Prizing Literature

Prizing Literature: The Celebration and Circulation of National Culture

GILLIAN ROBERTS
Series: Cultural Spaces
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttxqw
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  • Book Info
    Prizing Literature
    Book Description:

    Prizing Literatureis the first extended study of contemporary award winning Canadian literature and the ways in which we celebrate its authors.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9458-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    In October 1992, after the announcement that Michael Ondaatje’s novelThe English Patientwas joint winner of the Booker Prize with Barry Unsworth’sSacred Hunger,aToronto Stareditorial praised Ondaatje as a worthy recipient of the prize and, more specifically, a worthy Canadian:

    Michael Ondaatje has brought a rare honor to his adopted land by winning the Booker Prize that eluded such Canadian luminaries as Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler and Margaret Atwood.

    The rare recognition, given to Commonwealth writers, befits this Canadian who presents his prose, poetry, plays and films against the backdrop of a global canvas.

    Born in...

  5. 1 Prizing Canadian Literature
    (pp. 16-52)

    The celebration of Canadian literature through the literary prize is hardly a new phenomenon. It has been a regular event since the establishment of the Governor General’s Awards by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 1936. But the high-profile, reasonably consistent international prizing of Canadian writers is relatively recent, its key moment being Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize forThe English Patientin 1992. Ondaatje was not the first Canadian to be nominated for the prize; indeed, only two years after the establishment of the Booker, Mordecai Richler appeared on its shortlist, in 1971 (St. Urbain’s Horseman), and did so again in...

  6. 2 The ‘Sri Lankan Poet, Domiciled in Canada’: Michael Ondaatje’s Territories, Citizenships, and Cosmopolitanisms
    (pp. 53-94)

    Although it has been nearly two decades since its publication, Michael Ondaatje is still best known as the author of the Booker Prize–winningThe English Patient,or, alternatively, the author of the novel that was adapted into the multiple Academy Award–winning film of the same title. If this novel has become, by default, representative of Ondaatje’s oeuvre, it is both misleading and telling at once, for Ondaatje’s body of work has covered a vast amount of geographical ground, genres, and preoccupations, rarely returning to the same setting. And yetThe English Patient’s eclectic grouping of main characters marooned...

  7. 3 The ‘American-Not-American’: Carol Shields’s Border Crossings and Gendered Citizenships
    (pp. 95-137)

    Just as Michael Ondaatje has come to be primarily associated withThe English Patient,so Carol Shields is first and foremost remembered as the author ofThe Stone Diaries,winner of the Governor General’s Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. This constellation of honours should be impossible according to the awards’ national eligibility criteria, testifying to the borders Shields crossed in her life, her work, and its celebration. If Ondaatje has been credited with helping Canadian culture resist the threat of Americanization, Shields presents a peculiar challenge to the opposition of Canadian and U.S. culture,...

  8. 4 The ‘Bombay-born, Canadian-based Banker’: Rohinton Mistry’s Hospitality at the Threshold
    (pp. 138-180)

    With a Governor General’s Award, a Giller Prize, two overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes, three Booker nominations, and an Oprah’s Book Club selection to his name, Rohinton Mistry is no stranger to either Canadian or international celebration, in both popular and highbrow contexts. Like Carol Shields’s work, his writing appears to satisfy the criteria for different aesthetic categories; like Ondaatje, Mistry seems to be, to the world outside Canada, ‘invisibly’ Canadian, as his Canadianness does not assert itself in his literary output. But for Mistry, even more so than for Ondaatje and Shields, his predominant fictional setting has prompted an equation...

  9. 5 ‘Un Québécois francophone écrivant en anglais’: Yann Martel’s Zoos, Hospitals, and Hotels
    (pp. 181-216)

    The most recent Canadian writer to win the Man Booker Prize, Yann Martel took centre stage in the international anglophone literary community with his novelLife of Pi,which not only beat the other shortlisted Canadian novels in 2002 (Mistry’sFamily Mattersand Shields’sUnless) but also became the most successful Booker-winning text to date. Previously considered a writer of experimental fiction, Martel simultaneously consolidated his highbrow credentials through the prize and vastly increased his audience, both inside and outside Canada, through the celebration and reception of his part-philosophical, part-adventure story of a multi-faith Indian boy shipwrecked with a Bengal...

  10. 6 Conclusion, or Discrepant Invitations
    (pp. 217-230)

    Although readers’ disappointed responses to Yann Martel’sBeatrice and Virgilhave attracted a great deal of attention, less notice has been taken of the book Martel published between his second and third novels,What Is Stephen Harper Reading?InBeatrice and Virgil,Martel describes Henry L’Hôte’s second novel’s success with the caveat ‘Writers seldom become public figures. It’s their books that rightly hog all the publicity’ (3), but it is clear that the publication ofWhat Is Stephen Harper Reading?depends upon Martel himself having become a public figure through the publicity generated byLife of Pi;moreover, Martel’s one-sided...

  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 231-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-262)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-264)