A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English


1180 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-19-541687-2
DDC C810.8




Edited by Donna Bennett and Russell Brown
Reviewed by Joseph Jones

Joseph Jones is a reference librarian in the Koerner Library at the
University of British Columbia.


Entering its third decade in its third incarnation, this anthology has
expanded by about one-third from the revised and abridged version of
1990. The preface notes a shift of interest from the poem and the short
story to the novel. As a consequence, the anthology now makes greater
use of excerpts.

Eighty-five writers (48 men and 37 women) are presented chronologically
by date of birth, from Saukamapee (1714?–1791?) to Stephanie Bolster
(born in 1969). This manner of organization creates a sense of history.
The introduction goes on to outline characteristics of four periods.

Actual use of the volume results in a desire for access to the contents
that goes beyond the table of contents (a chronological list of names
with their associated titles) and the author–title index. While the
preface offers a list of other interests (Aboriginal writing, regions,
urbanization, immigration, sexual diversity, minorities), the book’s
navigational apparatus offers no approach beyond browsing.

Even the chronological arrangement offers less direct access than might
be expected. For example, Harry Robinson, born at the turn of the 20th
century and selected as an Aboriginal author, is represented by
material published as late as 1989. The back cover calls attention to
“occasional brief essays on genres and historical moments” (e.g.,
“The Great War in Canadian Literature and Art,” found under Jane
Urquhart born in 1949), but there is no straightforward way to find any
of these essays.

Each author entry includes a substantial biocritical introduction of
one or two pages, with footnoted annotations provided for the texts.
Annotation is a difficult art, but it seems odd that nothing was
provided to direct a reader to the Ezra Pound poem so clearly echoed by
George Elliott Clarke’s “The River Pilgrim: A Letter.”

Though a paperback, this attractively produced volume strikes an
impressive balance between the affordability and the durability that a
student needs.


“A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/9282.