Editing Modernism in Canada


April 22, 2011

A Winter 2011 Experience: Uncovering, Recovering, and Discovering


Twenty-two years of living as a Canadian coupled with twelve years of public school education, including a mandatory Canadian History class, gave me little impression of the violence and turmoil that has played a part in shaping our country. It wasn’t until near the fourth year of my post-secondary degree that I began to read, write, or speak about it, and only recently that several specific events detailed in Right Hand Left Hand made their incidence clear to me. I’ve already been unpleasantly surprised several times by what I’ve come across in the past few months: accounts of anti-Semitism, artistic censorship, tear gassing, the murder of unemployed and evicted Canadians, to start. Though these events are certainly awful, it’s more so the realization that I’ve never heard of them before that disturbs me; Livesay’s documentary narrative has contributed to my continual understanding of Canadian history in a voice I can trust and connect with.


Reading, researching, free writing, revising, and citing—creating a unified whole out of little pieces—is something I have done time and time again. And now, reverse it; rather than weaving research, class notes and ideas into something consistent,  instead I begin with a cohesive entity and take it apart. Though books are presented as stable and authoritative by virtue of their materiality and publication, my task with Right Hand Left Hand is to document discrete elements and trace them, like taking a puzzle apart and trying to find the original tree each piece was carved from. For me, this both underscores the importance of citation and solidifies the importance of questioning every text; where it come from, how it was put together, presented, why, and by whom. As I go on to fill out MLA citations for each recorded element, I hope to work through these and gain a different appreciation for the construction of the novel.


My main objective during our new bi-weekly EMiC meetings was, at first, to memorize the phrases I heard most frequently and look them up when I got home. But once in the habit of attending, I actually found the meetings very useful. Being informed about individual initiatives or developments allows me a greater understanding of the project as a whole, and observing the day-to-day workings of the project makes for natural integration into the way I go about my own work (for example, planning to digitize Dalhousie’s undergraduate English and Creative Writing journals to make them available on the department website). I anticipate that DHSI this summer, specifically a course in TEI, will also bring further opportunity for discovery and the broadening of my digital humanist horizons.


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