Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Literary Criticism Canadian

Romancing History?

Wayne Johnston and “The Colony of Unrequited Dreams”

by (author) Stan Dragland

Breakwater Books Ltd.
Initial publish date
Feb 2024
Canadian, General, Academic & Scholarly
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2024
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Romancing History?: Wayne Johnston and “The Colony of Unrequited Dreams” closely re-examines how Wayne Johnston’s seminal historical novel combines fact and fiction to shape our perception of the truth.

First published in 2000, Wayne Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is an enduring contribution to the literature of Newfoundland and Labrador. In Romancing History?, Stan Dragland examines the novel’s indelible portrait of its central character, Joey Smallwood. What liberties did Johnston take in transforming Smallwood from historical figure to literary character, and to what end? Starting with this incisive analysis of Smallwood’s “sea change,” Dragland offers a luminous reading of Johnston’s novel that sees it as “a giant contemplation of Newfoundland,” one “large enough and compelling enough and playfully original enough to earn a place alongside other nation-making epics.”

Stan Dragland’s Romancing History?: Wayne Johnston and “The Colony of Unrequited Dreams” is the 2001 Pratt Lecture, the oldest public lecture at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Pratt Lectures were established in 1968 to commemorate the legacy of E. J. Pratt. Over the years, the series has hosted world-renowned authors and scholars, including Northrop Frye, Seamus Heaney, Helen Vendler, Mary Dalton, George Elliott Clarke, and Dionne Brand.

About the author

Stan Dragland was born and brought up in Alberta. He was educated at The University of Alberta and Queen's University. He has taught at the University of Alberta, at The Grammar School, Sudbury, Suffolk, England, in the English Department at the University of Western Ontario in London, and in the Banff Centre Writing Studio. He now lives in St. John's, Newfoundland. He was founding editor of Brick, a journal of reviews and founder of Brick Books, a poetry publishing house, which he still serves as publisher and editor. Between 1993 and 1996 he was poetry editor for McClelland and Stewart. He has published three previous books of fiction: Peckertracks, a Chronicle (shortlisted for the 1978 Books in Canada First Novel Prize), Journeys Through Bookland and Other Passages, and (for children) Simon Jesse's Journey. He has edited collections of essays on Duncan Campbell Scott and James Reaney. Wilson MacDonald's Western Tour, a 'critical collage,' has been followed by two other books of criticism, The Bees of the Invisible: Essays in Contemporary English Canadian Writing and Floating Voice: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Literature of Treaty 9, which won the 1995 Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian Literary Criticism. 12 Bars, a prose blues, was co-winner of the bp Nichol Chapbook Award in 2003, the same year Apocrypha: Further Journeys appeared in NeWest Press's Writer-as-Critic series. Apocrypha was winner of the Rogers Cable Non-Fiction Award in 2005. In April 2004 the stage adaptation of HalldÛr Laxness's The Atom Station, co-written with Agnes Walsh, was performed at the LSPU Hall in St. John's. His most recent book is Stormy Weather: Foursomes, prose poetry from Pedlar Press, was shortlisted for the EJ Pratt Poetry Award in 2007. He is editor of the recently-released Hard-Headed and Big-Hearted: Writing Newfoundland, a collection of essays by Newfoundland historian Stuart Pierson.

Stan Dragland's profile page

Other titles by