Editing Modernism in Canada


December 7, 2011

Spectres of Modernism

[Excerpt of editorial cross-posted from Canadian Literature.]

Canadian Literature’s winter 1995 Marx and Other Dialectics issue watched over the changing of disciplinary and literary old guards—or, if you will, an old left guard. This was the same number that announced the establishment of the journal’s home page (canlit.ca) and the creation of the Canadian Literature Discussion Group listserv (CANLIT-L) hosted by the National Library. It was “an hour / Of new beginnings,” as F.R. Scott said in his 1934 poem “Overture.” That same year observed the deaths of Earle Birney and George Woodcock. Dorothy Livesay passed away the year following. These deaths signaled the passing of a generation that put into practice the dialectics of modernism and political radicalism. With the appearance of an issue devoted to Marxism and Canadian literature, it may have seemed at the hour of their death that their generation’s literary and political legacies had for the moment been granted reprieves and survived the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of European communism.

[Click here to read the rest of the editorial at canlit.ca]


One Response to “Spectres of Modernism”

  1. Anouk says:

    I’m still waiting, with considerable impatience, for my copy of this issue of Can Lit to make it across the Atlantic (or for the digital copy to appear in Literature Online). But while I wait, I want to say how happy I am that Can Lit was open to including comparative work in this issue. I feel like there’s a great deal of scope for comparative research to provide new answers to the “whither modernism?” question that Dean poses, in casting light on intriguing connections and disparities that help us to see each context afresh, and I tried to make this case in my article using the example of nationalist discourse and the way it functioned differently in Australia and Canada. And this is just one example: there are so many things about modernism in its Canadian instantiations that would never have occurred to me had I not had Australia as a comparator, and vice versa. It feels like we are at crucial moment for geomodernist studies, as digital editions such as EMiC’s mean that there are now so many more possibilities for Australian researchers to get to know Canadian primary texts, New Zealand scholars to acquaint themselves with Indian texts, Caribbean modernists to discover African materials, and so on, into an impossibly utopian digital future where we all have access to all the non-canonical texts we could possibly desire, and have painlessly acquired all the necessary cultural, linguistic and historical background to understand them … But, setting such prosaic concerns aside for the moment: thank you, both to Dean as guest editor, and Margery Fee as the journal editor, for bringing this special issue together.

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