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Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue canadienne d'etu.desamericaines Volume 28, Number 3, 1998, pp. 1-13 Oral History: An Interview with Sherrill Grace Bruce Tucker Sherrill Grace is a professor of English and chair of the English Department at the University of British Columbia. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a past president of the Canadian Association for American Studies (CAAS) and she has been an associate editor of the Canadian Review of American Studies since 1992. She is the author of numerous books and articles on Canadian and American literature, and she is currently completing a manuscript entitled Canada and the Idea of the North. The following interview took place in Vancouver on 19 October 1995. Bruce Tucker (BT): Please tell me a little bit about yourself-about your education, how you got into American Studies, and where you have been smce. Sherrill Grace (SG): My education, even my graduate education, was fairly conservative and dominated by what I now think of as British literature. I remember as an undergraduate at Western, looking for courses in American and Canadian literature, but in a rather misguided way. There was no guidance , no direction. And not finding what I wanted so that I would get the odd bit of American literature-I never got any Canadian-almost by accident . Courses were very dominantly British literature. In graduate school at 2 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne d'etudes americaines McGill, my first degree was the MA, and I knew I had gaps from my BA that I needed to fill with course work. So I was doing that, but I was still very much in the British mind set of English literature. I did an MA thesis on George Elliot. I'm trying as I look back now to figure out when it was that I took the next step, but I think it was in a course I took with Peter Buitenhuis, on American writing. It was the first course I had on American fiction or American anything: drama, poetry, anything. And I loved it. It was at that time in that course that I think I seriously discovered William Faulkner for the first time. I know that sounds ridiculous to be that late m one's life,into one's MA, but we're going back a few years. I don't think I consciously decided at that point that I wasn't doing British literature anymore, but I think that's where I would locate the moment at which I began to realize that what I really wanted to look at was the literature of this continent. And I've done that pretty much ever since. My dissertation was on Malcolm Lowry-again almost by accident, and Lowry is British, yes, but he is also very much Canadian, or North American. It was at McGill that I first taught a course in American-Canadian comparative literature. This was a course that Peter Buitenhuis had created. I had an assistant professorship at McGill for two years before I came here to University of British Columbia [UBC], and I taught that course then. We had some good Americanists at McGill in those days. And I started to explore American drama more seriously. Those are the two decisive moments which caused me to become the sort of scholar I have become, or university teacher I have become. Because when I came to UBC, again one had to teach set courses. The department at UBC always has been very strong in the British tradition with a more recent development of strength in Canadian and Commonwealth, which developed around Bill New. I was brought to UBC to teach some Canadian, which is rather laughable now when I look at it because the only Canadian literature I had ever studied formally was in the American-Canadian course that I did at McGill. I never looked back from there. One has to teach certain courses, so one does it. And I guess that very, what I almost think of now as a classical training in English Studies, stood me in good stead. And I can still go back...


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