A body of writing recognized by authority (literary critics and scholars) deemed suitable for academic study.


Meaning exists in the texts relation to the numerous other texts which go to make up the multiple discourses of culture.  When we read texts intertextually, we immediately go outside of them in our search for meaning, since a text considered intertextually has no inside or, to be more specific, a texts inside comes from cultural discourses which exist on its outside

For example, there are images in Atwoods poetry whose meanings are determined by an understanding of Moodies Roughing it in the Bush

Cultural verisimilitude

What is related to the generalizations and stereotypes a culture accepts as common knowledge. These are recognized as constructs, but as shared and accepted constructs.

What makes Canada a literary possibility, or a community of literary possibilities? 

Sentimental novel

The sentimental novel was popularized in the 18th century. The novel is characterized by extreme emotion, which attempts to elicit an emotional response in the reader, particularly an optimistic and positive outlook on humanity and human nature. Sentimental novels, such as Richardson’s Pamela exhibit the close connections between virtue and sensibility, in repeatedly tearful scenes; a character's feeling for the beauties of nature and for the grief of others is taken as a sign of a pure heart.


The exploitation of a weaker country by a stronger one.  It includes the use of the weaker country's resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country.  It is a feature of European expansion since sixteenth century, as Western powers took control of people and territory across much of globe. The last major wave was in Africa during the late-nineteenth century. South American colonies gained independence in nineteenth century, African and Asian colonies after WW II. 


Frequently, the study of colonialism is divided into settler and forcibly colonized countries.


ex.  Nigeria would be a colonized country, and Canada would be a settler country.


Of course, the world is now dealing with issues of neo-colonialism



 The act of colonizing, or the establishment of colonies such as "the British colonization of Africa."



The national policy of conquest of other regions or peoples for the purpose of extending political and economic control and of exploiting the resources of other regions or people.  This may happen even within the colony itself. 



The privileging of particular types of experience that denies access to the world for the writer subject to a dominating colonial culture.  It works in a complicated and reciprocal way, both denying value to the postcolonial experience itself, as “unworthy” of literature, and preventing postcolonial texts from engaging with that experience.  The result is that the postcolonial writer is consigned to a world of mimicry and imitation, since he is forced to write about material which lies at one remove from the significant experiences of the postcolonial world. (from Ashcroft, et al.  The Empire Writes Back)


Literary Realism

A mode of writing that gives the impression of recording or reflecting faithfully an actual way of life.  It is not, however, a simple reproduction of reality, but a system of conventions that produce a lifelike illusion of a “real” world outside the text.  One could also call it “an illusionist transformation of actuality” as it seeks to examine the details of human nature. 


Canadian literary critics say that ‘realism as a literary movement derives its power from the fact that it captures the energies and images that lie in the centre of the imagination” (G. Woodcock).


We most often associate realism with 19th century authors such as George Eliot and her examination of lower class life in Middlemarch.  In this sense, realism is often political in nature.  


However, in early Canadian literature such as The Stone Angel, politics are often absent as authors focus on rural characters and their need to come to terms with the immense country and their struggle to define where they live.  As characters, they frequently re-invent themselves in relation to a changing country.  Thus, realism in Canadian literature frequently emphasizes physical descriptions of the setting and a search for authenticity. For example, Laurence’s town of Madawaska is a blend of myth and real life that, in many ways, can only be realized in this completely fictional town. Laurence’s characters are striking individuals that are in constant states of flux and crisis as they attempt to understand themselves and their settings.


For example, Laurence prefers to think of her writing as a “voice” rather than a “style” because she feels she is shaping the entire community of Madawaska.  Indeed, so powerful is this voice that many readers have concluded that Madawaska is a real place, and make pilgrimages to her home in Manitoba.   In effect, Madawaska has become so “real” for some readers that it has acquired mythical status not just in Canadian literature, but also in Canadian culture as the town and the novel shape our understanding of ourselves. 

