Canadian Literature Collection

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Meet Me on the Barricades

Charles Yale Harrison

Meet Me on the Barricades is Harrison’s most experimental work. The novel includes a series of fantasy sequences that culminate in a scene heavily indebted to the Nighttown episode in James Joyce’s Ulysses (the novel was published a year before James Thurber’s better-known short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”). The novel is also Harrison’s only foray into satire—an especially unexpected turn given that the Spanish Civil War literary canon, and particularly works of literature written in the midst of the war, tend towards earnestness rather than irony. Harrison’s novel is thus a unique book, significant for its self-consciousness as a modernist novel and as a political document. Out of print since its single publication run in 1938, this critical edition recovers Harrison’s important commentary on the heated “culture wars” of the 1930s and the Spanish Civil War. With an original critical introduction and extensive textual and editorial notes, this edition draws on original archival research to situate the novel within the modernist and leftist North American canons. Meet Me on the Barricades is a densely allusive text that layers global politics, revolutionary theory, classical music, literary theory, world history, and anti-Stalinism, as well as emergent biological discourses about sex. It recounts a few days in the life of P. Herbert Simpson, a middle-aged, weak-hearted oboist with the New York Symphony Orchestra and leftist fellow traveller. Simpson is subject to wild hallucinations that are sometimes daydreams, sometimes drunken delirium, and on occasion intricate dreams while asleep. He imagines escaping his unrewarding marriage with a prudish, domineering wife through a passionate fantasy of a Russian girlfriend, and escaping his day job in the symphony to fight on the front lines of the Spanish Civil War.

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Northrop Frye and Others

Twelve Writers Who Helped Shape His Thinking

Robert D. Denham

Internationally renowned Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye, Companion of the Order of Canada and elected to the Royal Society of Canada, penned close readings and critical analyses of Blake, Shakespeare, Milton, Yeats, and Eliot—to name but a few. However, Frye, who was noted for establishing cross-disciplinary connections, was also greatly influenced by other philosophers and writers, such as Aristotle and Lewis Carroll, who feature in his notebooks but not in his published essays or other works. 

When Robert D. Denham edited Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks, he ran across Frye’s proclamation that one Henry Reynolds was “the greatest critic before Johnson.” Denham could not recall ever having encountered this name. But with the Collected Works of Frye now in print, it became possible to track down all references to Reynolds in Frye’s published as well as his previously unpublished writing. The resulting essay shows how Reynolds and Frye are linked by their joint interest in allegory, poetic etymology, and something quite akin to Longinian ekstasis

As Denham became more familiar with Frye’s previously unpublished work, other figures important to Frye’s thinking began to emerge, including Giordano Bruno, Joachim of Floris, Henry Burton, Søren Kierkegaard, Frances Yates—writers to whom he had not devoted separate books or essays (as he had done in the case of Blake, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickinson, Keats, Shelley, Eliot, Joyce, Yeats, Stevens, the Bible, and Spengler, among others). The twelve “others” eventually came to represent a space occupied by writers whose interests paralleled Frye’s and helped to establish his own critical universe. 

