The Knowledge of Canada / the Canada of Knowledge: Representing the Nation in Canadian Reference Books

By Shea, Victor; Whitla, William | English Studies in Canada, September-December 2003 | Go to article overview

The Knowledge of Canada / the Canada of Knowledge: Representing the Nation in Canadian Reference Books

Shea, Victor, Whitla, William, English Studies in Canada

THE DUST JACKET of THE CANADIAN ENCYCLOPEDIA (3rd edition, 1999) literally wraps the reference book in the flag, a device referred to by publisher Avie Bennett in his foreword: "It is no accident that the cover for this book is based on the Canadian flag. Like our flag, the Encyclopedia represents our country" (iii). In October 2001 in an advertisement for the online version, as well as in a corporate home-page, the Canadian flag is displayed as part of the web-page's corporate symbol ("Historica" Advertisement). A similar gesture, combining a symbol of the nation with scholarship and marketing, adorns another best-selling Canadian reference book, The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1998), which also displays the Maple Leaf prominently on its dust jacket. In advertising the dictionary on its American corporate website where the dust jacket and the Maple Leaf are reproduced, Oxford University Press states that by its publication "Canadians finally have a dictionary that truly reflects their nation" ("Canadian"). In both instances the national icon not only markets a reference book, but also specifies its contents: the flag signals that each book "represents" or "reflects" Canada. These reference books present knowledge of Canada in several ways: they narrate Canada's history and define the national cultures and languages; they provide an epitome or summation of cultural literacy about Canada, and they present slices of the national life at specific times. By challenging the contradictions in these reference books about their own epistemology and about Canadian unity, we argue that the constructedness or textuality of the contents of these reference books, what we call the Canada of knowledge, is effaced in the direct equation between the reference book and Canadian nation. (1)

Apart from marketing strategies, such symbolic connections between reference books and nationalism have a long and complex history, fraught by contradictions between knowledge as objective, comprehensive, and totalized, and knowledge as shaped in moments of nationalist self-definition or widespread political propagandizing. This paper traces some aspects of this history, examining the problematic space between two discourses, the politics of nationalism and the epistemology of reference books.

On the one hand, the knowledge of Canada as a limited entity in historical time and geographical space is inscribed in reference books by means of thousands of entries containing factual information. The accumulation of these facts, whether encyclopedia entries or dictionary definitions, is claimed to represent the nation, its history, cultures, and languages, as a totality. The contents of a reference book, however, in the advertising and introductory materials as well as in the entries themselves, also allude to an unlimited and unquantifiable entity, the universalized experience of life and language in Canada. In their admirable fullness, these reference books claim to depict the plenitude of Canadian experience over time and space, and to represent complete real-life or real-world knowledge that is impossible to know or represent literally.

On the other hand, these reference books represent Canada by means of textuality: that is, the Canada of knowledge signifies both the scholarly conditions under which the many entries are constructed and represented as authoritative, and also the textual conditions of the entries which have to be edited, selected, compared, systematized, and incorporated into a reference book that is itself part of an identifiable genre with its own history, its own canonical tradition. Editors and publishers make limited allusions to the scholarly and textual conditions of their productions; however, as we shall see, these gestures are continually elided in favour of the claims that the reference book transparently imitates or reflects the whole country over time.

The Canadian Encyclopedia (CE), in both its English and French versions, and The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (con) have been marketed and rightly acclaimed as major cultural achievements and as important stages in the development of excellent reference sources for Canadians. We shall focus primarily on these two major reference books and also discuss briefly a number of others published in Canada in the last decades of the twentieth century. After discussing relationships between national identity and reference books in the first section, we consider the epistemology of reference books, distinguishing between two positions: the conflicting claims of knowledge as objective and true, and knowledge as a process in which authority is maintained by scholarly credentials and on-going revision. In section three, we examine the place of Canadian reference books in the canonical tradition, and their role as eternalizing monuments in nation building. Finally, we read two specific instances of representing the nation, the ways that the nation is narrativized in an account of centennialism and in the definition of a dictionary, considering such problems as patriotism, Canadian databases as sources for Canadian content, notions of regionalism, and the relations among Canadian English, Canadian French, and the languages of the Aboriginal peoples.

Flagging the Reference Book: The Representation of National Identity

Two entries in the CE point out that the Canadian flag that enwraps the two reference books is a recent invention:

   A national flag is a simple, effective way of identifying both
   individual citizens and the nation as a whole-expressing its
   collective will and Sovereignty. Before 1763, rather than a flag,
   the royal arms represented the king of France in Canada. The
   British, on the other hand, were accustomed to flying either the
   Red Ensign or the Union Flag from their forts. (s.v. "Flag of

   Canada's official flag from 1867 had been Britain's Union Jack....
   The French Canadian members [of Parliament] followed with keen
   interest a debate [in 1964] wherein feelings ran high among many
   English-speaking Canadians. John Diefenbaker demanded that the flag
   honour the 'founding races, with the Union Jack in the canton of
   honour. Pearson insisted on a design denoting allegiance to Canada
   devoid of colonial association.... The royal proclamation was
   signed by Her Majesty 28 January 1965 and the national flag was
   officially unfurled 15 February 1965. (s.v. "Flag Debate")

These entries problematize the foreword of the publisher, Avie Bennett, that equates "this book,' "the flag, and "our country." The entries allude to a history of imperial wars and their legacy that invokes the controversial connections between the Maple Leaf and the "nation as a whole." As other entries throughout the CE demonstrate, not all "individual citizens" accept the sovereignty represented by the flag on the book's dust jacket: "The continuing debate, since the onset of the Quiet Revolution in the early 1960s, over Quebec's distinctive constitutional role within Canada, and the historical progression from Quebec demands for a 'special constitutional status' within the federal system to Sovereignty-Association as proposed in the two failed Quebec provincial referenda votes, in 1980 and 1995. evidences a similar, no doubt contrived, confusion between political goals and legal reality which the normative ambiguity of the referendum question served to veil" (s.v. "Sovereignty"). The sovereignty question means that many citizens of Quebec do not automatically identify the Maple Leaf flag with their country. The concealed agency of who "contrived [the] confusion" between politics and law, a denigration of the nationalist aspirations of the Quebecois, indicates fractures in the national fabric that a national reference book resists in the interests of a single vision of Canadian unity.

The knowledge of Canada, the extra-textual reality that the encyclopedia necessarily tries to embody, is predicated upon an equation between the reference book and the nation state as it exists in time and space; however, the content of the reference book continually signals the impossibility of adequately representing the totality of the nation with all of its discontinuities and fragmentations. Marketing the book in French and English by means of one nationalism, covering over these fractures with the Canadian flag, ignores the fact that not every person's Canada is represented by the book. For instance, in the French-language packaging for the CD-ROM version, a picture of a Maple Leaf is displayed prominently on the cover. It is not the red Maple Leaf of the national symbol, however, but a photograph of a piece of maple sugar candy molded into the shape of a maple leaf. Maple sugar, of course, is a major industry in Quebec: "The province of Quebec produced 13,540 kl [of maple syrup], which represents over 90% of the total Canadian production" (s.v. "Maple Sugar Industry"). In any case, the maple leaf is not the symbol of the collective will or country of the Quebecois, or the First Nations peoples who fly their own flags.

Recent political actions of many First Nations peoples who fly their own flags in political disputes are usually based on issues of sovereignty specifically on what constitutes a nation. The COD defines "nation" as follows: "la a community of people of mainly common descent, history, language, etc., forming a state or inhabiting a territory. b the state or territory itself. 2 N Amer. a group of Aboriginal people with common ancestry who are socially, culturally, and linguistically united" Definitions (1a) and (1b), not particular to Canadian English, suggest a distinction between what Michael Ignatieff has called ethnic and civic nationalism. Definition (2) has a particular North American application that locates a group within the nation state. The differences among these definitions call attention to the contradictory relationships drawn in the advertising blurb for the con cited above among the emblematic Maple Leaf, the "dictionary," "Canadians" and "their nation." The geopolitical entity ("state or territory") of Canada (1b) does not fit the definition based on ethnic commonality (1a): the Canadian "community" as well as the inhabitants of the Canadian "state or territory" do not share a common descent, history, or language. This accumulating definition might have worked for some European nations (until the European Community), but when applied to Canada in a Canadian dictionary, with its two founding nations, its numerous groups of Aboriginal peoples, and its waves of immigrants, the definition cannot be applied without ethnic cleansing. While these two senses of nation are common usages, the gesture of wrapping the dictionary in the national symbol foregrounds definition (1b) as the determinative principle of the nation, but also enfolds ethnic diversity of multiple descents, histories, and languages into a unifying ethnicity and culture, the "state or territory itself."

