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Wider Boundaries of Daring

The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women’s Poetry

Edited by Barbara Godard & Di Brandt
Subjects Poetry, Social Science, Women’s Studies, Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
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Paperback : 9781554580323, 424 pages, August 2009
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586905, 424 pages, September 2011
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554580934, 424 pages, August 2009

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Wider Boundaries of Daring: The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women’s Poetry, edited by Di Brandt and Barbara Godard
A New Genealogy of Canadian Literary Modernism | Di Brandt
The Making of Canadian Literary Modernism
The Writing Livesays: Connecting Generations of Canadian Modernism | Ann Martin
Feminist and Regionalist Modernisms in Contemporary Verse, CV1 and CV2 | Christine Kim
P.K. Page: Discovering a Modern Sensibility | Sandra Djwa
Tradition, Individual Talent, and “a young woman / From backwoods New Brunswick”: Modernism and Elizabeth Brewster’s (Auto)Poetics of the Subject | Bina Toledo Freiwald
“And we are homesick still”: Home, the Unhomely, and the Everyday Anne Wilkinson | Kathy Mezei
Anne Marriott: Modernist on the Periphery | Marilyn J. Rose
Discontinuity, Intertextuality, and Literary History: Gail Scott’s Reading of Gertrude Stein | Lianne Moyes
Literary Modernism as Cultural Act
“They cut him down”: Race, Class, and Cultural Memory in Dorothy Livesay’s “;Day and Night” | Pamela McCallum
Dorothy Livesay and CBC Radio: The Politics of Modernist Aesthetics, Gender, and Regionalism | Peggy Lynn Kelly
Phyllis Webb as Public Intellectual | Pauline Butling
“A Collection of Solitary Fragments”: Miriam Waddington as Critic | Candida Rifkind
“Our hearts both leapt / in love with metaphor”: P.K. Page’s Professional Elegies | Sara Jamieson
The Passionate and Sublime Modernism of Elizabeth Smart | Anna Quéma
Jay Macpherson’s Modernism | Miriam Nichols
Word, I, and Other in Margaret Avison’s Poetry | Katherine Quinsey
Reading P.K. Page in English/Italian; or, On the Politics of Translating Modernist Gender | Elena Basile
Contributors’ Bios
Elena Basile teaches in the English department at York University, where she is completing her dissertationon questions of translation and experimental poetic practices. Recent publications include “Responding to the Enigmatic Address of the Other: A Psychoanalytical Approach to the Translator’s Labour,” New Voices in Translation Studies (2005), and “Itchy Language Scars:Thoughts on Translation as a Poetics of Cultural Healing,” in Traducciòn, Género y Postcolonialismo:De Signis; Publicaciòn de la Federaciòn Latinoamericana de Semitiòca (Spring 2008).
Di Brandt is the award-winning author and editor of more than a dozen books. Her poetry titles include questions i asked my mother (1987), Agnes in the sky (1990), Jerusalem, beloved (1995), Now You Care (2003), and Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt (2006). Her prose titles include Wild Mother Dancing: Maternal Narrative in Canadian Literature (1993) and So this is the world & here I am in it (2007). Her libretto for Emily, the Way You Are, a one-woman opera about the life and work of Emily Carr, composed by Jana Skarecky, premiered at the McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg, Ontario, in April 2008. Her website address is Di Brandt holds a Canada Research Chair at Brandon University, Manitoba.
Pauline Butling taught Canadian Literature at Selkirk College in Castelgar, BC, David Thompson University Centre in Nelson, BC, and at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary. She currently lives in Vancouver, where she is writing a family history/memoir. Her publications include Seeing in the Dark: The Poetry of Phyllis Webb (1997), Poets Talk, with Susan Rudy (2005), and Writing in Our Time: Canada's Radical Poetries, with Susan Rudy (2005).
Sandra Djwa, Professor Emerita of Simon Fraser University, has written extensively on Canadian poetry and Canadian poets. Her books include E.J. Pratt: The Evolutionary Vision (1974), the Complete Poems of E.J. Pratt, 2 vols. (1989), and the Selected Poems of E.J. Pratt (1999), co-edited with Zailig Pollock and W.J. Keith. Her biographies include F.R. Scott: The Politics of the Imagination (1987), F.R. Scott: Une vie (translation 2001), and Professing English: A Life of Roy Daniells (2002), a mini-history of the discipline of English and the development of a Canadian literature. She is working on a biography of P.K. Page.
