into the literary landscape, and to understand storytelling’s ability to introduce readers to new characters, cultures, and perspectives over time.

Indigenous Literary History (1960s-1990)

Indigenous Literary History (1960s-1990)

Several important political developments in the 1960s helped strengthen Indigenous nationalism in Canada. Until the 1960s, Status Indians—peoples legally recognized by the Indian Act—lacked many rights enjoyed by Canadian citizens, as the Indian Act categorized them as wards of the state.

Nationalism and Literature: Cross-Genre Connections

Nationalism and Literature: Cross-Genre Connections

In this critical writing assignment, compare and contrast one book and at least one (or even a few) of the following poems (or select from others found in this unit).