“That city, that self”: Tracing a Historical Trajectory of the City Writer

  • Ceilidh Hart (University of the Fraser Valley)


This article traces a historical trajectory of the city poet in Canada—a writer whose “street-level perspective” defines their methods and shapes their authorial personae—from the nineteenth-century through to the twenty-first. It first provides a brief exploration of some of the literature published in the Toronto Evening Telegram newspaper in the 1880s and 1890s to consider the origins of a literary tradition and an authorial persona rooted in the city. This part of the article uses the example of Robert Kirkland Kernighan to show the way early writers exploited the opportunity provided by city newspapers and the city itself to map and define themselves in artistic and professional terms. The article goes on to consider the work of contemporary city writers like Bren Simmers, who continue mapping themselves onto the street in sometimes deeply personal and increasingly unsettled ways. At base, the article argues that by extending critical discussions of urban writing back to its nineteenth-century roots, we can better understand how the city works as a unique marketplace for literature and a unique cultural economy through which literature circulates, but also as a unique context for the creation of authorial identity.

How to Cite:

Hart, C., (2021) ““That city, that self”: Tracing a Historical Trajectory of the City Writer”, Authorship 10(1). doi:

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Published on
30 Jun 2021
Peer Reviewed