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Wider Boundaries of Daring

The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women’s Poetry

Di Brandt; Barbara Godard, editor

Paper 424 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-55458-032-3

Release Date: August 2009

Online discount: 25%

$42.99  $32.24


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Winner of the 2009 ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism
Finalist for the Canada Prize in the Humanities (English) awarded by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Wider Boundaries of Daring: The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women’s Poetry announces a bold revision of the genealogy of Canadian literary modernism by foregrounding the originary and exemplary contribution of women poets, critics, cultural activists, and experimental prose writers Dorothy Livesay, P.K. Page, Miriam Waddington, Phyllis Webb, Elizabeth Brewster, Jay Macpherson, Anne Wilkinson, Anne Marriott, and Elizabeth Smart. In the introduction, editor Di Brandt champions particularly the achievements of Livesay, Page, and Webb in setting the visionary parameters of Canadian and international literary modernism.

The writers profiled in Wider Boundaries of Daring are the real founders of Canadian modernism, the contributors of this volume argue, both for their innovative aesthetic and literary experiments and for their extensive cultural activism. They founded literary magazines and writers’ groups, wrote newspaper columns, and created a new forum for intellectual debate on public radio. At the same time, they led busy lives as wives and mothers, social workers and teachers, editors and critics, and competed successfully with their male contemporaries in the public arena in an era when women were not generally encouraged to hold professional positions or pursue public careers.

The acknowledgement of these writers’ formidable contribution to the development of modernism in Canada, and along with it “wider boundaries of daring” for women and other people previously disadvantaged by racial, ethnic, or religious identifications, has profound implications for the way we read and understand Canadian literary and cultural history and for the shape of both national and international modernisms.

Di Brandt has received numerous awards for her poetry, including the CAA National Poetry Prize, the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Creative Writing at Brandon University.

Barbara Godard, was Historica Chair of Canadian Literature and a professor of English, French, social and political thought, and women’s studies at York University. She published widely on Canadian and Quebec cultures and on feminist and literary theory. As translator, she introduced works by Quebec women writers to an English readership, including Nicole Brossard’s Picture Theory (1991, revised edition 2006) and France Théoret’s The Tangible Word (1991).


Wider Boundaries of Daring borrows its title from Dorothy Livesay’s poem ‘We Are Alone’, written in the 1930s, as Di Brandt informs her readers in her comprehensive introductory essay. Here Brandt explains the rationale behind this collection, which is an attempt to reassess the artistry and relevance of Canadian women poets in the modernist period given the neglect they have suffered from in their own country.... Given the in-depth analysis one finds in every single essay in this collection, the book well deserves the recognition it received. It was the winner, in 2009, of the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism.”

— Eleonora Rao, University of Salerno, Italy, British Journal of Canadian Studies

“The editors of Wider Boundaries of Daring have collected essays by some of the finest scholars of Canadian literature on the subject of critically marginalized poets and modernist poetry, and in so doing they have produced an important collection, one that revises not only the erroneous and discriminatory genealogy of Canadian modernism but also re-imagines the very nature of modernism.”

— Melanie Brannagan Frederiksen, University of Manitoba, Prairie Fire

“Utilizing criticism of gender, biography, and semiotics—among the usual suspects—the generally jargon-free scholarship will be a treat for those who have gotten bogged down in postmodern feminist criticism. This book may entice US readers whose knowledge of Canadian literature is limited primarily to the work of Margaret Atwood to look northward.... Recommended.”

— R.H. Solomon, formerly, University of Alberta, CHOICE

Wider Boundaries of Daring is an important new book which reimagines literary modernism in Canada—an overdue historical revision which responds to calls issued by David Arnason in 1983, by Barbara Godard in 1984, and by Carole Gerson in 1992.... Together, the essays in this collection reveal that these women were not passive participants in modernism, nor were they the followers of male leaders; among other things, they did not subscribe to the ‘masculinist model of aestheticism divorced from the challenges and the obligations of personal life.’”

— Linda Quirk, Canadian Literature

Wider Boundaries of Daring

Table of Contents

Related interest

Canadian literature


Women's studies

By the same author

Watermelon Syrup: A Novel, Annie Jacobsen, Jane Finlay-Young, and Di Brandt

Trans/acting Culture, Writing, and Memory: Essays in Honour of Barbara Godard, Eva C. Karpinski, Jennifer Henderson, Ian Sowton, and Ray Ellenwood, editors

Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt, Di Brandt and Tanis MacDonald