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Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'etudes canadiennes Editor RALPH HEINTZMAN Directeur Associate Editors DAVID CAMERON Directeurs adjoints JOHN WADLAND Editorial Assistants ARLENE DAVIS Assistantes MARGARET PEARCE Editorial Board JEAN-PIERRE LAPOINTE Comite de redaction MARGARET LAURENCE HARVEY McCUE JACQUES MONET, S. J. W. L. MORTON W.-F. W. NEVILLE GORDON ROPER DONALD V. SMILEY DENIS SMITH PHl'LIP STRATFORD T. H. B. SYMONS W. E. TAYLOR CLARA THOMAS MELVILLE H. WATKINS ALAN WILSON This special 1 issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies features both the solicited papers for and the proceedings of a symposium on Canadian writing, held at Trent University on March 6, 1976 to celebrate the 65th birthday of Professor Gordon Roper. Gordon Roper I once introduced Gordon Roper to a visiting academic as a man who had read more bad books than any other person I knew. Gordon's characteristically genial response was, "Yes, and remembered them all too." I wish that I could recall what sparked that rather odd way of introducing one professor of literature to another. Possibly I had been glancing at Gordon's chapters in the Literary History of Canada, or perhaps scanning the impressive list of forgotten authors in his remarkable tour de force on Peterborough writers, delivered as a Champlain Lecture at Trent in 1967. Journal of Canadian Studies Whatever the pretext, my descriptive phrase carries with it both an accuracy about Gordon and also an indication of his great effectiveness as a teacher. Some professors hoard their hard little nuggets of knowledge, and reluctantly parcel them out to students as though issuing rationing stamps towards the acquisition of higher education. But such is not the image which literally thousands ot students now cherish of Gordon Roper. There 1 is a tradition in British academic life, especially at Oxbridge, of wearing one's learning lightly (a most useful tradition for those of us who haven't much learning to carry). With Gordon the learning is solidly there, and he imparts it - or rather it flows from him - with an astonishing enthusiasm and generosity. Unlike those British academics, who fear more than anything the possibility that their work is beginning to show through the cultivated veneer of the gentleman scholar, Gordon has never resisted placing literature at the heart of his working, his writing, his talking life. Despite a recent news release, which described Gordon's academic career as having been "interrupted by a year's teaching at Yale," one thinks of his accomplishments in relation to three centres: Chicago, Toronto, Peterborough. Gordon did all his degrees at the University of Chicago, at a time, moreover, when the New Criticism was there much in vogue. Put a little bluntly, the Chicago New Critics were pushing the notion that the pure literary artifact should be studied in isolation, without attention to its historical context, shorn even of its author's identity. In other words, its meanings were entirely internal; the tr~e appreciation of literature began and ended with the text itself. Gordon's characteristically sensible response to all this was to dig deeply into the American past, insisting that a book be firmly placed within the historical flow of ideas, the social and philosophical tensions of its age, the market milieu of the publishing industry, and the life of its author. Nowhere is this richly multiple approach to literature more evident than in the long "Introduction" which Gordon wrote for his own selection of writings by Hawthorne, published by Hendricks House through Farrar, Strauss in 1949. Here a brilliant analysis of the structure of The Scarlet Letter - a part of the "Introduction" which has been- frequently reprinted in collections of Hawthorne criticism - is firmly related to the stages of development in Hawthorne as man and think2 er, and related also to the tastes and vagaries of the publishing market which the writer Hawthorne hoped to attract. This approach to Hawthorne is typical. For Gordon, the teaching of literature has always started from just such questions as - what kind of man are we dealing with, what are his materials, where does he get them from, who is he writing for, why? Many could speak with more authority than I about Gordon...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0251
Print ISSN
0021-9495
Pages
pp. 1-65
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-03
Open Access
No
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