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Literary Criticism Canadian

Transnational Canadas

Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization

by (author) Kit Dobson

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2009
Canadian, Social Policy, Semiotics & Theory
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    Publish Date
    Aug 2009
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    Publish Date
    Apr 2011
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Transnational Canadas marks the first sustained inquiry into the relationship between globalization and Canadian literature written in English. Tracking developments in the literature and its study from the centennial period to the present, it shows how current work in transnational studies can provide new insights for researchers and students.

Arguing first that the dichotomy of Canadian nationalism and globalization is no longer valid in today’s economic climate, Transnational Canadas explores the legacy of leftist nationalism in Canadian literature. It examines the interventions of multicultural writing in the 1980s and 1990s, investigating the cultural politics of the period and how they increasingly became part of Canada’s state structure. Under globalization, the book concludes, we need to understand new forms of subjectivity and mobility as sites for cultural politics and look beyond received notions of belonging and being.

An original contribution to the study of Canadian literature, Transnational Canadas seeks to invigorate discussion by challenging students and researchers to understand the national and the global simultaneously, to look at the politics of identity beyond the rubric of multiculturalism, and to rethink the slippery notion of the political for the contemporary era.

About the author

Kit Dobson lives and works in Calgary / Treaty 7 territory in southern Alberta. His previous books include Malled: Deciphering Shopping in Canada and he is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. He grew up in many places across Canada, but returned again and again to the landscapes of northern Alberta where his family members settled – and that continue to animate his thinking.

Kit Dobson's profile page

Excerpt: Transnational Canadas: Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization (by (author) Kit Dobson)

Excerpt from Introduction to Transnational Canadas: Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization by Kit Dobson

The analyses of this book should be read as only one way of reading the shifts taking place in literary writing in Canada. Transnational Canadas makes an effort to connect its focal texts with others, both within a single writer's oeuvre and within broader literary communities. In so doing, it focuses upon both Canadian and non-Canadian sources, enacting in its criticism the very sorts of things that it sees happening in literature in Canada today. Its drive towards texts coming from both home and abroad is not driven so much by a desire to achieve an impossible form of inclusivity, but rather by a desire to create links between writers, books, and intellectual strains. This linking work seems precarious in an environment that segregates people from one another through the drive towards individualist consumption. Literature in the contemporary era is absolutely marked as a product for cultural consumption, a fact that makes each work part of that individualizing process; recovering the connections and communities that underlie writing is important in this context.

This book also sees itself as furthering some of the earlier projects in Canadian literary criticism such as Frank Davey's Post-National Arguments, a book that relies on the nation to provide a political defense against capitalist globalization at a moment when the Canadian nation-state is adopting a globalist mentality. Post-National Arguments is, indeed, the most obvious precursor to this present work. Davey's well-known discomfort with both the national and the global side of the Free Trade debate signals a dawning awareness of the inter-penetration of the two terms. Davey opts to support the nation in that book, but one wonders if he would do so in the same terms today. Instead of relying on the national as the grounds for discussion, Transnational Canadas is interested in seeing what happens when the transnational is taken to be the ground from which we begin discussions about literary production within a geopolitical space like Canada. This is a means of recognizing and coping with the global world system into which people are increasingly interpolated as citizens, refugees, undocumented migrants, or otherwise.

The central thesis of this book is, at its most reduced, that writing in Canada has become transnational. It is transnational in terms of its interests, its politics, and in terms of the corporate industry that supports it. Writing in Canada is concerned with crossing national borders thematically, just as it is concerned with marketing on a global scale. This transnational mindset can be seen in the writing, in Canada's cultural industries and cultural institutions, and in our methods of reading. It is important to look beyond the nation (without forgetting that it's still there) in order to rethink, rework, and resist what global capitalism has meant for those excluded from the dominant within nation-states, since the nation-state and neo-liberal models of globalization are ever more similar. A transnational mindset, however vexed, might play a role in resisting the cynical deployments of difference as marketing tools in this country. In order to continue to conduct its political and cultural experiment, Canada needs the transnational, in all of its configurations, in order to look to different scales in order to confront political and social problems.

