Excerpt from Introduction to Transnational Canadas: Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization by Kit Dobson
The analyses of this book should be read as only one way of reading the shifts taking place in literary writing in Canada. Transnational Canadas makes an effort to connect its focal texts with others, both within a single writer’s oeuvre and within broader literary communities. In so doing, it focuses upon both Canadian and non-Canadian sources, enacting in its criticism the very sorts of things that it sees happening in literature in Canada today. Its drive towards texts coming from both home and abroad is not driven so much by a desire to achieve an impossible form of inclusivity, but rather by a desire to create links between writers, books, and intellectual strains. This linking work seems precarious in an environment that segregates people from one another through the drive towards individualist consumption. Literature in the contemporary era is absolutely marked as a product for cultural consumption, a fact that makes each work part of that individualizing process; recovering the connections and communities that underlie writing is important in this context.
This book also sees itself as furthering some of the earlier projects in Canadian literary criticism such as Frank Davey’s Post-National Arguments, a book that relies on the nation to provide a political defense against capitalist globalization at a moment when the Canadian nation-state is adopting a globalist mentality. Post-National Arguments is, indeed, the most obvious precursor to this present work. Davey’s well-known discomfort with both the national and the global side of the Free Trade debate signals a dawning awareness of the inter-penetration of the two terms. Davey opts to support the nation in that book, but one wonders if he would do so in the same terms today. Instead of relying on the national as the grounds for discussion, Transnational Canadas is interested in seeing what happens when the transnational is taken to be the ground from which we begin discussions about literary production within a geopolitical space like Canada. This is a means of recognizing and coping with the global world system into which people are increasingly interpolated as citizens, refugees, undocumented migrants, or otherwise.
The central thesis of this book is, at its most reduced, that writing in Canada has become transnational. It is transnational in terms of its interests, its politics, and in terms of the corporate industry that supports it. Writing in Canada is concerned with crossing national borders thematically, just as it is concerned with marketing on a global scale. This transnational mindset can be seen in the writing, in Canada’s cultural industries and cultural institutions, and in our methods of reading. It is important to look beyond the nation (without forgetting that it’s still there) in order to rethink, rework, and resist what global capitalism has meant for those excluded from the dominant within nation-states, since the nation-state and neo-liberal models of globalization are ever more similar. A transnational mindset, however vexed, might play a role in resisting the cynical deployments of difference as marketing tools in this country. In order to continue to conduct its political and cultural experiment, Canada needs the transnational, in all of its configurations, in order to look to different scales in order to confront political and social problems.