Preface: Higher Learning and National Culture

I HAVE BEEN ASKED by the editor to comment briefly on the significance of this special 25th anniversary issue of Canadian Literature and I feel privileged to do so. The publication of this issue is a notable event, I believe, for several reasons. Most obviously, it marks a milestone in Canadian literary criticism by signalling the fact that for a quarter of a century we have been fortunate enough to have a journal of criticism and review that has concerned itself largely with the literature of the nation. During this time, the scholarship found in these pages has made a number of important contributions to our understanding of ourselves as a people. By putting the work of our writers, poets, and dramatists into sharper perspective, it has helped explain to us the nature of their vision and given us a sense of what they feel to be important, both as Canadians and as individuals who are part of the larger human community. At the same time, this tradition of literary scholarship has alerted us to our own literary heri- tage and has prompted us to recognize and define standards of excellence in our thought and writing. Furthermore, by seeking to interest a broad audience in the topics it presents, Canadian Literature has done much to popularize the exciting world of Canadian letters at home and overseas.

In a somewhat larger sense, the publication of this special anniversary issue also serves to remind us of the important role institutions of higher learning play in sustaining and developing the cultural life of the nation. Since the beginning of the Renaissance 700 years ago, the critical study of literature has been a central part of humanities study in higher education and remains so today. In fact, by their very existence, journals such as Canadian Literature embody the major purposes of institutions of higher education. By seeking to preserve established knowledge, by creating new knowledge, and by disseminating what has been learned to the world-at-large, they advance the process of inquiry that lies at the heart of higher learning. Without question, they are the most important means by which we inform ourselves and others about the nature of investigation and discovery. Put simply, they serve as forums where ideas are examined for their worth, where older and conventional ways of thinking are challenged, where the values we hold are clarified, and where the nature of the human condition is viewed from many vantage points.

As a final note, let me say that in helping us to appreciate the world of literature and in providing us with scholarly insights into the meaning of what we read, the individuals who have worked on, edited and otherwise contributed to Canadian Literature over the past quarter of a century have clearly helped to enrich our lives.


K. George Pedersen
The University of British Columbia

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