Proposal Title

SESSION 1.3: Assent and Dissent in the Canadian West: The Problems of Literary History in BC

Presentation Type

Individual paper

Location

IB 1015

Start Date

2-5-2019 3:30 PM

End Date

2-5-2019 5:00 PM

Disciplines

Canadian History | Literature in English, North America

Abstract

Regionalism has been a shaping force in Canadian literary studies for as long as that field has existed, and writers from western Canada have long asserted the distinctiveness of their traditions and themes. As the study of Canadian literature shifts away from an emphasis on the nation itself—a decades-long process that has assumed particular urgency in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report (2015)—the matter of writing literary history has become acutely difficult, and regionalism has largely been relegated to an earlier phase of Canadian literary historiography. In this paper, I will propose the continuing relevance of regional approaches. In particular, I will analyze various attempts by non-Indigenous authors in British Columbia to understand their place in the territories of Indigenous peoples, and to imagine alternatives to the paternalism of the Canadian state. My aim is not to disentangle Canadian literature from Canada itself, nor to provide a sanguine view of the past, but rather to illuminate currents of resistance to national narratives of peace, order, and good government. I will concentrate on the example of Al Purdy, a poet with an affinity for western Canada. Despite his profound connections to Ontario, his literary career began in BC. He made important friendships in Vancouver in the 1940s and 1950s, and his extensive western travels, especially in the northern province, shaped his imagination. By examining Purdy’s case, I seek to shed light on the cultural ironies and paradoxes of what has been and what remains, in J. Edward Chamberlin’s phrase, “a civil and uncivil society.”

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May 2nd, 3:30 PM May 2nd, 5:00 PM

SESSION 1.3: Assent and Dissent in the Canadian West: The Problems of Literary History in BC

IB 1015

Regionalism has been a shaping force in Canadian literary studies for as long as that field has existed, and writers from western Canada have long asserted the distinctiveness of their traditions and themes. As the study of Canadian literature shifts away from an emphasis on the nation itself—a decades-long process that has assumed particular urgency in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report (2015)—the matter of writing literary history has become acutely difficult, and regionalism has largely been relegated to an earlier phase of Canadian literary historiography. In this paper, I will propose the continuing relevance of regional approaches. In particular, I will analyze various attempts by non-Indigenous authors in British Columbia to understand their place in the territories of Indigenous peoples, and to imagine alternatives to the paternalism of the Canadian state. My aim is not to disentangle Canadian literature from Canada itself, nor to provide a sanguine view of the past, but rather to illuminate currents of resistance to national narratives of peace, order, and good government. I will concentrate on the example of Al Purdy, a poet with an affinity for western Canada. Despite his profound connections to Ontario, his literary career began in BC. He made important friendships in Vancouver in the 1940s and 1950s, and his extensive western travels, especially in the northern province, shaped his imagination. By examining Purdy’s case, I seek to shed light on the cultural ironies and paradoxes of what has been and what remains, in J. Edward Chamberlin’s phrase, “a civil and uncivil society.”