Editorial Reviews

''Transnational Canadas is the first book-length consideration of transnationalism's effects on the production of Canadian literature, on critical responses to it and, in a more general sense, on the political and social climate of the country as we consider issues of identity and belonging. As such, the book is significant and welcome. Broad in scale, it is an excellent survey of changing approaches to the idea of a national literature in the last fifty years.... Dobson balances theoretical discussion with readings of key Canadian texts, highlighting the debates these texts have provoked throughout their critical reception.... Throughout, Dobson's voice is assured, clear and often wryly funny.... Transnational Canadas is both an excellent history of political movements within the Canadian literary and cultural scene, and a foundational text itself, one which will be integral to scholarship going forward.''

The Dalhousie Review, Spring 2010

''Kit Dobson likes to dive into cultural theory at the deep end.... Transnational Canadas is sophisticated, engrossing.''

University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 81, number 3, Summer 2012

''Arguing from the premise that 'writing in Canada has become transnational,' Dobson (Mount Royal College, Canada) ponders 'questions of belonging and subjectivity in the world of global capitalism.' He begins in the 1960s and 1970s with the exclusive, anti-American nationalism of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and Survival, Dennis Lee's Civil Elegies, and the messianically weak proto-postmodernsim of Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Even more polemically, he reads the multiculturalism of the 1980s event in Joy Kagawa's Obasan amd Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of the Lion to be problematic, confused, and ultimately co-opted by the dominant state discourse they superficially appear to challenge; Jeanette Armstrong's Slash, Dobson argues, remains that decade's most coherent and cogent challenge to the legacy of colonialism. Attempting to construct a 'transnational theory' at the intersections of Marxism, deconstruction, postcolonialism, and indigenous thinking in the current decade, Dobson discovers in Roy Miki's Surrender and Dionne Brand's What We All Long For writing that successfully articulates 'new subjectivities' emerging under transnationalism, although he points out that the awarding of a recent Giller Prize to Vincent Lam's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures shows the power and persistence of the market forces that have turned 'mainstream multiculturalism' into 'commodification of difference.'.... Recommended.''

CHOICE, April 2010

''Dobson moves deftly between textual and contextual analysis: in approaching established, canonical texts, he examines both their canonicity and the form and content of the works themselves; in his study of more recent work, his attention to the implications of such phenomena as the Giller Prize persuasively argues that we must consider Canadian literature within its economic context, given the function of books as ‘cultural commodities that participate in the logic of capital’.''

British Journal of Canadian Studies, 23.2

Other titles by Kit Dobson

Field Notes on Listening

by (author) Kit Dobson

All the Feels / Tous les sens

Affect and Writing in Canada / Affect et écriture au Canada

edited by Marie Carrière, Ursula Mathis-Moser & Kit Dobson
contributions by Nicole Brossard, Matthew Cormier, Nicoletta Dolce, Louise Dupré, Margery Fee, Ana María Fraile-Marcos, Smaro Kamboureli, Aaron Kreuter, Daniel Laforest, Carmen Mata Barreiro, Heather Milne, Eric Schmaltz, Maïté Snauwaert & Jeanette Toonder

Dissonant Methods

Undoing Discipline in the Humanities Classroom

edited by Ada S. Jaarsma & Kit Dobson
contributions by Kathy Cawsey, Rachel Jones, Kyle Kinaschuk, Namrata Mitra, Guy Obrecht, Katja K. Pettinen, Kaitlin Rothberger, Ely Shipley & Martin Shuster

Wisdom in Nonsense

Invaluable Lessons from My Father

by (author) Heather O'Neill
introduction by Kit Dobson


Deciphering Shopping in Canada

by (author) Kit Dobson

Ten Canadian Writers in Context

edited by Marie Carrière, Curtis Gillespie & Jason Purcell
contributions by Lynn Coady, Ying Chen, Michael Crummey, Jennifer Bowering Delisle, Kit Dobson, Caterina Edwards, Marina Endicott, Lawrence Hill, Daniel Laforest, Alice Major, Don Perkins, Julie Rodgers, Joseph Pivato, Eden Robinson, Gregory Scofield, Winfried Siemerling, Pamela Sing, Maïté Snauwaert, Kim Thúy & Angela Van Essen

Producing Canadian Literature

Authors Speak on the Literary Marketplace

by (author) Kit Dobson & Smaro Kamboureli

Transnationalism, Activism, Art

edited by Kit Dobson & Aine McGlynn

Please, No More Poetry

The Poetry of derek beaulieu

by (author) Derek Beaulieu & Kit Dobson

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