Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Posts from — February 2005

Public library lends out book-filled iPod Shuffles

Public library lends out book-filled iPod Shuffles

Here’s an interesting story that I came across on Having recently become an iPod user myself, I’m thinking seriously now about some of the ways we might be able to use podcasting in literature courses.

We know that small-town libraries have shed their image as fusty repositories of moldering encyclopedias and are now high-tech temples of e-learning, but we were still impressed to find out that at least one library has come up with a novel way to get teens into libraries: put audiobooks onto iPod Shuffles. We have it on good word that the South Huntington Public Library in Suffolk County, New York, is doing just that. They apparently have a handful of Shuffles, pre-loaded with books, and are planning to add more.

February 23, 2005   Comments Off on Public library lends out book-filled iPod Shuffles

Dept saves with online syllabi

Dept. saves with online syllibi

Between budget cuts and advancing technology, the traditional paper syllabus is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

This is an interesting story. I wonder how much paper we could all save by using online syllabi and coursepacks on CD?

February 23, 2005   Comments Off on Dept saves with online syllabi

Latest issue of the Compass

One of the things I try to write on a regular basis is the newsletter for Northwest Passages. The Compass is a newsletter that talks about the latest Canadian literature news, new books hitting the virtual shelves on our online bookstore, and, when I get a chance to write my monthly editorial (which is conspicuously absent in February’s issue), my thoughts on the world of Canadian literature.

So, in case you haven’t read the Compass, here’s the entire February issue for you to take a look at if you wish. To subscribe, simply e-mail

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February 20, 2005   Comments Off on Latest issue of the Compass

Books and borders

This article from the Vanguard asks about Nigerian literature some of the same questions we’ve been asking about Canadian literature in my Canadian literature class. While Canadian books today are almost always published in Canada as well as abroad, we certainly do have a number of prominent Canadian writers who have long lived outside of Canada, such as Mavis Gallant or Nancy Huston. Is there still a certain Canadian sensibility or style that qualifies these works as Canadian literature? I would argue so. To define a national identity or literature purely around geographical location oversimplifies and impoverishes both.

And yet, we in the West have also eagerly appropriated the diasporic literatures of other nations as our own, often as quickly as someone arrives and begins to write in his or her new country of residence. Can a book or writer be both from his or her country of origin and from the country in which the writing takes place? My inclination is to answer yes, though I would have a hard time accepting someone referring to my own work as that of an American professor or critic of Canadian literature.

Mcphilips Nwachukwu asks some excellent questions here:

I do not presume to be troubled by the same broad questions raised by Obi Wali, but I am compelled in this essay to ask: what is Nigerian literature? Is it only literature written by Nigerians living in Nigeria and published in Nigeria? Does this literature have to express itself idiomatically and ideologically as a Nigerian experience? What in fact is the Nigerian experience? In other words, if a Nigerian writer living in Nigeria writes lyrically about the streets of New York City with African-American characters realistically conveying a lived experience, and if such work is published in Nigeria by a Nigerian based publisher, would it be considered Nigerian literature? In other words, what has residency in Nigeria got to do with it? What qualifies a Nigerian writer to claim identity?

Literature itself is an identity marker, but it does seem that geography has upstaged consciousness and aesthetic perception in how we are beginning to define the new Nigerian literary canon. I ask because we already sense that the Nigerian writer living in Europe or America or Asia no longer qualifies to be known as a Nigerian writer by what I sense to be a blind criterium established by the Literature Committee of the LNG Prize.

As I said, I think these are all interesting questions, and not just for Nigerian literature, obviously. In terms of literary prizes, though, is there not also something to be said for a national prize that helps to encourage writers living in Nigeria who have chosen not to leave?

February 7, 2005   Comments Off on Books and borders