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ENGLISH CANADIAN LITERATURE Instructor: Ecaterina Hanţiu Ph. D
The Beginnings n Canadian literature developed slowly. It began in the 17 th century and achieved its distinctive character only after Canada gained independence from Britain in 1867. From the beginnings of European colonization in the 1600 s until nationhood, various factors affected cultural development in the territory now known as Canada.
The Beginnings n From colonial times on, European Canadians were divided into two distinct populations: Frenchspeaking and Englishspeaking. Although many people were bilingual (as are many Canadians today), the partisanship of these two groups, coupled with large numbers of immigrants who spoke other languages, proved to be divisive in any progress toward a single national literature.
Canadian Culture and Diversity n Rather than commit themselves to uniformity as the basis of their culture, Canadians instead accepted plurality (diversity) as a workable alternative. Saint Lawrence River between Quebec City (seen at left) and Lévis (seen at right). The Île d'Orléans appears further in the centre.
Other factors that worked against a uniform national culture On March 23, 1752, printing in Canada was officially begun with the launch of the Halifax Gazette from the printing press of John Bushell. Newly arrived from Boston, John Bushell took over the operation of Canada's first printing press in 1751. It was his daughter, Elizabeth, who worked in the printing office of the Gazette newspaper with her father, as both a compositor and presswoman. n n n As Canada’s boundaries rapidly expanded, its settlements became widely scattered. This complicated transportation and communication, thereby impeding the distribution of goods, including books. Canada did not have a revolution as the United States did. Canada’s slow population growth resulted in an evolutionary process of cultural development that continues today.
Other factors that worked against a uniform national culture n n n Canada has experienced tensions as a result of horizontal pulls across the Atlantic Ocean to Britain and France, and a vertical pull across the 49 th parallel to the United States. Centers of publication long lay outside Canada. Under such circumstances, a sense of a separate Canadian literary identity was achieved only slowly and with sustained effort.
The Literary Scene of the 20 th century n n n By the 1960 s, the Canadian literary scene had blossomed. More volumes of poetry, fiction, drama, and critical studies appeared yearly than formerly had appeared in a decade. New Canadian-owned publishing firms opened. In high schools and universities, courses in Canadian literature proliferated. Nevertheless, the literary achievement of the 20 th and 21 st centuries is firmly rooted in Canada's literary past. The Robarts Library is the main humanities and social sciences library in Toronto.
n A statue of Mihai Eminescu in Romania's Square, Montreal, 2004 Most Canadian literature is written in English or French; other languages in which it appears include Gaelic, German, Icelandic, Ukrainian, Yiddish, and the many languages of Canada’s original inhabitants, among them Cree, Haida, Inuktitut, and Ojibwa.
The First English Canadian Authors n Frances Moore Brooke (1723 – 1789) was an English novelist, essayist, playwright and translator. The History of Emily Montague (1769) by English-born Frances Brooke is considered the first Canadian, as well as the first North American, novel. Written as a series of letters, it is based on Brooke’s experiences living in a garrison in Québec in the 1760 s. The novel provides a portrait of 18 th-century Canada while establishing a female literary voice early in English Canadian writing. Influenced by English poet Alexander Pope and French philosopher Voltaire, Brooke used the artificial conventions of the romance in her novel to talk of matters both fashionable and political.
Literature in the 18 th century n n n The British Loyalists who emigrated north from the American colonies starting in 1775 wrote tributes to the British monarchy and satires of the American belief in republican government. Loyalist writing such as Jonathan Odell’s work The American Times (1780), a series of satiric sketches in verse about leaders of the American Revolution, started a tradition of conservative thought that attempted to balance individual rights with those of the community. This tradition came to dominate Canada’s English-language intellectual history. Before 1800 the rigors of pioneering left little time for the writing or the appreciation of literature. The only notable works were journals, such as that of Jacob Bailey, and the recorded travels of explorers, such as Henry Kelsey, Samuel Hearne, and Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
Literature in the 19 th century n n n During the 19 th century, Canadian writers grew more numerous and more ambitious, attempting new forms and addressing new subjects. At first, writers turned to narratives that recorded exploration, settlement, and survival. By the end of the century, the range of genres and topics had broadened considerably to encompass social issues of the day—from the politics of independence to the rights of women—historical romance, comedies of manners, and lyric poetry about the transcendence of nature.
