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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An unexpected alliance: the Layton-Pacey correspondence Pacey, John David Michael


This dissertation is a scholarly edition of the correspondence between the Canadian poet Irving Layton and the critic and historian of Canadian literature, Desmond Pacey; on November 3, 1954, Desmond Pacey wrote to Contact Press, inviting the poets Irving Layton, Louis Dudek and Raymond Souster to submit their recent work for discussion in an article on Canadian literature for The International Year Book. Pacey and Layton met in Montreal a few months later, and so began a long friendship and a lengthy correspondence which continued until Pacey’s death on July 4, 1975. The correspondence is an extremely important document in the history of Canadian poetry and criticism in the decisive decades following World War II because it so directly and extensively explores the crucial issues of the times: the function of the poet and the critic in contemporary society; the debate over a “cosmopolitan” versus a “native” aesthetic; the debate over a “mythopoeic” versus a “realist” approach to the creation of, and criticism of, poetry; and the attempt to define a position for the Jewish writer in a gentile society. But aside from this prolonged and invaluable theoretical discourse, and aside from the countless useful insights into the life and work of practically every writer active in Canada between 1954-1975, the letters between the two men are important because the two men were so vitally important to the development of a viable Canadian literature. The basic principle of this project’s editorial philosophy is the decision to abjure the “editorial pedantries” of the diplomatic text which tend to exclude the non—specialist educated public, and to assume greater flexibility in the standardization and regularization of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation and matters of format——placement of addresses, closings, postscripts and marginalia. Headnotes contain all textual information about the letter; transcriptions are in the main literal, but in the interest of consistency some standardization has been imposed. Footnotes follow each letter; cross—references are by letter and, where applicable, note number; when the reference is to a letter with a single footnote, no number is cited. These almost three thousand annotations are employed to identify individuals referred to in the text, to provide publication information on the works of Layton, Pacey, and numerous other individuals referred to in the text, to document and frequently quote from the reviews, articles, radio and television programs they discuss, to elucidate references to current events, and to provide miscellaneous but necessary background information on matters ranging from the private lives of the two correspondents to majcir vnts and isuë in the history of Canadian li’áttñ.

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