CANADIAN EXPLORATION LITERATURE
Edited by Germaine Warkentin
Volume 21 Number 5
This anthology will be welcomed by teachers of Canadian history, geography and literature. Germaine Warkentin, a professor of English at the University of Toronto, notes that a forerunner of this book was prepared for a course she taught at the University of Toronto. Although the text evolved from a university course, high school and public libraries will also want to purchase it because the documents included are accessible, well introduced, and often fascinating.
Most of the authors are, not surprisingly, men from England and Scotland, although Warkentin has taken care to include documents that offer other perspectives on Canada's early years. Texts by Pierre Esprit Radisson, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes (Sieur de la Verendrye), Frances Simpson, Letitia Hargrave, explorers born in North America, and the Piegan chief Saukamapee broaden the range of voices in the collection and provide a fuller context for the era described.
The documents were written between 1660 and 1860, and belong to what Warkentin calls "the 'classical' world of the exploration document: journals, letters, reports, even surveys have their place." Warkentin provides numerous helpful notes, and she identifies her original sources and notes if she has made any editorial changes.
Each text is introduced with a small map and a short account of the author and the context of her/his text. The exploration texts are mainly extracts from longer works, which Warkentin divides into distinct sections. She provides explanatory headings for each section, thus making particular topics easily accessible. An up-to-date bibliography and a name index are included.
It is difficult to find fault with the choice of texts, as the drama is intense in almost every selection. Warkentin narrowed her range to authors who explored "the mysterious empty space which stretched north and west from Lake Superior to the Arctic and Pacific coasts." This range includes Mackenzie, Vancouver, Fraser, Franklin, Hearne, and Simpson - and other men who worked for either the Hudson's Bay Company or the North West Company.
As Warkentin points out, scholars recognize today that these texts are not always the work of just one author, as relatives, friends and editors often polished and finished the work of the original author. Nevertheless, these documents are stories about Canada's past, told at least partly by the men and women who lived that past, and Warkentin has provided scholars and students with a useful resource.
Highly recommended for all high school, university and public libraries.
Brenda Reed is the librarian at Bishop's College School in Lennoxville, Quebec.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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