I’m glad Alaska’s Writer Laureate Nancy Lord spoke of John Haines and his take on Alaskan Literature over at 49 Writers yesterday, because it spurred me to think some more about the question of whether there could be a serious course in Literature of the North.

Regional lit courses are nothing new. There’s Literature of the American West, Literature of the American South. Granted, there’s no Literature of the American East, but that’s because the East thinks it IS literature. So what about Literature of the North? Is it true, as Haines contends, that we’re generations away from a body of work that will stand on its own?

Note that in proposing Literature of the North, I’m conceding that we need input from our Candadian friends. And I’d include not only writers who live in the North, but also those writing about the North, like Barry Lopez. I’d start with Native legends, then segue into the Gold Rush (Jack London, Robert Service, Tappan Abney). Remember, nobody says it all must be stellar – rather, it needs to be representative, shedding light on where we’ve been and where we’re headed. I admit there’s a big dry spell spanning several decades, but then we get to Seth Kantner and John Straley and Nancy Lord and a host of other good writers who really have something to say.

I like the idea of a course in Northern Lit. Sometimes you have to set the bar so people will reach for it.

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