Novel ideas: archives in English-Canadian literary life and fiction, 1960-2017

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Fehr, Chantel
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Since the 1960s, archives have become increasingly significant in the Canadian literary world. Literary archives, as such, or the records of novelists, poets, and playwrights, now occupy an important place in many Canadian archives. Other types of archives – from institutional records to the personal archives of non-literary figures ‒ have been increasingly used by literary figures to write novels and other works. As well, archives and archivists themselves have become central to the plot lines of many literary works. Literary uses of archives thus affect societal understanding of historical events and the formation of collective memory, yet this overall literary phenomenon often remains invisible, as few have noted the wide and expanding roles of archives within it. Despite their importance, and although they have been used by scholars and others, they have seldom been made an object of study by archivists, historians, or other scholars. The purpose of this thesis is to provide an introductory overview of these developments: the emergence of literary archives in Canada; the uses of archives by Canadian literary figures to write English-language historical fiction; and, based mainly on a selection of twenty-first century historical fiction, examples of how archives and archivists have been depicted in such literary work. By examining these three key examples of the connection between literary work and archives, this thesis aims to highlight the literary value of archives in Canada as a distinctive topic of study and encourage further exploration of its many aspects.
Archives, CanLit, Literary archives, Canadian literature