The CANLIT Project (1973-1981): In Search of the National Reader

  • Heather Murray Professor, Department of English, University of Toronto


CANLIT  was a nationalist action-research collective, initiated at York University,  that undertook a number of studies and publications (more than twenty-five) during the eight-year lifespan of the project.  Commencing in 1972 -- the same year as the publication of the pivotal manifesto Read Canadian -- the group attempted to provide concrete  support to  Canadian authors and publishers by surveying the  CANLIT "literary field" -- the functions of authoring, publishing, distribution, book-selling, and reading -- and by providing hard data as well as hard-hitting critical analysis. Using CANLIT's publications as well as their archives at the University of Calgary, this essay reconstructs the history of the group, provides an overview of (and bibliography of) their publications, and assesses (in particular) their innovative readership surveys.

Author Biography

Heather Murray, Professor, Department of English, University of Toronto

Heather Murray teaches in the Department of English at the University of Toronto, and is a faculty member in the Graduate Collaborative Program in Book History and Print Culture. She is the author of two books (Working in English: History, Institution, Resources; and Come, Bright Improvement: The Literary Societies of Nineteenth Century Ontario) as well as articles in the fields of cultural history, readership history, and the history of English studies.