W. J. Keith has chosen to ignore utterly both the 'popular' at the one extreme (Robert Service, Lucy Maud Montgomery) as well as the 'avant-garde' at the other (bpnichol, Anne Carson) in favour of those authors whose style lends itself to the simple pleasure of reading, and to that end Keith dedicates his history to 'all those -- including those of the general reading public whose endangered status is much lamented -- who recognize and celebrate the dance of words.'
'To make use of a pair of words W. J. Keith is suspicious of, Canadian Literature in English, which has just been released in a revised and expanded two-volume edition, is both canon and myth. Canon because it is a principled selection and discussion of key works Keith sees as establishing a national tradition, and myth because it provides a survey of the history and development of Canadian literature that has a particular shape.'
'This is a diverse set of essays, most of them previously published, which may be read individually as commentaries on Louis Dudek, Margaret Atwood, John Metcalf, Philip Grove, Ethel Wilson, Robertson Davies, Margaret Laurence, Hugh Hood, and Jack Hodgins; or together as a manifesto on modern Canadian criticism and literature. Either way, the reading is a salutary experience whose conclusion is summed up in Keith's essay on Atwood's Bluebeard's Egg: ''We need to approach literature not with made-to-measure theory but with a flexible, verbally sensitive critical practice that attempts, tentatively, humbly, sometimes painfully, to develop a tradition of close and accurate reading.'' This is not, as I'm sure Keith would agree, a plea to ignore history, biography or cultural milieu, but rather one that urges the paramount importance of the primary text.'