Canadian Literature in English, Volume 1

Front Cover
The Porcupine's Quill, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 220 pages

When Canadian Literature in English was first published by Longman in 1985 it was described (in the Modern Language Review) as `a standard reference work on the subject' and `the best critical account of its subject that we possess so far'. The book was released in London and New York, as such things were done at the time, but never distributed particularly well in Canada, where it faded, rapidly, from view.

W. J. Keith, writing in the Preface to the Revised Edition, admits his first inclination was to embark on a total rewrite of the Longman edition. On further consideration, however, Keith came to realize that the 1985 publication was completed at `the close of a major phase in the Canadian literary tradition' and that the `remarkable flowering that began to manifest itself in the middle of the twentieth century had run its course by the beginning of the new millennium.'

That being the case, Keith would argue that a `number of writers who had already achieved [ considerable stature further developed their reputations' (in the period 1985-2005) `but only a few extended them'. Keith is also quick to admit that he has chosen to ignore utterly the `popular' at the one extreme (Robert Service, Lucy Maud Montgomery) as well as the `avant-garde' (bpnichol, Anne Carson) at the other, in favour of those authors whose style lends itself to the simple pleasure of reading, and to that end he dedicates his history `to all those (including the general reading public whose endangered status is much lamented in the ``Polemical Conclusion'') who recognize and celebrate the dance of words.'


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References and Abbreviations
The Beginnings in Prose
The Beginnings in Poetry
The Beginnings in Fiction
The Challenge of Modernism
The Mythic Versus the Human
Plain Talk about Past and Present
A Note on the Contents of Volume

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About the author (2006)

W. J. Keith was born and raised in England. He came to Canada in 1958 where he taught at McMaster (1961-66), then at the University of Toronto (1966-95). Since 1995 he has held the position of Professor Emeritus of English at University College, University of Toronto.

W. J. Keith edited the University of Toronto Quarterly (1976-85), and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1979.

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