Robert Lecker

 Robert Lecker
Contact Information
514-398-4400 Ext. 09337
Email address: 
robert.lecker [at]

Arts 335
Arts Building
853 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, QC H3A 0G5

Faculty Members
Greenshields Professor of English
Cultural Studies
Specialization by geographical area: 
Specialization by time period: 
Poetry & Poetics
Archives & Bibliography
Book History
Sociology of Literature
Areas of interest: 

Canadian Literature, all periods; Literary History; Ekphrasis; Life Writing; Canonicity; Material Production


My main field of specialization is Canadian literature. In this area, I have particular expertise in book and publishing history, the evolution of literary value, and communal models of literary sharing and appreciation. Additionally, I have published on music and literature and have offered courses on adaptation and ekphrasis. I am currently exploring modes of life writing and confessional literature. I was the co-editor of the critical journal Essays on Canadian Writing from 1975-2004, and the copublisher at ECW Press from 1977-2003. Some of my books include On the Line: Readings in the Short Fiction of Clark Blaise, John Metcalf, and Hugh Hood; Robert Kroetsch; Another I: The Fictions of Clark Blaise; Making It Real: The Canonization of English-Canadian Literature; Dr. Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit; The Cadence of Civil Elegies; Keepers of the Code: English-Canadian Literary Anthologies and the Representation of Nation; and Who Was Doris Hedges? The Search for Canada’s First Literary Agent. I have also edited a number of books including Open Country: Canadian Literature in English; Anthologizing Canadian Literature: Theoretical and Cultural Perspectives; and Do You Want To Be Happy and Write?: Critical Essays on Michael Ondaatje. My book reviews and scholarly writing have appeared in Canadian Literature, Studies in Canadian Literature, Critical Inquiry, PMLA, University of Toronto Quarterly, and elsewhere. My two current projects are a study of Karen Solie’s poetry and a monograph on music in Michael Ondaatje’s fiction.


B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (York University)

Selected publications: 


Who Was Doris Hedges? The Search for Canada's First Literary Agent. (McGill-Queen's UP, 2020)

Book cover of "Who Was Doris Hedges? The Search for Canada's First Literary Agent" by Robert Lecker

Keepers of the Code: English-Canadian Literary Anthologies and the Representation of the Nation (U of Toronto Press, 2013)

The Cadence of Civil Elegies (Cormorant, 2006) 

Dr. Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit (Véhicule, 2006)

English-Canadian Literary Anthologies: An Enumerative Bibliography (Reference, 1997)

Making It Real: The Canonization of English-Canadian Literature (Anansi, 1995)

An Other I: The Fictions of Clark Blaise (ECW, 1988) 

Robert Kroetsch (Twayne, 1986)

On the Line: Readings in the Short Fiction of Clark Blaise, John Metcalf, and Hugh Hood (ECW, 1982)

Edited Books

Do You Want To Be Happy and Write?: Critical Essays on Michael Ondaatje (McGill-Queen's UP, 2023)

Anthologizing Canadian Literature: Theoretical and Cultural Perspectives (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015)

Open Country: Canadian Literature in English (Thomson Nelson, 2007)


Borderlands: Essays in Canadian-American Relations (ECW, 1991)

Canadian Canons: Essays in Literary Value (U of Toronto Press, 1991)

The New Canadian Anthology: English-Canadian Poetry and Short Fiction, with Jack David (Nelson, 1988)

Introduction to Literature: British, American, Canadian, with Jack David and Peter O'Brien (Harper & Row, 1987) 

Canadian Writers and Their Works: Essays on Form, Context, and Development (CWTW), with Jack David and Ellen Quigley. (ECW Press, 1982)

Introduction to Fiction (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983)

The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors (ABCMA)Jack David (ECW Press, 1982)

Anthology of Maine Literature, with Kathleen Brown (U of Maine Press, 1982)

Canadian Poetry, with Jack David, Vols. I & II (New Press Canadian Classics, 1982)

Introduction to Poetry: British, American, Canadian, with Jack David (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981)

Articles and Chapters

Who Was Doris Hedges? The Search for Canada’s First Literary Agent. American Review of Canadian Studies 51:2 (2021): 330-43.

“P.K. Page’s ‘Inebriate’: A Gloss on a Glosa.” English Studies in Canada 45.4 (2019): 83-99.

“Music in Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 54.2 (2019): 273-91.

“Canadian Authors and Their Literary Agents.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 54:1-2 (2016): 93-102.

“Authors and Literary Agents in Canada.” Awake To Love and Beauty: Proceedings from a Conference in Honour of George Whalley. Ed. Michael John DiSanto, Alana Fletcher, Shelley King, and Jaspreet Tambar. Sault Ste Marie: Algoma University, 2016. 209-20.

“The Other Side of Things: Reading Clark Blaise's ‘Notes Beyond a History’. ” Clark Blaise: Essays on His Works. Ed. J.R. (Tim) Struthers. Oakville, ON: Guernica Editions, 2016. 187-204.

