- Robert Stead (Author), Jean Horton (Editor), and Neil Querengesser (Editor)
Dry Water. University of Ottawa Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Colin Hill (Editor) and Irene Baird (Author)
Waste Heritage. University of Ottawa Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Jody Mason
In his 2006 article "Editing Archives / Archiving Editions," Dean Irvine posits that most paperback reprint series in Canada to date have not produced scholarly editions, and those series that have done so have adhered to intentionalist editorial policies and followed "conservative models" of Anglo-American textual scholarship. Irvine critiques the "repression of non-authorial, paratextual, and bibliographic elements that inform the transnational production of colonial texts." Counting Canadian texts among these, he then argues that Jerome McGann’s theories of social-textual editions and hypermedia archives and Donald Reiman’s theory of versioning are more appropriate models for texts that have complicated, collaborative, and often transnational publishing histories. Although the hypertextual archive embodies an ideal rather than a practical relationship between readers and text, Irvine’s argument is appealing for its insistence on editorial methods that illuminate the unique conditions under which literary texts have been produced in Canada.
Irvine has brought his thinking about editorial methods to his role as director and English-language general editor of the University of Ottawa Press’s new Canadian Literature Collection / Collection de littèrature canadienne. Along with Sophie Marcotte (French-language general editor), Colin Hill, Glenn Willmott, Misao Dean, and Gregory Betts, Irvine is resurrecting out-of-print or previously unpublished nineteenth- to mid-twentieth-century literary texts and publishing them in paperback editions that are accompanied by a basic apparatus and an expanded web-based apparatus. This web-based material (accessible from www.uopress.uottawa.ca/clc/), which includes unpublished letters and diary entries, as well as critical and biographical material, is useful; however, the print editions could refer to the online apparatus more explicitly. The textual apparatus in the print editions is restrained: all notes appear at the end and are silently keyed to page and line numbers, so only very careful readers who check the notes as they read each section will benefit from the apparatus as they read. Designed by Robert Tombs, these new editions are attractive and, like earlier incarnations of the NCL, feature reproductions of Canadian art on their covers.
The first two titles in the series embody the editors’ desire to breathe new life into languishing texts: Irene Baird’s realist portrayal of the 1938 Vancouver Sit-Down Strike, originally published in 1939, has been out of print since 1973; and Robert Stead’s novel Dry Water, the story of a prairie farmer whose life is enmeshed in the processes of social, cultural, and technological change that altered life in the Canadian West in the first half of the twentieth century, has only ever appeared in an abridged edition (Tecumseh Press, 1983) that was published after Stead’s death. Significantly, the first two titles in the series are both novels of the Depression-what Colin Hill and many others before him have referred to as the "lost decade" in Canadian fiction. Yet both novels, as Hill suggests of Waste Heritage, contribute to the "recent reawakening of interest in Canadian fiction of the 1930s, which is neither as scant nor as homogenous as some literary histories suggest."
Edited and with an introduction by Hill, this critical edition of Irene Baird’s novel Waste Heritage uses the 1939 Random House edition as copy text, but includes variants from the 1939 Macmillan of Canada edition (as well as corrections that Hill made to the copy text) in the textual notes. As Hill describes in the textual history section of his introduction, he chose the Random House edition as copy text because there is no extant manuscript and because the Macmillan edition underwent some eleventh-hour alterations due to the fact that the Defense of Canada Regulations (implemented as Canada joined the Second World War in September, 1939) required the excision of material that could negatively affect the war effort. Hill’s textual scholarship is impeccable: his textual and explanatory notes are methodical, and his analysis of the textual history, critical reception, and historical milieu of Waste Heritage leaves no stone unturned, and succeeds in illuminating the many narratives that have informed the production of this novel.
The new critical edition of Stead’s Dry Water, edited and with an introduction by Neil Querengesser and Jean Horton (both at Concordia University College of Alberta), follows the format of Hill’s edition, but the textual history of this novel is considerably more complicated, given that there are four extant typescripts. Relying on Stead’s correspondence with McClelland & Stewart, which in 1937 finally declined to publish Dry Water, the editors chose to use as copy text the typescript of the novel "most likely preferred by Stead." The variant readings at the end of the novel are not exhaustive, and the CLC website would be a good place for digitized copies of the typescripts or a complete list of variants to appear. Full access to the variants is especially important in the context of Irvine’s argument about the appropriateness of social-textual editions in Canada; Dry Water is a good example of a text that, to quote Irvine paraphrasing Jerome McGann, could be treated as an "archive of editions."
The reprinting of both Waste Heritage and Dry Water performs important cultural work: like other reprint series before it, the CLC is enabling the teaching and study of Canadian literature by expanding the canon. As all such projects do, it is also consolidating a canon of its own-a canon of what Hill is calling a "pan-national modern-realist movement" that comprises more than three dozen early twentieth-century writers of fiction. Encouraging students and teachers alike to think about the production of literature, this series will also, I hope, attract new readers and critics to the work of analyzing how modern literatures in Canada were made and what they may continue to mean.
- The Art of Recollection by Colin Hill
Books reviewed: A Settlement of Memory by Gordon Rodgers, Things You Don't Forget by Robert Currie, One Last Good Look by Michael Winter, and The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs by Warren Cariou
- Saisons fictives by Bertille Beaulieu
Books reviewed: Saisons I: La neige by Pierre Gélinas and Les mémoires de Christine Marshall by Estelle Beauchamp
- Freud Interrupted by Amy Leask
Books reviewed: Seduction by Catherine Gildiner
- As Canadian as It Gets by Donna Coates
Books reviewed: When Words Deny the World: The Reshaping of Canadian Writing by Stephen Henighan, Canadian Odyssey: A Reading of Hugh Hood's The New Age/ Le Nouveau Siècle by W. J. Keith, and Carol Shields's The Stone Diaries : A Reader's Guide by Abby Werlock
- Generational Ethnicities by Sneja Gunew
Books reviewed: Kalyna's Song by Lisa Grekul
MLA: Mason, Jody. Editing Archives. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #203 (Winter 2009), Home, Memory, Self. (pg. 123 - 124)
***Please note that the articles and reviews from the Canadian Literature website (www.canlit.ca) may not be the final versions as they are printed in the journal, as additional editing sometimes takes place between the two versions. If you are quoting from the website, please indicate the date accessed when citing the web version of reviews and articles.