Before the Country: Native Renaissance, Canadian Mythology
Published: November 2007© 2007
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 224 Pages
Dimensions: 5.90 x 9.00
224 Pages, 5.90 x 9.00 x 0.70 in
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Canada witnessed an explosion in the production of literary works by Aboriginal writers, a development that some critics have called the Native Renaissance. In Before the Country, Stephanie McKenzie explores the extent to which this growing body of literature influenced non-Native Canadian writers and has been fundamental in shaping our search for a national mythology.
In the context of Northrop Frye's theories of myth, and in light of the attempts of social critics and early anthologists to define Canada and Canadian literature, McKenzie discusses the ways in which our decidedly fractured sense of literary nationalism has set indigenous culture apart from the mainstream. She examines anew the aesthetics of Native Literature and, in a style that is creative as much as it is scholarly, McKenzie incorporates the principles of storytelling into the unfolding of her argument. This strategy not only enlivens her narrative, but also underscores the need for new theoretical strategies in the criticism of Aboriginal literatures. Before the Country invites us to engage in one such endeavour.
"Before the Country provides an important antithesis to Romantic nationalism and obscure euphemisms that serve no purpose in reconciliation between Aboriginal Canadians and non-Aboriginal Canadians."Naomi Mcllwraith, American Indian Culture and Research Journal 32.3 (2008)
"Indigenous literature of the 1960s and 1970s is often dismissed as ‘protest literature’; McKenzie, however, believes that it constitutes ‘a literature of praise, resilience, hope, and instruction by example’ and influence beyond its community. McKenzie's theories shed light on an important period of Canadian cultural history by using a study of myth to show Indigenous literature's influence on settler literature.
Although Before the Country is specific to Canadian literature and Indigenous literature from Canada, McKenzie's theories could apply to U.S. and Native American literatures from south of the 49th parallel. Before the Country is an invaluable text for anyone interested in better understanding the Native-settler relationships through literature and myth."Jo-Ann Episkenew, Queen’s Quarterly 29.3 (2009)
"Before the Country is indispensable to any survey of Canadian national literature or literary study of the period."Kirby Brown, Studies in American Indian Literatures 21.1 (2009)
"Before the Country should provide the stimulus for discussion among scholars of Canadian Native literature as well as countless others involved with Canadian literature, Native Studies, or Canadian Studies."Michael Kennedy, Canadian Journal of Native Studies 28.2 (2008)
‘This book opens a window on Canadian literature in the last forty years of the twentieth century, and helps us understand how the Native Literary Renaissance enabled Aboriginal people to talk to one another as well as to the federal government. Stephanie McKenzie engages with critics and historians including Northrop Frye, and makes excellent use of works by Chief Dan George, Leonard Cohen, George Ryga, and Margaret Atwood. Before the Country is a comprehensive work written with passion, intelligence, and respect for Aboriginal culture.’Maurice Harmon, Emeritus Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama, University College Dublin, and author of The Doll with Two Backs