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The Beginnings of a National Literary Tradition

Powerful Essays
The Beginnings of a National Literary Tradition

Canadians throughout their history have been concerned over the status

of their national literature. One of the major problems facing early Canadian

writers was that the language and poetic conventions that they had inherited

from the Old World were inadequate for the new scenery and conditions in which

they now found themselves. Writers such as Susanna Moodie, Samuel Hearne, and

Oliver Goldsmith were what I would consider "Immigrant" authors. Even though

they were writing in Canada about Canada their style and their audiences were

primarily England and Europe. These authors wrote from an Old World perspective

and therefore were not truly Canadian authors. It took a group of homespun

young writers in the later part of the 19thCentury to begin to build a genuine

"discipline" of Canadian literary thought. This group, affectionately known as ‘

The Confederation Poets', consisted of four main authors: Charles G.D. Roberts,

Bliss Carman, Duncan Campbell Scott, and Archibald Lampman. The Poets

ofConfederation "established what can legitimately be called the first distinct

"school" of Canadian poetry"(17, Keith). The term ‘The Poets of Confederation'

is a misnomer since not one of these poets/authors was more than ten years old

when the Dominion of Canada was formed in 1867. However, all of these writers

were aware of the lack of a distinctive Canadian literary tradition and they

made efforts to create one for their successors. While each of these men had

their own distinctive writing style they all sought to contribute and create a ‘

national' literature. According to R.E.Rashley in Poetry in Canada: The First

Three Steps " there is no Canadian poetry before [The Confederation Poets]

time"(98). These men were the first in a long line of authors and artists to

conceive of the need for a discernible national literature. The Confederation

Poets function was to "explore the new knowledge that they had acquired of

themselves that had been created by the interaction of environment and people

and the concept of evolutionary growth"(Rashley 98). Archibald Lampman was a

key note in the beginnings of a national literary movement. Before Lampman and

the other Confederation poets there seemed to be a mere repetition of European

ideas in literature in Canada. Even though Lampman was influence...

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