Twenty Years of Criticism

By Clarke, George Elliott | Kola, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Twenty Years of Criticism


Clarke, George Elliott, Kola


Kola 20.1 and 20.2 reprinted mainly fiction and prose that I felt merited fresh outings in recognition of the vital role that Canada's only Black literary magazine, in French or in English, has played in getting African-Canadian and African Diasporic voices into print. One benefit of reviewing those twenty years of literary creativity, 1987-2007, was that I became reacquainted with the high quality of much of the literary criticism that Kola has published: scholarly essays, book reviews, editorial comments and personal squibs.

Introducing Kola 20.2, I suggested that a Special Issue assembling some of the criticism was merited, and Kola's editors have agreed. Hence, issue 21.l has been set aside to carry this material.

In my editorial introduction to Kola 20.1, I noted that the little magazine's first decade reflected an adherence to pan-Africanism, multiculturalism, and a special openness to African-American writers.

In the second decade, as I pointed out in my introduction to Kola 20.2, Kola became resolutely African-Canadian in focus, and further, in terms of its primary contributors, mainly Afro-Quebecois and African Nova Scotian (Africadian). I also observed that Kola's editors now tend to dominate the magazine, publishing occasionally lengthy creative works or critical prose.

The foregoing comments pertain to Kola's publishing of literary criticism too. In the first decade, especially between 1987 and 1994, Africans resident in Montreal, I presume, as students, authored several important articles, whose focus was, not surprisingly, African literature. In the second decade, a handful of names, mainly Montreal-residents, produced most of the critical prose: Dr. Clarence Bayne, Dr. Horace I. Goddard, Anthony Joyette, and Dr. H. Nigel Thomas. That three of the four hold doctorates, and two hold doctorates in English specifically, is one explanation for the fine-fine, critical writing. Yet, though a poet and visual artist, and nonacademic, Joyette scribed notable editorials and essays and several combative book reviews articulating his vision of African-Canadian literature just as the field entered public consciousness in the mid-1990s. …

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