The Manifesto

This blog’s hope and purpose is to establish a meeting place for Canadian literature’s amateur enthusiasts.  We use the word “amateur” in its original sense of “one who loves,”  independent of  considerations of fame or fortune.

We believe that there is a hunger for thoughtful exploration of our literature and that many readers want to explore its implications deeply, clearly and honestly, if only they could find a forum in which to do so.

We believe that out of such an exploration, a significant body of knowledge can be built.

We are despondent over the current sad (perhaps even moribund) state of the popular conversation on  Canadian literature but reject the notion that this is a result of reader’s disinterest in “depth.”

We reject the idea that academia owns the Can Lit territory and that an inability to pronounce the latest academic shibboleths  disqualifies  an  interested reader’s thoughts.

We embrace academic ideals of clarity, accuracy and the need to develop ideas in the crucible of mutual criticism.

We acknowledge that complex ideas are more fun when they are artfully and entertainingly presented, and we believe there’s nothing wrong with fun.

as an alternative to endless irritable pontificating, and in the spirit of early childhood cottage round-table discussions [see First Things] we propose the creation of a lively forum for original ideas about Canadian literature, artfully and entertainingly presented, where the strength of the idea, regardless of the age, sex, formal education, or social class of its creator, is the only thing that counts, and as a result, hope to have done one small thing in support of Canadian literature and Canadian writers.

4 Responses to The Manifesto

  1. CLP says:

    I stumbled across your blog last night as I google-searched for CanLit related articles, discussions, etc. I’m so pleased I found you. I’ve only recently realized my obsession with Canadian Literature — I can only hope to write/speak about the CanLit I read with as much confidence, fearlessness of getting into the nitty gritty, and breadth of knowledge as you do. Thanks for your great work!

    • Thank you for your enthusiasm! I’ve checked out your blog and enjoyed your writing. I sense a kindred spirit! Looking forward to reading your future posts.


  2. Helen says:

    I just resently found this blog and I am overwhelmed by the huge amount of reviews and great articles concerning the development (or stagnation) of Canadian literature.
    Actually I am from Germany, which means I have no direct contact Canlit (if I am not able to import it). However I have read quite a few canadian books and pieces of poetry.
    Some of your articles mention that canadian literature is changing during the last years struggeling to keep the assence of its identity. What I wanted to ask is: What does realy define Canadian literature? What sets it appart from all other national literatures?
    I suppose this is a stupid question, but it really interessts me, for I have been looking on national literatures for quite a while now and somehow Canada always seems to be an exception when it comes to terms of defining a national literature.
    I hope you won´t laugh at me and I hope you forgive my terrible writting and my lack of eloquence.
    Yours faithfully

    • Helen: Thank you very much for your thoughtful question. The difficulty in answering results from the fact that there may be no definite answer at this time. We Canadians are still struggling with (and arguing about) our national identity (and, of course, it evolves even while we are arguing) and it seems to me that we will really have to get that sorted out before we can begin to understand our literary identity. There have been some earlier attempts to answer the question of what distinguishes Canadian literature from that of other countries — notably Margaret Atwood’s Survival — in a very small nutshell, she suggested that much of our writing was a response to the overwhelming immensity of nature (as experienced from the perspective of early European settlers) that it was preoccupied (as were the settlers) with survival and that it reflected a sense of victimhood.
      Of course, Atwood’s book is now 40 years old, and there is certainly room for new ideas about our more recent fiction. For some reason, this does not seem to have been a topic that has received much attention from our academics, or, if it has, news of it hasn’t reached the public. This was another idea I am trying to get across — the need for our academics to re-connect with the general reading public and share their ideas about our literature with us. I think people ARE interested in it, but much of the academic writing has become quite unreadable — it needs to be translated so that we can all consider the ideas.
      If you wanted to pursue the question further, besides Atwood, you could look into some of Northrop Frye’s ideas about Canadian writers, and I could also recommend an interesting book by Noah Richler (son of Mordecai!) called This Is My Country, What’s Yours?

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