The first issue of UBC’s Canadian Literature journal appeared in 1959. Over the years it has gained an international readership with more than 200 published issues of criticism, reviews and poetry, helping profile this country’s literature around the world.
“Preserved in these issues is the work of Canada’s foremost writers,” says current editor, Margery Fee. “From Margaret Laurence, Al Purdy, and Dorothy Livesay, to Margaret Atwood, Yves Beauchemin, M.G. Vassanji and Thomas King just to name a few.”
Considering its standing in today’s literary world, it’s hard to believe that this journal of critical discussion of Canadian writing almost failed to see the light of day.
In the late 1950s many academics scoffed at the notion of a journal devoted to “Canadian” literature—many felt there was no such thing. Canadian writing was either the “daughter” of the English or French “mother” literature, or the “younger sibling” of its American counterpart.
”The general climate of Canadian letters in the 1950s suggested that Canadian literature could only exist once the country’s culture had fully developed,” says W.H. New, Canadian Literature’s editor for more than 18 years. “Real literature happened elsewhere.” With the immediate and ongoing success of the journal, this sentiment was quickly proven wrong.
Since its beginnings at the University of British Columbia, the journal has grown under the direction of five editors, starting with George Woodcock.