Of Sunken Islands and Pestilence
Restoring the Voice of Edward Taylor Fletcher to Nineteenth-Century Canadian Literature
Edward Taylor Fletcher was a nineteenth-century literary figure almost completely forgotten by history. Poet, travel writer, essayist, surveyor, philologist, and translator, Fletcher shared many characteristics with the great literary figures of the time. Yet his writing represents a significant departure from his contemporaries and a close reading of his work reshapes our understanding of the Canadian long poem and the cultural values of Canadian poetry. Fletcher spoke English, French, German, Italian, and other modern languages fluently and he studied or translated literary works in Icelandic, Finnish, Polish, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit (among several others). His poetry interweaves Canadian landscapes with modern and ancient traditions of the East and West and integrates allusions and innovations from several different literary traditions including the Kalavela, the Mahabharata, and the Poetic Edda. By recuperating Fletcher’s nineteenth century works, James Gifford uncovers a unique Canadian literary voice who explored content, style, and concerns unlike the popular colonial narratives of his time.