West of Eden: Essays on Canadian Prairie Literature


"West of Eden takes us to a new stage in prairie writing: we dare to rejoice: we rejoice in our abundance of writers, in our many and varied talents, in our literary accomplishments. The editor, Sue Sorensen, dares to lead us in a multi-voiced song of celebration."

Robert Kroetsch


2008   ISBN 9780920718810

These 17 essays ponder the character of prairie literature. What is prairie literature now, what has it been, and what is its future? That the prairies are "west of Eden" is an idea only, and a somewhat mischievous one. Is this spot distant from the glory of the garden? Writers have often pondered the ambiguous sanctity of the prairies, while those who recruited settlers certainly exploited the notion. These varied essays engage with Margaret Laurence, Rudy Wiebe, and Neil Young. They present analysis of NFB films and the gopher as icon. Here are strategies for teaching and views of the Canadian prairies from abroad. This is a significant collection of fresh views of prairie literature.

Click here for excerpts from the INTRODUCTION: 

Sorensen Introduction to WEST OF EDEN


Available from the publisher, CMU Press:

West of Eden@CMUPRESS

Available from McNally Robinson Booksellers:

West of Eden@McNally


PRAISE FOR West of Eden

Gems abound in this display, particularly those cut by Sorensen, Cooley, and Calder. Sue Sorensen's Introduction alone is worth the price of admission. (Ken Probert)


What makes West of Eden compelling, relevant, even necessary reading is its insistence that the culture of the Canadian prairies is integral to our understanding of living in this place. West of Eden is the most comprehensive look at prairie culture to emerge to-date out of the scholarly study of the prairie west and makes strong statements about the need to continue to critically explore ourselves and our existence in this place. This is a must-read book for anyone who reads the literature and culture of the prairies, whether student, scholar, or general reader. (Christian Riegel)

Prairie persists. As a place, possibility, problem, pie-in-the-sky, personality, perturbation, prison, or paradise—the prairies continue to intrigue, baffle, and amaze anyone who pays them any mind. And, as Sue Sorensen’s collection of essays shows, people do pay them plenty of mind. All these years after prairie fell from grace, the writers in this volume show we’re still learning where to locate it, who speaks its tongues, what its languages mean, why it matters, and why this eco-people-pipedream still burns in our chests. (Daniel Coleman)


With contributions from:

  • Cristina Artenie
  • Pamela Banting
  • Diane Beattie
  • Brenda Beckman-Long
  • Alison Calder
  • Warren Cariou
  • Dennis Cooley
  • Gaby Divay
  • Debra Dudek
  • Michael J. Gilmour
  • Brian Johnson
  • Wolfram R. Keller
  • Jenny Kerber
  • Nora Foster Stovel
  • Sue Sorensen
  • Tina Trigg 
  • Philip Mingay
  • Elspeth Tulloch