Other entries in the COD of compound words using "nation" further complicate this claim to commonality. "First Nation," for instance, is defined as "an Indian band, or an Indian community functioning as a band but not having official band status. The term First Nations does not include the Inuit or Metis" Hence, the application of meaning (2) for "nation" ("a group of Aboriginal people with common ancestry who are socially, culturally, and linguistically united") to the definition for "First Nation" is contradictory: First Nation applies to one group of Aboriginal peoples ("Indian') but not to two others. This exclusion, while contradictory within the con, follows the practice of the declaration of the joint Council of the National Indian Brotherhood and the Assembly of First Nations in 1981. Furthermore, specific Aboriginal peoples who do claim the title of nation for their linguistic groups are not accorded it in the COD: for instance, in the entries on "Algonquin" "Iroquois;" and "Mohawk," the word "nation" is avoided in favour of a linguistic or geographical designation such as "group" or "people:" There is no indication that these terms are derogatory. (2) Nor are the Quebecois accorded the title of "nation," though they are a people of common ancestry, history, and language living in a specific territory (meaning for nation 1a). Such contradictions and overlaps might be explained by the contributions of different authorities or inconsistent editing. More to the point, however, they demonstrate the difficulties or impossibility of representing the nation in accord with the totalizing claims of the epistemology of the reference book.

The history of the concepts of nation and race, according to Raymond Williams, is fraught with such contradictions, consisting of an "overlap and confusion" between racial grouping and political formation in which "pure stock" justifies "political domination and especially imperialism" (213, 248-50). National identity derives from validating one group over others, and by legitimating its political power by some claim to racial or linguistic independence or superiority. In both reference books the contradictions of "nation," and the complications of "race" as systems of political differentiation, tend to collapse onto the essentialized category of one national identity because such a principle of unity is necessary for the distinctively Canadian reference book. (3) This gesture to unify the content of the reference book wrapped in the flag follows two separate lines, epistemological and political. Canada as an object of knowledge needs to be contained; the principles that enable this containment unavoidably tend to follow the hegemonic assumptions of the nation-state.

On a common sense level, reference books cannot, of course, possibly meet their stated goal of reflecting the nation in its totality, as is claimed in a corporate website advertizing the con: "Language embodies our nation's identity, and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, in its 1728 pages, covers all aspects of Canadian life" ("Setting"). How can a record of Canadian English embody a nation's identity when the nation in question is promulgated on the principle of two official languages, a principle, of course, that excludes Canada's Aboriginal peoples? The advertisement announcing the launching of the free web-based CE Online promulgates a similar totalizing claim: "Everything you ever wanted to know about Canada is in The Canadian Encyclopedia Online" ("Historica" Advertisement). Such assertions have already been extended from the nation to the world: how can any reference book, even one issued on four CDs, contain "all the knowledge of the world," as the CE claims in the prefatory material to its electronic version? As we shall discuss in the next section, such claims of unified completeness tied to national identity and to world knowledge have long been constitutive elements of the epistemology of reference books.

Knowing the Nation: The Epistemology of Reference Books

The genre of reference books has been little theorized, though the canon has been described. Critical discussions of dictionaries and encyclopedias are usually restricted to utilitarian explanations of methodologies or discussions of their inclusiveness. (4) Directing attention to the epistemology of reference books, however, foregrounds the ways in which they conceal the conflicts between claims of representing the nation as a totality of knowledge and the necessary limits on that totality governed by their scholarly methods. By necessity reference books continually invoke an ideal objectivity and inclusiveness that can never be achieved in any individual example. For the most part they assume that language transparently represents a "real" world outside the processes of its construction, displacing attention given to the constitution of knowledge within the limitations of the reference book as a form onto knowledge as a complete and self-contained body, as the content of a nation, able to be appropriated and possessed.

At the level of content, then, reference books presuppose objective knowledge and make claims to totality and universality, but they contradict the possibility of such objectivity because each text is produced from a specific and finite position, often within a project of national self-definition or imperial expansion. For example, the entry on "Sovereignty" in the CE cited above inscribes English Canadian national self-definition with its description of the politics of referenda as contrived. The same denigration from the point of view of a Quebecois nationalist can be read as imperialism. At the level of form, specific relations within these systemic organizations of knowledge in dictionaries and encyclopedias, their alphabetized content list, scholarly apparatus (phonetic symbols, cross-references, bibliographies, and so on), and their list of expert contributors, construct the totality of objective information as an ideal goal against which their own necessary limits are always measured and defended. We shall read such conflicts in the prefatory and promotional materials in the CE and the Con.

In the introduction to the CE the editor-in-chief, James Marsh, constructs its content as a "creative act ... [of] coverage" of "all aspects of life in Canada": "The entries in The Canadian Encyclopedia provide an intricate sketch of Canada, drawn by its finest scholars and writers, that will provide not only an invaluable reference tool and repository for information, but a portrait of its time that will continue to be interpreted by future generations" (vi). The construction of objective facts and "information" is here displaced onto a metaphor of portrait painting. Experts draw an "intricate sketch" or "portrait" that is then transformed into a totalized "coverage of all aspects of life in Canada." The portrait is converted to life both by the encyclopedia as a vehicle of representation of a real world and by the creative power of the editors. Such tropes replicate the aesthetic of creative individuality found, for instance, in Henry James's well-known discussion of a novelist's portraiture as a representation of life. James argues in The Art of the Novel. "The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life. When it relinquishes this attempt, the same attempt that we see on the canvas of a painter, it will have arrived at a very strange pass.... The analogy between the art of the painter and the art of the novelist is, so far as I am able to see, complete" (166-67). Our point is to compare the shift from representation to referentiality at the signifier "life, a shift which in James is controlled by a privileged individual, the master painter or novelist.

In Marsh's introduction, there is a similar shift from representation to referentiality, from "creative act" to "all aspects of life." This shift is mediated by the authority of the encyclopedia's experts, as well as claims to complete coverage of life in Canada. The arbitrariness of this aesthetic language is checked in two ways. First, Marsh appeals to an authoritative interpretive community and to what is presented as a negotiated consensus about inventories: "Based on advice from consultants, criteria for inclusion varied according to what was appropriate to the area under consideration:" This sentence is silent about who would include or exclude criteria: the action of constructing the criteria is displaced by means of concealed agency from the expert consultants to the object of knowledge. Second, Marsh makes another appeal to authority but turns it toward the consumer on the basis of affective aesthetics: "the master article list" of topics covered contains "all major subjects that any reader would expect to find in a Canadian encyclopedia" (vi). The power to construct a particular form and content of Canada is continually displaced onto a principle of inclusivity, onto an imagined consensus of what Canada must be and what any reader would expect. The reference to "any reader" assumes a homogenous audience accepting the "master list" as complete and without conflict, a rhetorical gesture paralleling the concealed agency in selecting criteria for the master list. Most importantly, within this combination the specific genre of the encyclopedia becomes a transparent vehicle or form that enables the content of Canada to be produced and consumed in a textual space in which the epistemological or political conflicts are smoothed over.

In a statement to a different audience, a plenary talk to the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies reproduced on the homepage of the CE Online, Marsh takes a different tack, foregrounding the impossibility of fulfilling epistemological claims for totality:

   The idea of encompassing a full circle of human knowledge was
   a dubious ambition, even in Medieval times.... Needless to say,
   the past 300 or 400 years have added beyond measure to what
   is known of the universe, of the natural world, of history and
   prehistory; the number of places in Canada alone probably
   outnumber the significant places in Europe in [Medieval times]
   ...; most people know that the body of human knowledge is
   immense, many of them still cling to the belief that ... a unity
   of knowledge can still be contained, if not in an encyclopedia,
   then perhaps today by the World Wide Web.

Here the epistemological problems are checked by three strategies. First, Marsh refers to the authority of experts. His recourse "to establish authority ... is to hire experts to write the entries, and we have attracted some 4000 contributors to the task." Second, he alludes again to a unified audience of "most people," though this audience is split because "many of them still cling" to an epistemological naivete. However, as we shall see, it is the latter position that he eventually adopts. Third, the metaphor of the natural world is extended from immediately-known objects to interstellar space:

   The encyclopedia editor keeps his belief that there can still
   be some metaphorical unity to knowledge and this one still
   searches for ways to at least be a guide if not an authority to
   send users not only to the information that they think they
   need, but also to the information that might astonish, surprise
   or please them. To do this, Bacon's tree of knowledge seems so
   inadequate in this post-Heisenberg world of uncertainty. I look
   to other metaphors: galaxies in the place of trees, webs in the
   place of circles, mosaics in the place of linear text. (Marsh)

His acknowledgment of recent epistemological conflicts, when applied to his work as editor of the CE, transfers literal claims to represent the totality of the knowledge of the nation to the sphere of metaphor. The fundamental contradictions in representing totalized knowledge are elided by allusions to technology and the ever-expanding resources of the web.

