An Unexpected Alliance: The Layton-Pacey Correspondence

Type of resource
An Unexpected Alliance: The Layton-Pacey Correspondence
An analysis of the correspondence between Montreal poet Irving Layton (1912-2006) and historian and literary critic Desmond Pacey (1917-1975). On November 3, 1954, Pacey wrote to the Montreal poetry periodical Contact Press, inviting the poets Layton, Louis Dudek and Raymond Souster to submit their recent work for the discussion in an article on Canadian literature for The International Year Book. Pacey and Layton met in Montreal a few months later, and so began a long friendship and a lengthy correspondence which continued until Pacey's death on July 4, 1975. The author points out that the correspondence is an extremely important document in the history of Canadian poetry and criticism in the decisive decades following the Second World War because it so directly and extensively explores the crucial literary issues of the times: the function of the poet and the critic in contemporary society; the debate over a "cosmopolitan" versus a "native" aesthetic; the debate over a "mythopoeic" versus a "realist" approach to the creation of, and criticism of, poetry; and the attempt to define a position for the Jewish writer in a gentile society. But aside from this prolonged and invaluable theoretical discourse, and aside from the countless useful insights into the life and work of practically every writer active in Canada between 1954-1975, the author contends that the letters between the two men are important because the men were so vitally important to the development of a modern Canadian literature.
PhD dissertation
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC
Pacey, John David Michael. “An Unexpected Alliance: The Layton-Pacey Correspondence.” PhD dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1994.
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