Thursday, September 30, 2004

canlit canlit canlit


So Amazon.ca produces three pretty interesting lists: 50 Essential Canadian Reads, the Honourable Mentions list, and even the stuff that [amazon] wishes was back in print.

Tinka's been blogging about Danish canon formation as of late, which has kept the idea of Canadian canon formation tumbling through my mind. For my research/theory course, I have to present a "research problem" and provide a concise, introductory discussion for it as well as an extended bibliography of what's been written about the subject, and I'm really starting to think that Canadian canon formation may be the way to go. (Second choice will be attempting to throw my hat into the "Is Canada Postcolonial?" ring.) The lists that I've linked to above are only the beginning of why I want to write about canon; and it would likely touch a great deal on cultural politics.

The top 50 list above isn't a great example, though--it lists dictionaries, and other "non-literary" books...so it isn't quite canon-oriented, though it tries. It also chooses some phenomenally poor works--Brian Moore's Blackrobe, for example, is poorly written, and hardly essential reading. (Anyone connected with THSWSNBN knows of the other reasons why I hate this book so much--but one can hate books and still believe in reading them...)

Canada's colonial, postcolonial, and neocolonial nature also auger some interesting concerns when it comes to canon formation. If you assume that Canada has an existing canon, it can reasonably be assumed to be a Eurocentric canon...which means, of course, we should be looking at canonical re-formation.

This week's theory class deals with the peformance of racial identity, and in order to tie it in with my discussion of Canada and canon formation, I give you The E. Pauline Johnson Archive, Representative Poetry Online's Emily Pauline Johnson page, and her Gallery of Poets page.

Johnson, also known as Tekahionwake, was a very famous woman in the late 19th/early 20th centuries for her performances of poetry. She would often dress in full "Indian" costume (including a scalp attached to her waist, and a skirt "with silver ornaments, hammered from coins by the native silversmiths of her tribe, four of them being made from brooches plundered at the extermination of the Huron tribe and the twenty Jesuit fathers, under whose influence they had come") before changing into the proper clothing of a Victorian lady for the second half of her performance.

More meanderings on this subject once I've actually read the articles in question.

5 comments:

:: Tinka said...

Canon formation is soo interesting. Glad you're enjoying my post - I have an idea about paratextuality, publishing and canon-formation tat I'll mention when I can think coherently once more (it's been a rough day).

I might be very weird, but I've never looked at Canadian lit as patricularly North american - it has more in common with Brit Lit than with the ongoings of US lit -- but then again I don't know much about Canadian lit and it's just my uninformed impression..

fineskylark said...

I tend to associate it with BritLit, too, but that certainly has a lot to do with my biases, particularly having a strong grounding in BritLit and grounding whatsoever in American.

Of course, I think that's logical, given our colonial ties to the British Empire; BritLit is very foundational in that aspect, to a Canadian writer--an inescapable literary colonial destiny, perhaps?

If I want to argue that, however, what do I do about French-Canadian literature?

You're right. This is so interesting.

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