What can we learn about authorship through a reading of a writer’s archive?
Collections of authors’ manuscripts and correspondence have traditionally been used in ways that further illuminate the published text. JoAnn McCaig sets out to show how archival materials can also provide fascinating insights into the business of culture, reveal the individuals, institutions, and ideologies that shape the author and her work, and describe the negotiations that occur between an author and the cultural marketplace. Using a feminist cultural studies approach, JoAnn McCaig “reads in” to the archives of acclaimed Canadian short story writer Alice Munro in order to explore precisely how the terms “Canadian,” “woman,” “short story,” and “writer” are constructed in her writing career. Munro’s correspondence with mentor Robert Weaver, agent Virginia Barber, publishers Doug Gibson and Ann Close, and writer John Metcalf tell a fascinating story of how one very determined and gifted writer made her way through the pitfalls of the culture business to achieve the enviable authority she now claims.
This book, based on the research I did for my doctoral dissertation, was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in 2002. It was well received, but the review of which I am most proud describes the book as “funny” – a rare accolade for an academic book.
This review of the book appeared in University of Toronto Quarterly.