Marsh's shift in metaphors, from trees to galaxies, from circles to webs, from linear texts to mosaics, seems to signify a paradigm shift from the containable world of Bacon's tree of knowledge to the openness of an expanding universe. Bacon's tree of knowledge, however, especially as it was used by Diderot in the Encyclopedie, did signify a paradigm shift from knowledge as sacred, derived from the great chain of being, to knowledge as secular, open, organic, and growing, a point that Robert Darnton explores in detail:

   A diagrammatic impulse-a tendency to map, outline, and
   spatialize segments of knowledge-underlay the strain of
   encyclopedism that stretched from Ramus to Bacon, Alsted,
   Comenius, Leibniz, Chambers, Diderot, and d'Alembert. But
   the diagram at the head of Diderot's Encyclopedie, the famous
   tree of knowledge derived from Bacon and Chambers, represented
   something new and audacious. Instead of showing how
   disciplines could be shifted within an established pattern, it
   expressed an attempt to raise a boundary between the known
   and the unknowable in such a way as to eliminate most of
   what men held to be sacred from the world of learning.... The
   very attempt to impose a new order on the world made the
   Encyclopedists conscious of the arbitrariness in all ordering.
   What one philosopher had joined another could undo.
   ("Philosophers" 194-95)

Marsh, however, despite the implication in his shift of metaphors about abandoning the tree for the galaxy, falls back upon the rationale for his project as a closed circle of knowledge, the root meaning of "encyclopedia," whose necessary closure is guaranteed by the authority of both the experts and the editor: "An encyclopedia remain [s] a beacon of authority not only in a sea of information but amid the scattered debris left by post-modernist deconstruction." Hence, Marsh acknowledges his epistemological problems and with the gesture to audience implies a solution that replicates the move of Diderot. Marsh implies the paradigmatic shift from the reference book as a closed and objective container of knowledge to it as open-ended, relativistic, and arbitrary. But in the end, all of that collapses onto the necessity for the editor's central authority, rescuing an audience lost in a sea of relativism, while dismissing theoretical discourse that tries to question a reference book's epistemological certainties.

Canadian dictionaries also make epistemological claims based on their superabundance of content contained within an almost-transparent form. The COD claims that its database of over 8,000 Canadian publications ensures "that the vocabulary recorded in this dictionary is that of Canadians' everyday life" (viii). We shall discuss the Canadianness of this database below; here, however, we emphasize the slippage between the signifiers "vocabulary" and "everyday life:" Just as in the preface to the CE the scholarly apparatus, selection process, and other indicators of the constructedness of the Canada of knowledge disappear with the phrase "all aspects of life in Canada," so too in the COD the construction of Canadian English is recorded as a transparent imitation of "everyday" language use.

Similarly, The Penguin Canadian Dictionary (PCD), published in 1990, bases its content on what is "actually uttered in everyday English" as "actual speech and writing that exist in reality"--"meaning in its natural habitat" (ix). While the CE uses the Jamesian aesthetics of portrait painting to mediate its objective knowledge and representation of "all aspects of life, the COD and the PCD situate Canadian users of English within a concept of language similar to Wordsworth's principle that privileges the everyday language of ordinary people as the vehicle of authentic poetry. Wordsworth writes in his "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads (1800): "Except in a very few instances the Reader will find no personifications of abstract ideas in these volumes.... In these Poems I propose to myself to imitate, and, as far as is possible, to adopt the very language of men" (130). Thomas Paikeday in his editorial preface to the PCD also grounds his theory of language in an unmediated imitation of everyday speech: "An actual 'utterance,' in the linguistic sense, is always more telling than an abstraction.... It is actual speech and writing that exist in reality, formal definitions being abstractions of the lexicographical mind" (vii). As Wordsworth constructs his natural "language of men" in opposition to an artificial language of the eighteenth century, so in his preface Paikeday constructs a natural Canadian (English) language in opposition to the artificiality of the "lexicographical mind," collapsing all differences within the field of semantic theory onto a straw-man position. In the PCD, therefore, and to a much lesser degree in the COD, the dictionaries' apparatus to describe and construct language, as well as the methods used to construct databases, are displaced onto a natural, living language as a thing in itself, the national language of English.

In an interview, the COD's editor Katherine Barber qualifies the epistemology of the organic or natural wholeness of a dictionary's object of knowledge: "the more you work as a lexicographer, the more you realize the order you impose on the language is somewhat artificial" (Lahey 51).

Barber foregrounds the authority of the lexicographer as the arbitrator, indeed, the maker of Canadian English. However, she also clearly voices her discomfort as the entire epistemological grounds for the dictionary shift: the editors are "piecing together a picture of the language as it is and has been used by Canadians, and creating a book they ultimately hope will be seen as an authority on vocabulary" (Lahey so). The "somewhat artificial" order imposed on the language by lexicographers is quickly rendered secondary to an extra-textual reality--how Canadians actually speak and write--that is represented by a metaphoric jigsaw puzzle: the lexicographer reassembles a pre-given and static text, Canadian English, that has been cut up by everyday usage. The contradiction between these two notions of the lexicographer, as an imposer of order on everyday speech or as an arranger of the pieces of a pre-cut and established reality, is based upon conflicting notions of representing a language, the first, a formal and ideological process overseen by an expert, the second, a mechanical exercise in reassembling an already-formed totality, a self-evident record.

This interview with Barber was part of the pre-publication marketing blitz organized by the publisher in which the authority of the dictionary is grounded on the second notion. Of course the lexicographer's training and skills are specified as being important, but here the claims for authority rest not on the scholarly apparatus or the expertise of the editors, but rather on the language as a thing in itself. In her hesitant and qualified acknowledgments of the role of the lexicographer and the scholarly tradition of lexicography as an artificial order imposed upon a language, Barber refers to a traditional role of the lexicographer and the dictionary as an authoritative arbiter about language usage, a role that she and the publishers resist. Nevertheless, the Con's claims to authority based on Canadian English as a thing in itself was quickly affirmed, not only by reviewers (see, for instance, Casselman; Cosh; Holden; Kister; MacNeil; Perry; Renzetti), but also by its inclusion one year after its publication in the CD-ROM version of the CE.

In his introduction to the CE, Marsh makes a similar, fleeting qualification to a limitation or epistemological gap in the encyclopedia when he explains its principle of selection or classification: "The development of a list of articles is the central creative act in the planning of an encyclopedia. The editors sought to provide coverage of all aspects of life in Canada, of all regions, over a vast time scale from the geological formation of the most ancient rocks to the most recent political events. Because there exists no cohesive framework that would easily encompass all provinces of knowledge, the process of identifying topics and assigning them weight in relation to the boundless variety of other subjects was one of intensive planning and constant revision" (vi). As with Barber, Marsh inscribes contradictory ontological claims: on the one hand, his Canada is all-inclusive in time and space ("all" is used three times), vast, and boundless; on the other, it is limited to a published volume, or four CDs, or a number of links on a webpage. Nevertheless, he mediates this contradiction by forcing together the book and its contents: in using "provinces" as a trope for the all the divisions of knowledge represented, one necessary for alluding to an otherwise nonexistent "cohesive framework; he simultaneously alludes to the political divisions of the Canadian nation, the content of his book.

Differentiating between antithetical goals calls attention to the underlying epistemology of the reference book that, according to the conventions of the genre, does not attempt to represent its contents figuratively as a metaphor or metonym, as an allegory or symbol, of the nation state. Both the COD and the CE claim to contain all information about Canadian English and Canada within the order created or imposed by experts to fit this content into the generic form of dictionary or encyclopedia. However, in their explanatory apparatus the editors continually paper over this contradiction by effacing the generic form as a textual construct. As John Willinsky argues: "the rhetoric and ambition" of the "encyclopedic urge" are "underwritten by a literal, rather than a literary, aspiration to take hold of the world" (Learning 73-74). This literal aspiration is enunciated by both Barber and Marsh: their goal, to represent universalized Canadian experience, is an epistemological fiction, alluded to as a guarantee of their reference books' accuracy and inclusiveness; their other aim, the containment of the totalized reality of Canada between the covers of their books, is problematized only briefly as an imposed order or objective knowledge constructed by a community of experts. In any case, the "provinces of knowledge" and the provinces of Canada continually collide in these "literal" aspirations to take hold of the world.

In the preface to the 1999 edition of the CE, Marsh focuses almost entirely on new information technologies that enable publication in CD-ROM form. He explains that a printed version is still desirable in order to reach "the widest possible audience": "It is proof that it is the content, through language and thought, that is most useful and delightful to people, not the medium of its delivery. Canada, as is often pointed out, needs to know itself better, and this encyclopedia is the best tool that has been devised for that task to date" (iv). Here, the encyclopedia as an apparatus to deliver information or "content" about Canada is again rendered invisible-instead, the multimedia technology needs to be explained and justified for the project of "enabling Canadians to know themselves better" (iv). The reference book as a vehicle for

educating citizens about nationalism has a long and complex genealogy. In the next section, we discuss the relationship between reference books, particularly their canonical tradition, and the education of citizens in nationalism, especially in moments of nationalistic affirmation, crisis, or imperial expansion.

