On March 11, 2020, the WHO officially declared the outbreak of COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. Similar to many other countries around the world, Canada closed its schools, borders, businesses, and other facilities and implemented measures such as social distancing and restricted gatherings as it tried to slow the spread of coronavirus and equip hospitals and other sites with sufficient amounts of personal protective equipment. Amongst other things, the pandemic has highlighted the challenges of balancing the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals and communities with the economic needs of individuals, families, and businesses. During this time, much of the labour of caring for the sick, elderly and other vulnerable populations, staffing grocery stores and meat production plants, harvesting crops, and delivering food has come from low-paid, racialized, and/or temporary migrant workers. And as we look towards the future, government and public health officials warn us that a second wave of the virus could take place since a vaccine has yet to be developed. The pandemic has dramatically changed our social and political landscapes; for example, we now routinely rely on new forms of technology to maintain intimate and professional relationships as we avoid physical contact with those outside of our ‘bubble.’
Over the past couple of months, our collective vocabularies have grown as we hear from public officials about the fact that we are now in ‘uncertain and unprecedented times’ and that we need to adjust to the ‘new normal.’ But what exactly do phrases like these mean? What role does storytelling play in dealing with the complexities of this moment? What historical precedents can we turn to? From Kevin Kerr’s play Unity (1918) to novels such as Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Larissa Lai’s recent The Tiger Flu and films like Don McKellar’s Last Night, Tony Burgess’ Pontypool, and Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum, issues around pandemics, contagion, and quarantine are not new to Canadian culture. How can Canadian literary and cultural production help us understand this moment, our shifting realities, and changing national and global imaginaries? Can we historicize our current crisis by, for example, turning to earlier discourses of disease, outbreaks, and the disciplining of racialized and Indigenous bodies? What new global understandings can we gain by comparing Canada to other nations as we all respond to this pandemic? How does the current pandemic exacerbate the precarities of academic life in the humanities and beyond? How have writers and artists configured pandemics in the past? In the present?
This special issue invites contributions that reflect critically upon pandemics and Canadian cultural production, which includes literature and many other forms of cultural expression. We are particularly interested in submissions that offer new forms of cultural critique and that investigate the cultural logics of pandemics. Possible topics and themes may include but are not limited to:
- Contagion, disease, and outbreaks
- The problem of borders
- Curtailment of transnational movement / migration
- Rise in nationalism and a return to protectionism
- Global capital and the postwar welfare state
- States of vulnerability with regards to age, gender, sexuality, class, race, precarious and mobile labour
- Dystopic imaginaries
- Reimagining space and spatial relations
- Affective dimensions of self-isolation and pandemics
- Temporalities such as the COVID-19 timeline, times of emergency, fear of the future, nostalgia for pre-pandemic time, the unmarked sense of time during isolation
- Racist group blame and the rise of anti-Asian violence
- New forms of creativity and expectations of productivity
- Online teaching and rethinking pedagogy
- Social justice in the time of pandemic
- Surveillance, technology, contact tracing, and public health
- Narrative medicine, rhetoric of health and medicine, and medical humanities
All submissions to Canadian Literature must be original, unpublished work. Essays should follow current MLA bibliographic format (MLA Handbook, 8th ed.). Word length for articles is 7,000-8,000 words, which includes endnotes and works cited.
The journal recognizes that the current moment is full of challenges and precarities for the Canadian Literature community. We are open to considering submissions that go outside the bounds of conventional research articles, especially collaborative efforts. Please feel free to contact the journal’s incoming editor, Christine Kim, at firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss ideas ahead of time.
General questions about the special issue may be directed to email@example.com.