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Literary Criticism 20th Century

Counterblasting Canada

Marshall McLuhan, Wyndham Lewis, Wilfred Watson, and Sheila Watson

edited by Gregory Betts, Paul Hjartarson & Kristine Smitka

contributions by Leon Surette, Elena Lamberti, Adam Hammond, Adam Welch, Paul Tiessen, Philip Monk, Dean Irvine, Linda M. Morra & Darren Wershler

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
May 2016
20th Century, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2016
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    Publish Date
    Jul 2016
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In 1914, Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound—the founders of vorticism—undertook an unprecedented analysis of the present, its technologies, communication, politics, and architecture. The essays in Counterblasting Canada trace the influence of vorticism on Marshall McLuhan and Canadian Modernism. Building on the initial accomplishment of the magazine Blast, McLuhan’s subsequent Counterblast, and the network of artistic and intellectual relationships that flourished in Canadian vorticism, the contributors offer groundbreaking examinations of postwar Canadian literary culture, particularly the legacies of Sheila and Wilfred Watson. Intended primarily for scholars of literature and communications, Counterblasting Canada explores a crucial and long-overlooked strand in Canadian cultural and literary history.

Contributors: Gregory Betts, Adam Hammond, Paul Hjartarson, Dean Irvine, Elena Lamberti, Philip Monk, Linda M. Morra, Kristine Smitka, Leon Surette, Paul Tiessen, Adam Welch, Darren Wershler.

About the authors

GREGORY BETTS is a poet, editor, essayist and teacher, originally from Vancouver and Toronto. Since his first published poem, an anagrammatical translation of a short poem by bpNichol, Betts's work has consistently troubled individual authorship through such mechanisms as anagrams, collaboration, found-texts and response-text writing. If Language presents paragraph-length anagrams that explore the formation of meaning within a recombinant linguistic system. Haikube was part of a collaborative art project with sculptors Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel in which six of Betts's poems were carved into an ebony movable (a la Rubiks) cube. The text was carved in negative relief, which allowed the cube to function as a press block to print new poems as they were 'discovered' by moving the sides of the cube. Betts currently lives in St. Catharines, where he edits PRECIPICe magazine, curates the Grey Borders Reading Series and teaches Avant-Garde and Canadian Literature at Brock University.

Gregory Betts' profile page

Paul Hjartarson is Professor Emeritus in English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, where he leads the Editing Modernism in Canada research group. His scholarly work is on life-writing, Canadian literature, modernism, print culture and the digital humanities. His most recent book, co-authored with Shirley Neuman, is The Thinking Heart: The Literary Archive of Wilfred Watson (2014). Until his retirement, Paul Hjartarson was a Professor of English at the University of Alberta and has published on both Baroness Elsa and Frederick Philip Grove.

Paul Hjartarson's profile page

Kristine Smitka teaches in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. To better understand the relationship between print and digital forms of publishing, her research focuses on the paperback book as a medium that defies the old vs. new media binary. She lives in Edmonton.

Kristine Smitka's profile page

Leon Surette has taught at the UBC (1962-4), the U. of Guelph (1966-70); Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont. (Visiting 1979-80), and Western until mandatory retirement in July 2004. He has published seven books, five currently available. The latest is Art in the Age of the Machine. Self-published Ebook, Amazon 2013.

Leon Surette's profile page

Elena Lamberti teaches North American Literature and Media Studies at the University of Bologna, Italy. Her areas of research include: Anglo-American Modernism, Literature and Technology, Cultural Memory, War Literature. Her volume Marshall McLuhan’s Mosaic. Probing the Literary Origins of Media Studies (U of Toronto, Press) was a finalist for the 2013 Canada Prizes.

Elena Lamberti's profile page

Adam Hammond is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Literature in the Digital Age: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and co-author of Modernism: Keywords (2014). His writing has appeared in The Walrus, The Literary Review of Canada, and The Globe and Mail, and his work has been profiled in Wired and on BBC and CBC radio.

Adam Hammond's profile page

Adam Welch is an Associate Curator, Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada. He is currently working toward his doctorate in Art History at the University of Toronto, with a dissertation entitled "'Borderline Research': Art between Canada and the United States, 1965–1975."

Adam Welch's profile page

Paul Tiessen is the founding editor of the Malcolm Lowry Newsletter (1977–1984) and The Malcolm Lowry Review (1984–2002). Besides scholarly articles and chapters in books on the work of Malcolm Lowry, Tiessen wrote the Introduction for Malcolm Lowry and Margerie Bonner Lowry’s Notes on a Screenplay for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night (Bruccoli Clark, 1976).

Paul Tiessen's profile page

Philip Monk is Director of the Art Gallery of York University in Toronto. He has written eleven books, the most recent being Glamour is Theft: A User’s Guide to General Idea (2102) and Is Toronto Burning? (2015). As well, he has written dozens of catalogues on international and Canadian artists.