English Canadian Poetry in the 19 th century n n n Clearing the Land Stanley, NB, circa 1850 s, by W. P. Kay (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-000017) In the early 19 th century, most Canadian poetry imitated earlier British poetic works. Poets Oliver Goldsmith (grandnephew of the Anglo-Irish writer of the same name), Charles Sangster, Charles Mair, and Levi Adams exemplified literary ambitions of the time. Inspired by the love of nature of English landscape poets of the 18 th century, they sought to express the natural beauty of their new land. Goldsmith's work The Rising Village (1825) is a book-length poem in couplet form devoted to the cause of re-rooting British civilization in Nova Scotia; his text alternately praises, satirizes, and sentimentalizes a pioneer settlement there.
English Canadian Poetry in the 19 th century n The title poem in Sangster's collection The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, and Other Poems (1856) contrasts two kinds of river in two kinds of diction - one lyrical and gentle, the other rugged and winding— to suggest the difficulties inherent in capturing the new landscape through the conventions of British poetry. Charles Sangster
THE ST. LAWRENCE AND THE SAGUENAY Charles Sangster I. There is but one to whom my hopes are clinging As clings the bee unto the morning flower, There is but one to whom my thoughts are winging Their dove-like passage through each silent hour: One who has made my heart her summer bower. Feeling and passion there forever bloom For her, who, by her love's mysterious power, Dispels the languor of my spirit's gloom, And lifts my dead heart up, like Lazarus from the tomb. The St. Lawrence river is an essential part of the topography of Quebec, and the area around it provides a diverse habitat for a wide variety of marine and terrestrial life. The Saguenay - St. Lawrence Marine park is one such example. In the park, a complicated and interesting ecosystem is formed by the Seguenay Fjord, where cold water churns the St. Lawrence waters to create densely populated aquatic zones.
Robert Service n n Robert William Service (1874 – 1958) was a poet born into a Scottish family. He moved to Canada at the age of 21. Hired by the Canadian Bank of Commerce, he was posted to the bank's branch in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. Inspired by the vast beauty of the Yukon wilderness, Service started writing his poetry about the things he saw. While much of his writing was published in the early 20 th century, its style and themes belonged to that of the 19 th century. His collection Songs of a Sourdough (1907), most of which is set in the Yukon Territory, includes “The Cremation of Sam Mc. Gee, ” one of his best-known humorous ballads.
Robert Sevice – “The Cremation of Sam Mc. Gee” (excerpt) There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales That would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, But the queerest they ever did see Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge I cremated Sam Mc. Gee. n Now Sam Mc. Gee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows. Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows. He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell; Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell. ”
The Confederation Group n n n The 1860 s gave birth to Canada’s Confederation, and a group of poets born in that decade came to be known as the Confederation Group. This group led the search for native topics in Canadian literature. These writers, who knew each other but did not all work together, included Wilfred Campbell, Archibald Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott, Charles G. D. Roberts, and Roberts’s cousin Bliss Carman. Scott has been regarded as the most experimental stylist of the Confederation poets. Many of his poems deal sympathetically, if from the outside, with themes from indigenous cultures. Notable among these poems are “Watkwenies” (1898) and “The Onondaga Madonna” (1926), both of which speak of indigenous women as members of a “dying race. ” The Confederation poets were strongly influenced by the British Romantics, mainly Wordsworth and Shelley. Duncan Campbell Scott (1862 -1947)
Fiction in the 19 th century n Many fiction writers, among them Susanna Moodie and Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart, wrote conventional adventures that featured murder, love, and suspense, using foreign characters and settings.
n n Hart’s dramatic tale St. Ursula’s Convent; or, The Nun of Canada (1824) was the first novel by a Canadian-born author to be published in Canada. Set in a convent, the novel is noteworthy for its use of what were then popular conventions such as mysterious kidnappings and mistaken identities. Hart's novel was the first extended work to appear from a Canadian press—Hugh Thomson's newspaper press in Kingston, Ontario.
