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Progressive Heritage

The Evolution of a Politically Radical Literary Tradition in Canada

By James Doyle
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
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Paperback : 9780889203976, 330 pages, April 2002

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Progressive Heritage: The Evolution of a Politically Radical Literary Tradition in Canada, by James Doyle



Chapter 1: The Progressive Heritage in Canadian Literature: Beginnings to 1900

Chapter 2: Antecedents and Alternatives to Bolshevism

Chapter 3: The 1920s: Communists and Fellow Travellers

Chapter 4: The 1930s: Socialist and Other Realisms

Chapter 5: The 1930s: Progressive Drama, Poetry and Non-Fiction

Chapter 6: The 1940s: War and Post-War

Chapter 7: The 1950s: Post-War to Cold War

Chapter 8: After Stalinism: Decline and Achievement

Chapter 9: The New Left


List of Works Cited



Most critics and literary historians have ignored Marxist-inspired creative literature in Canada, or dismissed it as an ephemeral phenomenon of the 1930s. Research reveals, however, that from the 1920s onward Canadian creative writers influenced by Marxist ideas have produced a quantitatively substantial and artistically significant body of poetry, drama, fiction, and non-fiction.

This book traces historically and evaluates critically this tradition, with particular emphasis on writers who were associated with, or sympathetic to, the Communist Party of Canada. After two chapters surveying the work of anti-capitalist writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the book concentrates on the development of Marxist-inspired writing from the 1920s to the end of the twentieth century.

Besides devoting attention to both social and theoretical backgrounds, this study provides critical commentary on work by prominent writers who spent part of their literary careers as Communist Party members, including Dorothy Livesay, Patrick Anderson, Milton Acorn, and George Ryga, as well as less well known but more fervent Communists such as Margaret Fairley, Dyson Carter, Joe Wallace, Stanley Ryerson, and Jean-Jules Richard. Although primarily concerned with the older generation of Marxists who flourished between the 1920s and the 1970s, the book also includes a chapter on the post-1970s “New Left. ”


``[A]n unprecedented recovery of books, poems, and plays written in a communist or anti-capitalist bent. As a reader's guide, Progressive Heritage is superb at contextualizing literary works. ...Young scholars will be interested in this work because it has its finger on the pulse of what was and still is one of the most taboo subjects in Canadian culture: the silencing and devaluing of voices speaking out against capitalist and corporate hegemony. ...[S]cholars will welcome Doyle's counter history and draw up a list of books and poems we should know more about. ...WIth a sincere and engaged writing style, Doyle renders this version of a radical tradition accessible to the uninitiated and unconverted. ''

- Roxanne Rimstead, Canadian Literature, 184, Spring 2005

``The book is. .. eye-opening. Progressive Heritage presents a broad-ranging coverage of literary radicalism that establishes the field as undeniably present in Canadian writing. ...Progressive Heritage is thus a long overdue book. ''

- American Review of Canadian Studies, Spring 2004