The Force of Vocation

The Literary Career of Adele Wiseman

Ruth Panofsky (Author)

Adele Wiseman was a seminal figure in Canadian letters. Always independent and wilful, she charted her own literary career, based on her unfailing belief in her artistic vision. In The Force of Vocation, the first book on Wisemanís writing life, Ruth Panofsky presents Wiseman as a writer who doggedly and ambitiously perfected her craft, sought a wide audience for her work, and refused to compromise her work for marketability.

Based on previously unpublished archival material and personal interviews with publishers, editors, and writers, The Force of Vocation charts Wiseman’s career from her internationally acclaimed first novel, The Sacrifice, through her near career-ending decisions to move into drama and non-fiction, to her many years as a dedicated mentor to other writers. In the process, Panofsky presents a remarkable and compelling story of the intricate negotiations and complex relationships that exist among authors, editors, and publishers.


“Ruth Panofsky set out to produce the kind of book we very much need in Canada, an “empirical account of a literary career,” which focuses on the professional side of an author’s life rather than the personal…she succeeds in this endeavour…Ironically, what we learn from this study is less about Wiseman as a professional writer and more about Wiseman’s temperament, which was clearly shaped more by highly romanticized notions of the artist than from her actual engagement with the publishing restraints and possibilities of her time.”

– Susan Rudy, University of Calgary, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada

“This literary biography tells a deeply moving yet historically accurate ‘story of the storyteller’ that it should be a model for other scholars to embrace. It narrates one writer’s life, yet, The Force of Vocation chronicles also the general experiences of being a writer in Canada during the last half of the 20th century.”

– Zeitschrift fur Kanada-Studien , 27.2, 2007

“A compelling literary biography.”

– Canadian Literature, Fall 2007

“A major contribution to our understanding of how to think about writers’ experiences in Canada.”

– Neil Besner, editor of Carol Shields: The Arts of a Writing Life

“A courageous portrait of the critically acclaimed novelist.”

– Globe and Mail

“As Canada’s foremost Wiseman scholar, Panofsky conveys an encyclopedic knowledge of her subject: ner scholarship is outstanding. She deserves credit for producing this timely study of a writer whose works are still deserving of a wide readership.”

– Canadian Jewish News

“A cautionary tale for writers who believe too stubbornly in themselves.”

– Montreal Gazette

“A welcome primer on Wiseman…. It is time for readers to rediscover Adele Wiseman’s books.”

– Winnipeg Free Press

About the Author

Ruth Panofsky teaches English at Ryerson University. She is the author of Adele Wiseman: An Annotated Bibliography and is the co-editor with John Lennox of Selected Letters of Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman.

Book Details

  • The Force of Vocation: The Literary Career of Adele Wiseman
  • Ruth Panofsky (Author)
  • Published April 2006, 120 pages
  • Paper, ISBN: 9780887556890, 6 × 9, $22.95
  • Topic(s): Biography, Literary Criticism

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