WATTERS, R.E..




Author Tags: Essentials 2010

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

Reginald Eyre Watters edited the first major showcase of British Columbia writing, British Columbia: A Centennial Anthology (1958), with noteworthy assistance from Gordon Elliott, who became the only B.C.-born English professor at Simon Fraser University when it opened.

Watters can be viewed in retrospect as an unsung hero of Canadian literature. In 1959, he also compiled A Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials, 1628–1960 (1959), a volume that marked the emergence of Canadian literature as a subject worthy of study.

In that same year, George Woodcock began editing the new, critical journal Canadian Literature from UBC, a rare national publication from Vancouver. He and editor W.H. New steered its course for more than than 35 years.

In British Columbia: A Centennial Anthology (1958), Watters wrote, “British Columbia is such a vast province that our centres of habitation may still seem like little more than a glimmering of campfires in an almost empty land. But within the glow of our lamps, whether the glow be that of an isolated cabin or a city of half a million, British Columbians are shown dreaming and striving, hating and loving, growing up and growing old in the universal cycle of existence.”

Watters’ anthology encompassed natural history, photography, geography, contemporary visual art, agriculture, humour, coastal First Nations art and architecture. Published by McClelland & Stewart from Toronto, it is seldom cited as the beginning of B.C. literary self-consciousness.

In the wake of Watters’ landmark text, there have been several sophisticated literary anthologies, particularly Skookum Wawa (1975) edited by Gary Geddes, as well as important works shepherded by Carole Gerson, David Stouck, Ron Smith and Keith Harrison, to name a few.


FULL ENTRY:

Reginald Eyre Watters can be viewed in retrospect as an unsung hero of Canadian Literature. He not only edited the first major showcase of British Columbia writing entitled British Columbia: A Centennial Anthology (McClelland & Stewart, 1958), he had the audacity to compile A Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials, 1628-1960 (1959), a volume that marked the birth of Canadian Literature as a subject worthy of study. "British Columbia is such a vast province," he wrote in the 1958 anthology, "that our centres of habitation may still seem like little more than a glimmering of camp-fires in an almost empty land. But within THE GLOW OF OUR LAMPS, whether the glow be that of an isolated cabin or a city of half a million, British Columbians are shown dreaming and striving, hating and loving, growing up and growing old in the universal cycle of existence." In the wake of Watters' anthology there have been several sophisticated literary anthologies edited by Gary Geddes, Carole Gerson, David Stouck--to name a few--but none were mandated to have such a broad range as the Watters' anthology that encompassed natural history, photography, geography, contemporary visual art, agriculture, humour, coastal Indian art and architecture.

Born in Toronto in 1912, R.E. Watters received his B.A. (1935) and his M.A. (1937) from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. (1941) from the University of Wisconsin. He taught English at the University of Washington and Indiana prior to joining the Dept. of English at UBC in 1956, but on December 9, 1950 he delivered a Vancouver Institute Lecture on the philosophy of Ernest Hemingway--so he must have had connections with Vancouver prior to his teaching position. He left the university in 1961 to assume a position at the Royal Military College, Kingston. Watters also published a critical work on Coleridge. His research assistant for the Centennial Anthology was Gordon Elliott, who became one of the province's most enduring book editors. [See Eliott entry]

BOOKS:

British Columbia: A Centennial Anthology (McClelland & Stewart, 1958)

A Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials, 1628-1960 (1959)

On Canadian Literature, 1806-1960: A Check List of Articles, Books, and Theses on English-Canadian Literature, Its Authors, and Language (University of Toronto Press, 1966). Co-editor Inglis Freeman Bell.

Coleridge (Evans Brothers, 1971)

A Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials, 1628-1960 (University of Toronto Press, 1972)

Canadian Anthology (Gage Distribution Co, 1974). Co-edited with Carl Frederick Klinck.

[BCBW 2010]