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Canadian Literature in English  
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Prose Anthologies

Denisoff's collection, Queeries (1993), is the first anthology of Anglo-Canadian gay male prose. Fortunately there have been several collections of lesbian fiction, including Piece of My Heart (fiction by lesbians of color anthologized by Makeda Silvera, 1991) and most recently Getting Wet: Tales of Lesbian Seduction (1992). Edited by two lesbians of color, Carol Allain and Rosamund Elwin, the latter volume continues the tradition that Elwin has encouraged through the Lesbian Writing and Publishing Collective that created another anthology, Dykewords.

Getting Wet and another collection, By Word of Mouth, raise the issue of pornography, an issue that has often divided lesbian communities but in Canada has elicited strong lesbian support for erotic writing by women for women. Alongside some pretty torrid sex, Getting Wet contains the diction of the old pulp romances of preliberation days: "we had feasted to our hearts' fulness on each other."

In so doing, it raises again the question of just what lesbian "literature" is, a question suggested also by the recent National Film Board production Forbidden Love (directed by Aerlyn Weissman and Lynne Fernie, 1992), where a piece of pulp fiction comes to life.


Periodicals are also a major source of gay and lesbian writing. Candis Graham, whose collection of short stories, Imperfect Moments has recently appeared, for example, has previously published not only in Women and Words but in three other collections of lesbian stories: Dykeversions (1986), By word of mouth (1989), and Tide Lines (1991) as well as in the papers Rites and Common Lives / Lesbian Lives. (One might also add the feminist magazine Fireweed as a place where lesbian fiction frequently appears.)

Graham's stories have the sort of amiable domesticity often associated with lesbian life; indeed, they are usually situated in the redefinition of "family."

This is also a subject of many of the novels of Jane Rule, another American expatriate. As the first major gay or lesbian novelist to publish in Canada, Rule still has the highest profile. Like her first novel, Desert of the Heart (1964), This is Not for You (1970) is centered in the relation of two women. Whereas the women in the first novel break through convention, the couple in the second do not.

Against the Season (1972) introduces the same wide range of characters as recur in what is probably her best-known novel, The Young in One Another's Arms (1977), a novel in which the residents (gay and straight) of a rooming house become a "family" in order to fight a developer.

In all of her work--and she has a large canon of short stories as well as subsequent novels--her concern has been to present lesbians and gays as "not heroic or saintly but real." This unsentimental clarity has also given her critical writing distinction, both in the pieces that appeared in The Body Politic, and have since been collected as A Hot-Eyed Moderate (1986), and in her influential earlier work, Lesbian Images (1975).

The advent of lesbian and gay literature in Canada has not gone unopposed by traditional forces of "morality," with the absurd result that publications supported by arts councils have sometimes been the subject of police action. The battle against Customs officers and police pornography squads eager to seize even the novels of Jane Rule has largely been carried on in Canada by such important bookstores as Glad Day in Toronto and Little Sisters in Vancouver but not without the active support of straight librarians and bookstores.


What is remarkable is the vibrancy of gay culture generally, and gay writing in particular, in a country whose population is less than California's. Both Vancouver and Toronto have strong gay and lesbian publishing houses and theaters that would be the envy of much larger cities in the English-speaking world.

Douglas Chambers

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social sciences >> Overview:  Canada

In 2005 Canada became the fourth country to recognize same-sex marriages; the milestone victory solidified Canada's position as a leader in the struggle for glbtq equality.

literature >> Overview:  Contemporary Drama

Since Stonewall, gay and lesbian drama has flourished, especially in the United States.

literature >> Overview:  Novel: Gay Male

Since World War II, the gay male novel has progressively flourished in England and especially in America.

literature >> Overview:  Novel: Lesbian

From the great modernist writers of the 1920s and 1930s to the pulp writers of the 1950s to the lesbian writers of today, lesbian novelists have had a powerful impact on the lesbian community.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Gay Male

The gay tradition in literature from ancient times to the present is primarily a tradition not of prose but of verse.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Lesbian

Since the 1960s, the general trend in lesbian poetry has been collective and political rather than purely aesthetic.

social sciences >> Overview:  Toronto

Toronto's glbtq community has gone from being a hidden subculture to a power base in politics, the economy, and the arts.

literature >> Bidulka, Anthony

Canadian novelist Anthony Bidulka, author of the Russell Quant detective series, creates mysteries that skirt the dark side of detective fiction through humor and emotional buoyancy.

literature >> Capote, Truman

Truman Capote's fiction and autobiographical works helped establish what might be called the quintessential homosexual writing style of the 1950s and 1960s.

literature >> Cavafy, C. P.