Producing the Nation: The Canon of Reference Books

Contemporary encyclopedias and dictionaries conform in various ways to the paradigm of reference books established by the authority of at least four canonical texts: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Denis Diderot's Encyclopedie (1751-72), the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1771), and the Oxford English Dictionary (1884-1928). These texts are related to a longer canon of reference books, each example being a reclamation of past languages and cultures, re-affirmed in a moment of national self-definition in fifth-century Greece, Hellenistic Alexandria, first-century Rome, twelfth-century Europe, and Renaissance Italy and England. The four canonical texts draw on this long tradition for their own acts of national self-definition in eighteenth-century France and eighteenth-and nineteenth-century England as part of the push to empire. (5)

The reference book has played an important ideological role in the complex formation of what Benedict Anderson has called imagined communities. As he argues, the elevation of vernacular languages with their dictionaries to the status of classical languages, though not a learned lingua franca like Latin but the tongue of a particular people, was "central to the shaping of nineteenth-century European nationalisms" (71). In 1773 Dr Johnson asked: "What can a nation that has not letters tell of its original? ... I'm always sorry when language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations" (Boswell 186). Johnson's "use of linguistic traits to recover a 'lost' national identity is contemporaneous with the enunciation of a German nationalist ideology by Herder and Novalis, which Fichte and Schleiermacher later heightened to a frankly metaphysical level: language and nation express aspects of Divine Truth. A 'nation' was an irreducible and original quality, an almost transcendent reality, which we could best grasp through 'mother tongue' and national literature" (Snead 231-32).

According to Anderson, a "lexicographic revolution" in the nineteenth century produced many dictionaries that were instrumental in constituting these universalizing and divinely-sanctioned nationalisms, establishing "the conviction that languages (in Europe at least) were, so to speak, the personal property of quite specific groups-their daily speakers and readers-and moreover that these groups, imagined as communities, were entitled to get their autonomous place in a fraternity of nations" (84). The restriction of this revolution to Europe is important for our purposes. Anderson argues that in the nationalist movements of North and South America, in the former colonies of Britain and Spain, "language was never even an issue": "All, including the USA, were creole states, formed and led by people who shared a common language and common descent with those against whom they fought" (47). This "creole nationalism" was primarily class based: an elite educated in the language of the mother country formulated their imaginary community on the basis of economic interests, as well as the principles of Liberalism and the Enlightenment.

Anderson does not address the particular case of Canada, a country that does not fit his paradigm of creole nationalism, having two European languages as the basis for confederation. In differentiating between first- and second-generation nationalisms in Europe and the Americas, Anderson claims that in the latter, important genealogical continuities were maintained by language, but did not involve an awakening from a period of national sleep as in the nationalist movements of Europe between 1815 and 1850; instead, the emerging second-generation nationalisms in the Americas developed a fraternalizing myth between the colonizers and their displaced and dispossessed original inhabitants, or their slaves (187-206). In Canada, however, this model of creole nationalism does not apply because of two founding cultures, nations, and languages, and the lack of a fraternalizing relationship between the "two solitudes" According to one influential view of the "Canadian character," this imagined community was based upon complex relations with British imperialism: "Canadians were British in their historical associations, political ideals, their preference for law and order, and their capacity for self government. They were, French and English alike, a tough and masterful people, inured to the stern climate of a northern nation whose population would in time exceed that of Britain" (Berger 152). This view is qualified by Suzanne Zeller who elaborates a different basis for Canadian unity, one not grounded on a dominant common language and descent. She discusses the invention of Canadian nationalism, "the idea of a transcontinental nation,' by showing how the inventorial natural sciences of the Enlightenment were used by pre-Confederation scientists, business men, and politicians to relate the land to the ideology of nation building. The new territory had to be identified and catalogued for the new land to be appropriated, railways built, and commercial capital to function between the newly-connected parts. The inventory of Canadian nature, therefore, provided an epistemological basis for the pragmatic scheme of Confederation. According to Zeller, this union was not achieved on the basis of a single ethnicity, language, literature, or religion (those mainstays of European nation-building), nor on universalist appeals to the American or French revolutions, but as a series of compromises, agreements, and appropriations of knowledge and land--intellectual and geopolitical property-to enable the business of nation to be constructed. In this way, the reference book as a basis for European nationalism, as a container of the language and knowledge of the nation, is displaced in the formation of Canada literally onto the book of nature, resembling a seventeenth-century commonplace, the two-book theory of the bible and nature in accord. (6)

Roland Barthes connects the Enlightenment compulsion to make an inventory with the production of a national reference book, not only to ascertain the objects described in it, but, more importantly, to appropriate them. To Barthes, Diderot's Encyclopedie comprises a "learning of appropriation" that first breaks up the world and its knowledge into fragments, then divides it, classifies it, and, by that means, possesses it (26-27). In a similar discussion about Diderot, Willinsky relates reference books to nationalism and imperialism, identifying encyclopedias, along with museums, gardens, expositions, and travel writing, as symptomatic of the objectification and display of knowledge about empire. Diderot's Encyclopedie grew to a "bound and portable showcase of Western civilization ...

[whose] rhetoric and ambition are underwritten by a literal, rather than a literary, aspiration to take hold of the world.... Diderot's Encycopedie was ... part of a larger tradition of compiling and collating all that is known in the world. Yet it and its English companions [Ephraim Chambers's] Cyclopedia and Britannica, did define a world that readers could assume they possessed as their sets stood in their special bookcases.... As the great exposition of the Enlightenment, the encyclopedia constituted the whole of a civilization in the Western mastery of nature, reason, and the world at large, organized into an alphabetical arrangement of knowledge's discrete divisions" (Learning 72-74). To Willinsky, dictionary projects also evolve from nationalist to imperialist enterprises. Initially based on the codification and display of knowledge about a national language, the Oxford English Dictionary, "once intended to define the national soul of the people, grew into a product for market export in a postcolonial world" (200; see also Willinsky Empire).

Canadian dictionaries and encyclopedias of the last decade allude to this international canonical lineage while proclaiming their place in nationalist projects of self-definition. In the prefatory material in the COD the authority of the OED is cited by the editor (viii). Johnson's Dictionary, mentioned as a lexicographical model in a brief history of Canadian English by J. K. Chambers, part of the prefatory material in the COD, is said to have been surpassed by this new "codification of our common understanding" (x) of both Canada and the language: "Dr Johnson's dictionary is a fascinating cornucopia of word lore for scholars but a completely useless guide for modern students and secretaries. It belongs to the Age of Enlightenment. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary belongs to the age of the global village but with a wholesome Canadian bias.... In the living language there is a reflection of where we have been and where we are likely to go next, and what we have considered important on the way. It is the codification of our common understanding" (x). Even in rejecting Johnson, the canonical lineage is affirmed, along with the COD's place within it.

The introduction to the CE refers to a "long and noble tradition stretching back to ancient Greece, mentioning Johnson's "great dictionary" in the concluding paragraph (vi). In separate entries on "Dictionary" and "Encyclopedia, the same paradigmatic canon is invoked before discussing specifically Canadian reference books. In his foreword to the first edition, publisher Mel Hurtig hopes that "Canada's new national encyclopedia ... will make an important contribution to Canadians' understanding of one another and to our pride in our country" (iii). Marsh refers to "this national project" as reflecting Hurtig's "faith in Canada" (vii).

Other reference books published in the 1990s make similar nationalistic claims. The PCD, for instance, promises on the cover to give readers "100% Canadian Content; and in an interview its editor maintains: "A dictionary of our own variety of English is a matter of national identity [and] self-respect" (Karapita C4). Celebrating the publication of three Canadian dictionaries in two years (COD, Gage, and ITP Nelson), Elizabeth Renzetti asserts that at last "this country speaks its own language." She explains that "the Great Oxford word hunt took place here, in a sunny office in the suburbs of Toronto, decorated with an enormous map of Canada and a romantically misty photograph of James Murray, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary." Canadian reference books establish their pedigree in relation to both canon and nation: the production of a particular reference book in the last decade of the twentieth century becomes a moment in a distinguished tradition of texts as well as a moment of national self-definition.

Reading the Nation: Narratives of Nationalism in Canadian Reference Books

To imagine new communities or the formation of new national interests, any process of cultural legitimation depends upon narrativizing a version of the past. In discussing the function of the classics in imperial education, John Frow alludes to reference books as one of the mechanisms by which the past is transformed according to the hegemonic interests of the present: "Two contradictory moments of this process of constant retotalization and reintegration of the past into a qualitatively different present are, on the one hand, the cultural renaissances in which new class ideologies seek a legitimation and an expressive 'mask' in material from a different period, and on the other hand, the ideological mechanisms of eternalization-the museum, the school text, the reference book, the television adaptation-which strip the 'masterpieces' of their specific historical differences" (181). These cultural renaissances and their emerging class ideologies can be related directly to the formation of imagined communities. As we have demonstrated, the ideological mechanisms of eternalization function precisely in terms of what Willinsky calls "imperial show and tell." In this section we look at only two such instances (though many more could be found), a preface to a dictionary produced in Canada's centennial year and the entry "Dictionary" in the CE, tracing the process of shaping the past "into a qualitatively different present."

