Worrying the Nation: Imagining a National Literature in English Canada
Published: November 1998© 1998
288 Pages, 6.24 x 9.25 x 0.98 in
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How can a national literature in English-Canada be possible if Canadians cannot agree on who we are? This is the central question that Jonathan Kertzer 'worries' over in his book, Worrying the Nation: Imagining a National Literature in English Canada. The book is a critical fretting over the possibility of a national literature when the very idea of the nation as a viable conceptual/literary category has been called into question.
Kertzer begins the book with survey of three competing discourses - literature, nation, and history - and how they converge and diverge. He then examines Herder's and Hegel's legacy of romantic historicism as it has affected Canadian literature. To illustrate his worry over national literature, he presents an analysis of some flawed attempts at poetic nation-building, specifically in Oliver Goldsmith's The Rising Village, E.J. Pratt's Towards the Last Spike, and Dennis Lee's Civil Elegies. In addition to these examples, Kertzer shows that alternative models of sociability are presented in the recent fiction of Joy Kogawa and Daphne Marlatt.
Worrying the Nation is very much a tract for these turbulent times. Jonathan Kertzer has produced a highly sophisticated analysis of Canadian literary writing and its role in national culture.
'Worrying the Nation is a deeply thoughtful, theoretically rich, and brilliantly illuminating meditation on what Goldwin Smith called "Canada and the Canadian Question." It is a major contribution not only to Canadian literary studies, but also to the history of ideas in Canada, and it is all the more welcome and admirable for presenting its arguments and analyses in a style that is crisp and accessible.'David Bentley, author of Mimic Fires: Accounts of Early Long Poems on Canada (1994), editor of The Essays and Reviews of Archibald Lampman (1996), and founding editor of the journal Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews (1977- ).
'Jonathan Kertzer performs the many roles of worrier, from worrywart to one who tugs at and shakes an opponent to one who tests, realigns, continually makes adjustments; he comes up with a reading of nation and literature that is both lucid and fluid. And for anyone worried about the future of Canadian writing, he offers worry beads of the finest crafting.'Robert Kroetsch, author of What the Crow Said and The Man from the Creeks