Leonard Cohen: Our Contemporary?

Organised by Joel Deshaye and Kait Pinder

Two years after his death, Leonard Cohen’s legacy is still in the making, a process that his fans and critics participate in alongside his own preemptive management of legacy with explicit prognostications, such as his 1992 album The Future. So many of his concerns seem perennial, and so much of the ongoing work of his producers and publishers seems oriented toward posthumous activity, that we wonder whether Cohen should be considered not a twentieth-century folk revivalist and postmodern author but our contemporary.

In October 2018, McClelland and Stewart published The Flame, the collection of poems, songs, and portraits that Cohen had been preparing in the weeks before his death. The collection also includes selections from some of Cohen’s many notebooks, and in his preface Adam Cohen tempts readers with the promise of more gems awaiting discovery in the boxes of un-mined scribblers that Cohen had kept in storage lockers. To accompany The Flame, M&S also reprinted Cohen’s early collections. The books, now uniform in their serious black covers bearing the signature symbol of Cohen’s “order of the unified heart,” will introduce younger fans who know Cohen’s music to the poetry that preceded it. An album of previously unreleased recordings has been rumoured. A ballet is in the works. “A Crack in Everything”, the exhibit hosted at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, is set to travel the globe. Meanwhile, against the calls to name Cohen the patron saint of Montréal, the #metoo movement has inspired new think pieces as some of Cohen’s fans and scholars reconsider long-standing feminist criticisms of his work.

This roundtable asks, how is Leonard Cohen our contemporary? We invite short papers (5-10 minutes) that analyze the artistic, political, and social contexts in which Cohen’s work was created, has been received, and continues to be produced even after his death.

Please send proposals (max. 300 words) and a short biography (max 150 words) to Joel Deshaye (jdeshaye@mun.ca) and Kait Pinder (kait.pinder@acadiau.ca) by 5 January 2019. Those who propose papers must be members of ACQL by 1 March 2019. See the ACQL website for membership and registration information.