Fiction in the 19 th century: Humour n Image of Sam Slick Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s humorous stories about a Yankee clock peddler named Sam Slick appeared in the Novascotian newspaper. These sketches provided Haliburton with a means to criticize Nova Scotian political and social life by exposing its susceptibility to behaviors perceived as American—Sam’s abilities as a fast-talking salesman, for example. The Sam Slick stories were published later as The Clockmaker in three series (1836, 1838, 1840), as The Attaché (1843), and under other titles. These stories contributed many familiar expressions to English speech.
Fiction in the 19 th century: Romance n n Canadian-born John Richardson, an officer in the British army, set his Wacousta (1832) in and near Fort Detroit during an uprising of the native peoples against the British that began in 1763. While concerned with the conflicts between imperial British forces and native peoples, and with a metaphoric battle between civilization and wilderness, Wacousta is much more effective when read as a nightmarish tale of romance and revenge. The book’s main character, Wacousta, is a Scotsman originally named Reginald Morton who allies himself with the native peoples rebelling against British rule. Wacousta seeks vengeance against his archenemy, Colonel De Haldimar, who serves with the British forces; the novel culminates in a number of violent conflicts.
Fiction in the 19 th century: Romance and Melodrama n Both William Kirby in The Golden Dog (1877) and Gilbert Parker in The Seats of the Mighty (1896) romanticize the refinement and charm of French society in Québec. They also criticize the excesses of French society by equipping it with darkly mysterious and melodramatic trappings, such as cryptic messages, underground passages, and villainous behavior. Both historical adventure tales take place at the time of the Seven Years’ War, which ended with France ceding most of its Canadian territories to Britain in 1763.
Ernest Thompson Seton: Nature and Animals n Canadian writer and illustrator Ernest Thompson Seton is best known for his keen observation of the natural world. In Wild Animals I Have Known (1898), Seton creates short, often humorous biographies of individual creatures that he considers exceptional. One biography that appears in the book recounts the adventures of Silverspot, an unusually intelligent crow. Silverspot uses his gifts to his own benefit, but he also shares valuable lessons with younger crows.
Ernest Thompson Seton: illustrations
Personal Narratives n Catharine Parr Traill: Pioneer Canadian Mother (1802 – 1899) n Personal narratives include journals written by explorers, travelers, and settlers; autobiographies and diaries of pioneers and politicians; and short sketches and personal anecdotes that originally appeared in regional periodicals. In these works, writers responded to their environments with a level of precise detail that was missing in most fiction of the same period. Both Catharine Parr Traill and her sister Susanna Moodie wrote about their experiences as English immigrants in rural Canada in the 1830 s. Traill’s book, The Backwoods of Canada (1836), written as a series of letters, details the customs and the natural history of her new country.
Susanna Moodie (1803 – 1885) n Susanna Moodie emigrated from England to Canada in 1832 with her husband, John Moodie, and their infant daughter. Like many other settlers, Moodie was determined to recreate in her adopted homeland the orderly, civilized life she and her family had enjoyed in England. Pioneer living proved to be more raw and demanding than Moodie had imagined, however. In Roughing It in the Bush, first published in England in 1852, Moodie included sketches abounding in anecdotal descriptions of fire, planting, death, climate, neighbours, and local customs.
