Here Is Queer: Nationalisms, Sexualities, and the Literatures of Canada


262 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8210-6
DDC C810.9'353




Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is the former Assistant Director of Libraries (Collection
Management & Budget) at the University of Saskatchewan and Dramaturge
for the Festival de la Dramaturgie des Prairies.


Peter Dickinson is a “white Anglo-Scots gay male literary critic
living in Vancouver.” He holds a Ph.D. from the University of British
Columbia but has also lived in Quebec. He maintains a committed
political interest in the literary phenomena that have not yet
succeeded, he claims, to fully characterize Québécois, First Nations,
and Canadian culture: the famous crisis of Canadian identity.

Dickinson’s basic theory is that our literatures can be seen to
present a “travesti” or disguise that defines another kind of
literary nationhood: Here is Queer. In his terms, “queer” is
“counter-normative sexuality [of which the] inventory of sexual
meanings has yet to be exhausted.” He examines trends (Canadian
canon-formation 1943–67, lesbian feminism, literary fashion at the end
of the millennium) and significant writers such as Sinclair Ross,
Timothy Findley, Michel Tremblay, and Tomson Highway.

The critical selections are situational and personal (not to mention
arbitrary), an odd approach in a book that is tortured in its academic,
sociological vocabulary of criticism. A clear sentence every 30 pages or
so suggests a potentially interesting thesis in digestible form, but as
it stands, this book is not for the general public, even with its lively
jabs at other critics and a plethora of puns close to the surface. No
doubt future Ph.D. candidates in literary studies or queer theory will
be forced to plough through the entire book. General readers might want
to begin with Dickinson’s chapter on Tremblay, in which he declares
“confession time ... I must come out as a closet Canadian
nationalist” and temporarily leaves some of his critical frippery
behind to write in a style which, for once, seeks to pull the reader
into his passionate perspective.


Dickinson, Peter., “Here Is Queer: Nationalisms, Sexualities, and the Literatures of Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024,