A History of Canadian Literature

Article excerpt

W.H. New, A History of Canadian Literature, 2nd edn (Montreal and Kingston; London; Ithaca: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003), xiv + 464 pp. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 0-7735-2597-1.

To the reader in search of well-informed criticism and original interpretations, W.H. New's name has long been a trademark; providing ample impulse for fellow-scholars, works like Articulating West: Essays on Purpose and Form in Modern Canadian Literature (1972) and Land Sliding. Imagining Space, Presence, and Power in Canadian Writing (1997) quickly became part of the critical canon. Similarly, the first edition of New's A History of Canadian Literature (1989) was immediately welcomed as a fresh approach to the multiple branchings of the various literatures and their genres in Canada. Beginning with Inuit and Indian myths, the book then fans out to trace the literary developments embedded in both the main currents and the minor meanderings of historical, political, and social contexts. Now, the second edition not only offers all the strengths of the first, but adds a completely new chapter covering the years 1987-2002 and titled 'Reconstructors: literature into the twenty-first century'. New comments in his preface 'that the process of cultural change has continued in Canada . . .. Political events have reshaped Canadians' sense of themselves, critical fashions have altered, reassessing reputations, reconstructing canons, and reacting to modified social priorities and preoccupations' (p. …