Studying Literature in Grade 12
This essay will prove that graduating students in Ontario should only study Canadian literature in a Grade 12 English course. While good writers exist in all cultures, Ontario students should only study Canadian writers so that we become more familiar with our literature. Three reasons for this are: the need to focus on our own Canadian culture despite being surrounded by other cultures, the need to promote and establish our own writers, and the need to encourage younger Canadian authors.
The study of Canadian literature is vital to senior students in high school because we are completely swamped by the American culture around us. It is a Canadian tradition that we have always been a ‘branch plant’ of another country—starting with England and France—meaning that our own culture has never had the chance to develop since we have always been under the thumb of a more powerful foreign culture. So, for years, a student in Ontario would study Shakespeare and other British writers; today they also study American authors such as Fitzgerald. However, many schools limit a student’s exposure of Canadian novels to ISP[ reading lists. In this sense, “Canada is an attic in which we have stored American and British literature without considering our own” (Davies 426). No wonder Canadian students have problems appreciating their culture.
Often what Canadian literature studies is very old. This include works such as Mordecai Richler's Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz or Margaret Laurence’s Stone Angel. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, which was published in 1970–over 35 years ago–is still on many courses of study in grade 12 classrooms. Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale is the most recent of these books. It was published in 1985 which was over ten years ago. Again, while most teachers allow and may even encourage a student to focus on more modern Canadian books for their ISP, the classroom experience is usually limited to studying these golden oldies.
Then, there is the issue of these authors being primarily white or English-Canadian which is not reflective of our modern, multicultural society. As Robertson Davies stated, “Canada is not going to have a national literature in the mode of those European lands where a long history has bound the people together, and where a homogeneous racial inheritance has given them a language, customs, and even a national dress of their own” (“Canadian Nationalism in Arts and Science” 35). We need to look at the work of Canadian authors who have come here from different backgrounds. Connecting with our multicultural student body is really important. As Canadians, we are lost in a sea of international influences–we hardly know who we are—and we do this without realizing it. “What is a Canadian? A Canadian is a fellow wearing English tweeds, a Hong Kong shirt and Spanish shoes, who sips Brazilian coffee sweetened with Philippine sugar from a Bavarian cup while nibbling Swiss cheese, sitting at a Danish desk over a Persian rug, after coming home in a German car from an Italian movie…” is an anonymous saying that practically defines the typical Canadian experience. No wonder Margaret Atwood can comment that Canadians have issues with establishing their identity. In discussing Canadian writers, she argues that Canada as a state of mind does not really exist:
I'm talking about Canada as a state of mind, as the space you inhabit not just with your body but with your head. It's that kind of space in which we find ourselves lost (Atwood 18)
In conclusion, we should ignore the work of writers in other countries in order to familiarize ourselves with our own writers. While some might view this as ignorant, taking this approach will allow Canadian students to see the value of our authors. Canadian classrooms need to ignore the achievements of American and British authors at this point in time. We can return to studying them once our students have a strong sense of our own cultural writers.
Atwood, Margaret. “Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature” McLelland and
Stewart, Toronto, 1972
Davies, Robertson. “Letters in Canada” MacMillan Press, Toronto, 1979.
Davies, Robertson. “Canadian Nationalism in Arts and Science.” Transactions of the
Royal Society of Canada, Series IV, Volume XIII, Ottawa, 1975.
Explanation of the Edit
Most of what I corrected in this essay were conventional mistakes such as grammar and punctuation errors. I added dashes in areas where it was needed. Many sentences in this essay are long and they are not properly separated. There were sentences that needed more than just a =-