"Other Selves: Animals in the Canadian Literary Imagination" begins with the premise, first suggested by Margaret Atwood in "The Animals in That Country" (1968), that animals have occupied a peculiarly central position in the Canadian imagination. Unlike the longer-settled countries of Europe or the more densely-populated United States, in Canada animals have always been the loved and feared co-inhabitants of this harsh, beautiful land. From the realistic animal tales of Charles G. D. Roberts and Ernest Thompson Seton, to the urban animals of Marshall Saunders and Dennis Lee, to the lyrical observations of bird enthusiasts John James Audubon, Thomas McIlwraith, and Don McKay, animals have occupied a key place in Canadian literature, focusing central aspects of our environmental consciousness and cultural symbolism. "Other Selves" explores how and what the animals in this country have meant through all genres and periods of Canadian writing, focusing sometimes on individual texts and at other times on broader issues.
Tackling more than a century of writing, from 19th-century narrative of women travellers, to the 'natural' conversion of Grey Owl, to the award-winning novels of Farley Mowat, Marian Engel, Timothy Findley, Barbara Gowdy, and Yann Martel, these essays engage the reader in this widely-acknowledged but inadequately-explored aspect of Canadian literature.