Acta Victoriana is the literary journal of Victoria University in the University of Toronto. It is edited and published annually by an editor, a Victoria University student, and an independent committee of current University of Toronto students, alumni and faculty. The journal is under the oversight of the Victoria University Students' Administrative Council, and funded by a student levy. Free copies are available at E.J. Pratt Library, in Victoria University.
Acta Victoriana was founded in May of 1878, when Victoria College was still an independent university in Cobourg, Ontario. The first issue announced itself and its descendants as a dedication to "Alma Mater"—its purpose, to showcase the talent of its contributors to the credit of the college, and to publish items of special interest "to the Alumni and friends of Victoria University".
However, one will find that Acta Victoriana has since turned from its loyalist roots to a more modern position that is resolutely anti-authority. Consider, for instance, the reactionary political articles written by former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in the early 1920s. A few decades later, the turbulence of the late 50s and 60s fostered the playful satire of then-students Margaret Atwood and Dennis Lee, who collaborated under the pseudonym "Shakesbeat Latweed" to give both high and low culture a well-meant but rather vicious kick in the ribs; and, even as the name of Margaret Atwood became canonized in the 80s, yet another rising CanLit star, Al Purdy, added his own share of Horatian foreplay to the journal.
Yet, the journal's prospectus also expressed the desire to "open a channel of communication" between alumni and students, and between Victoria University and other universities across Canada. In this, Acta Victoriana has succeeded for some hundred years. A peculiar dynamic of "old-and-new" has influenced the journal's evolution. The contribution of faculty or alumni to a student-run publication smoothed over the stereotypical dichotomy between tradition and progress, the formal and the popular; furthermore, the critical success of Acta's more notorious contributors has created a dialogue between the university tradition and the wider world of art and literature. Thus, by aiming to cultivate a forum for discussion, the founders of Acta essentially contributed to the journal's maturation and expansion.
Anyone perusing the archives at E.J. Pratt Library can witness the process of Acta's coming-of-age in the periodical shifts in its form and content. The journal has been published monthly, annually, bi-annually and even quadri-annually. It has been offered as a subscription and, for the past several years, for free. The content of the journal is no exception: while the latest editions have been increasingly dedicated to fictional works—mostly poetry and short stories—countless personal and critical essays, theatre and book reviews, interviews, regular columns, original music and all manner of visual media have passed through the hands of Acta's student editors.
This flux of form and content reflects the vigour and the flexibility of the journal's student support system. The youthful influence of the college population has kept Acta Victoriana alive, ever-changing, adaptable to the needs and desires of its ever-evolving readership; therefore, it is Canada's youth that we must credit with the formation of this monument to Canadian literature. Acta Victoriana is ancient and protean, venerable yet smirking; it is perhaps not surprising, then, that the history of Acta is defined by its future.
Special thanks to Nick Ragaz, Editor 2004-5, and Genevieve Amaral and Julie Lafleche, Editors 2003-4, for their thoughtful commentary on Acta throughout the ages.