A Union of the Inkpot: The Canadian Authors Association, 1921-1960

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Doody, Christopher Matthew




This dissertation examines the development of authorship in Canada in the first half of the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the Canadian Authors Association (C.A.A.). By focusing on this association, the dissertation refutes the common narrative that the development of Canadian authorship was the result of a vanguard of modernist writers standing collectively against an older generation of amateur writers. Instead, it insists on the importance of a history of authorship that includes dissenting conceptions, specifically those articulated by the C.A.A., which resisted the practice of creating hierarchies for authors based on gender, age, quality of work, chosen genre, or professionalism. The development of authorship in the first half of the twentieth century was a site of debate and contestation. From 1921-1960, there was increasing pressure to define this key role in the national literary field. This pressure to define authorship was manifest: in the legal debates around copyright, which had ramifications for both the state and for private industry; in the debates between authors themselves, as seen during Book Week (1921-1957), which sought to determine the proper relationship between literature and the marketplace; in the creation and development of the Governor General’s Literary Awards (1937-1959), in which the association attempted to promote a specific type of literature; and in the rise of government patronage of the arts, which saw the state developing new ways to both fund and regulate culture. During these various debates over the role of authorship, the C.A.A. generally resisted hierarchies, and in doing so defended the middlebrow and the writer as a skilled labourer in the literary field. The association, however, was not always consistent in advocating these positions. This inconsistency demonstrates how difficult it was during this period to articulate a single, coherent definition of authorship. As such, this dissertation argues that literary histories that only recall the modernist narrative of the rise of authorship in Canada lose a sense of this important contest.


Literature - Canadian (English)
Canadian Studies




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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