Alexandrian Greek poet C. P. Cavafy has written some of the greatest homoerotic poems of all time.

literature >> Coward, Sir Noël

Although Coward's plays are about heterosexual couples, they are written in the language and spirit of camp and reject traditional domestic values.

literature >> Duncan, Robert

Robert Duncan wrote a remarkable series of poems that deal directly with the love of men for other men.

arts >> Fernie, Lynne

Canadian filmmaker Lynne Fernie has had a varied career in the arts, but is best known as the co-director of the celebrated 1992 documentary Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives.

literature >> Findley, Timothy

The works of award-winning Canadian novelist and playwright Timothy Findley examine the nature of power in society and the struggle to understand and achieve what is right.

literature >> Gunn, Thom

The Anglo-American writer Thom Gunn was a major gay poet and a perceptive critic of gay poetry.

literature >> Hine, Daryl

The Canadian-American poet Daryl Hine was a leader in giving serious homosexual poetry a place in the mainstream of American poetry.

arts >> Lukacs, Attila Richard

The work of Canadian painter, sculptor, and installation artist Attila Richard Lukacs is provocative and frequently fetishistic, especially in its depictions of skinheads.

literature >> Mann, Thomas

One of Germany's greatest twentieth-century authors, Thomas Mann encoded his own homosexuality in his novels but thought that homosexuality led to the destruction of social institutions and the death of the individual homosexual.

literature >> Maupin, Armistead

A sharp social critic, novelist Armistead Maupin places his gay characters within a large framework of humanity, creating a social history of San Francisco during the tumultuous decades of the 1970s and 1980s.

literature >> McGehee, Peter

American-Canadian novelist Peter McGehee is best remembered for his deft negotiation of the AIDS pandemic through the genre of screwball comedy.

literature >> Meigs, Mary

An American-born painter who emigrated to Canada, the artist Mary Meigs is best known for her literary contributions and her feminist activism on behalf of elderly lesbians.

literature >> Pasolini, Pier Paolo

Most of the fiction and much of the poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of the great Marxist homosexual artists of the twentieth century, was shaped by his fascination with the lives of subproletarian youths.

literature >> Rule, Jane

Though dealing forthrightly with lesbian and gay subjects, the novels and criticism of Jane Rule are deliberately nonpolitical in their commitment to diverse communities and a range of experiences.

literature >> Selvadurai, Shyam

Sri Lankan-Canadian writer Shyam Selvadurai has emerged as a significant figure in post-colonial and gay writing by virtue of the style, wit, and perspicacity of his three novels.

literature >> Tremblay, Michel

Montreal-born playwright and novelist Michel Tremblay draws on his own Catholic working-class background in his presentation of bar culture characters and their relatives.

literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.

literature >> Woolf, Virginia

Passionate friendships with women were essential to the life and work of novelist Virginia Woolf.


A Not So Gay World. Marion Foster and Kent Murray, eds. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1972.

By Word of Mouth: Lesbians Writing the Erotic. Lee Fleming, ed. Charlottetown, P.E.I: Gynergy Press, 1989.

Canadian Theatre Review 12 (Fall 1976).

Denisoff, Dennis, ed. Queeries: An Anthology of Gay Male Prose. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1993.

Dykewords: An Anthology of Lesbian Writing. Toronto: Women's Press, 1990.

Flaunting It!. Ed Jackson and Stan Persky, eds. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1982.

Fluid Exchanges: Artists and Critics on the AIDS Crisis. James Miller, ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

Getting Wet: Tales of Lesbian Seduction. Carol Allain and Rosamund Elwin, eds. Toronto: Women's Press, 1992.

How Do I Look: Queer Film and Video. Seattle: Bay Press, 1991.

Persky, Stan. Buddy's: Meditations on Desire. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1989.

Piece of My Heart: A Lesbian of Colour Anthology. Makeda Silvera, ed. Toronto: Sister Vision, 1991.

Sight Specific: Lesbians and Representation. Toronto: A Space Gallery, 1988.

SP/ELLES: Poetry by Canadian Women. Judith Fitzgerald, ed. Windsor, Ont.: Black Moss Press, 1986.

Tide Lines: Stories of Change by Lesbians. Lee Fleming, ed. Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Gynergy Press, 1991.

Wallace, Robert, ed. Making, Out: Plays by Gay Men. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1992.

Women and Words: The Anthology. West Coast Collective, ed. Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour, 1984.

Young, Ian. The Male Homosexual in Literature: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1975.

_____, ed. The Male Muse: A Gay Anthology. Trumansburg, N.Y.: Crossing Press, 1975.

_____, ed. The Son of the Male Muse: New Gay Poetry. Trumansburg, N.Y.: Crossing Press, 1983.


    Citation Information
    Author: Chambers, Douglas  
    Entry Title: Canadian Literature in English  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 11, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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