Micheal Ondaatje's in the Skin of a Lion- Introduction - Canadian Literature

Topics: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, Toronto Pages: 9 (3917 words) Published: March 9, 2011
Canadian Literature in English was first written during the time of The American Revolution. The American loyalists, who did not join the revolution, took refuge in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Upper Canada (Ontario). They gave a slight beginning to a literature. The Rev. Jonathan Odell (1737–1818) has a minor place in the literary history of his two countries as the writer of convivial lyrics and of satire on the Whig rebels. In the next generation the sons of the loyalists made a clear beginning of indigenous writing. In 1867 the separate colonies of British North America joined in a federal union to form the Dominion of Canada, except the Prince Edward Island and the Western territories and Newfoundland. A growing sense of national identity preceded the federal union. This identity was cultivated by its accomplishment. Two decades after the federation Charles Mair (1838–1927), who spent most of his life in the west, found the theme for his verse drama Tecumseh (1886) in the history of Canada. Historical romance is always a popular form in Canada. It is best represented in this period by The Golden Dog (1877) by William Kirby. Meanwhile, a considerable number of semi-literary periodicals appeared in Canada. The most notable periodicals were the Literary Garland (1838–1851), The Canadian Monthly (1872–1878) and The Nation (1874–1876). A little later the best of the periodicals, The Week (1883–1896), was founded by Goldwin Smith. The first editor of The Week was Charles G.D. Roberts who, with Bless Carman, Archibald Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott wrote the best poetry composed in Canada before the 1920s. The themes of this poetry were based on religion, politics, nature against man and realistic violence in narrative and descriptive form. Regional idylls and the tales of the frontier were popular types of best sellers. The best book of the period, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) by Stephen Leacock, is predominantly a regional idyll. The author’s affection for an Ontario town does not diminish his comic sense of the pettiness of its life. Canadian Literature after 1920 felt the influence of the First World War. The Canadian Forum founded in 1920 supported the painters, the little theatre movement and the new poets, and offered criticism of politics, society and the arts. T.S. Eliot influenced most of the young writers like A.J.M. Smith and Leo Kennedy. In early 1920s the art of novel was never cultivated in Canada as carefully as the art of poetry. But later Mazo de la Roche published sixteen novels about the turbulent Whitcoak family. It was the most massive achievement in Canadian fiction. Frederick Niven (1878–1944), Wil R. Bird and Thomas Raddall were the writers of historical fiction. They wrote on the settlement of the west and of the eighteenth Century Nova Scotia. Canadian mores in small cities of Southern Ontario provided comic themes for Robert Davis, the witty and versatile author of several plays, a fictional diary and a collection of table talk and a satiric novel. Ethel Wilson’s novels are set chiefly in Vancouver and the adjoining countryside. She wrote with sensitivity and technical skill about the private world of emotion and conflict. Twentieth century Canadian Literature saw many important writers. It has writers of the First Nation, Inuit, Africa and Asian communities apart from the dominant French and English. The racial minority writers expected equity, parity and access like the mainstream writers of Canada. They also wanted the erasure of ethnic identity. As immigrants and settlers of different cultural backgrounds, they started writing novels with the history of Canada and their experience in it. Mordecai Richle who was born in 1930 was brought up in a Jewish family in Montreal. His Son of a Smaller Hero (1955) is about Jewish life in Montreal. Brian Moore, a Belfast Irishman immigrated to Canada after the Second World War and wrote a novel on the...
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