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McCourt, Edward (1907–72)

Edward McCourt is often identified as a regional author for his ability to incorporate in his work the effect of the prairie environment on individuals. His assessment of Saskatchewan, its landscape, history, and inhabitants was no less affectionate for being blunt and clear-sighted. Born in Mullingar, Ireland, on October 10, 1907, McCourt was two years old when his family emigrated to Canada, homesteading near Kitscoty, Alberta. His high school education was by correspondence, and he made his first trip to a city when he began studies at the University of Alberta. An exceptional athlete as well as a scholar, McCourt earned a BA from the University of Alberta and was its Rhodes Scholar in 1932. He earned both a BA (1934) and an MA (1937) while at Oxford. He worked briefly at Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and the University of New Brunswick prior to joining the faculty of the University of Saskatchewan in 1944.

A prolific author, his literary output was notable for its range. Author of numerous academic articles, McCourt also published several short stories and began more extensive works with the publication of a novel, Music at the Close, in 1947, for which he received the All Canada Fiction Award. He authored six novels, including Home is the Stranger (1950), The Wooden Sword (1958), and Fasting Friar (1963). He is equally known for his works of non- fiction, particularly Revolt in the West (1958), about the North-West Resistance, and Remembering Butler (1967), an exceptional biography of Sir William Butler. His travelogues concerning Saskatchewan, the north, and Canada endure, owing to his astute and often humorous observations. One of the first discussions of prairie regional literature, The Canadian West in Fiction (1949) remains an important work of literary criticism. McCourt died on January 6, 1972.

Cheryl Avery

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