Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Canadian Modernists Meet

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Canadian Modernists Meet

Article excerpt

Literature, Criticism and the Arts

Dean Irvine (ed.), The Canadian Modernists Meet (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2005), xv + 363pp. Paper. $35. ISBN 0-7766-0599-2.

This collection delivers what Dean Irvine's introduction promises: 'a major reassessment of the origins and development of multiple modernisms in English-Canadian literature and theatre' (p. 5). It attends to regional variety, inflections of gender and class and connections with architecture, visual art and radio. Its central achievement is to bring out different visions of the multivalent threads of Canadian modernism; some in conflict with each other, some resonating, and all challenging the prevailing invisibility of Canadian literature within established canons of modernist studies. It deserves wider attention among modernist scholars outside Canada, in part because it illustrates how attending to the aesthetic response to what Glenn Willmott terms the 'historical specificities of a "modern" world' (p. 102) can furnish a far richer canvas upon which to sketch modernity's developments than analyses that focus on experimental stylistic techniques.

Dean Irvine's introduction succeeds in flagging many of the debates enlivening Canadian modernist studies: its reassessment of its canons, its decentring of Anglo- American modernist precepts, and the complexity and significance of the many enmeshments of Canadian authors with their international contemporaries and predecessors. Other chapters that stand out are Tim Conley's, in which Canada's mediating position between European and US modernism is illustrated through responses to Ulysses, and Candida Rivkind's excavation of avant-garde workers' theatre of the 1930s, which shows how this meeting of Marxism and modernism generated national imaginaries that undo more established narratives of the relationship between modernism and Canadian nationalism. …

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