History of Literature in Canada: English-Canadian and French-Canadian

By Pilon, Simone | British Journal of Canadian Studies, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

History of Literature in Canada: English-Canadian and French-Canadian


Pilon, Simone, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Reingard M. Nischik (ed.), History of Literature in Canada: English-Canadian and French-Canadian (New York and London: Camden House, 2008), 618pp. Cased. £50. ISBN 978-1-57113-359-5.

Dr Reingard Nischik, Professor of American Literature at the University of Constance, undertook an ambitious project with this broad literary history which, as she states in the introduction, starts 'with the indigenous population's oral tradition then turns to the development of French-Canadian and English-Canadian writing from colonial to contemporary times' (p. 3). While many publications have limited their studies to one linguistic or cultural group, Nischik chose to explore the writings of both French and English Canadians and to also pay 'special attention to aboriginal literature and to the pronounced transcultural, ethnically diverse character of much contemporary Canadian literature' (p. 3).

The volume is organised in chronological order and is separated into six larger sections, which are then divided into a total of 35 chapters. The work starts with aboriginal oral traditions, but the bulk of the material is post-1918, with ten chapters devoted to the modern period (1918-67) and another fifteen to literature since 1967. While the publication deals with both English- and French-Canadian literatures, they are covered as separate, albeit interrelated topics. The inclusion of short historical texts creates a bridge between time periods and allows the reader to quickly grasp the historical context in which the literature was produced.

Most of the six parts of the book are written by a number of different authors, with the exception of part two on the literature of New France. The result of the variety of authors is that the style and focus varies significantly.

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