The Book

Imagining Toronto book cover

Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, fall 2010) is available at most bookstores and online through Mansfield Press, Amazon or Chapters.

Imagining Toronto was shortlisted for the 2010 Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism and won the Award of Merit, the highest honour given to a book at the 2011 Heritage Toronto Awards.

Upcoming Events

25-26 February 2012: "Going Native: Reclaiming Aboriginal Identity in Toronto Literature," “Landscapes of Difference, Espaces de Difference, Raume der Differenz” conference (Session: The Politcs of Place: Urban Sites of Contestation), Canadian Studies Association in German-speaking countries (GKS). Grainau, Germany.

Thursday 15 March 2012: Guest lecture, "The Imagined City," ARC 120, Contemporary Architecture. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto; Isabel Bader Theatre, 9:45-11:00 am.

Wednesday 4 April 2012: "Representing Toronto: Mapping the Role of the Artist in the Contemporary City. Panel discussion. Presented by Koffler Gallery in partnership with Diaspora Dialogues. 80 Spadina Ave., Suite 503; 7:00 pm.

Sunday 22 April 2012: Reading from Acts of Salvage at the Draft Reading Series. Details TBA.

Thursday 3 May 2012: "Literary Bodies." Panel discussion as part of Bodies in the City, a symposium of the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto.

Thursday 17 May 2012: "Imagining Toronto the Wild" at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Inaugural lecture of the TBG's new HortiCULTURE salon series.

Recent Events

Tuesday 18 October 2011, 7:00-8:30 pm: Will the Real Cabbagetown Please Stand Up?: Regent Park, St. Jamestown and Cabbagetown in the Literary Imagination. Parliament Branch (269 Gerrard St. E.)

Saturday 1 October 2011, 2:00-3:30 pm: The Masseys and the Masses: Social and Spatial Ascendency in Rosedale and Forest Hill. Forest Hill Branch (700 Eglinton Ave. W.)

Tuesday 27 September 2011, 7:00-8:30 pm: From Streetcar Suburb to Multicultural Community: Riverdale in the Literary Imagination. Riverdale Branch, Toronto Public Library (370 Broadview Ave.)

Click here for past events.

Research Day talk at York University

Today at the Geography Department’s Research Day event I’ll be doing a condensed version of a longer talk I’ll be delivering in June at the Glocal City in Canadian Literature conference in Spain called ‘The Myth of the Multicultural City’.

The talk is drawn in part from the Myth of the Multicultural City chapter in the […]

Week 12: The Magical City

This week in the Imagining Toronto course we will explore Toronto’s mythological qualities, beginning with essayist Jonathan Raban’s observation that “[l]iving in a city, one finds oneself unconsciously slipping into magical habits of mind.” In Soft City (Hamish Hamilton, 1974) Raban devotes an entire chapter to the “magical city,” exploring its supernatural qualities and appeal […]

Week 11: Suburban Gothic

In The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, Howard Kunstler denounces the contemporary North American suburban landscape, describing it as

depressing, brutal, ugly, unhealthy, and spiritually degrading—the jive-plastic commuter tract home wastelands, the Potemkin village shopping plazas with their vast parking lagoons, the Lego-block hotel complexes, the “gourmet mansardic” junk-food joints, […]

Week 10: Desire Lines

This week in the Imagining Toronto course we’ll be talking about how Toronto’s writers represent sexuality and desire in the city. We’ll focus primarily on four aspects of desire:

Queer and heteronormative perspectives on desire
Sex work
Desire’s dark side: assault and possession
Fertility and birth

Slides for today’s class (which are subject to modification) are available here:

2010-2011 Week 10 […]

Week 9: Class Fictions

Today in the Imagining Toronto class we will be talking about Class Fictions: narratives of poverty and homelessness as well as literary representations of work.

Slides for today’s class are available here:

2010-2011 Week 9 slides GEOG 4280 Class Fictions

We’ll be discussing a wide range of literary depictions of homelessness, among them Maggie Helwig’s Girls Fall Down, […]

Cartographies of Desire

Meditation for Valentine’s Day

As we navigate the urban labyrinth, whenever we follow the invisible paths laid down by our longings, we trace desire lines across the city. Like the rutted footpaths worn across well-used playgrounds or the spontaneous shortcuts that materialize at street corners, desire lines mark the movements we make by choice rather than […]

Week 6: The Myth of the Multicultural City

We’re back! After last week’s snow-related class cancellation, this week in the Imagining Toronto course we’ll be discussing the myth of the multicultural city. Among other things, we’ll consider whether the myth of the multicultural city is Toronto’s ‘creation myth,’ explore literary representations of racism and cultural exclusion and discuss what role tolerance might play […]

A Shadow Against the Snow

During a snow squall a few days ago, a great winged thing flew into a high tree behind our house. Too far away to identify, it was nonetheless instantly recognisable as a bird of prey, its flight and landing signaling warning and an almost subconscious trickling of alarm. The starlings that […]

Minding the Word Hoard

In “Five Visits to the Word Hoard,” an essay published in Writing Life,[1] Margaret Atwood borrows terminology from Anglo-Saxon poetry to pay homage to the sources of inspiration writers rely on throughout their creative lives. “”The word hoard,”” she writes, “is what they called their well of inspiration, which overlapped with the language itself; and […]

Torontoist Reviews the Imagining Toronto Book

Is there not enough Toronto literature — or too much?

That’s the upshot of Torontoist’s review of Imagining Toronto, accessible here.

My own view, of course, is that no volume of literature, however great, will ever manage completely to distill the essence of a city. As Toronto’s Poet Laureate Dionne Brand observed once of Toronto, “The literature […]