Writers-in-residence in Canada, 1965-2000: patrons, authors, and Canadian literature

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This dissertation examines the practicalities and policies surrounding the development of writer-in-residence programs in Canada from 1965 to 2000. Defined as appointments that are part direct funding for literary authors and part payment-for-service for writers’ public duties (mentoring, delivering public readings, visiting university classrooms, etc.), author residencies were introduced by the Canada Council for the Arts in 1965 with the aim of assisting authors and heightening the profile of Canadian literature. Canada Council residencies have involved a significant number and range of authors and institutions across the country, primarily in English-speaking regions. Most appointments have been hosted by university literature departments, though, since the 1970s, they have also taken place in public libraries and community colleges. Such appointments have not only been materially significant in supporting writers, but have also inflected contemporary notions of authorship, and both constructed and contested Canadian literary canons. Based largely on Canada Council and university archives and personal interviews with writers, professors, and program administrators, this study examines these programs from three perspectives. Chapters One and Two address patrons: Chapter One focuses on the development of the national Canada Council writer-in-residence program, and Chapter Two explores the emergence of publicly and privately funded residency programs in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Chapter Three examines the social and economic impact of residency programs on writers, discussing their contributions to the development of the profession of authorship, as well as their intersections with larger writing communities through resident authors’ mentoring and other public activities. Chapter Four turns to the literary impact of residency programs and investigates how they have reflected and influenced the study of Canadian literature at three regionally dispersed universities: the University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University, and Memorial University of Newfoundland. The dissertation concludes with a brief analysis of the depiction of writers-in-residence in Canadian fiction.

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Department of English - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)