ENGL 375 A1: Canadian Lit: Reading Canadian Cultures - Contemporary Bestsellers and Popular Genres in 21c Canada

D. Fuller

Why are there so few Canadian books on the 'bestsellers' shelf in Shopper's Drug Mart? Why do Canadian writers like Louise Penny win international prizes for mystery fiction rather than Canadian literary prizes like the Giller? How does social media influence the way that we learn about books? Who is included and excluded from the production of Canadian 'literature' and popular genres? This course explores how Canadian bestsellers and popular genres are produced, circulated, evaluated and received in twenty-first-century Canada. It aims to provide a series of contexts for the study of contemporary Canadian popular and literary fiction, and theoretical frameworks for understanding and interrogating terms like 'popular', 'genre fiction' and 'bestseller.' We will also consider how to interpret specific genres (e.g. detective fiction) and categories of books (specifically, 'YA fiction'). This is not a traditional literary text-based course since it engages with scholarship and methods from reading studies, cultural studies and book history, but no prior knowledge of these fields is required.

The course consists of four units: Unit 1: Canadian Bestsellers and Popular Genres: Histories, Theories and Contexts; Unit 2: Producing Bestsellers: Publishing, Promotion and Prize Culture; Unit 3: Reading Popular Fiction in a Transmedia Environment: Readers, Fans and Digital Media; Unit 4: Making Genre?: A case study of Canadian YA fiction.

Classes will combine a range of teaching and learning activities including mini-lectures, small group work, and plenary discussions. Students will prepare by reading a selection of primary and/or secondary material. There will also be some hands-on 'field work' tasks (e.g. analyzing those book displays in Shopper's Drug Mart!).


Primary Texts may include:

Louise Penny Bury Your Dead (2010)

Joshua Whitehead Jonny Appleseed (2018)

Waubgeshig Rice Moon of the Crusted Snow (2018)


Secondary Texts may include:

Selections from: Ken Gelder (ed.) Popular Fiction (2016)

Extracts from: Daniel Heath Justice Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (2017)

Selections from: Hannah McGregor, Julie Rak and Erin Wunker (eds.) Refuse: CanLit in Ruins (2018)

Selections from: Danielle Fuller and DeNel Rehberg Sedo (eds.) 'Readers, Reading and Digital Media,' Special Themed Issue, Participations: International Journal of Audience Research. (May 2019) [online, Open Access]