128 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Jun 1998
Release Date:01 Jun 1998


How We Talk About Canada

UBC Press

Under the general title of Borderlands, the three related essays in this monograph address the rhetoric of border/boundary in Canadian studies and its social, political, and cultural implications, the character of cultural responses to Canada-US border tensions, and two specific examples of how border transgressions continue to affect current Washington State and British Columbia cultural expression.

A number of motifs appear throughout these essays, including the politics of separation, the persistence of racist discourse in North America (and of attempts to counter it), the role of education in informing public debate, the existence of communally-held social values in Canada, the necessity of the arts, the power of language, and the relation between social choice and indeterminacy.

The first essay, 'Giddy Limits,' ranges the most widely, drawing on examples from history and literature, geography and popular culture. It elucidates the politics of various recurrent rhetorical strategies in Canadian cultural commentary. The second essay, 'The Edge of Everything,' pursues a series of specific applications of 'border rhetoric' (including irony, national policies, and oppositional strategies) to Canada-US relations. The third essay, 'The Centre of Somewhere Else,' looks in part at the rhetoric of two contemporary writers (Seattle's David Guterson and Victoria's Jack Hodgins) in relation to the 1859 Pig War and to curricular reform. This final essay demonstrates further how the large issues raised in the first two essays resonate both in historical narrative and in contemporary social and cultural practice.


  • 1998, Winner - Alcuin Citation for excellence in book design in Canada, Alcuin Society
  • 2000, Winner - Bronze Medal, Leipzig International Book Art Competition for best designed book
What New has to say is important since he recasts the issues of national identity in a post-modernist fin de siècle ambiguity... New acknowledges new issues that have fundamentally challenged national boundaries, such as the multinational corporation, multiculturalism, and aboriginal identity. Anthony W. Rasporich, Western Historical Quarterly
Within the borderlands that separate and join Canadians and Americans, the Canadian search for difference goes on. Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail
... it would be a shame if New’s thoughtful and thought-provoking volume were overlooked because Borderlands is one of those rare books that work on many carefully layered levels: literary, poetic, philosophical and political. ... a rich tapestry. Georgia Straight, October 15-22, 1998
W.H. (Bill) New is University Killam Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia where he was in the English department from 1965 to 2003. He was also the editor of the well-known journal Canadian Literature for eighteen years. He has published several critical works and books of poetry, four books for children, and has been a co-editor on numerous collections and anthologies. Among many honours, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006 and presented with the Governor General's Award for Canadian Studies in 2004.

1. Giddy Limits: Canadian Studies and Other Metaphors

2. The Edge of Everything: Canadian Culture and the Border Field

3. The Centre of Somewhere Else: The Pig War and English 91

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