In compiling the New Brunswick Literature Curriculum in English (NBLCE) for students, teachers, and readers of New Brunswick literature, we have tried to strike a balance between being representative and being brief. The fact that New Brunswick literature has spanned almost 500 years made selectiveness necessary. It is not the objective of the NBLCE, then, to provide an exhaustive catalogue of New Brunswick writers and their works. Nor would that be possible. As a result, many fine New Brunswick writers do not appear here, and those who do appear have only small portions of their work showcased.
Readers may wonder how we made decisions about organizational structure and how we determined what it means to be a “New Brunswick” writer. Below are the working principles we followed in constructing the curriculum’s contextual, biographical, critical, and bibliographic content. We hope that these principles will provide answers to the questions that readers have as they begin to explore the NBLCE.
Selection of Authors and Their Works
To introduce readers to the history and dominant concerns/voices of New Brunswick literature, we selected writers whose quality, quantity, and consistency of work over time, as well as critical reception, warranted inclusion. Specifically, our selections met the following criteria:
The writer was born in New Brunswick, spent formative years living in New Brunswick, or has made New Brunswick the primary setting or subject of his/her work.
The writer and/or literary work has had a significant impact on the development of literature and culture within the province, across Canada, and/or internationally.
The work is “literary” in the generally accepted sense of the term, and it has been deemed significant enough to have captured the attention of critics and other writers/artists.
A much more comprehensive database of New Brunswick writers and their works can be found in the New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia (NBLE), where more than 200 New Brunswick writers and literary subjects are profiled.
Organization and Structure
This curriculum provides users with multiple options for examining literary material. Users have the choice of viewing materials by historical period (Module), by author (Author Page), or by theme (Themes & Motifs). The chief organizing principle of the NBLCE, however, is chronological.
We believe that engaging with New Brunswick literature chronologically offers the greatest benefits to users of the NBLCE. By beginning with the earliest writing in New Brunswick and advancing chronologically, readers will gain valuable historical perspective while also being able to trace changes and recurrences in New Brunswick’s literary culture over time. Chronological organization also provides a window to how the province’s literary artists responded to various internal and external (national and international) pressures.
Each author is placed within a historical period and tradition (Module) that is fully described. Background and contextual information is provided that explains the author’s society and times. The aim is to enable readers to understand the relationship of authors to their times, and how the literature of one period or era can be compared and contrasted to that of other periods. To make the best use of the organizational structure we’ve devised, we suggest that readers start with the historical overviews (Modules) and then proceed to authors (Author Pages). Of course, users are free (and welcome) to devise their own pathways through this resource.
To enable that, we have supplemented the chronological framework with other ways to view and access the literature and commentaries in the NBLCE. Readers can go directly to Authors for an alphabetical listing of the New Brunswick writers in the curriculum; to Modules for a chronological listing of the New Brunswick literary periods and clusters in the curriculum; to Thumbnail Sketches for a brief overview of what is in each module; or to Themes & Motifs for a listing of literary works according to theme. Information about each of those options (author, module, theme) can be found under the Resources tab on the main page of this site.
Teachers should visit Information for Teachers and Sample Unit Plans, also under Resources, for an explanation of the features and tools offered by the NBLCE that can bring New Brunswick literature into the classroom.
The NBLCE is designed for a broad audience: from the casual reader who is peeking into the literary history of New Brunswick to secondary school teachers and university educators who want to introduce their students to the literature and culture of the province.
For this reason, we have avoided weighty theoretical explanations of the literature, preferring instead to discuss the literature in concrete and accessible ways. For deeper analyses of authors, texts, and historical periods, we direct readers to the useful bibliographies at the end of each Module and Author Page, and to the site’s bibliography.
This curriculum does not aim to fix a canon of New Brunswick literature, but by its very nature will do so. To repeat, we have selected New Brunswick writers whose quality, quantity, and consistency of work over time, as well as critical reception, warrants inclusion. Not everyone will agree with our selections, and some authors will feel overlooked. We regret that while also understanding that it is inevitable. A curriculum, by definition, can only include a sampling, and a small sampling at that. Our goal was to start a process and provide resources; it was not to fix a canon. All canons are fickle, given to change over time. Had other critics taken on this task, their selections (and canon) would have been different. If some people feel strongly that we have erred, we hope that they will channel their energies into creating an alternate resource.