Pierre Berton, Celebrity, and the Economics of Authenticity


Pierre Berton was always unapologetically middlebrow in his appeal to a popular Canadian readership—an appeal that simultaneously garnered him his best-seller status and set him at odds with the academic community. This essay examines the making of Berton’s celebrity and the maintenance of his authenticity, which was predicated on his Klondike heritage, his outsider status, and the frank foregrounding of the economic impetus behind his writings. By exploring the suggestive ties between Berton’s own self-construction and the literary nation-building project for which he is most famous, this essay appeals for a greater critical consideration of Berton as a way of understanding some of the formative myths, narratives, and nationalisms that continue to resonate in Canadian public space.

This article “Pierre Berton, Celebrity, and the Economics of Authenticity” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 212 (Spring 2012): 50-66.

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