Robert Lecker is a Canadian scholar, author, and Greenshields Professor of English at McGill University, where he specializes in Canadian literature. He received the H. Noel Fieldhouse Award for Distinguished Teaching at McGill University in 1985. Lecker is a leading authority on Canadian literature. In 2012, Lecker was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in recognition of his influential studies on literary value in English Canada and Canadian cultural identity. In addition to his teaching and academic writing, Lecker has held a number of prominent positions in the Canadian publishing industry throughout his career. He co-founded ECW Press in 1977, he co-edited the Canadian literary journal Essays on Canadian Writing between 1975 and 2004, he has edited several anthologies of Canadian and international literature, and he currently heads a literary agency in Montreal, the Robert Lecker Agency.
Early Life and Education
Lecker was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec and began his university studies at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) in 1970. The following year, he transferred to York University in Toronto where he met Jack David, who had founded the critical journal Essays on Canadian Writing in 1974. Lecker joined the editorial board of ECW in 1975.
Academic Training and Teaching Posts
Lecker completed his BA (1974), MA (1976), and PhD (1980) in English at York and was awarded a number of fellowships and scholarships throughout these years. Lecker discusses his formative experiences at York in his 2006 memoir, Dr. Delicious. His PhD dissertation, “Time and Form in the Contemporary Canadian Novel,” examines disruptive representations of time in seven Canadian novels written between 1968 and 1977.
In 1977 Lecker and Jack David founded ECW Press, which was originally devoted to publishing reference works and critical studies about Canadian literature. The press expanded and moved into commercial trade publishing in the mid-1990s. Lecker managed the Montreal office and David ran the Toronto office. In 2003, Lecker left the press to start his own literary agency, Robert Lecker Agency.
Between 1978 and 1982, Lecker was Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maine at Orono.
Lecker began teaching at McGill University in 1982. He was Associate Chair of the Department of English from 1984 to 1986, and directed the M.A. Program from 1989 to 1993. He also served as a sexual harassment and discrimination officer for McGill University from 1995 to 1997 and 2005 to 2007.. From 1996 to 1998 Lecker was a member of the adjudication committee for the Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program, and in 1999 he was Chair of that committee.
Books and Articles
Lecker is the author of eight books, which are all critical studies of either Canadian authors or theoretical problems related to the study and history of Canadian literature. Over the past 15 years he has focused on two areas in particular: canonicity in Canadian literature and anthology formation as a reflection of the evolution of literary value and taste. Lecker is currently beginning work on a new study devoted to CBC's Canada Reads series and its role in contemporary Canadian canon formation. In addition to his book publications, Lecker has authored over 60 scholarly articles in journals and books in Canada, the US, and overseas, including PMLA, Critical Inquiry, Canadian Literature, Canadian Poetry, Open Letter, Studies in Canadian Literature, Australasian Canadian Studies, and the American Review of Canadian Studies.
He is also probably the author of his Wikipedia page.
Keepers of the Code: English-Canadian Literary Anthologies and the Representation of Nation (2013)
Keepers of the Code is the first book-length history of English-Canadian literary anthologies from 1837 to the present. Lecker aims to show that these anthologies, like all literature, are shaped by the conflict and contact among various individuals and institutions, including publishers, writers, reviewers, professors, tenure committees, funding agencies, critical journals, banks, and the bookselling industry. Lecker comments in detail on approximately 75 anthologies. Although there are scattered articles that focus on these questions in terms of English-Canadian anthologies, this is the first sustained historical study. The book was released in March 2013 and was positively reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement.
The Cadence of Civil Elegies (2006)
Dennis Lee’s poem, Civil Elegies, originally published in 1968 and revised in 1972, remains one of the most potent poems devoted to the nature of Canadian identity and civil space. In this study, Lecker shows us the poem’s importance to Canada’s literary canon, by emphasizing the new vision of Canada that Lee saw.
Dr. Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit (2006)
Lecker's tragicomic memoir, Dr. Delicious, reviews his career as a publisher and editor of Canadian literature and criticism. The book is an irreverent history of an explosive era in Canadian literature, a glimpse into the mind of a preoccupied professor, and a unique record of the generation that made Canadian literature what it is today.
English-Canadian Literary Anthologies: An Enumerative Bibliography (1997)
English-Canadian Literary Anthologies is first detailed bibliography of Canadian anthologies from 1837 to the present. It lists approximately 2000 anthologies and is the departure point for any comprehensive commentary on anthology formation in Canada.
