Editing Modernism in Canada


Author Archive

June 7, 2014

What Does Collaboration Mean?

This week I attended the CWRCShop course, “Online Collaborative Scholarship: Principles and Practices,” taught (collaboratively!) by Susan Brown with Mihaela Ilovan, Karyn Huenemann, and Michael Brundin of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory. Not only has the course further familiarized me with the various tools that CWRC (cwrc.ca) offers, but it’s also given me the opportunity to think deeply about what it means to work collaboratively. I’ve also been working collaboratively this past week: Kaarina Mikalson and Kevin Levangie, two scholars affiliated with “Canada and the Spanish Civil War: A Virtual Research Environment” (a project I co-direct with Bart Vautour), enrolled in the class too.

Clearly, collaboration is important to my work, and to so much of the work that those of us affiliated with EMiC and CWRC do. And yet, throughout our course discussions and demos—from credit visualization to CWRCWriter, from project structures to data curation, and much more—it has continually struck me how important it is to consider the affective side of collaboration. As Susan suggested at one point, to help collaborators work together (in person and at a distance), it’s integral to also spend time together socially. And it’s been awesome for me to get to SCW-nerd out with Kaarina and Kevin, from debating our favourite literary representations of Norman Bethune to giving a choral response to the question of when Canadians began to hold Canadian citizenship (say it with me—1947).

I want to end, then, by echoing Emily Ballantyne’s “Saying Goodbye” blog post (below), with gratitude for the ways in which EMiC and DHSI give us “a very clear and concrete understanding that my work does not exist in a vacuum, that my work is part of a larger whole that has an invested audience and means something to someone outside of my institution and outside of my own head.” I want to end, too, by throwing these questions out to the EMiC community: as we go forward, what does collaboration mean to you? How do you sustain your collaborative mojo when your collaborators are (sigh) far away? And what, to you, is the value of collaboration?

April 10, 2012

Hugh Garner for whom?

As my Hugh Garner edition moves along, I’ve been thinking a lot of late about audience. Specifically, what audience(s) am I hoping to garner with this collection of stories? (I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.) Since I’m at an American university, working with Americans on the edition, this question comes up a lot. My amazing intern Kelsie, who has eyes like a hawk, has helpfully noted each time a story uses a specifically American or Canadian spelling, and we’ve talked a lot about how the distinctly Canadian parts of the stories sound to her New Jerseyian ear, and what we might need to explicate to make the text more accessible to an American college student.

The question of audience also came up at a recent conference I attended in the southern US. I was on a panel with a professor who also works on CanLit. Her paper was fantastic, mapping contemporary Black Canadian literature, and she fielded a lot of questions from a clearly really interested audience, who were clearly mostly unfamiliar with the Canadian canon. After the panel, we chatted a bit about access to texts, and how it would change our teaching—both of us work in American schools, and we’ve both taught Canadian lit to our undergraduates, but always with difficulties in getting the right books.

So, between the collection, the conference, and the future project planning, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about who we’re doing this editorial work for—who our imagined audiences are—and I’m interested in how y’all are navigating these questions. Do different parts of your editions correspond to different intended audiences?

June 2, 2011

Hugh Garner

I really appreciated having the opportunity to discuss my editorial work during the EMiC roundtable last week–and especially all the helpful feedback both from those who attended, and fellow roundtable participants. Here’s a short run-down of what I discussed, for those who couldn’t be there.

With Jonathan Eburne, I’m currently working on a critical edition of the Toronto author Hugh Garner’s short stories. A few elements originally drew us to this project: first of all, the stories themselves, which cover a huge range of topics and experiences, united by Garner’s sensitivity to the plight of the underdog. We were also interested in the timeline of Garner’s short fiction, from his earliest writings in the late 1930s into the 1960s and 1970s (he died in 1979), especially as he seems to have edited and revised earlier published works throughout his career. Finally, the diverse publication histories of the stories is particularly fascinating to our research. Garner’s stories have been published in magazines and journals, broadcast as radio plays, performed as plays, and reprinted and translated in anthologies around the world. In our edition we want, as best we can, to reflect the varied media in which many of his stories have appeared.

The reason behind the wide-ranging publication history of his stories is that Garner was a shrewd businessman, who saw writing first and foremost as a job. He brags in his autobiography, One Damn Thing After Another, about trying to publish each story in as many formats as he could so as to make the most money from each one. Many of the writings that he claims to have done strictly for the money are also among his most famous, including “A Trip for Mrs. Taylor,” a story which went on to be repeatedly broadcast over the CBC, anthologized across Canada and the United States, published in Braille, and turned into a play–Garner claims it was published at least 36 times.

Garner’s outspoken position that writing was, for him, a job—a craft, not a higher calling—has made it easy for some to discount his work as proletarian, sentimental, lowbrow, whatever (and depending on the story, I wouldn’t always disagree!). I would argue, though, that this position was a carefully crafted public persona–and an important one to consider. Garner often emphasized not only how quickly he wrote, but also how proud he was of his working class roots. He frequently commented that he was perhaps the only Canadian author to set his stories in factories. In one instance he explains, “Some time ago an actor who has read many of my short stories on CBC radio wondered aloud to someone how Garner knew so much about gauges, calipers and parts-inspection procedures in a story about a farm implement factory, called ‘E Equals MC Squared.’ There’s no secret about it; I worked once as an inspector in the punch-press department of the Massey-Harris company. I’ve also been asked where I learned about ‘priming’ tobacco leaves, working in a carnival, crossing the ice of a Quebec river, life on a wartime Canadian corvette, selling products door-to-door, or whatever. My answer has been, ‘By doing these things,’ and sometimes adding, ‘from sheer necessity’.”

I’ve loved Garner’s writings ever since Dean first introduced me to Cabbagetown in an undergraduate Canadian modernism class at Dalhousie, and I’m really enjoying this opportunity to do more research on his work.