Antiromantic Reactions n n Toward the end of the 19 th century, an antiromantic trend began with the publication of A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (1888) by James De Mille. Set in the Antarctic, the story satirizes utopian sentiments in its portrayal of the society of a kindly, though deathloving, cannibalistic people called the Kosekin. This antiromantic trend continued in the 1890 s and early 1900 s in the social comedies of Sara Jeannette Duncan; the ironic and often comic depictions of childhood by Lucy Maud Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables (1908) and other works; and the popular urban satires of largely forgotten writers such as Grant Allen and Albert Hickman.
The Early 20 th century n Throughout the 19 th and early 20 th century, each wave of newcomers to Canada—British, French, Eastern European, South and East Asian—either learned to adapt to the land, the wilderness, and provincial life, or severed itself from that life. In the process, each new group either helped develop a language equipped to realistically render the experiences of the new nation or continued to emulate the fashions that were set elsewhere. Immigration Office An Ontario Government Immigration Office, most probably in Toronto, and before the First World War.
n Canadian literature throughout the 20 th century continued to reflect this tension between the idea of progress—represented variously by technology, literary experiment, and social reform—and a commitment to tradition, in the form of received literary conventions, religious faith, and social institutions. Immigrant Children Immigrant children at York Public School, Toronto, Ontario, 1923, with 14 nationalities represented in the group.
Humour and Social Criticism n n n Stephen Butler Leacock, (1869 – 1944) was a Canadian writer and economist. As a writer he is famous for humorously debunking the conventions used by other writers. In Nonsense Novels (1911), for example, Leacock parodied 19 thcentury literary forms such as melodrama, dialect anecdote, and romance-adventure. In Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914) he punctured the pretenses to sophistication of the urban rich by showing those pretenses to be nothing more than ego, faddishness, and greed.
n n n In his most coherent and enduring work, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912), Leacock portrayed the foibles of small-town life, specifically the desire of smalltown inhabitants to resemble their urban counterparts, whom they mistakenly took to be more sophisticated. It is believed that Orillia, Ontario, inspired the conception of Mariposa (the little town). "Mariposa is not a real town. On the contrary, it is about seventy or eighty of them. You may find them all the way from Lake Superior to the sea, with the same square streets and the same maple trees and the same churches and hotels. " (from Leacock’s introduction) His sources were mainly Alphonse Daudet, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. Stephen Leacock House in Orillia, Ontario
Social Criticism n William Robertson Davies, (1913 1995), Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor Later 20 th-century humorists— including Peter Mc. Arthur, Robertson Davies (writing under the name Samuel Marchbanks), Robert Thomas Allen, Gregory Clark, Erika Ritter, Ray Guy, Sondra Gotlieb, and Eric Nicol - published in newspapers, using their problems, such as technological confusion, gender uncertainty, and increasing Americanization. Paul Hiebert’s Sarah Binks (1947) parodies literary pretensions of grandeur, while David Mc. Fadden’s Trip Around Lake Ontario (1988) deals comically with issues of nationality and the American border. Some critics have asserted that the sharp sense of irony used by these humorists characterizes the Canadian literary voice.
Fiction: War and National Identity n n n On Dec. 6, 1917, a collision in Halifax Harbour led to the biggest man-made explosion in the world before the era of the atomic bomb. The blast levelled most of the city and sent shards of glass and burning debris flying for miles. Much of the literature that emerged after World War I attempted to capture the war’s horrors and their effects on those who survived. Douglas Durkin’s work The Magpie (1923) documents the social isolation and confusion of Craig Forrester, a young veteran who returns to his hometown but finds that everything has changed. Craig’s mind flashes between present life and the battlefield, and he feels uneasy even in the mundane events of everyday life. World War I (1914 -1918) and World War II (19391945) altered communications systems, destroyed whole communities and much of a generation, and changed immigration patterns. However, by providing a common experience, the wars also provided Canadian writers with a means for expressing national unity. Examples of such war fiction include Charles Yale Harrison’s Generals Die in Bed (1930), which attacks war itself and the hierarchy of authority that sacrifices ordinary lives in the name of order, and Earle Birney’s Turvey (1949), which satirizes the Canadian intelligence service. Barometer Rising (1941) by Hugh Mac. Lennan uses the Halifax explosion of 1917, when a Belgian ship and a French munitions ship collided and exploded in the Halifax harbor, as an allegory of war and as a defining moment in national self-awareness.
