NBLCE Statement by Project Coordinator and Publisher Tony Tremblay
By the good graces of my university, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and many supportive colleagues across the country, I was awarded a Canada Research Chair in New Brunswick Studies in 2007. As with all such Chairs, I had a free hand in determining research directions and implementing plans. The opportunities for New Brunswick-specific research were easy to see, for work on English-language New Brunswick literature had lapsed considerably in the previous decades. What's more, with the exception of the Acadian side of the provincial ledger, there was virtually no cultural research capacity in the province. New Brunswick didn't have a provincial encyclopedia or provincial journal of ideas; it didn't have a tradition of documentary film, talk radio, or historical fiction (the forms that lend themselves to self-analysis); and it didn't have mechanisms for English- and French-language scholars to collaborate on research about the province, nor any provincial publisher dedicated to bringing out their work. As a result, there were very few resources through which we could know ourselves, and without such resources, New Brunswick's identity was being defined by others. To make matters worse, almost no New Brunswick literature was taught in the province's public schools or universities. When I asked my undergraduate students in repeated surveys to name the province's most important literary, historical, and political figures and milestones, 94% could not name any. Clearly something was wrong and something had to be done.
This curriculum is one such step. A complement to the New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia, the New Brunswick Literature Curriculum in English is intended to correct the carefully cultivated assumption that nothing of substance or excellence ever happens in our small, have-not province. Readers of New Brunswick literature know that to be untrue. They know that the province was the centre of literary excellence in Canada for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, and they know that many of Canada's finest writers of the last fifty years have come from New Brunswick (Alfred Bailey, Elizabeth Brewster, Alden Nowlan, Antonine Maillet, David Adams Richards, and Herménégilde Chiasson, to name a few). This curriculum, then, is a response to the cultivated narrative of backwardness that continues to define us, a backwardness that holds very little merit when the evidence is considered. This curriculum provides the evidence of that excellence.
Because resources for building research capacity in New Brunswick are scarce, I made it a priority to focus the final energies of my Canada Research Chair on assembling a small team to create this curriculum. In many ways it is a capstone effort, the work that consolidates all the other pieces of New Brunswick research I have undertaken. And, like my other projects, this curriculum has been given away without cost: first, to the Province of New Brunswick's Department of Education, and, second, to the general public via the web.
My hope is that the curriculum we have created will assist New Brunswick students, teachers, and citizens to better understand their heritages and themselves.
Tony Tremblay, Professor and Canada Research Chair
St. Thomas University