Professor Donna Pennee
Winter Half Course.
A possible explanation for the “presentism” of so much Canadian literary scholarship and literary knowledge is the sheer volume of what you need to know to understand the literature of Canada produced prior to the twentieth century. Putting a spin on Northrop Frye’s remark that “It is much easier to see what literature is trying to do when we are studying a literature that has not quite done it” (Conclusion to a Literary History of Canada), this course will study the cross-currents in political, economic, scientific, and literary-aesthetic discourses at a time when the building of “Canada” as a colony-dominion-nation was in process. This process was a matter not only of importing people to populate the land, but also of importing ideas that circulated in periodical and other forms of print culture in Britain and the US, and that were re-produced, re-tooled, and debated in the growth of Canadian print culture alongside the building of the nation.
Using Western Libraries’ archival holdings and extensive access to pre-twentieth-century print culture, we will conduct this course as a research seminar in the relations between this “public sphere” and literary production in nineteenth-century Canada, re-constituting an understanding of the formation of English Canada and English-Canadian Literature through an appreciation of the cross-currents of thought “between Britain and America.” (Think of the course as an opportunity to conduct research and writing towards a critical edition of selected nineteenth-century literature in English in Canada.)