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Recipient of the Gabrielle Roy Prize 2003

David Williams

Imagined Nations: Reflections on Media in Canadian Fiction. Montréal-Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003.

In Imagined Nations: Reflections on Media in Canadian Fiction, David William undertakes a complex, theoretially sophisticated and highly readble investigation into the ways that communications media, ranging from oral storytelling to the Internet, shape how we imagine the nation. Written on the cusp of dramatic changes in print culture, this study on media in Canadian and québécois novels is timely and original. David Williams successfully situates novels within a print culture that must constantly renegotiate meaning and genre in terms of revolutionary changes in film, radio, cyberspace, and oral culture, and argues convincingly that Benedict Andersen’s notion of «imagined communities» based as it is solely on print media, needs modification to account for other media and other forms of nationhood.

Williams evokes a broad range of cultural theories and an impressive overview of the history of cultural forms to explain how and why certain types of media predominate in a given region, period, and community. He also traces how the novel has offered a hybrid space where these cultural relations are performed and remembered as part of national culture or against the grain of national culture. In so doing he offers fresh and important readings of canonized novels by McLeod, Findley, Vanderhaeghe, Aquin, Ondaatje, Johnston, Gibson and others.

His reflections on the novel and national culture have significant pedagogical value not only for students of Canadian Literature, but also for students in the interdisciplinary fields of Cultural Studies and Canadian Studies. His concluding discussion of how novels can dramatize the tensions between technology and nationalism lends these reflections about media in the novel a sense of cultural urgency in the context of globalization and technological information.

The jurors were:
Alan Filewod, chairman;
Roxanne Rimstead;
Susan Fisher.