The publication of Canadian literary criticism in its historically recognizable forms of academic discourse has dramatically decreased due to shifts in government funding policies and widespread changes in the book publishing industry. The cultural implication of this material shift in the sheer quantity of criticism published is significant: publishers are unreceptive to books about Canadian literature. Decreases in the production of Canadian criticism shift the cultural paradigms by substituting more broadly marketable cultural objects for more esoteric objects aligned with the discourse of nation as it is disseminated through critical acts. With funding from the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council and the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, ECW Press published Ric Knowles's The Theatre of Form and the Production of Meaning: Contemporary Canadian Dramaturgies in 1999 at a financial loss. Most commentary on Canadian criticism does not consider the factors accounting for the material solidity, just as most academics really don't consider the issue of profit or loss associated with the production of the scholarly book as a central factor in the evaluation of the publishability of their scholarly work.
Roughing It in the Bush was transformed through successive editions as new collaborators, through excisions and additions, recreated the text to meet their needs and those of their audience. In the mid-nineteenth century, a restructuring of the publishing industry led to conflict between publishers and authors over their respective positions regarding publication. While Richard Bentley's role in the creation of Roughing It was crucial to the position it assumed in the marketplace, the first three editions of the text were created in dialogue with Susanna Moodie. Between the time the original manuscript was sent and Roughing It in the Bush was first published in 1852, a series of editorial changes were implemented at the Bentley house to maximize the book's appeal to a variety of audiences. While Moodie was not present to oversee these changes, the material evidence of her relationship with Bentley and the documents of the publishing history of her book reveal a Susanna Moodie who was a distant yet active participant in the publishing process.
Although Mazo de la Roche was criticized by reviewers, the author enjoyed an enduring and gratifying relationship with her innumerable readers. The immediate attempt to place de la Roche's novel in the canon of "great works" was due largely to two factors. First, since the novel had won a substantial sum for an unfamiliar author, it had to be perceived as excellent. Second, since the award had been offered by the Atlantic Monthly, the status of the magazine was reflected in its choice of winner. Notions of literary value, as well as ideological assumptions, held respectively by reviewers and readers diverged over time and resulted in the gradual shift in de la Roche's literary standing. In reconstructing the historical moment of Jalna, the paradox of professional marginalization and popular success emerges, despite an early acceptance by both high and popular cultures. For de la Roche's readers, the conservatism of her novels evoked a past — albeit a largely imaginary one — that they found particularly appealing. Her reviewers, on the other hand, were frustrated by a series of novels that embraced an increasingly obsolete ideology.
Editors of anthologies and literary histories have enormous influence not only on the shape and content of their own projects, but also on the shape and content of the traditional curricular canons. However unique and fascinating the 1920 to 1950 time period is, it also resembles other historical moments in Canada through its practice of systemic discrimination on the bases of class, race, sex, and ethnicity. These systemic biases affected the choices made by publishers, editors, and curriculum developers. Their politically based decision-making perpetuated the distinctly Anglo-Saxon, white, and masculine traditional canon that had been developing since the arrival of European settler-invaders. The forty-eight anthologies that make up this study fall into two main groups: anthologies produced by individual editors and anthologies produced by associations. Not only do the academic-professional anthologies include fewer women, they allow even less space to their women writers than is implied by the male-female ratio of their choices. Within this group of English-Canadian anthologies, the ethnicity of Canadian writers is virtually ignored. While nationalist sentiments appear in both association and academic-professional anthologies, internationalism is restricted to the academic-professional group.
The conservative nature of the New Canadian Library as a whole has been accepted as a given; a growing interest in multicultural literature is cited as something that has developed in opposition to the canon that the NCL supposedly instituted. Smaro Kamboureli's anthology of multicultural literature, Making a Difference, claims that all "the contributors, by virtue of their race and ethnicity, belong to the manifold 'margins' that the Canadian dominant society has historically devised" (2). Nevertheless, all but one of Kamboureli's non-contemporary writers have been included in the NCL. Malcolm Ross remembers his goal in setting up the NCL list as an enterprise not in canon-making, but in putting before the Canadian reading public as many texts as he could find that showcased regional and ethnic diversity. That Ross is not celebrated for his contribution to the national literature but, rather, is relegated to a past Robert Lecker dismisses as narrow and materialistic because of his work, and Kamboureli defines as narrow and ethnocentric in spite of his work, is a travesty of cultural history. The reading of the New Canadian Library as a "classic deal," as an institution of canon formation primarily defined by economic interests, is one more colonial act of disparaging Canadian culture.
Established in 1969, the House of Anansi Press's Spiderline series represents a unique moment in Canadian publishing history. At no time previously had a Canadian publisher attempted to release the work of so many unknown and untried novelists simultaneously and also emphasize the fact that these were first, and perhaps not perfect, novels. Anansi's goals for the Spiderline series were to let new voices be heard, to give first-time novelists a chance at publication, and to get it done quickly by producing each of the Spiderlines with the same Spartan cover and identical typeface. All of the first five writers published — Peter Such, Russell Marois, Matt Cohen, John Sandman, and Pierre Gravel — were white, male, and no older than thirty. With its diverse collection of authors, experimental styles, and youthful enthusiasm for the new, the local, and the bilingual the original Spiderline books were the vision of Dennis Lee and David Godfrey at a time of great patriotism and literary expansion. The decision to reintroduce the Spiderline series in the late 1990s can be viewed as an attempt to regain Anansi's earlier status as a "progressive" and unique publishing enterprise.
According to the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia, the most editorially and financially active of the surviving Canadian literary presses is Talonbooks. While Talonbooks's primary significance lies in its activity as a publisher of Canadian literature, particularly drama, the existence and survival of Talonbooks is of great scholarly interest because the life of the company closely documents and reflects the life of Canadian literary culture since 1967 with a west coast twist. From the beginning, Talonbooks has taken an editorial position of difference, separating itself from and publishing against the geographical and perceived intellectual center of Canadian letters; it sought not only to express but also to serve the local. Correspondence from most of the press's early writers reveals the extent of their participation in book design. The press faced financial challenges during the 1970s. The professionalization of its business practices and the press's maturing involvement in the politics of the Canadian publishing industry mark its movement into the domestic publishing establishment.
Douglas Fetherling, the poet, writer and editor, began his literary life working for the fabled House of Anansi Press in the late 1960s. He speaks about the changing literary environment, noting that it has grown much more complex and cosmopolitan than when he started at Anansi in the 1960s. Fetherling discusses changes in book design and editorial work, and argues that ownership is crucial in the Canadian publishing industry. He outlines the rise of the literary agent in the 1990s and comments on the decline of independent bookselling. He notes that the Canadian canon has expanded over the years with the advent of disciplines such as gender studies, Native studies, postcolonial studies and the subsuming of literature into cultural studies, pointing out the fragility of Canadian literature.