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Transnational Canadas

Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization

By Kit Dobson
Subjects Literary Criticism, Political Science, Globalization, Canadian Literature, Social Science, Multiculturalism
Series TransCanada Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554580637, 258 pages, August 2009
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586684, 258 pages, April 2011


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.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Transnational Canadas: Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization by Kit Dobson

Introduction: Globalization and Canadian Literature

PART ONE: Reconstructing the Politics of Canadian Nationalism

Introduction to Part One

Chapter One: Spectres of Derrida and Theory’s Legacy

Chapter Two: Ambiguous Resistance in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

Chapter Three: Nationalism and the Void in Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies

Chapter Four: Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers and the Crisis of Canadian Modernity

Conclusion to Part One

PART TWO: Indigeneity and the Rise of Canadian Multiculturalism

Introduction to Part Two

Chapter Five: Critique of Spivakian Reason and Canadian Postcolonialisms

Chapter Six: Multiculturalism and Reconciliation in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan

Chapter Seven: Multicultural Postmodernities in Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion

Chapter Eight: Dismissing Canada in Jeannette Armstrong’s Slash

Conclusion to Part Two

PART THREE: Canada in the World

Introduction to Part Three

Chapter Nine: Transnational Multitudes

Chapter Ten: Mainstreaming Multiculturalism? The Giller Prize

Chapter Eleven: Global Subjectivities in Roy Miki’s Surrender

Chapter Twelve: Writing Past Belonging in Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For

Conclusion to Part Three

Conclusion: Transnational Canadas




Transnational Canadas marks the first sustained inquiry into the relationship between globalization and Canadian literature written in English. Tracking developments in the literature and its study from the centennial period to the present, it shows how current work in transnational studies can provide new insights for researchers and students.

Arguing first that the dichotomy of Canadian nationalism and globalization is no longer valid in today’s economic climate, Transnational Canadas explores the legacy of leftist nationalism in Canadian literature. It examines the interventions of multicultural writing in the 1980s and 1990s, investigating the cultural politics of the period and how they increasingly became part of Canada’s state structure. Under globalization, the book concludes, we need to understand new forms of subjectivity and mobility as sites for cultural politics and look beyond received notions of belonging and being.

An original contribution to the study of Canadian literature, Transnational Canadas seeks to invigorate discussion by challenging students and researchers to understand the national and the global simultaneously, to look at the politics of identity beyond the rubric of multiculturalism, and to rethink the slippery notion of the political for the contemporary era.


``Dobson moves deftly between textual and contextual analysis: in approaching established, canonical texts, he examines both their canonicity and the form and content of the works themselves; in his study of more recent work, his attention to the implications of such phenomena as the Giller Prize persuasively argues that we must consider Canadian literature within its economic context, given the function of books as ‘cultural commodities that participate in the logic of capital’. ''

- Gillian Roberts, British Journal of Canadian Studies, 23.2

``Transnational Canadas is the first book-length consideration of transnationalism's effects on the production of Canadian literature, on critical responses to it and, in a more general sense, on the political and social climate of the country as we consider issues of identity and belonging. As such, the book is significant and welcome. Broad in scale, it is an excellent survey of changing approaches to the idea of a national literature in the last fifty years. ... Dobson balances theoretical discussion with readings of key Canadian texts, highlighting the debates these texts have provoked throughout their critical reception. ... Throughout, Dobson's voice is assured, clear and often wryly funny. ... Transnational Canadas is both an excellent history of political movements within the Canadian literary and cultural scene, and a foundational text itself, one which will be integral to scholarship going forward. ''

- Susanne Marshall, The Dalhousie Review, Spring 2010

``Kit Dobson likes to dive into cultural theory at the deep end. ... Transnational Canadas is sophisticated, engrossing. ''

- Jon Kertzer, University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 81, number 3, Summer 2012

``Arguing from the premise that `writing in Canada has become transnational,' Dobson (Mount Royal College, Canada) ponders `questions of belonging and subjectivity in the world of global capitalism. ' He begins in the 1960s and 1970s with the exclusive, anti-American nationalism of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and Survival, Dennis Lee's Civil Elegies, and the messianically weak proto-postmodernsim of Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Even more polemically, he reads the multiculturalism of the 1980s event in Joy Kagawa's Obasan amd Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of the Lion to be problematic, confused, and ultimately co-opted by the dominant state discourse they superficially appear to challenge; Jeanette Armstrong's Slash, Dobson argues, remains that decade's most coherent and cogent challenge to the legacy of colonialism. Attempting to construct a `transnational theory' at the intersections of Marxism, deconstruction, postcolonialism, and indigenous thinking in the current decade, Dobson discovers in Roy Miki's Surrender and Dionne Brand's What We All Long For writing that successfully articulates `new subjectivities' emerging under transnationalism, although he points out that the awarding of a recent Giller Prize to Vincent Lam's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures shows the power and persistence of the market forces that have turned `mainstream multiculturalism' into `commodification of difference. '.... Recommended. ''

- D.R. McCarthy, CHOICE, April 2010