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Canadian Writers, McClelland & Stewart, and the Paperback Book: Remediation, Publishing, and Cultural Context Open Access


Other title
Jack McClelland
Sheila Watson
Pierre Berton
McClelland & Stewart
new media
digital publishing
Leonard Cohen
Canadian literature
Canadian publishing
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Smitka, Kristine Y
Supervisor and department
Hjartarson, Paul (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Wiesenthal, Christine (English and Film Studies)
Quirk, Linda (Special Collections Librarian)
Bishop, Edward (English and Film Studies)
Morra, Linda (Bishop's University)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation analyzes the relationship between literature and new media through an investigation of the book in a Canadian context and draws on book history and new media studies. To better understand the relationship between print and digital forms of publishing, I look backwards to a similar moment in Canadian history, when paperback publishing became common practice, providing new opportunities and challenges for Canada’s cultural industries. I focus on the Canadian publishing firm McClelland & Stewart (M&S) and three of its authors, Pierre Berton, Sheila Watson, and Leonard Cohen. I thus resist the tendency of new media studies to focus on the most recent innovations and instead historicize the dialectic between established and emerging media. Chapter One introduces the vocabulary of new media studies to the discipline of book history. Chapter Two applies this theoretical framework to the rise of the paperback in Canada. It then provides a brief history of M&S and its prince of publishing, Jack McClelland, to reveal how McClelland’s personal politics shaped the publishing firm. Chapter Three examines how Pierre Berton harnessed emerging media to grow his audience. The rapidity with which he published, combined with his frequent presence on Canadian television programs, launched Berton as a Canadian cultural celebrity. Chapter Four situates Sheila Watson within a media discourse for which she is little known to demonstrate her ongoing exploration of the relationship between technology and power. It then locates Watson’s reticence to employ new media as a promotional strategy for her creative work within the context of her theorization of emerging technologies. Chapter Five demonstrates Leonard Cohen’s chameleon-like response to emerging technologies as he sought to reposition poetry as a mass cultural phenomenon. Both embracing and resenting poetry’s elite status, Cohen desired a larger audience, a goal at odds with his chosen genre. As a whole, this dissertation’s historically situated media analysis reveals intersections between Canadian nationalism and new media. Moreover, it demonstrates how the routinized social patterns that develop alongside media do not naturally derive from technology, but rather reflect the political and aesthetic investments of writers, publishers, and policy makers.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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