Keepers of the Code: English-Canadian Literary Anthologies and the Representation of the Nation

Keepers of the Code: English-Canadian Literary Anthologies and the Representation of the Nation

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By Robert Lecker
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2013
World Rights
400 Pages
ISBN 9781442613966
Published Feb 2013
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Keepers of the Code explores the complex network of associations and negotiations that influenced the development of literary anthologies in English Canada from 1837 to the present. Lecker shows that these anthologies are deeply conflicted narratives that embody the tensions and anxieties felt by their editors when faced with the challenge of constructing or rejecting national ideals. He argues that these are intensely self-conscious works with their own literary mechanisms and architecture. In reading the history of these anthologies, he witnesses a complex narrative of nation, a compelling story about the values and interests informing English-Canadian literary history.

Robert Lecker is Greenshields Professor of English at McGill University and a literary agent in Montreal. He founded and was co-publisher of ECW Press from 1977 to 2003.



1. Nineteenth-Century Anthologies and the Making of Canadian Literature, 1837–1900

2. Representations of Nation: Watson and Pierce’s Our Canadian Literature, 1900–1922

3. Anthologies between the Wars, 1922–1943   

4. From The Book of Canadian Poetry to New Wave Canada, 1943–1966

5. Nation Making, Nation Breaking, 1967–1982

6. Solidifying the Canadian Canon, 1982–1996

7. Keeping the Code, 1996–2010

Works Cited

Keepers of the Code shines as a work of critically informed literary history, deftly historicizing a surprisingly broad tradition of anthologies, mapping their shifting priorities, and demystifying the forces behind their compilation…It will rightly become a key study for discussion of literary anthologies in Canada.’

Robert Zacharias, Canadian Literature Spring 2014

‘This lively study illuminates the history and constitution of Canadian literature.… A reward of reading Lecker is the salutary realization that Canadian writing is vaster and stranger than is often acknowledged.

Nicholas Bradley, The Bull Calf: Reviews in Fiction, Poetry, and Literary Criticism December 2015

‘Lecker shows admirable objectivity as he guides the reader through the history of the Can Lit anthology… The result is a perfect combination of cannon-questioning and imagining Canada through literature… Fascinating study… Lecker’s book is admirable in all regards.’

Jason Blake, Southern Journal of Canadian Studies, vol 6:01:2015

Keepers of the Code is admirable in its ability to place work in a material context… Particularly impressive are Lecker’s personal interventions in the narrative… Lecker also excels at recognizing continuities.’

Tim McIntyre, University of Toronto Quarterly vol 84:03:2015