CENTENNIALISM AND NATIONALIST NARRATIVES Many eternalizing mechanisms were undertaken in 1967, Canada's centennial year, including the publication of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, deliberately expedited from 1970, its original publication date. The title, of course, locates it within the canonical paradigm of the OED. According to the CE, this dictionary was the result of the "serious research into Canadian English [that] experienced an upsurge in the late 1950s and '60s.... It presents over 10,000 words that originated in Canada, have meanings peculiar to Canada or have special significance in Canada.... A number of projects in the 1960s and 70s used this research to produce dictionaries based on American models, primarily for schools, that included more Canadian content than their predecessors" (s.v. "Dictionary"). Hence, this volume represents a cultural renaissance in two senses, first as a monument in the centennial year it records the linguistic history of a unique nation, and second, it marks a point of origin or coming of age for scholarship about Canadian English. Important for providing dated citations of earliest and variant usage in Canadian writing, it also makes claims about its eternalizing role as a nationalist project.

In the foreword the nation is narrativized through the topic of "Canadianisms," whereby the record of language in Canada is made authoritative and is eternalized by association with the Canadian landscape. The agent in the narrative of eternalization is a male subject whose transparent "experience" is expressed in language, history, and an anthropomorphically abusive geography:

   When man has an experience that he has turned into an idea that
   stays with him, he invariably gives a name to it. By the instrument
   of the word he is thus more readily enabled to re-use the
   experience himself, and to tell other people about it. The study of
   people's language is thus a study of their experience over the
   course of time, an intimate study of their history.

   By its history a people is set apart, differentiated from the rest
   of humanity. If, therefore, there is anything distinctive about
   Canadians, it must be the result of a history of experience
   different from the histories of the French, the English, the
   Americans, and all those who have come together to form the
   Canadian people.

   That separateness of experience, in the bludgeoning of the Atlantic
   waves, the forest over-burden of the St. Lawrence valley, the long
   waterways to the West, the silence of the Arctic wastes, the
   lonesome horizons of the prairie, the vast imprisonment of the
   Cordilleras, the trade and commerce with the original Canadians-all
   this is recorded in our language.

   The publishers hope that, as a contribution to Centennial thinking,
   the Dictionary of Canadianisms will assist in the identification,
   not only of Canadianisms but of whatever it is that we may call
   "Canadianism" (v)

Here "Centennial thinking" locates specific historical moments of formation and affirmation (1867 / 1967) in a totalization of the past that includes the periods of exploration, conquest, and colonization, as well as an undefined and originary moment of Canadian identity when the "experience" of a universalized subject is arrested in a narrative of Adamic naming. The first paragraph posits linguistic origin and acquisition as fitting the name to "the idea," re-narrativized in romantic tropes of memory. The unity of this originary moment, "the identification ... of whatever it is that we may call 'Canadianism," is constituted by three interwoven concepts, language, experience, and history. The development of the one national language corresponds to the development of the male subject's experience of Canada, a process that marginalizes and excludes other Canadians from both history and language. First, the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are excluded from the named hegemonic peoples, French, English, Americans "and all those who have come together to form the Canadian people." Although Francophone Canadians are mentioned as one of these hegemonic peoples, they are marginalized in linguistic terms since "Canadianisms" are only a phenomenon of the English language in this dictionary. Second, the Aboriginal peoples ("original Canadians") are inscribed as a disjunctive term in a series of six specific geographical components that are anthropomorphized as impediments to be overcome in the formation of a unified national "experience."

Each of the six geographical sites is identified in a progressive journey from sea to sea, from east to west, the route that the explorers and the colonizers took. The journey is described as a series of acts of aggression or deprivation perpetrated on the universalized "Canadian people" who undergo that experience: they were bludgeoned, over-burdened, and endured the long waterways, the silence, the lonesomeness, and the imprisonment. The rhetoric of the passage then shifts dramatically in the last item of the series from anthropocentric geography to ethnocentric economics, and, on another level, from "Canadian people" to "original Canadians." While the Canadian people in the first six items had undergone the attacks from nature in order to conquer and colonize the land that was abusing them, in the last, they become co-operative partners in an economics of exchange, of "trade and commerce" with the very people who had earlier in the passage been excluded from being a part in the "Canadian people." Either the original Canadians are identified by extension of the rhetorical sequence with the abusive aspects of nature and are one more difficulty that had to be subdued, or they are partners in an economic enterprise in which they too supposedly share in the profits.

Reading against the grain of this passage in a post-colonial context, it becomes clearer that the original Canadians are positioned in an unequal economic relationship with the Canadian people. They are, in fact, strongly aligned with nature through the dominant metaphors of the sequence so that they become one more hardship or obstacle to civilization to be overcome by the Canadian people. Furthermore, it is a commonplace of preconfederation discourse that the "original Canadians" were identified with nature, and were not, as in eighteenth-century tropes, benevolent or noble, but malevolent or at least impedemental. Hence, their role as a natural obstacle in the passage is made the more apparent. In the light of the abusive role applied to nature they can be read here not as compliant partners in trade and commerce, but as abusers whose aggressive acts, like the geography, have to be endured before being overcome by violent conquest or by appropriation. In a post-colonial reading (retrogressively in the passage and literally in Canadian history), they become the victims of the same abusive acts that the Canadian people suffered at the hands of nature. Their colonized experience can be read back against the "Canadian experience" that dominates the passage. They become the elided subjects who are made separate, bludgeoned, and overburdened; they are silenced, made lonesome, and imprisoned as the anthropomorphic attributives gather collectively to collapse onto the only human agency specified in the paragraph, the "original Canadians."

In the logic of the passage, however, the original Canadians are not placed as victims in the same way as the colonizers. The colonizers overcome nature in the first six locations by the heroism of a "Canada First" mentality that thrives on the hardship of the Canadian climate and landscape and that prepares the Canadian people for the masculine virtues of ruggedness in order to forge a nation state. (7) Within this founding myth, the role of the "original Canadians" is set aside. They are made separate, a part of the climate and the landscape. (8) In the concluding paragraph of the passage, the temporal, spatial, and ethnic range all collapse onto a tautology: the Dictionary of Canadianisms will contribute to Canadian identity because it contains Canadianisms. In the next sub-section we turn to an entry in the CE to read the ways in which the epistemological necessity for a unified and coherent description of a dictionary follows the trajectory of the hegemony of English Canada.

THE DICTIONARY AS A NARRATIVE OF CANADIAN IDENTITIES The original entry "Dictionary" by Patrick Drysdale for the 1985 edition of the CE was extensively revised by Katherine Barber, the editor of the con, for the electronic and print versions (1999). Much of the 1986 entry is retained in abbreviated form, but it has been updated and re-ordered to shift the priorities concerning Canadian English, Canadian French, and the languages of Aboriginal peoples. After a generic definition the revised entry adds four sub-headings: (1) "Categories," (z) "Canadian Content," (3) "Regional Dictionaries; and (4) "Native Languages:" These sub-headings, as well as other revisions such as the re-arrangement of information, shifts in emphasis, and descriptions of particular Canadian dictionaries can be considered under the terms we discussed earlier, epistemology, canon, and Canadian nationalism. In considering the representation of the nation in the entry "Dictionary, we shall discuss its treatment of databases as sources for Canadian content, notions of regionalism, and the languages of the Aboriginal peoples.

Barber's revision retains the generic definition from the first edition to open the entry: a dictionary is "broadly a reference book that explains items in alphabetical order." However, the illustrative example cited, one retained from the 1985 edition, is puzzling: the reference to the multi-volume Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB) immediately inscribes a contradiction between the epistemology of reference books, the alphabetized list of objective knowledge, and the patriotic agenda of Canadian nationalism. The arrangement of the DCB is not alphabetical but chronological: the fundamental organizational principle is that the volumes "are arranged according to the death dates of subjects so that each gives a full picture of a period in Canadian history" (s.v. "Dictionary of Canadian Biography"). Within this periodization each volume is alphabetized. For instance, the first volume, published in 1966, covers the period 1000 to 1700, but each decade since 18s1 has its own volume. More important than this obvious imbalance in coverage is the fact that it is a nationalist project begun with private money and continued with operating grants from government agencies, that it is a huge historical project to reclaim national identity by means of biographical records, that it is published in both French and English, and that it follows the model of Britain's Dictionary of National Biography. Such nationalist and canonical imperatives outweigh the conceptual confusion or category faults in the choice of this work to lead off and exemplify an entry requiring a generic definition of a dictionary. (9) By citing the DCB, the CE foregrounds its own canonicity as well the role of such nationalist projects in defining the nation, obscuring the clarity most needed at the outset, an example of a reference book that presents information in an alphabetical order.