Bina Toledo Freiwald, graduate program director and professor of English at Concordia University, teaches and researches on critical theory, contemporary womens writing across genres and national literatures, autobiographical practices, and identity discourses of gender, sexuality, and nation. Recent publications include chapters in Identity, Community, Nation (2002), Postmodernism and the Ethical Subject (2004), Tracing the Autobiographical (2005), Unfitting Stories: Narrative Approaches to Disease, Disability, and Trauma (2007), and The Jewish Diaspora as a Paradigm (2008). Her current research project is “Gender, Nation, and Self-Narration: The Construction of National and Diasporic Identities in Jewish Womens Life Narratives in Palestine/Israel and Canada.”
Barbara Godard, Historical Chair of Canadian Literature at York University, has published widely on Canadian and Québec literatures and on feminist and literary theory. Her translations and essays on translation theory have contributed to the “cultural turn” in translation studies. Among her publications are the edited volumes Gynocritics/Gynocritiques: Feminist Approaches to the Writing of Canadian and Québec Women (1987); Collaboration in the Feminine: Writings on Women and Culture from Tessera (1994); Intersexions: Issues of Race and Gender in Canadian Women’s Writing (1996); and Re:Generations: Canadian Women Poets in Conversation, with Di Brandt (2005). Canadian Literature at the Crossroads of Language and Culture, a volume of her essays, appeared in 2008. For more information, see her website at
Sara Jamieson is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Carleton University where her research interests include intersections of Victorian and modernist poetic practice in the work of twentieth-century Canadian women poets, as well as representations of aging in Canadian writing. She has published articles in Canadian Literature, Canadian Poetry, and Studies in Canadian Literature. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Soundless Grieving: Women Poets, Mourning, and Modernism in Canada.
Peggy Lynn Kelly specializes in Canadian women’s writing. She has published in Atlantis, Open Letter, Canadian Poetry, Studies in Canadian Literature, Literary Encyclopedia Online, The History of the Book in Canada, Framing Our Past: Canadian Women’s History in the Twentieth Century, and Limited Edition: Voices of Feminism, Voices of Women. She is editor of the second edition of Shackles by Madge Macbeth (2005), and associate general editor for Tecumseh Press's Early Canadian Women Writers Series. Peggy Kelly teaches English literature and composition at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa.
Christine Kim is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. Her teaching and research focus on Asian North American literature and theory, contemporary Canadian literature, and diasporic writing. She has published articles in Mosaic, Open Letter, and Studies in Canadian Literature. She is currently working on a book-length project titled From Multiculturalism to Globalization: The Cultural Politics of Asian North American Writing.
Ann Martin is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan, where she teaches twentieth-century British literature. She is the author of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in Bed: Modernism’s Fairy Tales (2006), and is currently researching the role of the automobile in the fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers.
Pamela McCallum is professor of English at the University of Calgary. She recently co-edited, with Wendy Faith, Linked Histories: Postcolonial Studies in a Global World (2005) and published an edited and annotated edition of Raymond Williams’s Modern Tragedy (2006). Her research interests are focussed on representations of history, materiality, and globalization in literature and other cultural texts.
Kathy Mezei teaches in the Department of Humanities at Simon Fraser University. She has published articles on translation studies, Canadian literature, narrative theory, and modern British women writers, and has edited special issues on domestic space for Signs (2002) and BC Studies (2003–2004). Her translations of French and Quebec poets have appeared in ellipse and La Traductiére. Her most recent book, co-written with Chiara Briganti, is Domestic Modernism, the Inter-war Novel, and E.H. Young (2006). She runs a website on domestic space at She is a participant in the project Bibliography of Comparative Studies in Canadian, Quebec and Foreign Literatures, based at the Université de Sherbrooke (
