Canada Literature in English

By | December 25, 2021

Anglo-Canadian literature gave its first vital manifestations in travel books (Account of a journey from… the Hudson Bay to the Northwest, 1795, by S. Hearne ; Travels through Canada, 1807, by G. Heriot) and historical studies (Account of Nova Scotia, 1829, by TC Haliburton; History of Canada, 1887-98, by W. Kingsford). The poem was originally lyrical in character with IV Crawford, A. Lampman, WH Drummond. Narrative prose, not very widespread, is represented above all by Wacousta(1823), a historical picaresque novel by J. Richardson. TC Haliburton (The clockmaker, or the sayings and doings of Sam Slick of Slickville, 1837), whose Dickensian comic character Sam Slick crossed national borders. J. de Mille was the most widely read of the romantic writers of his time.

The end of the First World War marked a reaction to Victorianism, a new social awareness with the application of modern poetic techniques. An important anthology, New Provinces (1936), collected the poems of the new generation (FR Scott, L. Kennedy, AM Klein, AJM Smith, R. Finch and EJ Pratt, the dean of the group). For fiction, the humorist S. Leacock should be remembered above all; among others, FP Grove, M. Callaghan and M. de la Roche. For Canada 2004, please check

The post-World War II generation, open to a cosmopolitan experience of poetry and fiction, showed less interest in the creation of a national literature. In the lyric a symbolist current (A. Wilkinson, W. Watson, M. Avison, D. Le Pan, D. Hine) took place following the critical direction of N. Frye, the most authoritative Canadian critic, alongside a current anti-academic aimed at a more immediate rendering of reality (R. Souster, L. Dudek, I. Layton). Among the novelists are A. Klein (The second scroll, 1951), A. Wiseman (The sacrifice, 1956), S. Watson (The double hook, 1959), H. MacLennan (The watch that ends the night, 1959). In the 1960s, a new impulse to a national literary awareness arose from the Canadian Literature magazine, founded by the critic and narrator G. Woodcock and, around it, the number of storytellers grew. S. Ross, M. Richler, E. Buckler, WO Mitchell, R. Wiebe, M. Engel, R. Kroetsch and F. Mowat analyze different, sometimes regional, aspects of the Canadian reality. L. Cohen, narrator and poet, addresses the theme of the Indian past and the relationships between races, issues still present in the fiction and poetry of the last generations.

Since 1970 the debate on the cultural and literary identity of Canada has developed following, or vice versa fighting, the interpretative lines traced by Frye, for which the relationship with nature is central, uncontaminated space and mythical place of Arcadia. Already in 1972, in Survival: a thematic guide to Canadian literature, the writer M. Atwood overturned Frye’s pastoral perspective by recovering the notion of ” garrison mentality ” to interpret the reaction of those who, having to measure themselves with an environment alien, finds as the only possible condition that of the survivor (the colonizer) or the victim (the woman or the Indian).

In the poetic field, the same tension towards the achievement of a national literary conscience is manifested in the search for one’s roots (A. Purdy, CJ Newlove) with the rediscovery, also, of the oral heritage of the Indians promoted by S. Virgo, A. Suknaski, Canada Lillard. The poetry of the prairies by R. Kroetsch, G. Bowering, D. Zieroth is matched by the mythical reinterpretation of the landscape by D. Marlatt and S. Musgrave, while mythological-symbolic visions illuminate the work of E. Mandel, which, together to the most famous narrator M. Richler, he is among the leading exponents of the Jewish-Canadian minority. Other trends are E. Birney’s ‘archaic’ experimentalism, D. Livesay’s feminist poetry, B. Bissett’s visual poetry, bp Nichol’s breakdown of linguistic structures (pseud. by Barrie Phillip Nichol), R. Bringhurst’s philosophical-meditative poetry, with the deities of local mythology and the voices of the shamans alongside those of Western culture (the Bible, the schools of thought of ancient Greece) and Eastern culture (Islam, India). The dimension of multiculturalism is expressed thanks to the voices of the Indians B. Abel, G. Kenny and D. Redbird, the aforementioned Mandel, the Italian-Canadians PG Di Cicco and M. Di Michele, the Viet-Canadian T. Vuong-Riddick.

However, it is fiction that best expresses the new sense of collective identity, and often many writers, after starting out as poets, have dedicated themselves to prose. Numerous writers move around small avant-garde magazines: Bowering, which uses all the procedures of postmodern fiction, T. Findley, Kroetsch, who uses the symbolic potential of the myth, R. Wiebe, who saves stories from anonymity the Mennonite minority and Indians or mestizos; J. Hodgins, who opts instead for a comic register; M. Ondaatje, who in his characters recounts a condition of irreducible diversity. Of considerable interest and scope is the impulse given to fiction by the writers: the nineteenth-century tradition started by S. Moodie it continues and affirms itself with the works of M. Laurence, who then chooses fiction for children, M. Gallant, author above all of short stories, A. Munro, J. Kulick Keefer and many others. In the 1990s the literary climate recorded a notable change: the relationship between narrative and representation of reality increasingly openly reflects the existence of a collective imagination in which memories of different ethnicities, cultures and religions converge. Among the exponents of this multi-ethnic literature: the Indian B. Johnston, the inuit P. Markoosie, the Japanese-Canadian J. Kogawa, B. Mukherjee, originally from Bengal, and R. Mistry, who emigrated to Canada from his native Mumbai. And again: N. Ricci, of Italian origin; N. Bissoondath, from Trinidad.

The theatrical scene, dominated during the twentieth century by the personality of R. Davies, offers the radical collective experiments of ‘alternative theater’ throughout the 1970s, but is also dedicated to the recovery of a stage realism that is not present in Canadian theater. it was never imposed by the force of the European bourgeois theater. This is the case of the comic-grotesque production of E. Nicol, of the feminist dramaturgy of S. Pollock, M. Hollingsworth, Canada Bolt and E. Ritter, of the committed theater of D. French, D. Freeman and D. Fennario. The experiments of R. Salutin and those of programmatically homosexual theater, with M. Tremblay as his best exponent, were audacious, which became even more extreme during the 1980s and 1990s with the ‘alternative theater’ (fringe “margin”). The figure of R. Lepage stands out above all, Promethean author, actor and director of shows that have made him famous all over the world (The Andersen Project, 2005; The blue dragon, 2008).

Canada Literature in English