Guide to Canadian Literary Papers at York University
From its inception, York University Archives and Special Collections has made Canadiana one of the chief pillars of its collections policy. Canadian Studies, particularly the post-confederation period, is the primary focus of its archival acquisitions in addition to our special collections which consist of published Canadiana including the Canadian Pamphlet Collection. This in part reflects York University’s reputation for strong Canadian Studies programs in a variety of fields in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Fine Arts.
In 1981 York University entered into an agreement with Margaret Laurence that resulted in her papers being preserved for research at York University Archives. The Margaret Laurence acquisition firmly established York’s reputation as a serious collector of Canadian literary papers, at a time when Canadian authors were beginning to be recognized and studied. Professor Clara Thomas, Professor Emeritus of English at York and a Laurence scholar, taught some of the first Canadian literature courses in a Canadian university, and through her friendship with Laurence, played an important role in the transfer of her papers to York.
Since that time, York University Archives and Special Collections has continued to acquire the archives of Canadian authors. We are proud to house the papers of some of Canada’s finest writers, past and present.
This guide was designed to help focus our users’ attention on the rich archival resources available at York University Archives and Special Collections (ASC) specific to the study of Canadian Literature. Its purpose is to provide an overview of the private fonds of Canadian writers and literary organizations which are preserved at ASC. This guide is designed to be the first finding aid for the researcher, and is intended to make Canadian Literary research in the Archives more thorough and efficient.
Unlike the other resource guides available on this web site, the Guide to Canadian Literary Papers at York University Archives does not attempt to break the category of “Canadian Literature” down into smaller subject areas. Rather, this guide is a simple nominal list of the papers we preserve and which are available, in whole or in part, for use by researchers. Researchers are invited to click on any of the names below after which the user can then learn a bit about the individual writer or organization and read a description of the contents of their fonds.
A fonds is defined as “the whole of the documents, regardless of form or medium, automatically and organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular individual, family or corporate body in the course of that creator’s activities or functions.”1 Therefore, the fonds is a group of records that is naturally created by a person, family or organization in the course of their everyday lives and activities.
Although the amount of information that any given fonds contains may range from a single document (a letter, article, course outline, or work of art) to a series or body of work (a book, diary, collection of art/letters/research material), it can be assumed that each of the fonds listed on the left represents a significant part of the creator’s work.
Having found a fonds containing material relevant to your research, the user should then plan to pay a visit to the Archives Reading Room and consult the related finding aids to identify the specific document titles and descriptions required for your research. It is at this level that the researcher will be better able to determine the relevance of the fonds contents and request those items which require further study. Due to the nature of archival collections, users should be aware that the degree of access to documents varies within and between fonds. Some documents will require the permission of the Archivist and/or a trustee of the individual creator before access to the material is given. In some cases, material is restricted for a defined period of time.
1 Bureau of Canadian Archivists. Rules for Archival Description (Ottawa: Bureau of Canadian Archivists, 1990), D-4.
*ASC would like to thank Jizi Chen for her time and effort in compiling this resource guide.
Canadian Literary Papers
Norman Albert Levine
Bruce William Powe
Clara McCandless Thomas
Canadian Speakers’ and Writers’ Service Ltd.
Canadian Theatre Review