Lianne Moyes, associate professor of English at Université de Montréal, specializes in Canadian and Quebec literature. She is editor of Gail Scott: Essays on Her Works (2002); co-editor, with Domenic A. Beneventi and Licia Canton, of Adjacencies: Minority Writing in Canada (2004); and, from 1993 to 2003, was co-editor of the bilingual feminist journal Tessera. Her work on Anglo-Montreal writing has appeared in Études canadiennes, Voix et images, and Canadian Literature, as well as in the collections Un certain genre malgré tout: Pour une réflexion sur la différence sexuelle à l’oeuvre dans l’écriture (2007), Language Acts: Anglo-Québec Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century (2007), and Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature (2007).
Miriam Nichols teaches contemporary literature and literary theory at the University College of the Fraser Valley. She has published numerous articles on Canadian and American poets and is the editor of Even on Sunday: Essays, Readings and Archival Materials on the Poetry and Poetics of Robin Blaser (2002). Recently she edited The Fire: The Collected Essays of Robin Blaser (2006) and The Holy Forest: The Collected Poems of Robin Blaser (2006). She is working on Radical Affections, a book that re-reads the poetry of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser and Susan Howe.
Anne Quéma teaches at Acadia University. A specialist of theories of criticism and twentieth-century British literature, she has published The Agon of Modernism: Wyndham Lewis’s Allegories, Aesthetics, and Politics (1999), as well as articles in Contemporary Literary Criticism, English Studies in Canada, The Canadian Modernists Meet, Studies in Canadian Literature, Philosophy and Literature, West Coast Line, Gothic Studies, and the International Journal of Law in Context. The recipient of a SSHRC grant, she is currently working on a project on contemporary twentieth-century Gothic fiction and English family law.
Katherine Quinsey teaches at the University of Windsor, where she was the 2007 Humanities Research Fellow. She has published widely on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poets, Canadian poet Margaret Avison, and Biblical tradition in English literature. She is editor of Broken Boundaries: Women and Feminism in Restoration Drama (1996) and Lumen: Selected Proceedings of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (1998), and co-editor, with David Kent, of an issue of Canadian Poetry devoted to the work of Margaret Avison. Following her SSHRC-funded project, Tempting Grace: The Religious Imagination of Alexander Pope, and a related project, Rhyme and Print: Pope, Poetry, and the Material Text, she will research women and religion in England 1640–1740 for Under the Veil: Faith, Freedom, and Feminism in Early Modern Britain.
Candida Rifkind is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Winnipeg, where she specializes in modernism, women writers, and Canadian popular culture. She has published articles in Studies in Canadian Literature, Essays on Canadian Writing, the Journal of Canadian Studies, TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies / Revue d’études canadiennes, Open Letter, and in the critical anthology, The Canadian Modernists Meet (2005). Her book Comrades and Critics: Women, Literature, and the Left in 1930s Canada appeared in 2009. She is currently conducting a major research project into popular and pulp fictions written in and about Canada in the twenties and thirties.
Marilyn Rose is a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature and dean of Graduate Studies at Brock University. A specialist in Canadian literature, she has published and presented numerous conference papers on the work of Canadian women poets, including Anne Marriott, Lorna Crozier, P.K. Page, Florence Livesay, and Pauline Johnson, as well as on Canadian novelists such as Joy Kogawa and Sinclair Ross. With graduate student Erica Kelly, she developed and maintains a website on Canadian women poets at In addition, she participates in Brock’s MA program in Popular Culture and, with Professor Jeannette Sloniowski, undertakes research in and maintains a scholarly website on the study of detective fiction at


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.


  • Short-listed, Canada Prize in the Humanities (English), Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences 2009
  • Winner, ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism 2009


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, 290, Summer 2011, 2012 January

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, Volume 24, #2, 2011, 2011 October