This generic definition then moves to a common-sense definition of dictionary, a word-list of a language. Barber at this point adds a clarification to the earlier entry: "although the public tends to perceive dictionaries as guardians of correct and unchanging usage, modern dictionary-making is based on a descriptive approach to the language which records usage rather than prescribes it." Although she acknowledges that lexicographers "must select words and senses which they must put in their dictionary by judging what the needs of their particular users are," she dismisses the pressures to conform that often require prescriptive norms. Such pressures, we would argue, are ideological mechanisms by which the construction of a national language is aligned with other mechanisms of power operating within the nation state. The prefatory materials in Barber's COD, for instance, explain that the symbol [??] signifies "extra information not central to the definition, and ... points of grammar and usage.... The purpose of these notes is not to prescribe usage but to alert the user to a difficulty or controversy attached to a particular use" (xvi). In describing any controversy or difficulty, the COD cannot help but invoke prescriptive usage according to hegemonic norms or standards, as in the entry for "ain't" which is followed by a paragraph sign ([??]) and the usage note that the word is "usually regarded as an uneducated use and unacceptable in spoken and written English:' If "ain't" is "unacceptable," surely the dictionary is being prescriptive. The same invoking of hegemonic norms accompanies the usage notes on obscenities or racialisms. Doubtless such advice serves a useful purpose; our point is that the prescriptive role of dictionaries, caught up in the value systems of the dominant culture, can never be evaded.

The opening gesture required in an encyclopedia entry to define "dictionary" in universalist terms, before moving to its specific Canadian applications, becomes caught up in the contradictions we have been tracing throughout. On the one hand, the epistemology of the reference book is based upon a neutral and supposedly natural order, the alphabet and a plethora of unmediated words whose meanings are simply described, presumably effacing prescriptive norms and positions of power. On the other hand, the nationalist discourse of Canadian content and definition as well as class-based or educated usage have to be signaled in the dictionary, and by doing so the reference book cannot help but inscribe the hegemonic positions that contradict its claim to neutrality. (10)

In the entry's first sub-heading, "Categories;" emphasis shifts to the canonical tradition, placing Canadian dictionaries within a transnational and trans-historical appeal to excellence. In the original version, the 1985 entry, there was a discussion of the canon of French language dictionaries in this sub-section-as we shall discuss below, Barber in her revision has moved this material to another sub-section. Her discussion of the English language canon makes the conventional moves, from Cawdrey through Bailey and Dr Johnson, and in the United States from Noah Webster's American Dictionary (1828), to culminate in the OED, whose currency is emphasized by its computer databases at the University of Waterloo: "some 5000 new items, for a total of over 600,000 word forms illustrated by almost 2.s million quotations" guarantee its validity. Under the next sub-heading, "Canadian Content," an English Canadian canon of dictionaries is introduced, culminating in the COD, a dictionary of current usage based on technological claims similar to those made for the OED: "Oxford University Press Canada established a permanent dictionary department in 1992, and will base a series of thoroughly researched current Canadian dictionaries on citation files of over 14 million words of Canadian texts covering all genres and subject matter." Hence, Barber's references to the canon, mediated by the technology of computer data bases, allow the COD to be aligned with the OED, its canonical predecessor, despite its being based on an entirely different set of lexicographical principles and on what in effect is a different language, Canadian English, drawn from an exclusively Canadian database.

An adequate Canadian database to guarantee Canadian content (Barber's second sub-category) is a persistent problem for Canadian reference books, especially in the era of globalization. The PCD, for instance, identifies its Canadian database as Info Globe and Mead's Nexis, though the latter is a product of Mead Data Control Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, whose service includes dozens of American, British, and Japanese, but few Canadian, publications. How can such a database, over-determined by international multimedia and capital, fulfill the dictionary's claim to be "fully Canadian"? The COD claims that its database contains "over 8,000 different Canadian sources" (dust jacket), an assertion difficult to verify in the context of multinational controls over media. The publication of the COD solves the problem of the Canadianization of American dictionaries for domestic readers, not only by aligning that dictionary with canonical authority, but also on the basis of its specific Canadian content. Canadianness, then, is articulated here in three ways: first, as exclusively English Canadian; second, as not American or British; and third, as only possible to be represented now because of technological innovation and institutional support from Oxford University Press Canada.

The third sub-heading, "Regional Dictionaries, further problematizes the notion of Canadian content, beginning with a brief paragraph that alludes to two published dictionaries and one in preparation, all from Atlantic Canada, dictionaries of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton English. The relegation of the language spoken in these parts of Canada as regional dialects of Canadian English, and so as marginal or on the periphery, calls attention to the norm silently operating at the centre of "Canadian Content;" the English spoken in central Canada. (11)

The next three paragraphs raise the most serious contradictions (in a political sense) between the discourses of knowledge and nationalism. The canon of French language dictionaries and the tradition of Canadian francophone dictionaries are treated here as "regional:" The section closes with a brief paragraph on bilingual dictionaries. Hence, the learning of the French Academy, and its successors and the work of Canadian francophone academics, are placed on the periphery of Canadian content. Barber thereby relegates one of the official languages of Canada as well as the policy of bilingualism to a regionalism, despite two Official Languages Acts (1969, 1988) that not only protect official language minority rights (that is, for francophone speakers), but also declare that the 1988 act "takes precedence over all other acts of Parliament except the Canadian Human Rights Act" (s.v. "Official Languages Act, 1988"). Hence, Barber marginalizes the production of knowledge about the French language and the legal acts which confer on French the status of a national language. Furthermore, Canadian dictionaries of French are caught up in a discrepancy between French Canada as a geopolitical region and as a linguistic grouping that transgresses Quebec's geopolitical boundaries. (12) The French language translation of the CE contained in the electronic version reproduces word for word this marginalization of the French language.

The fourth sub-heading, "Native Languages," lists several languages of the Aboriginal peoples that have bilingual dictionaries. A second paragraph discusses the Dictionary of Old English (DOE) project at the University of Toronto. At the level of content, the inclusion of dictionaries of the Aboriginal peoples under the category "Native Languages" raises incongruities like the conflict between the geopolitical and linguistic boundaries elided in the discussion of French language dictionaries in Canada. First, the inclusion of the DOE under "Native Languages" marginalizes the languages of the Aboriginal peoples by contextualizing them within the history of the language of the British colonizers. Furthermore, the Canada census of 1991 recorded that about 223,000 people spoke at least one Aboriginal language, about one in five of the total Aboriginal population, and that the majority of these S2 languages is under immanent threat of extinction. The demography and cultural and linguistic affiliations of the Aboriginal peoples do not conform to the geopolitical borders of Canada. Indeed, "not one of Canada's aboriginal language families falls exclusively within Canada" (s.v. "Native People, Language"). Hence, even the notion of Canadian "native languages" raises questions about the constitution of the nation state.

But even the title of the fourth sub-heading is problematic. The adjective "Native" in reference to the Aboriginal peoples is consistent with usage elsewhere in the CE, but goes against recommendations from the Aboriginal eoples themselves, and points to inconsistencies in the law, media, and reference books. Both the Constitution Act of Canada (1982) and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (established 1991) avoid such usage absolutely: "The term Aboriginal peoples refers to organic political and cultural entities that stem historically from the original peoples of North America, rather than collections of individuals united by so-called 'racial' characteristics " ("Note"). Furthermore, in 1996 Governor General Romeo LeBlanc proclaimed the Summer Solstice (June 21) each year as "National Aboriginal Day."

Similar marginalizations occur throughout the encyclopedia. For instance, the entry "Nationalism" begins with a generic definition, and then traces exclusively the history of English Canadian nationalism. The CE has a separate entry for "French Canadian Nationalism" with no corresponding entry for "English Canadian Nationalism"-English is assumed to be the universal norm, French the marginalized other.

This history is inscribed as the norm throughout the entry "Dictionary." The entry needs principles of unity to work through its agenda: generic definition, history, current examples, and variations or sub-groups. What provides the principle of unity, however, is smuggled in, the assumed norm about Canadian English located in central Canada, the same power that defines the unity of the nation that operates silently throughout the entry. The entry also inscribes threats to this principle of unity, to Canadian nationalism from both within and without. The entry "Dictionary" assumes that the external other, the imperial master, either Britain or the United States, is the threat that must be overcome for a distinctive Canadian language to be produced. The internal threats represented here as the linguistic other are foregrounded by the alignment of the French language with a regionalism and by the Aboriginal languages as separate from "Canadian Content:" This content, as we have demonstrated, is always already over-determined by its scholarly construction and the specific political pressures of the Canadian hegemony.

"Canadian culture ... under siege"

In what remains one of the most comprehensive surveys of the history of encyclopedias, Robert Collison argued: "It is clear that the national encyclopaedia is already a thing of the past: the great days of the national encyclopaedia covered barely the 150 years from Diderot to the Enciclopedia italiana [1929-39] and there is no place for it in the modern world" (12). If Collison's argument, published over thirty years ago, still holds, then the CE and the con are anachronisms, even in their CD-ROM or Online forms. At issue is the question whether they are necessary anachronisms: the publishers claim that they are.