“Representations of Nation in Donna Bennett and Russell Brown’s An Anthology of Canadian Literature in English.” Editing as Cultural Practice. Ed. Dean Irvine and Smaro Kamboureli. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2016. 149-67.

“Like following a mirage”: Memory and Empowerment in Alice Munro’s “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” Journal of the Short Story in English 64 (Spring 2015): 207-18.

“Reflections on ECW.” ECW Press 40. Ed. Michael Holmes. Toronto: ECW, 2014. 10-28.

“Nineteenth-Century English-Canadian Anthologies and the Making of a National Literature.” Journal of Canadian Studies 44.1 (Winter 2010): 91-117.

“‘A Quest for the Peaceable Kingdom’: The Narrative in Northrop Frye’s ‘Conclusion’ to the Literary History of Canada.” Northrop Frye’s Canadian Literary Criticism and Its Influence. Ed. Branko Gorjup. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. 260-76.

“Materializing Canada: National Literature Anthologies and the Making of a Canon.” Australasian Canadian Studies 26.1 (2008): 23-41.

“Anthologizing Canadian Literature: Material Conditions and the Making of a Canon.” 2007 Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities. Honolulu, Hawaii, 2007. 

“The Evolution of Canadian Criticism since 1970.” Congreso Internacional Patrimonio Cultural. Universidad de Cordoba. Cordoba, Argentina, 2006. 

“Where Is Here Now?” Essays on Canadian Writing 71 (2000): 6-13.

“Le Conseil des Arts du Canada et la formation de la littérature canadienne." Que vaut la littérature? Ed. Denis-Saint Jacques. Québec: Editions Nota bene, 2000. 235-44.

Would You Publish This Book? Material Production, Canadian Criticism, and The Theatre of Form.” Studies in Canadian Literature 25.1 (2000): 15-36.

“The Canada Council and the Construction of Canadian Literature.” English Studies in Canada 25.3-4 (1999): 322-45.

“The Writing’s on the Wall.” Saturday Night, July-August 1996: 15-24, 51.“Readers, Machines, Gardens: Alice Munro’s ‘Carried Away.’” Essays on Canadian Writing 66 (1999): 103-27.

“Watson and Pierce and Our Canadian Literature.” Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews 38 (1996): 49-87. 

“Inventing Literature.” Geist 4.19/20 (1995-96): 25-30.

“The New Canadian Library: A Classic Deal.” American Review of Canadian Studies 24.2 (1994): 197-216.

“Anthologizing English-Canadian Fiction: Some Canonical Trends.” Open Letter 9.1 (1994): 25-80.

“Professionalism and the Rhetoric of English Canadian Criticism.” Zeitschrift für Kanada-Studien 25.1 (1994): 87-103.

“Privacy, Publicity, and the Discourse of Canadian Criticism.” Essays on Canadian Writing 51-51 (1994): 32-82.

“Nobody Gets Hurt Bullfighting Canadian-Style: Rereading Frank Davey's ‘Surviving the Paraphrase.’” Studies in Canadian Literature 18 (1993): 1-23.

“In Search of the Peaceable Kingdom: The Narrative in Northrop Frye's ‘Conclusion’ to the Literary History of Canada.” PMLA 108 (1993): 283 93.“A Country without a Canon Canadian Literature and the Esthetics of Idealism.” Mosaic 26.3 (1993): 1-19.

“Making It Real: Representations of Value in English-Canadian Criticism.” Canada Ieri e Oggi 3. Atti dell '8' convegno internazionale di studi canadesi. Fasano: Schena, 1992. 9-21.

“Critical Response [to Frank Davey].” Critical Inquiry 16.3 (1990): 682-89.

“The Canonization of Canadian Literature: An Inquiry into Value.” Critical Inquiry 16.3 (Spring 1990): 656-71.

Reviews and Public Scholarship

I’m interested in communal forms of literary analysis and commentary and have participated in a number of published roundtable discussions on the topic. For example, here is a link to a group discussion on Canadian publishing as seen through the eyes of Canada’s first literary agent. I am also involved in analysis of the ways in which literary forms and genres can provide new modes of interpretation and in this article on Canadian poets P.K. Page and Leonard Cohen. I have also begun to publish excerpts from my current work in progress, a study of music in Michael Ondaatje’s fiction. Recent reviews of contemporary literature can be found in journals such as the University of Toronto Quarterly.

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 
  • Lorne Pierce Medal (2022)
  • Royal Society of Canada Fellow
  • ​SSHRC Research Leave Grant, SSHRC Leave Fellowship, and SSHRC Research Grants (1983-2014, 2016-2021)
  • H. Noel Fieldhouse Award for Distinguished Teaching
Graduate supervision: 

I am interested in supervising research on all aspects of Canadian writing, with an emphasis on contemporary Canadian poetry and fiction. Areas of particular interest include Canadian literary history; canonicity and canon formation; literary value; publishing and material factors influencing literary production; studies of ekphrasis; confessional writing; explorations of literary history.

Taught previously at: 

University of Maine, Orono
York University, Toronto

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