In his 2018 Pratt Lecture, The Quest for a ‘National’ Nationalism, renowned author and critic George Elliott Clarke investigates E.J. Pratt’s poetic attempt to become the epic poet of Canada. And while Pratt’s epic poems, such as Brebeuf and His Brethren and Towards the Last Spike, stand as lofty poetic achievements, the poet is never able to escape his own identity and speak convincingly for all Canadians. Unable to speak for Francophones, Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour, Pratt becomes the epic poet of the establishment, but never truly of the people.
The PRATT LECTURES were established in 1968 to commemorate the legacy of E.J. Pratt. Over the years, the series has hosted a litany of world-renowned authors and scholars, including Northrop Frye, Seamus Heaney, Helen Vendler, and Dionne Brand.
About the author
George Elliott Clarke is a Canadian poet and playwright. Born in Windsor Plains, Nova Scotia, he has spent much of his career writing about the Black communities of Nova Scotia and served for a time in the African-American Studies department at Duke University. He earned a BA Honours degree in English from the University of Waterloo (1984), an MA in English from Dalhousie University (1989), and a PhD in English from Queenâ??s University (1993). In addition, he has received honorary degrees from Dalhousie University (LLD), the University of New Brunswick (LittD), the University of Alberta (LittD), and the University of Waterloo (LittD). He is currently professor of English at the University of Toronto.
In 2001 he won the Governor Generalâ??s Literary Award for poetry for his book Execution Poems. Clarkeâ??s work largely explores and chronicles the experience and history of the black Canadian community of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, creating a cultural geography that Clarke often refers to as Africadia. Clarkeâ??s Whylah Falls was one of the selected books in the 2002 edition of Canada Reads, where it was championed by Nalo Hopkinson.
"This is Breakwater’s first published Pratt Lecture, a slim, crisp, pocketful of learned-ness."