Coyote Country

Fictions of the Canadian West

Coyote Country

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: May 1994

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

For most North Americans—Canadians as well as Americans—the term "Western" evokes images of the frontier, brave sheriffs and ruthless outlaws, good cowboys and bad Indians. As Arnold E. Davidson shows in this groundbreaking study, a number of Canada’s most interesting and experimental Western writers parody, reverse, or otherwise defuse the paraphernalia of the classic U.S. Western. Lacking both a real and imagined frontier—Canadian settlers rode trains into the new territory, already policed by Mounties—the writers of Canadian Westerns were set a different task from their American counterparts and were subsequently freed to create some of the most complex and engrossing fiction yet produced in Canada.
Davidson details the evolution of the U.S. and Canadian Western forms, tracing the divergence between the two as Canadian writers responded to their unique historical circumstances by reinventing the West as well as the Western and establishing a new literary landscape where author and reader could work out new possibilities of being. Surveying a range of texts by Canada’s most innovative writers, with special attention to women writers and Native stories of Coyote, he provides close readings of novels by Howard O’Hagan, Sheila Watson, Robert Kroetsch, Aritha van Herk, Anne Cameron, Peter Such, W. O. Mitchell, Beatrice Culleton, and Thomas King. A unique study, Coyote Country offers at one and the same time a theory of Canadian Western fiction, a history of crosscultural paradigms of the West as manifested in novels, and an intensive reading of some of Canada’s best literature.


“Davidson’s text succeeds in demonstrating that the Canadian version of the western provides an alternative perspective for the genre as a whole, and offers a valuable contribution to the endless Canadian passion for identity.” — Liz Millward, OverHere

"Coyote Country is an outstanding work, one that adds significantly to the discourse surrounding writing from Western Canada. By grounding his discussion in contemporary theory—especially that of post-colonialism—Davidson’s argument will be most welcome by those interested in western fiction, both in Canada and the United States." — Robert Thacker, St. Lawrence University

"Arnold E. Davidson succeeds in impressing his reader with the many ways in which Canadian writers, to use postmodernism’s language, construct the West. Delightfully written, Coyote Country will be very useful to the many people currently comparing Canadian and United States literatures, to those focusing on the literary construction of new world frontiers, and to those who are trying to understand alternative literatures that have been all too often excluded from mainstream literary analyses." — Lorna Irvine, George Mason University


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Arnold E. Davidson is Research Professor of Canadian Studies at Duke University. He is the author of four previous books and editor of three, most of them on Canadian literature.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1469-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1453-0
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