Our Intellectual Strength and Weakness: 'English-Canadian Literature' and 'French-Canadian Literature'
Published: December 1973© 1973
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 298 Pages
Dimensions: 5.50 x 8.50
298 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 x 1.00 in
These three works, displaying marked differences in purpose, tone, and effect, are all classics of Canadian literary and cultural criticism.
John George Bourinot was a man of letters, an Imperialist, and a biculturalist, who was confident of his knowledge of the Canadian identity and felt it to be his public mission to align reality with his own personal vision. Writing in 1893 to the élite represented by the members of the Royal Society, he described his work as ‘a monograph on the intellectual development of the Dominion,’ describing ‘the progress of culture in a country still struggling with the difficulties of the material development of half a continent.’
Two decades later, Thomas Guthrie Marquis and Camille Roy wrote what were, in contrast, specialized assignments, contributions to the compendium history, Canada and Its Provinces (1913). Addressing a far larger audience, and treating a vastly enlarged body of Canadian literature, their work comes much closer to contemporary scholarship, with greater clarity, organization, and sheer bulk of information, but with the loss of some of the charm and assurance of Bourinot’s wide sweep. In further contrast to Bourinot’s determined biculturalism and will to unity, Roy and Marquis’ essays display vivid differences in the emotional allegiances and convictions of the founding cultures. Marquis starts by asking the question, ‘Has Canada a voice of her own in literature distinct from that of England?’; Roy treats French-Canadian literature in its Roman Catholic contexts.