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Review Canadian Literature Through English Eyes: A Partial Review w.J. KEITH Michael Stapleton. The Cambridge Guide to English Literature New York, Cambridge, and London: Cambridge University Press and Newnes Books 1983. xi, 993, illus. US$29.95 Prominently displayed on the dust-jacket of this book, though absent from the title-page, are the words: 'Including the Literatures of Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, the Caribbean, and Africa.' This being so, it seems fair for a review in the University of Toronto Quarterly to narrow its attention to the treatment of Canadian literature in this large and impressive-looking reference work. I! is rather like seeking the proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack. I eventually found thirteen brief entries. Canadians will be both amazed and appalled by the list: Birney, Callaghan, Drummond, Haliburton, Klein, Lampman, Layton, Leacock, Montgomery, Pratt, D.C. Scott, Service, Seton. Or fourteen if one includes Lowry (though his Canadian novel, October Ferry to Gabriola, is his only full-length work that is not mentioned). At the very least, this list is quixotic. Why Callaghan but not Grove, Klein but not Smith or F.R. Scott, Seton but not Roberts? Above all, why are so many of our prominent contemporary writers ignored? Admittedly, tucked away in the fine print of the preface one comes upon a statement that the book was 'designed to cover English literature from the earliest times to 1970,' but even this cut-off point cannot justify the arbitrary absurdity of the Canadian lis!. Many of those omitted (Margaret Laurence, Hugh Maclennan, Mordecai Richler, Sinclair Ross, Ethel Wilson) had firmly established their reputations by that time. Others (Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Al Purdy, Rudy Wiebe, to name only a few) were well on the way towards doing so - after all, Margaret Drabble is included, but of course she's English. No Canadian will accept the implication that, in a book purporting to include the literature of this country, the above names do not deserve equal space to that enjoyed by, say, Bishop Colenso and Mum and the Sothsegger. The plain fact of the matter is that, whatever the title may say, this book is a guide not to 'English Literature' but to whatever books and references are likely to 3' 4 be of interest to English - and American - readers (the Publisher's Note refers cutely but revealingly to 'retired crossword-puzzle solvers'). And everyone knows, of course, that the British have no interest in Canada. They have long since opened up the literary floodgates to the United States - this book is full of information about Americans, both important and mediocre - but the Commonwealth remains terra incognita. How long, a Lord, how long? This lack of interest should not, so late in the day, surprise us; the glaring mistakes are another matter. I have found errors in no less than eight of the thirteen Canadian entries, most of them dates (,all-important dates.' the Preface calls them). And much of the misinformation is seriously distorting: Birney is credited with university education at British Columbia, California and London, yet no mention is made of his MA and PH D degrees from Toronto; Klein's Second Scroll is listed as a volume of poems (furthermore, he wasn'tborn in Montreal, and he died as long ago as 1972); at least three dates in the Service entry are incorrect, including date of birth; and so on. But omissions and errors are not, I find, limited to the Canadian material.ln the course of consulting the Guide over the past few weeks [ have come across a number of oddities. Thus under 'Jones' Henry Arthur.. James, and Leroi are all present, but David is absent. Benjy in The Sound and the Fury is said to be 'deafand dumb' (how, then, could he associate the gOlf-course cry of 'caddie!' with the name of his sister?). In the entry for Virginia Woolf, Orlando is given detailed and Flush brieftreatment, but To the Lighthouse receives only passing mention.There is an entry for C.P. Snow but not for F.R. Leavis; and in case anyone argues that novelists - even of Snow's quality - are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 313-314
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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