Is Canada Postcolonial?
Unsettling Canadian Literature
Paper 328 pp.
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How can postcolonialism be applied to Canadian literature?
In all that has been written about postcolonialism, surprisingly little has specifically addressed the position of Canada, Canadian literature, or Canadian culture.
Postcolonialism is a theory that has gained credence throughout the world; it is be productive to ask if and how we, as Canadians, participate in postcolonial debates. It is also vital to examine the ways in which Canada and Canadian culture fit into global discussions as our culture reflects how we interact with our neighbours, allies, and adversaries.
This collection wrestles with the problems of situating Canadian literature in the ongoing debates about culture, identity, and globalization, and of applying the slippery term of postcolonialism to Canadian literature. The topics range in focus from discussions of specific literary works to general theoretical contemplations. The twenty-three articles in this collection grapple with the recurrent issues of postcolonialism — including hybridity, collaboration, marginality, power, resistance, and historical revisionism — from the vantage point of those working within Canada as writers and critics. While some seek to confirm the legitimacy of including Canadian literature in the discussions of postcolonialism, others challenge this very notion.
Laura Moss is a member of the English Department at the University of British Columbia, and is on the editorial boards of ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature and Studies in Canadian Literature. She edited Frances Brooke’s The History of Emily Montague, and her articles on international authors have appeared in journals and books.
“Laura Moss’s question, posed to twenty-two Canadian literature specialists, has elicited a fascinating range of responses....The sense of a conversation among the contributors is sustained by frequent cross-referencing among the essays....This is a timely, enjoyable and eminently readable book, which achieves range and diversity without sacrificing coherence.”
— Faye Hammill, British Journal of Canadian Studies
“This volume puts its finger on the pulse of the debate surrounding postcolonialism in Canada.”
— Sandra Hobbs, Wayne State University, American Review of Canadian Studies
“Reflects...[and] extends current academic research and practice.”
— Christl Verduyn, University of Toronto Quarterly—Letters in Canada 2003
“Laura Moss has planted a provocative, timely question and gleaned twenty-two well-ripened critical responses. That the answers aren’t ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but ‘it depends’ and ‘let’s keep debating it’ makes this gathering both quintessentially Canadian and paradigmatically postcolonial. Here is where we can begin reorienting CanLit criticism for this unsettling new century.”
— John Clement Ball, editor, Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne
“In this deliberately ‘unsettling’ collection, Laura Moss asks if Canada is postcolonial. If you’ve never asked the question yourself, these essays make it clear why it’s time you did. Not that the question has an easy answer — far from it. For this book does not leap to easy absolutes; it wrestles instead with process and the possibilities of engagement. The apparently simple question in the title leads to a score of fascinating and more complex questions, about politics and the Canadian state, ethnicity and marginality, literature and the limits of definition. If and What if: the riskiness of the uncertain. The essays here discuss critical theory and practice, for example, but also political imperatives and invitations, pedagogy and personal responsibility, art, artifacts, and the rhetoric of difference. Passionate, earnest, argumentative, intelligent, and above all engaged, these essays ask us to think about what we think we already know about art and life, and to think again.”
— William H. New, University Killam Professor in English Literature, University of British Columbia. His most recent books are Grandchild of Empire: About Irony, Mainly in the Commonwealth and the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada
“Is Canada Postcolonial? is a highly readable collection of critical responses to a provocative and timely question. The diverse answers, provided by some of Canada’s most eminent scholars, truly unsettle Canadian studies by examining the uses and abuses of currently popular postcolonial critical frameworks in the study of Canada and Canadian literatures.”
— Arun P. Mukherjee, associate professor of English, York University
“Is Canada Postcolonial? raises important and timely, if perhaps unanswerable questions, and offers a number of insightful tentative, non-definitive, and divergent-cum-contradictory answers. Indubitably both the wide-ranging textual analyses and the metacritical contributions open up new areas of thought, and anyone interested in the postcoloniality of Canada will find Moss’s book very useful.”
— Dunha M. Mohr, Zeitschrift fur Kanada-Studien
“At last is an extended debate on a crucial matter: the relationship between colonialism, postcoloniality, and national discourse. The sheer impossibility of answering the question posed in the title energises lively and informative discussion and debate, illuminating not only the subject of Canadian literatures but issues central to other fields. Twenty-three Canadian intellectuals consider Canada’s literary history, the current status of literary discourse, and its likely future. The richness of the coverage, together with the inescapable indeterminacy, is encouraging to those of us who continue to believe in a Canada politically, socially, and intellectually uncompromised.”
— Helen Tiffin, University of Queensland, Australia, co-author of The Empire Writes Back
“An important, thought-provoking collection, ably edited by Laura Moss.”
— Penny van Toorn, Canadian Literature
By the same editor
Leaving the Shade of the Middle Ground: The Poetry of F.R. Scott, F.R. Scott; Laura Moss, editor; afterword by George Elliott Clarke
Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture, Rowland Smith, editor
Counterrealism and Indo-Anglian Fiction, Chelva Kanaganayakam