Contemporary [Canadian] painting and writing, whatever the language, speaks an international idiom, and the capitals where that idiom is established are still…the big centres, London, Paris, New York.  The general principle [in Canadian literature] appears to be that a painter or writer who is self-conscious about his immediate context will be likely to sound provincial, whereas a painter who accepts a provincial milieu…will be much less likely to do so.  Within the last twenty years we have been seeing more and more of this sparsely settled country become culturally visible through painters and writer who belong, as creative people, less to Canada than to the prairies, the Pacific coast…Quebec.  The process has been aided by Canada’s more relaxed attitude to ethnical groups; there is no such thing as 100% Canadian…We can see the “provincial” aspect of Canadian culture going into reverse, from inarticulate form to articulate content.  (Northrop Frye, from “Cultural as Interpretation”)

Biography:  The written history of a person’s life.


Autobiography:             The story of one's life written by oneself.

                                          A non-fiction work detailing the life of a person and                                                   written by that person.

                                          Usually written with the narrative “I.” 


Travel Writing/Narrative: A narrative that provides detailed physical and social descriptions of place.  In early narrative writing the purpose was to give readers (armchair tourists) back “home” an idea of life in the colonies.  For example, early British travel writers would describe the foods and eating customs of the people of India or Nigeria for the average Briton.  Others may describe the vegetation in a rainforest for more scientific-minded readers.  


Memoir: The memoir is often considered to be a more private documentation of one’s personal life.  In this manner, it is still related to autobiography, but may be less structured, and focus more on a single aspect of one’s life.  For example, Bill Clinton has recently published his memoirs, which in many ways implies that he is discussing only his term as president.   Some critics consider memoir to mean the same as “journal.” Thus, the organization and publication of one’s journal entries could be called a memoir. 



Many critics see the now well-known autobiographical statement in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes—“Do I not know that, in the field of the subject, there is no referent?"—as the historically significant point in autobiographical assessment.  Autobiography is a special kind of fiction, and it takes/plagiarizes from all forms of writing, without allegiance to any of them.   If you can never fully reconstruct the “truth,” even if it is about yourself, then why not play with the forms available?  Why deny that the self is unknowable?   


“Autobiography” is a self-portrait…where the subject must alternatively pose and paint.  The narrator performs double duty: telling the story as a narrator, enacting it as a protagonist.  (William Howarth)


The Bush Myth and Canadian Identity

 Small and isolated communities surrounded with a physical or psychological “frontier,” separated from one another and from their American and British cultural sources: communities that provide all that their members have in the way of distinctly human values, and that are compelled to feel a great respect for the law and order that holds them together, yet confronted with a huge, unthinking, menacing, and formidable physical setting—such communities are bound to develop what we may provisionally call a garrison mentality…The real terror comes when the individual feels himself becoming an individual, pulling away from the group, losing that sense of driving power that the group gives him…It is much easier to multiply garrisons…

              Northrop Frye, from The Bush Garden (1966)



As the centre of Canadian life moves from the fortress to the metropolis, the garrison mentality changes…It begins as an expression of the moral values generally accepted in the group as a whole, then, as society gets more complicated and more in control of its environment, it becomes more of a revolutionary garrison…But though it changes from a defence of to an attack on what society accepts as conventional standards, the literature it produces tends to be rhetorical, an illustration or allegory of certain social attitudes…

              Northrop Frye, from The Bush Garden



Nature is a monster, perhaps, only if you come to it with unreal expectations or fight its conditions rather than accepting them and learning to live with them.  Snow isn’t something you necessarily die in or hate.  You can also make houses in it.

              Margaret Atwood, from Survival



What a lost person needs is a map of the territory, with his own position marked on it so he can see where he is in relation to everything else.  Literature is not only a mirror; it is also a map, a geography of the mind.  [Canadian] literature is one such map if we can learn to read it as our literature…

              Margaret Atwood, from Survival



The monster is now the United States  (various authors)