E. Pauline Johnson: Texts and Stories

Photo: Shoshannah Greene

Photo: Shoshannah Greene


Join Carole Gerson and Alix Shield for an intimate look at Canadian poet, performer and controversial figure, E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913). The changing reception of E. Pauline Johnson exemplifies how the construction of cultural reputation is an ever-changing and ongoing process. 

Johnson’s first admirers valued her publications and recitations because they enabled Euro-Canadians to feel at home in the places to which they or their families had immigrated by giving them Aboriginal materials that bolstered their desire for a sense of belonging. Alternatively, many critics today see Johnson as a figure of resistance. Dr. Carole Gerson will discuss this shift by looking closely at the packaging and design of several of her first books, and at the content of some of her most outspoken poems.

In the collaboratively-authored text Legends of Vancouver (1911), Mohawk writer E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) composes a series of Coast Salish legends based on the oral stories of Squamish Chief Joe Capilano (Sahp-luk) and his wife Mary Capilano (Lixwelut). These stories first appeared in periodicals such as Boys World and Mother’s Magazine (1909-1911), before undergoing significant revision for the weekend edition of the Vancouver newspaper The Daily Province (1910-1911). 

Considered a classic of Vancouver literature, and in publication for 100 years, no edition of Legends of Vancouver has yet to include sufficient biographical information for or images of Chief Joe or Mary Capilano. Instead, the original 1911 book and each subsequent edition uses the space of the “paratext”, or critical framework, to highlight the life and contributions of E. Pauline Johnson exclusively, positioning her as the sole author. 

Doctoral candidate Alix Shield will trace the evolution of the Legends of Vancouver text over the past century by examining the changes made across different editions, and will argue for an updated critical edition of Legends that properly acknowledges the contributions of the Capilano family.

A series of original publications and slide images will accompany the presentations. This event promises to be a thought provoking evening as we revisit Johnsons' works and her challenging place within Vancouver’s literary and cultural history.

Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017

Time: 7pm

Admission: *Adults: $19; Seniors and Students: $15; MOV Members and individuals who self identify as First Nations: Free.

Gallery admission included with event ticket. Come early and explore.

MOV membership grants free admission to this and other Talk and Tour events. Members are encouraged to register for events to guarantee a seat.  

* Online Tickets Sales will end ONE HOUR before the event begins. Remaining tickets on sale at the door / Visitor Services at the time of event.


Dr. Carole Gerson is a member of the English department at Simon Fraser University where she holds the position of University Professor, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Co-editor of volume 3 (1918-1980) of History of the Book in Canada / Histoire du livre et de l’imprimé au Canada, she has published extensively on Canada’s literary and cultural history with a focus on women writers, including L.M. Montgomery and Susanna Moodie. In collaboration with historian Veronica Strong-Boag, she issued two volumes on Pauline Johnson: a critical study that received the Klibansky Award in 2001, followed by a complete edition of Johnson’s poetry. In 2011, Gerson’s book, Canadian Women in Print, 1750-1918, won the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian criticism. In 2013 she received the Marie Tremaine medal from the Bibliographical Society of Canada.

Alix Shield is a PhD student in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC). Her research uses contemporary digital humanities methods to analyze collaboratively-authored twentieth- and twenty-first-century Indigenous literatures in Canada, and is primarily focused on E. Pauline Johnson's 1911 text Legends of Vancouver.  Alix is the recipient of a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship for her doctoral work (2016-19).