Tessera was founded in 1984 to provide a continuing forum for feminist literary theory and theoretically informed feminist writing. At the outset, the editors wished to present the innovative feminist theoretical writing being developed in Quebec to English Canadian critics and writers; by so doing, it fostered the development of "fiction/theory," the term coined in the third issue to name this body of experimental writing. Tessera created a dialogue between French and English speaking women writers and theorists by publishing in both official languages and providing a précis for each text in the opposite language. In its commitment to feminist experimental writing and writing at the edges, Tessera published the most important feminist writers and critics in the country: Nicole Brossard, Louky Bersianik, Louise Cotnoir, Linda Hutcheon, Daphne Marlatt, Erin Mouré, Marlene Nourbese Philip, France Théoret, Audrey Thomas, Gail Scott, Donna Smyth, Lola Lemire Tostevin, and Aritha van Herk.
Tessera began as the result of conversations between its founding editors (Barbara Godard, Daphne Marlatt, Kathy Mezei and Gail Scott) at a York University conference on feminist literary theory in Quebec in 1981. The first four issues appeared as special issues of already established periodicals and in 1988, Tessera became an independent publication appearing twice a year in a book-size format focussed on a specific topic, such as: "La traduction au féminin/Translating Women," "Changing the Subject/Le sujet en process," "Performance/Transformance" and "Memory Work/des mémoires des femmes." In the mid-1990s, a new editorial collective (Katherine Binhammer, Lauren Gillingham, Lise Harou, Jennifer Henderson, Nadine Ltaif, Nicole Markotic, Lianne Moyes, Julie Murray and Patricia Seaman) invited feminist writers and theorists to work the cultural studies edge of the literary disciplines in issues devoted to "Women in Urban Culture/Les femmes et la culture urbaine," "F/Phantasy," "Work/Le travail," "Feminism and Self-Help/Le féminisme et la croissance personnelle," and "Feminist Utopias/Utopies féministes." Martine Delvaux and Catherine Mavrikakis took over the reigns of Tessera in 2003 and continued to publish new feminist writing until the journal ended in 2005.