Day 3, July 26 – The 60th Anniversary of The Canadian Writers’ Conference
From 28-31 July 1955, the Canadian Writers’ Conference was held at Queen’s University. Co-organized by George Whalley, the conference set out to investigate the state of “The Writer, his Media, and the Public” in Canada, bringing together writers and “representatives of the leading publishing professions, literary critics and the mass media, and an audience of interested people from Eastern Canada” (Whalley to John McClelland, 13 July 1955). The conference, which included public evening talks, morning discussion groups, and poetry readings, featured an impressive slate of Canadian writers, including Earle Birney, Desmond Pacey, Eli Mandel, Anne Wilkinson, Dorothy Livesay, Hugh Garner, James Reaney, Jay Macpherson, Phyllis Webb, Adele Wiseman, Ralph Gustafson, Douglas Spettigue, Miriam Waddington, Irving Layton, Frank Scott, Louis Dudek, A.J.M. Smith, and Morley Callaghan.
The issues raised at this conference, from the “lack of genuinely contemporary Canadian poetry in the school texts” in Canada and a need for cheaper editions of Canadian works (Earle Birney, Writing 47-8), to concerns about “literary criticism in Canada today was inadequate … to the public or to the writer” (48) and “the disappearance of the book” itself (John Grey, Writing 53), have echoed throughout Canadian literary history. The New Canadian Library, the Center for Editing Early Canadian Texts, and Editing Modernism in Canada have sought to address the continuing problem of access to Canadian books identified in 1955, while state-of-the-field exercises like the Calgary Conference on the Canadian novel (1978) recalled the 1955 conference’s debates on whether the Canadian novel could be more than a lesser offshoot of the epic tradition (Douglas Grant, Writing 39). The 1955 Canadian Writers’ Conference, which was presaged by a 1941 Artists’ Conference at Queen’s and followed by the 1956 Conference on British Columbia Literature at UBC, aimed to bring together a community of Canadian writers, critics, publishers, and readers.
In this spirit, we invite proposals for papers to be read during a day of sessions that mark the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Writers’ Conference. We welcome papers on topics including (but not limited to):
a) publishing in Canada since 1955, especially Canadian book series
b) the writer’s function in Canada, the writer as celebrity, and the writer/critic
c) Canadian criticism, its promise, and its pitfalls
d) Canadian literature as publicly engaged or academically cloistered
e) funding for writing in Canada
f) the role of conferences, workshops, symposia, colloquia in building a Canadian literary community
g) the “disappearance of the book,” 60 years later
h) reading in Canada: who reads, what’s read, and why?
We encourage academics and non-academics to submit proposals, and we also welcome offers to read poems or other creative writing. Proposals will be no more than 500 words, and include a brief biography of the presenter(s). They can be sent to Alana Fletcher (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Michael DiSanto (email@example.com). The deadline for proposals is 15 January 2015.