Tony Guindon

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Loraine York




Drawing upon Bourdieu's notion of the field of cultural production, this thesis charts the evolution of critical reception of Leonard Cohen's works over the previous forty years, with a particular emphasis upon the question of the literary canon. Early critical examinations of Cohen's works, heavily influenced by New Criticism, reveal a mixed evaluation of Cohen's works; although his two novels are included in McClelland & Stewart's New Canadian Library (a series whose advent Robert Lecker paints as instrumental to the constitution of a Canadian literary canon), and are thus arguably "canonical," Cohen has remained "peripheral" in academic discussions. Among the reasons posited by some scholars for this exclusion from academic discussion is Cohen's transition from "literary" to "popular" production. Recent shifts within the Canadian field to poststructural examinations of literature in general, and Cohen in particular, have led to many re-considerations of his contributions to Canadian postmodern culture, and a concomitant increase in scholarly writing about Cohen. Although the evaluative imperative is tacit, if not completely absent, from most poststructural examinations of Cohen's works, this quantitative -- and at times qualitative -- increase in academic research on Cohen can be read as a favorable assessment of Cohen's works. This thesis concludes not by arguing for or against a canonical status for Cohen's works in the Canadian canon; rather, the object is the shift in critical aparatuses within the Canadian field, and the ways in which shifts within the field of cultural production, at the critical and theoretical level, are instrumental to the contingent consecration of a work within the field itself.

McMaster University Library