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Faculty of Arts
UNB Fredericton

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About the Department of English

A vibrant tradition

UNB’s English program carries a long tradition of literary history.

We are one of the first universities to offer courses in Canadian literature. Our long tradition of creative writing dates back to Bliss Carman and Sir Charles G.D. Roberts.

Our faculty consists of accomplished writers and specialists in fiction, playwriting and screenwriting our faculty.

Literary lineage

UNB’s long and impressive literary history includes:

  • Jonathan Odell (1737-1818), a Loyalist poet
  • Bliss Carman (1861-1929), poet of the Confederation Poets group
  • Sir Charles G. D. Roberts (1860-1943), poet and prose writer often called the Father of Canadian Poetry
  • Alden Nowlan (1933-1983): poet, novelist and playwright. Winner of the Governor General's Award for Bread, Wine and Salt (1967) and long-time Writer-in-Residence at UNB.
  • Fred Cogswell: acclaimed poet, editor of The Fiddlehead and founder of the small press Fiddlehead Poetry Books.
  • Alfred Bailey, poet and later dean of arts at UNB, founder of The Fiddlehead, Canada’s most durable literary magazine
  • Peter Thomas, editor of Goose Lane Editions (formerly Fiddlehead Poetry Books), a flourishing literary press.

Strong tradition of impassioned educators

The UNB graduate program in English owes a great deal to the imaginative drive of the late Dr. W. C. D. Pacey, head of the department from 1944 to 1970.

Professor Pacey established these areas as the abiding strengths of the department by his own teaching and publications and by hiring of faculty members in Renaissance literature as well as the then-developing fields of Commonwealth and Canadian literature.

A history of firsts

UNB was one of the first universities to offer courses in Canadian literature at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The first master’s degree here on a Canadian subject was awarded in 1940.

Subsequent major research projects have included:

  • editing of the letters of Frederick Philip Grove (undertaken by graduate students); and,
  • editing of the complete poems of Sir Charles G. D. Roberts -- the first scholarly edition of the poems of any Canadian poet.

Notable editorial projects in Canadian literature have included:

  • William Wilfred Campbell: Selected Poetry and Essays (1987);
  • The Collected Letters of Sir Charles G. D. Roberts (1989); and
  • a critical edition of George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (1998).

UNB was also one of the first universities in Canada to offer courses in West Indian and African literatures at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The first PhD on West Indian literature was awarded in 1966. Since then there have been numerous MA and PhD theses on African, West Indian and South Asian Post-Colonial writing. Because Canada is part of the Commonwealth, the study of the literatures of other Commonwealth nations complements the study of Canadian literature.

Strong tradition of supporting creative writing

The University of New Brunswick has a long tradition of creative writing, dating from times of Bliss Carman and Sir Charles G. D. Roberts onward.

From the 1940s through to the 1980s, the program was distinguished by:

  • Alfred Bailey
  • Fred Cogswell
  • Desmond Pacey
  • Elizabeth Brewster
  • Dalton Camp
  • Robert Gibbs

In the early 1990s the program centred around:

  • Jan Zwicky
  • Bill Gaston
  • Don McKay, former program director and a two-time Governor General’s Award winner for poetry.

The current director of creative writing is Sue Sinclair, an acclaimed poet who is the author of four books of poetry.

The department also boasts accomplished specialists in fiction, playwriting and screenwriting.

Past graduates of the creative writing MA program include such award-winning writers as Wayne Johnston, Frances Itani, Rabindranath Maharaj, Matt Robinson and Sue Sinclair.

Graduate courses in creative writing are taught by a workshop method. This involves writers in class critiquing each other’s work and developing their craft by sharpening their editorial skills in relation to their own work.

As well as providing a solid academic background, the Department of English encourages the professional development of its graduate students. To that end, the Department sponsors a series of workshops, colloquia and readings.

Workshops explore topics such as career opportunities for graduates, post-doctoral studies, publishing and funding.

Informal colloquia enable graduate students to exchange scholarly ideas, read from their works (both completed and in-progress) and to try out conference papers in an intellectual climate similar to that of the professional academic world.

Editorial and production work on the department’s journals also provides valuable professional experience to students.