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Canadian literature, English

Essays and Poetry

The essayist Northrop Frye is noted for his systematic classification of literature, presented in his Anatomy of Criticism (1957). Stephen Leacock is well known for his humorous essays as well as for his scholarship. Other notable essayists include Sir Andrew Macphail, Archibald MacMechan, and Lorne Pierce.

Genuinely Canadian poetry was late in developing. In the 18th cent. Puritan hymnists, such as Henry Alline, and refugee Tory satirists, such as Jonathan Odell, took their models from American colonial or English neoclassical literature. Before the confederation of 1867 the only poets of note were Charles Sangster, the first to make use of native material, and Charles Heavysege, whose long poetic drama Saul brought him widespread acclaim.

Starting c.1880, the "confederation school"—C. G. D. Roberts, Archibald Lampman, Bliss Carman, and Duncan Campbell Scott—began producing a large body of romantic poetry, describing nature and Canadian rural life. In 1905, long after her death in 1887, Isabella V. Crawford was recognized as an important poet; she was followed by Emily Pauline Johnson and Marjorie Pickthall. Other poets of the early part of the century included Wilfred Campbell, W. H. Drummond, Francis Sherman, John McCrae, and the greatly popular Robert W. Service.

In 1926 the prolific E. J. Pratt broke away from the romantic tradition with The Titans ; his highly original and powerful epics place him among the foremost Canadian poets. Notable contemporary poets in the Pratt tradition include Kenneth Leslie, Earle Birney, W. W. E. Ross, Dorothy Livesay, and Anne Marriott. Other poets sharing the modern cosmopolitan tradition of the United States and W Europe are F. R. Scott, L. A. Mackay, A. M. Klein, P. K. Page, Irving Layton, Raymond Souster, James Reaney, Margaret Avison, Phyllis Webb, Leonard Cohen, and Margaret Atwood.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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