“Jalna” – A Pro-British Empire Saga n Mazo de la Roche (1879 - 1961) Mazo de la Roche’s popular novel, Jalna (1927), was followed by a series depicting the history, through 150 years, of the vigorous Whiteoak family who lived at "Jalna". The series includes 16 novels; among them are Whiteoaks (1929), Finch's Fortune (1931), Young Renny (1935), Whiteoak Harvest (1936), Growth of a Man (1938), The Building of Jalna (1944), and Mary Wakefield (1949). Her dramatization of Whiteoaks was staged in London and New York. De la Roche also wrote plays, children's books, a history of Quebec, and an autobiography, Ringing the Changes (1957).
Preoccupation with Europe n n Who was FPG? Frederick Philip Grove (1879 -1948) Preoccupation with Europe colored the work of the two most important prose writers of the time, Frederick Philip Grove and Morley Callaghan. Grove's life was perhaps even more interesting than his fiction. His so-called autobiography, In Search of Myself (1946), is a tissue of fiction; he invented a European past for himself that went unchallenged until a biography of Grove, FPG, was published by Canadian literary scholar D. O. Spettigue in 1973. Spettigue showed that Grove was the name adopted by German translator, novelist, and convicted felon Felix Paul Greve, who had disappeared from Germany in 1909 and was presumed dead.
n In 1922 Grove published his first work set in Canada, Over Prairie Trails, a book of purportedly autobiographical essays about travels over the Manitoba countryside. The work was followed by 11 more books, mostly novels about European settlers on the Canadian prairies, that record a passionate yet largely pessimistic view of human beings in stolid conflict with the land, their fellows, and themselves. Settlers of the Marsh (1925), A Search for America (1927), and Fruits of the Earth (1933) are representative of Grove’s accomplishment.
Morley Callaghan (1903 -1990) n Unlike Grove, Callaghan did not strive to portray grand views of human destiny. In Such Is My Beloved (1934) and The Loved and the Lost (1951), Callaghan’s characters are ordinary urban people - priests, boxers, street workers, small-business people - who, in the name of something they hold to be good, find themselves in moral predicaments. In The Loved and the Lost, one character struggles with his desire for money and fame and his love for a woman who has rejected those values. In many of Callaghan’s works, social structures, such as the legal system, are portrayed as unable to distinguish the pure motives that have led to individuals’ social transgressions, and they punish the wrong people. "Death is mysterious, but you can make out of life whatever you want to make. This is your truth. "
n A contemporary and friend of American writer Ernest Hemingway, Callaghan published in avant-garde American literary journals of the 1920 s and 1930 s, such as transition. His sketches, represented in Morley Callaghan’s Stories (1959), are among his most lasting works.
Modernist Poetry n n Donald Flather – Black Tusk, Garibaldi Region As Callaghan refashioned the concerns and techniques of Canadian prose after World War I, focusing on urban settings and social issues, a group of poets and painters rose to challenge Canadian wilderness mythologies and the conventions of landscape art. The Group of Seven, young artists, mainly from Toronto, advocated a painting style that was distinctly Canadian in spirit. These painters influenced poets of the period, particularly A. M. Klein, F. R. Scott, and A. J. M. Smith. These poets, along with poet Leo Kennedy, were known as the Montréal or Mc. Gill Group (after Mc. Gill University in Montréal). They published in various academic literary reviews. The Montréal Group introduced modernism into Canadian poetry, incorporating techniques adapted from contemporary European and American writers. They emphasized fragmentation, alienation, and urban sophistication.
