Recipient of the Gabrielle Roy Prize 2002
Unreal Country: Modernity in the Canadian Novel in English McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.
Professor Willmott’s book, in highly readable prose, offers stimulating new ways to read and to teach canonical work and at the same time provides a welcome introduction to noncanonical work in relation to key statements in anglo-Canadian studies. A handy book of criticism in the sense of oscillating between concepts and close readings, Unreal Country works from keywords of the discipline of literary studies and of literary history modernism, romance, realism, nation, bildungsroman as well as terms of more recent purchase modernity, postmodernism, and postcolonialism, and makes way for new readings not only of individual texts but also of the terms by which we have and might organize material we thought we had finished reading. Learning from Jameson how to read form as history, and learning from more recent work on temporality in relation to already occupied spaces of regionalism and place in anglo-Canadian literary production, Willmott offers always useful and often moving arguments for the critical and utopic value of literature as both history and idea. The book’s greatest value is perhaps not so much in any depth of its treatment or deployment of key words or key works as in its illustration that formalist and historicist concerns not only belong together but are core to the continued relevance of whatever might fall under the rubric of «Canadian literary criticism.» It is a very hopeful and helpful book.