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Comrades and Critics

Comrades and Critics: Women, Literature, and the Left in 1930s Canada

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Comrades and Critics
    Book Description:

    Comrades and Criticsis the first full-length study of Canada's 1930s literary left.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8770-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: The Socialist-Modernist Encounter
    (pp. 3-34)

    In 1936, Leo Kennedy hoped to ignite a socialist revolution in modern Canadian literature. He called for the poets of the day to abandon the national obsession with abstract ideals and landscape ‘those subjective reactions to Love, Beauty, the First Crocus, Snow in April and similar graceful but immediately irrelevant bubbles’ (228). Instead, Kennedy wanted poets to interpret the lived experiences of Canadians, especially working-class people, and the enormous changes taking place in modern life. He challenged middle-class poets to ‘hustle down’ from their ivory towers ‘before the whole chaste edifice is blasted about their ears and laid waste!’ (228)....

  6. 1 Revolution, Gender, and Third Period Modernism
    (pp. 35-75)

    The idea that Marxist intellectuals and artists should ‘go over’ to the workers gained currency in the early 1930s as a metaphor for a much larger, international, broad-based movement on the left. Floating free of its original source inThe Communist Manifesto, it was a metaphor cited and absorbed by the predominantly middle-class writers of the 1930s literary left to describe their aesthetic and political transgressions. The most enduring members of this loose collective, those who published throughout the decade and in multiple leftist venues, came out of the constellation of bright talents around university and intellectual periodicals in the...

  7. 2 The Poet, the Public, and Popular Front Modernism
    (pp. 76-118)

    By the mid 1930s, the energies of international socialism began to shift from the Communist-dominated anti-capitalist Third Period to the broader coalition of the anti-fascist Popular Front. At this point, the literary left and its aesthetic ideologies began to seep into the mainstream of English-Canadian literature, so much so that Popular Front writing dominated the larger field of English-Canadian literature between 1936 and 1939.¹ This shift derived as much from changes in socialist policies as it did from renewed statements and performances of an independent English-Canadian literature. The opening up of the left and the desire to declare the arrival...

  8. 3 Leftist Theatre and the Performance of Gender
    (pp. 119-161)

    One of the most visible signs that a literary left had consolidated in 1930s English Canada was the development of an energetic theatre and a larger culture of performance. Just as in the writing of leftist poetry and prose, in the field of socialist drama a number of women came to prominence because of the emphasis on cultural work as a more feminine sphere than the political work of both the Communist Party and the CCF. Dorothy Livesay, Jean (Jim) Watts, Mildred Goldberg, and Toby Gordon Ryan extended their activities in the Progressive Arts Clubs of the Third Period into...

  9. 4 The Novel and Documentary Modernism
    (pp. 162-202)

    At the same time that documenting the social and economic disparities of the Depression was a central task of the 1930s literary left in Canada, there was also a parallel stream of leftist writing about socialist organizing itself. The question of which form might best represent socialist practices, which literary genre is least tainted by reactionary, individualistic, or bourgeois ideologies and aesthetics, came to the forefront when leftist writers sought to document real experiences of socialist organization and action. Perhaps the mass protest that has retained the strongest hold on the national cultural imagination is the 1935 On-to-Ottawa Trek, begun...

  10. Conclusion: New Formations – the Second World War and Beyond
    (pp. 203-218)

    Although the beginning of the Second World War seems to provide a clear ending to the energies of the 1930s literary left, by way of conclusion I want to look at later movements in English-Canadian literature in which the social, political, artistic, and even emotional resonances of their work can still be heard. Some of the writers I have discussed rejected or drifted from their 1930s political and artistic affiliations, but others wrote and worked on the left for many decades and were joined in that effort by subsequent generations of socialists. As a result, English-Canadian literature has had a...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 219-236)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 237-258)
  13. Index
    (pp. 259-268)