Canadian Short Fiction Historical Background

Historical Background

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Short fiction was being written in Canada before there was a Canada. At the time of Confederation in 1867, short fiction already filled the magazines of the new country. These early stories, however, differed from the modern short story, often being closer in form and content to other prose genres such as the sketch, anecdote, editorial, and essay—all of which were popular in journals such as The Literary Garland, Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly, National Review, and The Week. Today’s definitions of short fiction must be relaxed when one surveys fiction of these earlier times, for the parameters defining what is good short fiction change over time. The sensibility of the late nineteenth century, for example, valued sentiment over realism; much that was then considered excellent writing, appears nauseatingly sweet to the twentieth century reader. When one surveys the past of a genre, one must be aware that one is looking from a particular point of view, that of scholars distanced from the dates and places of publication of the original fiction and necessarily seeing a literary landscape changed from that seen by the original writer, publisher, or even the critic of earlier decades.