Modernist Poetry n n n Edwin John Dove Pratt, (1882 – 1964), who published as E. J. Pratt, Canadian poet from Newfoundland Poems by the Montréal Group were collected in the 1936 anthology New Provinces, along with poems by Newfoundland writer E(dwin). J. Pratt, who was more than 20 years older than the Montréal poets, belonged intellectually and chronologically to an earlier generation. However, along with Smith he became the chief influence in Canadian poetry from the 1930 s until the 1950 s. Pratt's reputation was based on his narrative verse, his extravagant comic rhymes, the intensity of short poems such as “From Stone to Steel” (1932), and his national mythmaking in “Towards the Last Spike” (1952). This romantic narrative, which describes the construction of the Canadian transcontinental railroad, adapts epic conventions such as the hero, the catalogue (list of items), the extended metaphor, and the idea of nationbuilding.
Poetry in the Late 20 th century n n n Leonard Cohen concert, May 2006, Toronto With the increase in literary and arts-related reviews in the 1940 s and 1950 s, new figures and poetic movements emerged that would dominate English Canadian poetry for the next three decades. The rise of new literary journals signaled new directions in poetry: an emphasis on urban and social politics, a concern with speech rhythms, and a resistance to conventions of rhyme and regular meter. Preeminent among other poets were Raymond Souster, Irving Layton, P. K. Page, Miriam Waddington, Milton Acorn, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Avison, Leonard Cohen, Robert Kroetsch. Other voices significant for their concerns with ecology, class experience, feminism, faith, place, and formal innovation include Don Mc. Kay, M. Travis Lane, Dale Zieroth, Patrick Lane, Lorna Crozier, Anne Szumigalski, Colleen Thibaudeau, Bronwen Wallace, Paulette Jiles, David Donnell, bill bissett, Tom Wayman, D. G. Jones, Pat Lowther, Eva Tihanyi, Stephen Scobie, Jan Zwicky, Roo Borson, Susan Musgrave.
Uniquely Canadian Forms n n The Viator poem form was invented by Canadian author and poet, Robin Skelton (1925 – 1997). It consists of any stanzaic form in which the first line of the first stanza is the second line of the second stanza and so on until the poem ends with that with which it began. The term, Viator comes from the Latin for traveller. n Shallot Confiture It's care in cooking slow and carefully that turns a shallot glistening golden brown; in salted water first you must weigh down the scalded bulbs to meet this recipe. n Boil vinegar and sugary spices; it's care in cooking slow and carefully the syruped shallots, gradually, then overnight, you'll rest the shallot slices. n Then two days more, you'll slow repeat your patient simmering, calmly, gently; it's care in cooking slow and carefully that yields your shallots clear and sweet. n By fourth day, time to lift them free, to pack them in that savoury sauce, preserve that silky, golden gloss; it's care in cooking slow and carefully!
Fiction: The Search for Identity n Tim Hortons is a fast food restaurant chain founded in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with locations in Canada and the United States. It is the largest coffee and doughnut chain in Canada. In addition to its coffee and doughnuts, Tim Hortons is also well-known for its Timbits, bagels, soups, and sandwiches. Some Canadians consider Tim Hortons an icon of Canadian culture. From 1940 on, Canadian fiction mirrored Canadian society in its search for a uniquely Canadian identity and voice. Both society and fiction were repeatedly influenced by nationalism, regionalism, and new ethnic sensibilities. The year 1941 was marked by the publication of two important works concerned with Canadian identity: Barometer Rising by Hugh Mac. Lennan and As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross. The former is an allegory about the birth of the Canadian nation during World War I; the latter is a tightly constructed first-person narrative told by a minister's wife and set in Saskatchewan during the droughtridden Great Depression of the 1930 s.
