Literary Bibliography in English | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Literary Bibliography in English

The essential foundations of literary scholarship are adequate research tools and definitive texts of the literature itself: both are the products of literary bibliography - the former of enumerative, the latter of textual and analytical, bibliography.

Literary Bibliography in English

The essential foundations of literary scholarship are adequate research tools and definitive texts of the literature itself: both are the products of literary bibliography - the former of enumerative, the latter of textual and analytical, bibliography. Enumerative bibliography aims at recording the literary achievement - past and present, primary and secondary - of a nation. At its best, it enables scholars to determine the structure and perceive the historical shape of their discipline; and on a more practical level it helps them to be selective in their research and to establish, without time-consuming work, the publishing history and transmission of primary texts. The bibliographies themselves may range from mere chronological listings of short titles to elaborate catalogues of quasi-facsimile title pages, and may include any combination of primary, secondary, retrospective and current material. The chief criteria of usefulness are comprehensiveness, accessibility and currency.

The literary scholar's first concern is to know the primary texts. The standard retrospective bibliography in this area of Canadian LITERATURE IN ENGLISH is R.E. Watters's Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials 1628-1960 (2nd ed 1972) which, though inconveniently organized and now outdated, has contributed greatly to an awareness of the scope of Canadian writing. This work, augmented by such references as Marie Tremaine's Bibliography of Canadian Imprints, 1751-1800 (1952), library catalogues and current listings in the National Library's Canadiana (monthly and annually), goes far towards giving a complete view of Canada's primary texts, but falls far short of the ideal of enabling scholars to ascertain any author's literary corpus.

More helpful in doing so are a number of retrospective primary and secondary bibliographies which attempt to define each author's corpus and also offer complete listings of critical and historical commentary. R.G. Moyles's English-Canadian Literature to 1900 (1976), Peter Stevens's Modern English-Canadian Poetry (1978) and Helen Hoy's Modern English-Canadian Prose (1983) together provide a focused view of Canadian literature up to the 1970s. Intended for students and beginning researchers, these offer primary and secondary bibliographies for over 150 authors, and also introduce the user to other reference guides, major anthologies, literary histories and general criticism, and important literary periodicals.

More intensive and detailed is The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors (1979- ) edited by Jack David and Robert Lecker - each volume containing 5 major writers. When completed the series will have covered 50 authors, detailing not merely the usual primary/secondary work, but such important items as manuscripts, works published in periodicals (very important for poets) and reviews.

The scholar's research will, of course, often lead far beyond creative writing, and into many ancillary disciplines such as history or native studies. Bibliographies in these areas can easily be found through Douglas Lochhead's Bibliography of Canadian Bibliographies (1972) and a number of specialized regional guides. Also indispensable are such reference tools as the Canadian Periodical Index (annual), the Canadian Book Review Annual, Canadiana and the MLA International Bibliography (annual); this last, though American, contains a great deal of current Canadian criticism.

Enumerative bibliography in Canada is nevertheless both disparate and idiosyncratic. There is still too little attention paid to textual transmission, variant editions and minor authors. Bibliographical investigation is still too dependent on individual initiative and preference, and a greater effort must be made to produce, by scholarly consensus, a single complete and comprehensive primary/secondary bibliography of Canada's creative literature. But enumerative bibliography has at least made a strong beginning; textual bibliography has not.

It used to be felt that analytical and textual bibliography were necessary only in defining the provenance of very old texts, eg, those of Shakespeare or Milton, where many authoritative variant versions existed. Analytical bibliography examined the text's printing history and textual bibliography applied those findings to the production of a definitive edition. It is now accepted, however, that following the textual path is necessary in producing a critical edition in the following steps: 1) establishing and collecting the authoritative texts; 2) choosing a base text for comparison; 3) thoroughly collating all texts or versions; 4) determining a copy text; 5) preparing a critical apparatus; 6) determining through these steps the extent of emendation and correction needed. In the past this was not done: new editions of Canadian classics were, if not truncated or bastardized, merely reprints of any preceding edition.

In recent years, however, editors of Canadian classics have become aware of and more concerned about textual fidelity. They are indeed following the "textual path" outlined above. New critical editions of such texts as Frances BROOKE's The History of Emily Montague (1769) and John RICHARDSON's WACOUSTA (1832), produced by the Centre for Editing Early Canadian Texts at Carleton U, and the major editorial projects for E.J. Pratt and A.M. Klein, have set new standards for future editors. If they are adhered to, we can be assured that Canadian literature will be as reliably transmitted as that of any other nation.