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Alice Munro, a Textual-Bibliographical Study

Conducted by Eli MacLaren

Alice Munro is one of Canada’s most important authors. Her many awards and distinctions include three Governor General’s Literary Awards (1968, 1978, 1986), the Man Booker International Prize (2009), and the Nobel Prize for Literature (2013). She is renowned as a master of the short story, and her work in this genre is at once popularly accessible and consummately poetic.

Munro published her work in a number of ways. Thanks to her an agent, Virginia Barber, a story would often be published first in a magazine such the New Yorker before being collected into a clothbound first edition by, for example, Douglas Gibson and McClelland & Stewart; moreover, all of her collections are in print today as mass-market paperbacks in Penguin’s Modern Classics series. Given the attention that her work attracts, it is time to begin the task of editing her texts for posterity. As in every great author’s writing, every word, every letter is significant in Munro’s, but the care with which she wrote her texts has not always been matched in their printing and reprinting. There are variants from one edition of a story to another, sometimes even obvious errors, and these alterations affect both teaching and critical discussion. Furthermore, none of the editions currently in print, except stories included in anthologies such as the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, has explanatory notes for the author’s myriad allusions to literature, history, and political events. Such notes will become increasingly vital to readers as the world moves on from the decades in which Munro lived and worked. In short, it is time to begin the textual-bibliographical research that will enable the publication of an authoritative scholarly edition of Alice Munro’s oeuvre.

Funding of this project by the Groupe de recherches et d’études sur le livre au Québec began in 2016. Our project commenced with a textual study of The Progress of Love (1986) and will proceed next to Friend of My Youth (1990) and Open Secrets (1994).