Philip Monk's profile page

Dean Irvine is an associate professor in the Department of English at Dalhousie University and director of the SSHRC-funded Editing Modernism in Canada project. He is the author of Editing Modernity: Women and Little-Magazine Cultures in Canada, 1916-1956 (University of Toronto Press, 2008), and editor of Archive For Our Times: Previously Uncollected and Unpublished Poems of Dorothy Livesay (Arsenal Pulp, 1998), Heresies: The Complete Poems of Anne Wilkinson, 1924-61 (Vehicule, 2003), and The Canadian Modernists Meet (University of Ottawa Press, 2005). His forthcoming work includes a new monograph, Variant Readings: Editing Canadian Literature in English, under contract to McGill-Queen's University Press, and a two-volume critical edition, co-edited with Robert G. May, of F.R. Scott's complete poems and translations. He is a general editor, with Zailig Pollock and Sandra Djwa, of the multivolume print edition and digital archive of the collected works of P.K. Page and the director and English-language general editor of the University of Ottawa Press's Canadian Literature Collection/Collection de littérature canadienne.

Dean Irvine's profile page

Linda M. Morra, an associate professor at Bishopâ??s University, specializes in Canadian literature and Canadian studies. Her research focuses on women and the publishing industry in Canada. Her publications include Corresponding Influence: Selected Letters of Emily Carr and Ira Dilworth (2006), [ Troubling Tricksters: Revisioning Critical Conversations (co-editor with Deanna Reder, WLU Press, 2010), and an edition of Jane Ruleâ??s autobiography, Taking My Life (2011).

Jessica Schagerlâ??s research focuses on Canadian studies, drawing heavily on archival material; she is also invested in questions of professional concern, including mentoring and the futures of arts and humanities. She is the alumni and development officer for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Western Ontario.

Linda M. Morra's profile page

Darren Wershler is the author or co-author of ten books, most recently The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting (2007) and, with Bill Kennedy, apostrophe (2006). The former senior editor of Coach House Books, Wershler is an assistant professor of communication studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, faculty at the Canadian Film Centre Interactive Art and Entertainment Program, and a research affiliate of the IP Osgoode Intellectual Property Law & Technology program.

Steve McCaffery is the author of over twenty-five books of poetry and criticism. He has twice been awarded the Gertrude Stein Award for innovative poetry and twice shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. His poems have been published in more than a dozen countries. A long-time resident of Toronto, he is currently the David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters, University at Buffalo.

Darren Wershler's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"[The essays] coincide and illuminate a narrative attentive to modernist and postmodernist discourses, patterns of influence, media theory, and the future of the humanities more generally.... While every essay is rich in theory and critical reflection, it is witnessing career- and life-altering conversations unfold on every page of this book that is sometimes most engrossing. Those conversations are made all the more impressive by the archival research peppered throughout.... The model of influence presented in Counterblasting Canada is compelling because it is partly a site of conflict.... Counterblasting Canada will have obvious appeal to communications, media studies, or Canadian literature scholars (especially those interested in the recent conversationsabout later modernism, intermodernism, and the like..." Canadian Literature 232 (Spring 2017) [Full review at]

Jeffrey Aaron Weingarten

"Reading Counterblasting Canada one has the impression that this quartet—Lewis, McLuhan, and Wilfred and Sheila Watson—and their thinking about culture touched just about every discipline and genre available in the mid to late twentieth century…. Finally, then, these collections not only open up new critical conversations about Watson and others, they remind us that our provocative predecessors are also mentors who might help us reimagine the liberal arts in the neo-liberal university." [Full review at]

The Bull Calf, 6.2

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Future Horizons

Canadian Digital Humanities

series edited by Dean Irvine
contributions by Kiera Obbard, Sandra Djwa, Roopika Risam, Andrea Zeffiro, Deanna Fong, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gregory Betts, Eric Schmaltz, Dani Spinosa, Klara Du Plessis, David Gaertner, Mark Campbell, Jon Sakloske, Julia Polyck-O’Neill, Kim Martin, Rashmeet Kaur, Pascale Dangoisse, Constance Crompton, Michelle Schwartz, Katherine McLeod, Graham Jensen, Allan Cho, Sarah Zhang & Kendra Cowley
by (author) Sarah Roger & Paul Barrett

Sieve Reading Beyond the Minor

Acadian France Daigle’s Pour sûr

by (author) Matthew Cormier
series edited by Dean Irvine

Making Canada New

Editing, Modernism, and New Media

edited by Dean Irvine, Vanessa Lent & Bart A. Vautour

Editing as Cultural Practice in Canada

edited by Dean Irvine & Smaro Kamboureli

Regenerations / Régénérations

Canadian Women's Writing / Écriture des femmes au Canada

edited by Marie Carrière & Patricia Demers
contributions by Nicole Brossard, Susan Brown, Louise Dennys, Cinda Gault, Lucie Hotte, Dean Irvine, Gary Kelly, Shauna Lancit, Mary McDonald-Rissanen, Juliet McMaster, Mary-Jo Romaniuk, Julie Roy, Susan Rudy, Chantal Savoie, Maïté Snauwaert, Rosemary Sullivan & Sheena Wilson

Editing Modernity

Women and Little-Magazine Cultures in Canada, 1916-1956

by (author) Dean Irvine

The Canadian Modernists Meet

edited by Dean Irvine


The Complete Poems of Anne Wilkenson

edited by Dean Irvine

Archive For Our Times

Previously Uncollected and Unpublished Poems of Dorothy Livesay

by (author) Dorothy Livesay
edited by Dean Irvine

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