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HIST 203: Canada Since 1867

Research guide for HIST 203 (Winter 2024)

Finding Primary Sources: Literary Works

Contemporary literary materials (such as plays, poetry, fiction, films, etc.) are useful sources for revealing popular reactions to historical events and situations.

While novels can usually be located much like other books, poems, short stories, and plays are usually shorter works and they were rarely published individually. Films are very difficult to identify. Appropriate material other than book-length fiction is rarely indexed anywhere and is best found using secondary sources such as biographies of the participants, histories of the event, or secondary works on the social or cultural milieu in which the event unfolded. 

Separately published material (books, plays) can be found in the Catalogue with subject subheading su:fiction, su:poetry, su:drama, and even su:film (e.g., “Red River Rebellion" su:fiction; or "Red River Rebellion" su:poetry). 

The indexes listed in the sections on finding contemporary newspaper and magazine articles will also locate poems and short fiction about contemporary events.  Add “poetry” or “stories” to your search terms. Exact vocabulary will vary from one index to the next.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, which currently covers people who died before 1930, is a useful source for literary material by and about individuals. In the Advanced Search, you can select appropriate occupations to identify authors.

Canadiana includes a large amount of Canadian fiction in multiple languages, but is not easy to browse.

References in modern secondary works, particularly in articles or chapters of books dealing with contemporary reactions to events are also a useful source for finding literary works.

Check the catalogue to find out if the item is in the library. Remember; if it is a smaller thing in a larger thing (e.g. a poem in a collection, or an story in a magazine), look for the larger thing (i.e. the collection or the magazine) in the Catalogue.

Some other resources for identifying Canadian literary works are included below.

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