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Literary Criticism Women Authors

Wider Boundaries of Daring

The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women’s Poetry

edited by Di Brandt & Barbara Godard

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
Women Authors, Poetry, Canadian
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    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
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    Publish Date
    Aug 2009
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Wider Boundaries of Daring: The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women’s Poetry announces a bold revision of the genealogy of Canadian literary modernism by foregrounding the originary and exemplary contribution of women poets, critics, cultural activists, and experimental prose writers Dorothy Livesay, P.K. Page, Miriam Waddington, Phyllis Webb, Elizabeth Brewster, Jay Macpherson, Anne Wilkinson, Anne Marriott, and Elizabeth Smart. In the introduction, editor Di Brandt champions particularly the achievements of Livesay, Page, and Webb in setting the visionary parameters of Canadian and international literary modernism.

The writers profiled in Wider Boundaries of Daring are the real founders of Canadian modernism, the contributors of this volume argue, both for their innovative aesthetic and literary experiments and for their extensive cultural activism. They founded literary magazines and writers’ groups, wrote newspaper columns, and created a new forum for intellectual debate on public radio. At the same time, they led busy lives as wives and mothers, social workers and teachers, editors and critics, and competed successfully with their male contemporaries in the public arena in an era when women were not generally encouraged to hold professional positions or pursue public careers.

The acknowledgement of these writers’ formidable contribution to the development of modernism in Canada, and along with it “wider boundaries of daring” for women and other people previously disadvantaged by racial, ethnic, or religious identifications, has profound implications for the way we read and understand Canadian literary and cultural history and for the shape of both national and international modernisms.

About the authors

Winnipeg's Di Brandt is one of Canada's most loved and admired poets. Her internationally celebrated and award-winning poetry titles include questions I asked my mother; Agnes in the sky; Jerusalem, beloved; and Now You Care. Her most recent work, Walking to Mojacar, is a multilingual collaboration with gifted poets and translators Charles LeBlanc of St. Boniface, Manitoba (l'appétit du compteur : poèmes accumulés), and Ari Belathar, Mexican writer-in-exile, currently living in Vancouver (The Cities I Have Left Behind). Mojacar was shortlisted for two 2011 Manitoba Book awards, and has been nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Di Brandt has lived in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto, Windsor (Ontario) and Berlin. She currently holds a Canada Research Chair in Literature and Creative Writing at Brandon University, Manitoba ( Di Brandt is also an award-winning essayist and literary critic, and has collaborated with numerous other writers, critics and artists, including Annie Jacobsen, Jane Finlay-Young, Barbara Godard, Aganetha Dyck, Rebecca Campbell, Carol Ann Weaver and Jana Skarecky.

Di Brandt's profile page

About the Editor: Barbara Godard is a founding co-editor of Tessera, and teaches English literature and Women's Studies at York University. She has translated a number of Quebec feminist writers including France Theoret and Nicole Brossard. She is the editor/author of several books including Gynocritics/Gynocritiques: Feminist Approaches to the Writing of Canadian and Quebec Women and Audrey Thomas: Her Life and Work.

Barbara Godard's profile page


  • Winner, ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism
  • Short-listed, Canada Prize in the Humanities (English), Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Editorial Reviews

''The editors of Wider Boundaries of Daring have collected essays by some of the finest scholars of Canadian literature on the subject of critically marginalized poets and modernist poetry, and in so doing they have produced an important collection, one that revises not only the erroneous and discriminatory genealogy of Canadian modernism but also re-imagines the very nature of modernism.''

Prairie Fire, Vol. 10, #4, 2010

''Wider Boundaries of Daring is an important new book which reimagines literary modernism in Canada—an overdue historical revision which responds to calls issued by David Arnason in 1983, by Barbara Godard in 1984, and by Carole Gerson in 1992.... Together, the essays in this collection reveal that these women were not passive participants in modernism, nor were they the followers of male leaders; among other things, they did not subscribe to the ‘masculinist model of aestheticism divorced from the challenges and the obligations of personal life.’''

Canadian Literature, 290, Summer 2011

''Wider Boundaries of Daring borrows its title from Dorothy Livesay's poem ‘We Are Alone’, written in the 1930s, as Di Brandt informs her readers in her comprehensive introductory essay. Here Brandt explains the rationale behind this collection, which is an attempt to reassess the artistry and relevance of Canadian women poets in the modernist period given the neglect they have suffered from in their own country.... Given the in-depth analysis one finds in every single essay in this collection, the book well deserves the recognition it received. It was the winner, in 2009, of the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism.''

British Journal of Canadian Studies, Volume 24, #2, 2011

''Utilizing criticism of gender, biography, and semiotics—among the usual suspects—the generally jargon-free scholarship will be a treat for those who have gotten bogged down in postmodern feminist criticism. This book may entice US readers whose knowledge of Canadian literature is limited primarily to the work of Margaret Atwood to look northward.... Recommended.''

CHOICE, February 2010

Other titles by Di Brandt

Other titles by Barbara Godard