   The publisher's forward to the CE addresses the pertinence of a
   national reference book in a moment of political crisis: "Many
   people, I know, will especially appreciate this Encyclopedia, since
   it appears at a time when Canadian culture-perhaps even the
   separate country we have created-seems to be under siege.... This
   important book will be, I hope, an effective way of reminding us
   who we are and where we stand." By the time of this third print
   edition (1999), having sold over 200,000 sets, the electronic
   version had already sold over a quarter of a million copies (iii).
   An initial website sponsored by the publisher where the entire text
   was available to users "in three months received 58,000 hits," a
   popularity indicating that indeed Canadians do want to know who
   they are and where they stand (Mandel). Hence, the publishers,
   fortified by numerous laudatory reviews, hoped that in a time of
   political and cultural crisis such knowledge as that contained in
   the CE had been worth expanding to five print and multi-media
   editions, bundling in the con with all CD-ROM versions.
   Subsequently, copyright for the CE has been shifted to Historica,
   whose launch of the CE Online on 10 October 2001 makes the
   encyclopedia even more accessible. Hence, the publisher's concerns
   about national identity have been incorporated into the donation of
   the copyright of this profitable enterprise to a charitable
   foundation, with its set of corporate sponsors (Bell Canada
   Enterprises, Canada Heritage, CanWest Global Foundation, CRB
   [Charles R. Bronfman] Foundation, Daimler Chrysler, Netcentrics,
   Royal Bank, 7th Floor Media, and Westcoast Energy), dedicated to
   bolstering national identity by disseminating knowledge of Canada's
   past. The link between knowledge and political crisis is emphasized
   on the Historica homepage: its discussion of crisis in the Canadian
   nation, inscribed in half-a-dozen links to the teaching of Canadian
   culture, is overshadowed by those referring to the international
   crisis provoked by the events of 9/11("Historica" webpage).

As we have argued throughout, the epistemological principles of unity and selection in reference books function silently to document the knowledge of Canada. These hidden principles accord with the manifest political efforts that the nation's hegemony normally directs to promote Canadian unity. This latter point is made explicit in the entry "Regionalism" in the CE, in which Confederation is discussed in terms of a core and periphery within what would become the Canadian nation state: "What was a National Policy in central Canada could easily be interpreted by the Maritimes as Upper Canadian imperialism, and in the West as the manipulation of James and Bay Streets. From a Prairie and Maritime vantage point, the 'Big Interests' and 'Special Privilege' live in central Canada:' Regionalism is but one of the forces threatening Canadian unity in the twenty-first century. The notion of Canada's surviving is increasingly questioned: unity is challenged from within by the lingering possibility of Quebec's separation, the faint prospects of Western separation voiced by the Premier of Alberta, and by demands for national status by Aboriginal people, accompanied by land claims and controversies over hunting and fishing rights; and from without by the disappearance of Canada's border and loss of control of foreign policy in the aftermath of 9/11, and, less dramatically now, by NAFTA and other trade agreements and tariff wars (see Andreas and Biersteker), by multinational corporations and globalization, by the collapse of controls on all kinds of national cultural activities through computerization of communications, and by the difficulties of the CRTC to regulate the diversification of media that cannot be construed as Canadian, to name but a few issues. In the face of such a range of threats, how can "Canada" possibly be an idealized, unified object of knowledge, as required by the canon of a national reference book? The answer might lie in a new conceptualization of both nation and reference book.

Such a concept, however, will not be easy to formulate. In his talk to the Canadian Society for 18th Century Studies, Marsh attempts such a task, emphasizing attacks on the notion of the unity of knowledge: "The challenge that an editor faces now is to involve himself in the remaking of the text, in the reinterpretation of authority and not allow the technocrats, and for that matter deconstructing academics to dictate how we see the world from d'Alambert's eagle's view, though we acknowledge that we can no longer aspire to first principles or a single great truth" (Marsh). As we have seen, Marsh relies on the electronic media to defer the epistemological problem, placing the unity of knowledge under the erasure of the ever-expanding accumulation made possible by technology. Within this solution, the fundamental problem of mastery, the singular perspective or "eagle's view" that coincides with the political hegemony of nationalist or imperialist aspirations behind the reference books, is raised but then suppressed by the overwhelming power of the web. Hence, the web functions in ways similar to informational technologies of the Enlightenment: as Barthes and Willensky have argued, it becomes possible to break the world into fragments, classify it, and then possess it, not, however, in a bookcase, but on a computer screen.

In this talk to a group of academics, the problem of nation receives almost no attention. In referring to the first publisher and the origins of the CE, Marsh states that Hurtig's motive was to make Canadians "more aware of ourselves," an awareness that would "perhaps preserve us." He goes on to list three "enormous expectations placed on any encyclopedia:" The first is grounded in the problem of nation: it concerns how the reference book "could somehow contribute to nationhood," and how it "might finally help define the indefinable Canadian identity" Immediately following these conventional gestures to the reference book's role in fostering national unity, Marsh in the same paragraph raises his second expectation, grounded in the notion of the totality of knowledge, that an encyclopedia can contain all knowledge of the entire country and even the entire world. The third expectation is grounded in the problem of mastery, that "an encyclopedia [should] remain a beacon of authority not only in a sea of misinformation but amid the scattered debris left by postmodern deconstruction."

The problems of national unity implicit in the first expectation are dealt with indirectly in discussing problems associated with expertness, authority, and mastery. In his discussion of challenges to the authority of the encyclopedia Marsh alludes to two kinds of critics: first, his "favourite; is "those who write from their direct experience" such as those who retrace by canoe the route of an early explorer; second, are those special interest groups driven by ideological concerns, religious fundamentalists objecting to his treatment of evolution, and the Alberta Report and Globe and Mail for his treatment of free enterprise. The list of special interest groups concludes with "a group of scholars at Laval [who] prepared a secret report on the treatment of Quebec$ and a dismissal which lumps all of them together: "It has been in their obsession with place that Canadians have shown their most powerful view of Canada, as many critics across the country scoured the encyclopedia with the sole aim of proving that it was unfair to their locality." By dismissing so easily the nationalist aspirations of Quebec in equating them with religious fundamentalists, business ideologues, or eccentric historical buffs, Marsh not only contradicts his claims for the reference book's helping to "define the indefinable Canadian identity" but also calls attention to the difficulties of containing knowledge of Canada within the unified perspective of a reference book.

As we have demonstrated in our discussion of the CE's entries "Dictionary" and "Nationalism," objections to its treatment of Canadian political complexities hardly constitute an obsession. Were a Prime Minister to make a similar gesture, dismissing objections to Quebec's marginalization as an obsession, there would be a national outcry; nevertheless, such a political juggling act between different interests and perspectives will always be necessary within both the nation state and any reference book purporting to represent it.

Undoubtedly it would be possible to dismiss our argument in a strategy similar to Marsh's, citing our locality, we suppose, as "deconstructing academics," and marginalizing our concerns as a pedantic "obsession." However, to raise questions about the assumptions behind nationalism and the reference book as projects of the Enlightenment, we have argued, is part of a wider discourse in which both are currently undergoing radical reconceptualization.

Such a reconceptualization of nation as it concerns Canada is not the abstract prerogative of the ivory tower, but has been in circulation among journalists for at least a decade. According to Richard Gwyn, Canada is "the world's first postmodern state": "Always the world's most decentralized nation-state, we have become decentralized further-more accurately 'decentred,' ... a key term in postmodernist theory--no longer just into our historic regions and provinces but more and more now into all our new 'identity' communities." This de-centring breaks down eighteenth-and nineteenth-century concepts of the nation. A postmodern nation is not an ideal unity based on exclusivist principles, but rather an ever-changing and inclusive entity: "we are well on the way to becoming a global nation, or a microcosm of all the world's peoples" (243-44).

In moving to a new technology, the CE demonstrates a similar shift. Its CD version is entitled The Canadian Encyclopedia World Edition, and, as we have pointed out, its homepage has as many references to international current events as it does to matters exclusively Canadian. The encyclopedic urge of the Britannica or the Encyclopedie to possess and represent the world according to an imperial centre in London, New York, or Paris is modified in these electronic versions where Canadian culture is foregrounded, but made relative to other parts of the world. Knowledge of Canada and the Canadian nation-state are represented by difference from other kinds of knowledge and other nation states. At the same time, however, the knowledge of Canada and the Canada of knowledge are conscripted on the CE Online webpage, and in the web itself, into the control of knowledge by the imperial hegemony of American interests and capital, where the knowledge of the world is subservient to Microsoft operating systems and American search engines which determine what knowledge is important and how it can be used. The circle of knowledge of Canadian reference books may be drawn wider and wider, but the power that draws the circle still determines the content of knowledge and the conditions of nation states.