Fiction: The Search for Identity n Following Mac. Lennan’s lead in writing about specific Canadian settings were regionalist writers W. O. Mitchell and Ernest Buckler. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind (1947) describes a boy’s childhood on the prairies of Saskatchewan, and Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley (1952) depicts a boyhood on an Annapolis Valley farm in Nova Scotia during the years between the world wars. Landscape view of the famous Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton National Park Alberta, Canada
Who Has Seen the Wind? Christina Rossetti n n Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you: But when the leaves hang trembling The wind is passing thro'. Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I: But when the trees bow down their heads The wind is passing by. W. O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind n Although a limited world, the town of Arcola represents Brian's initiation to a greater and more mature understanding of life, death, and spirituality. For Brian, the wind is the essence of God. Vincent Van Gogh – Starry Night, 1889 “Have you seen the wind? To see the wind, you must look at what it touches. From a looming mountain range to a field of corn, the wind touches everything and everyone. ”
The Search for Identity n n n Also writing at the time, but not substantially recognized until later, were Henry Kreisel, Malcolm Lowry, Robertson Davies, Ethel Wilson, and Mavis Gallant. Except from Robertson Davies and Mavis Gallant, the others were immigrants coming from different places in the world (Austria, Britain, South-Africa). n n There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity. A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight. The love of truth lies at the root of much humor. Robertson Davies – Random Quotes
Technical Experimentation n n Sheila Watson (1909 – 1998), best know for her modernist novel, The Double Hook Along with nationalism, regionalism, and new ethnic voices, technical experimentation —including innovations in language and form—characterized Canadian literature at midcentury. A second watershed in Canadian fiction, following that of 1941 with the works of Mac. Lennan and Ross, came in 1959 with the appearance of two new voices, Sheila Watson and Mordecai Richler, both of whom extended the traditional use of language in Canadian fiction.
Mordecai Richler (1931 – 2001) n Richler had published two novels before 1959, but he made his reputation that year with a romping, bawdy novel, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. The initiation story of a boy from a Jewish district in Montréal, it shows the title character pushing his way to success, alienating both Gentiles and his own family along the way. The novel’s vigorous colloquial language and comic set pieces further modified Canadian prose style.
A Clear Narrative Line n Less obviously experimental writers who were willing to maintain a clear narrative line included Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, and Margaret Laurence.
Margaret Laurence (1926 – 1987) n Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss in Neepawa, Manitoba on July 18, 1926. She graduated from Manitoba’s United College in 1947 and married Jack Laurence. In 1949, the Laurences moved to England, followed in 1950 by a move to British Somaliland. In 1952, they moved to Ghana where Margaret wrote her first novel, This Side Jordan. In 1962, Margaret left Jack and moved to England. Between 1964 and 1974, she published five novels set in the fictional Manitoba town of Manawaka. The first, The Stone Angel, tells the story of Hagar Shipley, an elderly and deeply unpleasant woman who wrestles with her failing physical condition and troubling memories of the past. Laurence was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1971. On Jan. 5, 1987, terminally ill with lung cancer, Laurence took her own life.
Margaret Laurence: The Stone Angel introduces Hagar Shipley, one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction. Stubborn, querulous, self-reliant – and, at ninety, with her life nearly behind her – Hagar Shipley makes a bold last step towards freedom and independence. As her story unfolds, we are drawn into her past. We meet Hagar as a young girl growing up in a bleak prairie town; as the wife of an unsuccessful farmer with whom her marriage was stormy; as a mother who dominates her younger son; and, finally, as an old woman isolated by an uncompromising pride and by the stern virtues she has inherited from her pioneer ancestors. Vivid, evocative, moving, The Stone Angel celebrates the triumph of the spirit, and reveals Margaret Laurence at the height of her powers as a writer of extraordinary craft and profound insight into the workings of the human heart.
