Editing Modernism in Canada


May 24, 2011

Turn the Page


As an MA student and research assistant fortunate enough to have received EMiC funding, I have been able to immerse myself in the extraordinary life writing of P.K. Page.  I worked with P.K. Page’s Mexican Journal for several years as a research assistant to Margaret Steffler at Trent University. My initial work with this material began during my undergraduate degree, and as the work intensified, I developed a genuine interest in both Page’s journal, and women’s life writing more generally. In this way, my work as a research assistant directly led to my own graduate work. Although my research assistantship has concluded, the experience and training remains a prominent feature of my academic career. To put it somewhat bluntly, receiving funding to work with a previously unpublished manuscript was like a dream come true. In my case, the impact of such an opportunity cannot be overstated, as it influenced many aspects of my academic and personal education. Most significantly, my MA thesis examines the journal Page kept while living in Mexico – the same journal that has been inspiring me for years, and represented my introduction to Page’s body of work. At times, I would find myself keeping two sets of notes, as I read through the manuscript with both thesis and footnoting in mind. This dual focus enriched my early reading, and certainly informs my current analysis of the journal.

A highlight for me was when I was able to visit the Library and Archives Canada to handle and read the original manuscript. Any kind of academic fatigue I had been experiencing as a hard-working student instantly vanished as I carefully examined Page’s own papers. I found myself incredibly moved as I made physical contact with the journal, rather than the word-processed reproduction I was familiar with. As I (oh so carefully!) turned the pages, I felt a real connection with the work, and the woman behind the journal. This experience, while having obvious implications for my work as a research assistant, also contributed to my thesis work, as I made connections and felt a new appreciation for the journal itself. So often, life writing is left to languish somewhere near the dusty bottom of the literary hierarchy, and bringing Page’s journal into the light (in this case, literally!) feels like a significant act. In a few short months, my formal work with P.K. Page’s Mexican journal will come to an end. However, as I am pursuing a career as a teacher of English Literature, I am confident that the knowledge and particular skills acquired with this project will remain relevant. I am looking forward to sharing my insights with future generations of students, while continuing to be a life-long student of Canadian literature.

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