The problems we have examined in this paper are necessarily selective. They have been chosen to demonstrate not that the lavish praise heaped on these reference books is misplaced, but rather that representing Canada is an act in power, and that the knowledge of Canada demonstrates fault-lines that correspond to contradictions within the Canadian unity. On another level we have traced these fault lines beyond the nation state, beyond the knowledge of Canada and the Canada of knowledge, to the examples and effects of Enlightenment models of factual accumulation and dissemination. Consistent with such Enlightenment projects, the CE and con narrativize the nation in the interests of hegemonic positions, specifically in relation to current unity crises in the Canadian nation state, regulating ethnic diversity, regional disparity, and internal and external threats to cultural sovereignty. Our fundamental point is not to suggest that these interests should disappear, but rather that they should be recognized as constantly under revision-as is inevitable in the process of nation building and the construction of reference books.


We wish to thank Marcel Martel and Susan Warwick, as well as two anonymous readers for English Studies in Canada, for perceptive readings and advice.

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(1) The print version of The Canadian Encyclopedia is referred to in the text and in subsequent notes as CE; the bilingual electronic version on CD-ROM, The 2000 Canadian Encyclopedia World Edition with the same publication data, is indicated as the CD version; The Canadian Encyclopedia Online is referred to as CE Online. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary is referred to as COD.

(2) In "A Note on Terminology, Taiaiake Alfred points out both the complexity and the political implications of such usage:

   Whenever possible I will use terms from indigenous languages, out
   of respect for the people's struggle to free their minds. In the
   past twenty years, many indigenous people have rejected the
   definitions imposed on them by white society. Today we recognize
   the significance and symbolic value of terminology, and the use of
   our own recovered languages is important not only for the purposes
   of communication but also as a symbol of our survival. In addition,
   it helps us all to avoid insult and injury.

   ... I, like every other member of the community, continue to use
   the word "Mohawk" in reference to our nation. "Mohawk" is in fact
   an anglicized version of an archaic Algonkian word meaning
   "cannibal monster." (This etymology is noted in the COD.] Some of
   us "Mohawks of Kahnawake" may relish the notoriety of the term (and
   it does remain in common usage), but it is an obvious derogation
   that became incorporated into our own contemporary culture as we
   uncritically adopted the English language and all its prejudices in
   recent years.... Our own word for ourselves is "Kanien' kehaka"
   meaning "people of the flint." It is a proud and honourable word,
   and will generally replace "Mohawk" in this book. (xxv)

While the COD does define "First Nation" as "an Indian band" (again using two colonizing terms, both sanctioned by federal government legislation), the term "nation" is not accorded to any specific Aboriginal nation: the definition falls back on supposedly non-politicized terminology such as "group" or "people" Our more general point, of course, is not that a dictionary of Canadian English should necessarily define terms such as "Kanien' kehaka;' but that its absence, and the refusal to apply "nation" in its political sense to the aboriginal communities, completely undermines the larger epistemological claim that the reference book represents all aspects of Canadian experience.

(3) Writing on Canadian nationalism, Phyllis M. Senese argues that the distinction between ethnic and civic nationalism is "a false dichotomy" that privileges nineteenth-century British political ideas as respectable and progressive, "contrasted with an ethnic nationalism of a common language and culture and exaggerated homogeneity in Quebec" (113).

(4) In one of the few theoretical statements on reference books, Umberto Eco maintains that a dictionary is supposed to convey "mere 'linguistic' information" about a complete language, about its words, spellings, and usage, or some other set of the lexicon, while an encyclopedia purports to convey "pieces of world knowledge." However, this conventional distinction breaks down both theoretically and practically: reference books systematize their contents by representing their task in a semantics of world knowledge, and also are enclosed parts of a semiotic system that is self-referential to its own definitions or linguistic knowledge. Eco argues that within an epistemology of "commonsense knowledge, an encyclopedia can only supposedly escape the self-referential limits of a dictionary model because it is "potentially infinite and ... relies upon factual rather than linguistic knowledge" (203). But such a supposition is false, as Eco argues: neither the dictionary nor the encyclopedia can be entirely self-referential or potentially infinite and factual. They refer to real-world events, but they must have limits.

(5) Collison surveys the history of encyclopedias from their beginnings to the twentieth century. For a history of dictionaries in English see Landau. For an extensive narrative history of encyclopedias and dictionaries see the entries in the New Encyclopaedia Britannica. On Johnson's Dictionary see DeMaria; Landau 35-47. For the history and canonical position of the Encyclopedie see Barthes; Darnton, Business and "Philosophers"; Kafker; for other discussions see Gordon and Torrey. The best survey of the history of the Britannica is Wells. On the OED see Burchfield; Murray; and Willinsky, Empire. On the typology of reference books see Malkiel 1-20. On lexicography and its history see Ilson; Sledd and Ebbitt; Weinbrot; Wilson, Hendrickson, and Taylor; and Zgusta.

(6) The two-book theory asserts that nature and the bible are the two sources or "books" of revelation, the former a key to the latter. For instance, Francis Bacon in The Advancement of Learning (1605) states: "Let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain, that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works" (8). The trope is traced by Ernst Robert Curtius (319-26) to Alan of Lille (1128-1202).

(7) Canada First was a political movement emerging shortly after Confederation that set out to enunciate a particular Canadian identity based on the northern climate "which imparted to the people living here a strength of character shared by other circumpolar 'races'... What today we recognize as the Aryan Nation theme it articulated gained great popularity in subsequent decades. It was believed that the struggle to survive in a northern climate created a set of national characteristics.... It was the climate which weeded out the weak and the lazy and discouraged members of the 'southern races' from settling here" (Francis 153-54).

(8) Daniel Francis discusses the teaching of Canadian history and the place in it of the Aboriginal peoples as part of the landscape: "Until the 1960s, Textbook Indians were sinister, vicious figures, without history or culture. They inhabited the New World as wild animals inhabited the forest. They were introduced to young readers not as another civilization with which the Europeans came into contact, but as part of the landscape which had to be explored and subdued" (72). According to Eva Mackey, Canadian myths of origin are based on "the reconstruction of British and French colonialism as the acts of Two Founding Peoples" at confederation when "the sovereignty and land claims of Aboriginal peoples disappeared. The constitutional recognition of cultural duality created ... a theory of empty land, of terra nullius, which erased Canada's First Nations" (14). While such a mythology represented the relationships between the settlers and the First Nations at first as cooperative, later representations did not.

(9) For a discussion of the role biography in the formation of Canadian nationalism, see Lanning.

(10) John Barrell has discussed the ideological work of constructing a national language based on a region-bound and class-based particular form: "Creating a unified, national language was ... a complex problem of persuasion and obligation: those who were not the best speakers were to be persuaded that the customs of the language had, in the immemorial past, been freely assented to by 'all,' by the theoretical totality of the 'people.' Those customs, however, when defined, often turned out to be the recent creation of a minority of speakers only" (136). Focusing on Johnson's dictionary and the politics of the eighteenth century, Barrell discusses the standardization of the language. Raymond Williams has related similar processes of social transformation in the nineteenth century to another canonical dictionary, the OED (s.v. "Standards").

(11) In the entry "English Language" in the CE, M. H. Scargill claims that Canadian English "has never elevated any one form of regional speech to a position of prestige.... A form of Canadian English, the language stripped of its regional features, is used by English-speaking Canadians across the country." He points out, however, that there are regional dialects, but does not explain how the standard form emerged, nor how it is kept in place by both institutional authority and also the national media with their centres in southern Ontario. In a history of Canadian English, part of the prefatory material of the con, J. K. Chambers avoids the problem of locating a standard of Canadian English by arguing that the language developed over four stages of immigration, and that it continues to undergo rapid transformation, especially as a result of recent technology.

(12) The entry in the CE on "French Language" asserts that there are more than 5 1/2 million francophones in Quebec, and over a million elsewhere in Canada, 300,000 in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI, descendants of early Acadian settlers, and 735,000 scattered though Ontario and the west, often in Frenchs-peaking communities.

Victor Shea

William Whitla

York University

VICTOR SHEA is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Humanities, and in English and History in the School of Arts and Letters at York University. He has published in the areas of Canadian and Victorian literature and culture, and on critical theory. With William Whitla he published Essays and Reviews: The 1860 Text and Its Reading (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 2000) and Foundations: Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing (Toronto: Prentice-Hall, 2001). Most recently, he has contributed nine entries to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era (4 vols. Ed. Tom and Sara Pendergast. Danbury, CT: Grolier Academic Press, [2004]).

WILLIAM WHITLA is Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Humanities and English at York University. He has published on Victorian literature and culture and on critical theory. With Victor Shea he published Essays and Reviews: The 1860 Text and Its Reading (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 2000) and Foundations: Critical Thinking, Reading and Writing (Toronto: Prentice-Hall, 2001). He recently published A Feminist Chronology (York Centre for Feminist Research, 1999) and articles on William Morris's unpublished Newdigate Prize poem, "The Mosque Rising, his saga translations, and his unpublished translation of the first book of Homer's Iliad in the Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies.

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