When Words Deny the World: The Reshaping of Canadian Writing

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The Porcupine's Quill, 2002 - Literary Criticism - 211 pages
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When Words Deny the World is a compelling report from the front lines of Canadian writing. Engagingly written but highly controversial, Words joyfully slaughters the reputations of Timothy Findley, Barbara Gowdy, Anne Michaels, Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, the Giller Prize, and the Globe and Mail bestseller list.

In a series of maverick essays, fiction writer and literary journalist Stephen Henighan takes on the decade of the 1990s, when Canadian writing became, before all else, a commercial enterprise. Where most commentators have disregarded the impact of globalization on the way Canadians write and publish, Henighan makes this his central concern.

Examining both Canadian fiction and Canada's changing literary institutions, Henighan explores subjects ranging from best-seller lists to the Giller Prize, from `voice appropriation' to Toronto-centrism, from Americanization to the literary languages of the Americas. He examines the disintegration of the traditional Canadian linked short-story collection and probes whether Canadian writers abroad can be considered `post-colonial'. Analysing novels such as Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, Anne Michaels's Fugitive Pieces and Carol Shields's The Stone Diaries as expressions of a free trade culture, he reaches conclusions that are original, irreverent and devastating.

 

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Contents

One Writer Reads
9
Josef Skvorecky and Canadian Cultural Cringe
19
The Problem of the Novel
31
Layton and the Feminist
41
An Open Letter
59
A Language for the Americas
71
Linking Short Stories in an Age of Fragmentation
109
Literary Institutions from CanLit to TorLit
157
The Reshaping of the Canadian Novel
179
Acknowledgements
213
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About the author (2002)

Stephen Henighan is the author of four books of fiction, including the novel The Places Where Names Vanish (Thistledown 1998) and the short story collection North of Tourism (Cormorant 1999), which was selected as a `What's New What's Hot' title by chapters.indigo.ca. His short fiction has been published in more than thirty journals and anthologies in Canada, Great Britain and the United States, and has been taught in university courses in Canada, the U.S. and France.Heni

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