Making It Real: The Canonization of English-Canadian Literature (1995)
Eight wide-ranging essays are brought together in this study of the origins and development of Canadian literary canons. Lecker explores many of the myths surrounding the teaching, studying, publishing, and promotion of Canadian literature. He focuses on the work of Northrop Frye, Frank Davey, and the New Canadian Library series.
An Other I: The Fictions of Clark Blaise (1988)
An Other I is a study of the fiction of Clark Blaise.
Robert Kroetsch (1986)
Robert Kroetsch is a study of the poetry, fiction, and literary criticism of Robert Kroetsch.
On the Line: Readings in the Short Fiction of Clark Blaise, John Metcalf, and Hugh Hood (1982)
On the Line includes detailed readings of individual stories by three prominent Canadian writers.
Lecker edited the 24-volume series entitled Canadian Writers and Their Works: Essays on Form, Context, and Development with Jack David and Ellen Quigley. This 24-volume series comprises almost 10,000 pages of commentary on 100 Canadian writers from the nineteenth century to the present. Each author is treated in a discrete essay that provides a biography, a critical overview, a description of the writer's milieu, an analysis of each of the writer's works, and a bibliography of primary and secondary material. The volumes are organized chronologically so as to present a historical perspective. The editors coordinated the production of these essays by 100 scholars and released the existing series over a ten-year period.
Lecker was the senior editor for several multi-volume series published by Macmillan (New York) and G.K. Hall (Boston), including Masterworks and Critical Essays on World Literature. He was also the Canadian editor for Twayne’s World Authors Series. Lecker has edited numerous anthologies of Canadian literature from 1981 to the present, including one large anthology for HarperCollins in New York (the only anthology of Canadian literature published by a mainstream American publisher since 1943).
Robert Lecker Agency
In 2004, Lecker established the Robert Lecker Agency in Montreal. The agency provides international literary representation, consulting services, and editorial services.
- Keepers of the Code: English-Canadian Literary Anthologies and the Representation of Nation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.
- Dr. Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit. Montreal, Véhicule, 2006.
- The Cadence of Civil Elegies. Toronto: Cormorant, 2006.
- English-Canadian Literary Anthologies: An Enumerative Bibliography. Compiler. Teeswater, ON: Reference, 1997.
- Making It Real: The Canonization of English-Canadian Literature. Toronto: Anansi, 1995.
- An Other I: The Fictions of Clark Blaise. Toronto: ECW, 1988.
- Robert Kroetsch. Boston: Twayne, 1986.
- On the Line: Readings in the Short Fiction of Clark Blaise, John Metcalf, and Hugh Hood. Downsview, ON: ECW, 1982.
- Anthologizing Canadian Literature: Theoretical and Cultural Perspectives. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP. Forthcoming 2014.
- Borderlands: Essays in Canadian-American Relations. Toronto: ECW, 1991.
- Canadian Canons: Essays in Literary Value. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1991. (Shortlisted for the 1993 Canadian Federation for the Humanities Raymond Klibansky Book Prize for best work in the humanities)
- Canadian Writers and Their Works: Essays on Form, Context, and Development (CWTW). Twenty-four volumes to date, in two series, 1982- (Poetry and Fiction). With Jack David and Ellen Quigley.
- The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors (ABCMA). Eight volumes to date, 1982- . With Jack David.
- Open Country: Canadian Literature in English. Toronto: Thomson Nelson, 2007.
- The New Canadian Anthology: English-Canadian Poetry and Short Fiction. Toronto: Nelson, 1988. With Jack David.
- Introduction to Literature: British, American, Canadian. New York: Harper & Row, 1987. With Jack David and Peter O'Brien.
- Introduction to Fiction. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.
- Anthology of Maine Literature. Orono, Maine: U of Maine P, 1982. With Kathleen Brown.
- Canadian Poetry. Two Volumes. New Press Canadian Classics. Don Mills, ON: General. Volume One, 1982. Volume Two, 1982. With Jack David.
- Introduction to Poetry: British, American, Canadian. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981. With Jack David.
- Faculty page, Department of English, McGill University
- Royal Society of Canada, "Class of 2012: List of New Fellows."
- "Royal Society of Canada honours 12 McGill researchers and scholars." McGill Reporter 6 Sept. 2012.
- Hammill, Faye. Rev. of Keepers of the Code: English-Canadian Literary Anthologies and the Representation of Nation, by Robert Lecker. Times Literary Supplement 17 May 2013.