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Swinging the Maelstrom

A Critical Edition

Malcolm Lowry

Swinging the Maelstrom is Lowry’s story of a musician enduring existence in Bellevue, the psychiatric hospital in New York where Lowry himself spent some days in 1936. The novella, written in Canada between 1942 and 1944, during Lowry’s happiest and most fruitful years, reveals the deep influence on Lowry of the healing experience of his idyllic retreat at Dollarton.
The novella by Malcolm Lowry that appeared in Paris Review in 1963 under the title “Lunar Caustic,” and was published in book form in 1968 does not match the claims made for it by his widow Margerie Lowry of it being the final and definitive version of that work.  This text is neither the version which Lowry wrote in New York City in 1936 (“The Last Address”), nor the partially revised version he drafted in Vancouver in 1939 (still called “The Last Address”), nor the radically transformed version that he undertook in Dollarton between 1942 and 1944 (“Swinging the Maelstrom”).  In a long letter of January 1952 to the influential New York editor and publisher Robert Giroux, Lowry stated clearly that “Swinging the Maelstrom” should be considered as the final, completed version of the novella (which meanwhile had acquired its new title “Lunar Caustic”) and that “The Last Address” should be “looked on as simply the material from which I worked up ‘Swinging the Maelstrom’.”  
The present long overdue scholarly edition reveals the exact status of all the “Lunar Caustic” manuscripts, including the posthumous mix of two versions in published form.  The book includes scholarly editions of both “Swinging the Maelstrom” and “The Last Address,” thus offering the reader unique insight into Lowry’s work. The present edition will allow scholars to engage in a genetic study of Lowry’s novella and reconstruct, step by step, the creative process that developed from a rather pessimistic and misanthropic vision of the world as a madhouse (the 1936 version of “The Last Address”), via the apocalyptic metaphors of a world on the brink of Armageddon at the beginning of World War II (the 1939 revisions of the “The Last Address”), to a world that—in spite of all its troubles—leaves room for self-irony and humanistic concern (the radical transformation of the novella into “Swinging the Maelstrom” in 1942–44).

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This Time a Better Earth

A Critical Edition

Ted Allan

A young Canadian marches over the Pyrenees and enters into history by joining the International Brigades—men and women from around the world who volunteered to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. This new edition of Ted Allan’s novel, This Time a Better Earth, reintroduces readers to the electrifying milieu of the Spanish Civil War and Madrid, which for a short time in the 1930s became the epicentre of a global struggle between democracy and fascism. This Time a Better Earth, first published in 1939, tells the story of Canadian Bob Curtis from the time of his arrival in Spain and the idealism and trials of the international volunteers. Allan’s novel achieves the distinction of being both a work of considerable literary and historical significance and a real page-turner.

This is the first installment of a series of titles to be published in the Canadian Literature Collection under the Canada and the Spanish Civil War banner. This is a large-scale project devoted to the recovery and presentation of Canadian cultural production about the Spanish Civil War (spanishcivilwar.ca), directed by Bart Vautour and Emily Robins Sharpe.

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Waste Heritage

A Novel

By Irene Baird, edited and with an introduction by Colin Hill

A new critical edition of the acknowledged best Canadian novel of the 1930s. Irene Baird’s Waste Heritage is a groundbreaking work of Canadian fiction based on the dramatic and violent labour disputes that took place in British Columbia in 1938. The story follows the progress of two friends, Matt Striker, a 23-year-old from Saskatchewan, and his simple-minded companion Eddy, as they travel from Vancouver to Victoria following the occupation of the Vancouver Post Office. Like the unemployed masses that took siege of the Post Office, Matt and Eddy yearn for relief after years of economic depression. Empathetic and tragic, Waste Heritage has been praised as Canada’s Grapes of Wrath and the most important Canadian novel of the 1930s.

A new critical apparatus surrounds Baird’s original text, informing the reader of the historical and literary contexts of the work, as well as providing exhaustive textual analysis.

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The Wrong World

Selected Stories and Essays of Bertram Brooker

Edited and with an introduction by Gregory Betts

Bertram Brooker won the country's first Governor General's Award for literature in 1936 for his novel Think of the Earth, and his explosive, experimental paintings hang in every major gallery in the country. He was Canada's first multidisciplinary avantgardist, successfully experimenting in literature, visual arts, film, and theatre. Brooker brought all of his experimental ambitions to his short fiction and prose. The Wrong World presents a rich sampling of his prose work, much of it previously unpublished, which adds new insight into his aesthetic ambitions.

Working during an incredible period of transition in Canadian society, Brooker's stories document Canada's evolution from a provincial colony into a modern, urban country. His essays participated in that evolution by advocating a passionate awakening of the arts, the end of prudish sentiment and censorship, and a radical rethinking of the nature of war. They capture the limitations and hypocrisies of the Canadian social contract and argue for a more just and spiritual society. His stories humanize his social vision by dramatizing the psychological and emotional cost of Canada's transition into a modern civilization. In turn devastating, penetrating and poignant, Brooker's prose works offer a sharply focussed window into the turbulent interwar years in Canada.

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