Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Literary Environments: Canada and the Old World

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Literary Environments: Canada and the Old World

Article excerpt

Britta Olinder (ed.), Literary Environments: Canada and the Old World (Bern: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2006), 246pp. Paper. £22.40. ISBN 90-5201-296-2.

This edited volume collects selected literary papers from the Nordic Association for Canadian Studies (NACS) seventh triennial conference in Stockholm in 2002. [See also the review above of Robert C. Thomsen and Nanette L. Hale (eds), Canadian Environments: Essays in Culture, Politics and History, which covers other papers from the same conference.] The fifth volume in an exciting and ever-expanding series on Canadian Studies now offered by Peter Lang, this publication includes articles in line with the original NACS conference theme 'Old Environments, New Environments'.

The volume is notable for containing work by two prominent Canadian writers. A speech by Japanese-Canadian novelist Joy Kogawa, 'Three Deities', ruminates on the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and on an environment's interaction with Grace, Forgiveness and Mercy. Invoking Canada as a 'peaceable country that ... connects' (p.15), Kogawa suggests that Canada's global ancestries make it 'uniquely suited to building bridges "over troubled waters"' (p. 15), while refusing to forget the implication of Canada in past atrocities. Six poems by Canadian poet, artist and novelist Heather Spears continue this interesting alignment of artistic and academic interaction.

The literary environments discussed vary widely, from the land discussed in nineteenthcentury journals to malleable worlds of contemporary urban fantasy. Despite this disparate coverage, each essay is challenging and engaging. Ruta Slapkauskaite's article explores Kogawa's Obasan, drawing on fairytale environments and linguistic games to highlight the novel's challenge to contemporary identity construction. Richard Davis provides a fascinating account of John Franklin's literary awakening, and compelling evidence that much of what is interesting in Franklin's written accounts became expunged in the later published narratives. …

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