With the works of such internationally acclaimed authors as Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro and Lawrence Hill, Canada is a force to be reckoned with on the literary stage. The Canadian Encyclopedia includes a variety of articles about literature in Canada, both fiction and non-fiction, gathered by topic in this collection.
Lucy Maud Montgomery’s first novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), became an instant bestseller and has remained in print for more than a century, making the character of Anne Shirley a mythic icon of Canadian culture. The book has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide, been translated into at least 36 languages, as well as braille, and been adapted more than two dozen times in various mediums. A musical version first produced by the Charlottetown Festival in 1965 is the longest running annual musical theatre production in the world, while the award-winning 1985 CBC miniseries starring Megan Follows is the most-watched television program in Canadian history. Thousands of tourists visit Prince Edward Island each year to see the “sacred sites” related to the book, and the sale of Anne-related commodities such as souvenirs and dolls has come to constitute a cottage industry.
Winnie-the-Pooh is a popular character in children’s books, movies and TV series. Originally appearing in Winnie-the-Pooh, a children’s book written by author A.A. Milne in 1926, the fictional character was based on a female black bear found in White River, Ontario. The bear, also called Winnie, was resident at the London Zoo, where she had been donated by Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian in the Canadian Army during the First World War.
Murdoch Mysteries is a TV series based on Maureen Jennings’s mystery novels about William Murdoch, a Victorian-era detective who is ahead of his time and uses forensic science and technology to solve Toronto’s most complex crimes. Often referred to as a Victorian-era CSI, the long-running show features a mix of humour, intrigue, science fiction, history and period production values that is unique to police procedurals. It attracted a cult following after premiering on City TV in 2008 but garnered a much larger audience after being picked up by the CBC in 2013. It was Canada’s highest-rated scripted television series in 2016 and is broadcast in more than 100 countries.
The Governor General’s Literary Awards are the pre-eminent literary prize offered for single works in Canada. They serve to reward Canadian writers and to publicize Canadian literature through the announcement of short-listed nominees and the awards ceremony each year. As of 2017, there were 14 categories, seven each in English and French, with a cash prize of $25,000 each. The publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to promote it, and authors that are shortlisted as finalists receive $1,000.
The comparative study of the Canadian literatures (which normally means writing in English and French) is of recent origin, the best work dating from the late 1960s. The linguistic situation that exists in Canada is not unlike that of other countries that practice bilingual policies (e.g., Cameroon and Belgium). The problem with language is that it often establishes zones of territoriality, rather than opening lines of communication, and in Canada this situation has profoundly inhibited the comparative study of the country's literatures.
Sport literature became prominent in Britain and North America during the late-19th century. Charles Gordon’s Glengarry School Days (1902) became a prototype for Canadian sport fiction authors such as Leslie McFarlane and Scott Young, who popularized the form in the mid-20th century. Roch Carrier’s “The Hockey Sweater” (1979) and Roy MacGregor’s The Last Season (1983) helped to establish hockey as the central focus of Canadian sport literature, while the work of W.P. Kinsella, George Bowering and W.O. Mitchell brought other sports into the spotlight. Meanwhile, authors such as Priscila Uppal, Angie Abdou, Samantha Warwick and Arley McNeney have challenged male dominance in the genre by depicting female athleticism as normal and natural.
The First World War generated an abundance of writing, which in its entirety presents a complex and varied picture of the war. The popular point of view within Canadian literature, however, generally depicts an overtly patriotic and unified perspective of Canada’s involvement in the war.2
Canada Reads is a literary contest that has aired annually on CBC Radio One since 2002. It is one of the most popular and important promoters of Canadian literature across the country, encouraging the sale of more Canadian books than any other literary prize aside from the Scotiabank Giller Prize. A French version of the competition, Le Combat des livres, aired on Radio-Canada Première from 2004 to 2014.
Lawrence Hill, CM, novelist, journalist, educator, documentary writer (born 1957 in Newmarket, ON). Lawrence Hill is one of the most important contributors to Black culture in Canada, and the publication of his internationally acclaimed novel The Book of Negroes (2007) has placed him among Canada's most successful writers. He is a Member of the Order of Canada.
The Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize, awarded by the Writers' Trust of Canada and established in 1997, recognizes Canadian writers of exceptional talent for the year's best work of literary non-fiction. The current prize value is $25 000 and finalists receive $2500 each.