Margaret Atwood (1939 - ) n n Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born in Ottawa on Nov. 18, 1939. She studied English (with Northrop Frye) and philosophy at the University of Toronto, which she attended from 1957 to 1961. She then did graduate studies at Harvard. Her reputation as a poet was established when The Circle Game (1966) won the Governor General’s Award. She served as an editor of House of Anansi Press from 1971 to 1973, and worked as an editor and political cartoonist for This Magazine. In 1980 Atwood became vicechair of the Writers’ Union of Canada. She also served as president of PEN International's Anglo-Canadian branch from 1984 to 1986. Her novels include Surfacing (1972), Life Before Man (1979) and The Robber Bride (1993). Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale, a science-fiction fable set in a world where reproduction is controlled by the government, brought her international success and critical acclaim. One of her most recent novels, The Blind Assassin, won the Booker Prize in 2000.
Margaret Atwood’s Dystopic Vision of the Future: “The Handmaid’s Tale” n The Handmaid's Tale n In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.
Alice Munro (1931 - ) n Alice Munro was born in the small rural town of Wingham, Ontario. She began writing as a teenager and published her first story, "The Dimensions of a Shadow, " while a student at the University of Western Ontario in 1950. Her first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), was highly acclaimed and won that year’s Governor General's Award, Canada’s highest literary prize. This success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories that was published as a novel. In 1978, Munro's Who Do You Think You Are? was published (titled The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flor and Rose in the United States); this book led Munro to win the Governor General’s Literary Award for a second time. Her stories frequently appear in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Mademoiselle, and The Paris Review.
Southern Ontario Gothic n n Southern Ontario Gothic is a sub-genre of the Gothic novel genre and a feature of Canadian literature that comes from Southern Ontario. The term was first used in Graeme Gibson's Eleven Canadian Novelists to recognize a preexisting tendency to apply aspects of the Gothic novel to writing based in and around Southern Ontario. Notable writers of this subgenre include Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Jane Urquhart, Marian Engel, James Reaney and Barbara Gowdy. Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson
n n n Like the Southern Gothic of American writers such as William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty, Southern Ontario Gothic analyzes and critiques social conditions such as race, gender, religion and politics, but in a Southern Ontario context. Southern Ontario Gothic is generally characterized by a stern realism set against the dour small-town Protestant morality stereotypical of the region, and often has underlying themes of moral hypocrisy. Actions and people that act against humanity, logic, and morality all are portrayed unfavourably, and one or more characters may be suffering from some form of mental illness.
Auchmar Mansion, 1854 Hamilton, Ont. n n The Gothic novel has traditionally examined the role of evil in the human soul, and has incorporated dark or horrific imagery to create the desired setting. Some (but not all) writers of Southern Ontario Gothic use supernatural or magic realist elements; a few deviate from realism entirely, in the manner of the fantastical gothic novel. Virtually all dwell to a certain extent upon the grotesque. Notable works of the genre include Davies' Fifth Business, Findley's Headhunter, Atwood's Alias Grace and The Robber Bride, and Munro's Selected Stories. Dundurn Castle, 1835 Hamilton, Ont.
Multiculturalism n n Born in a Mennonite family in Saskatchewan, Rudy Wiebe has been professor emeritus, Department of English at the University of Alberta since 1992. The multiculturalism of late 20 th-century Canada is evident in the contributions by writers of many different backgrounds. Joy Kogawa, Bharati Mukherjee, Rudy Wiebe, Dionne Brand, Basil Johnston, Lee Maracle, Alootook Ipellie, Ian Ross, and Lenore Keeshig. Tobias present strong perspectives on indigenous communities, language and identity, and cultural autonomy.
Late 20 th century Developments n n Jack Hodgins (1938 - ) Two other important late-20 th-century writers, Jack Hodgins and Timothy Findley, experimented with narrative form. Hodgins was influenced in his early works by American writer William Faulkner and the imaginative fabrications and magic realism of South American literature. In later novels he moved to analyze the forces that shaped the century and that threaten to stifle the artist's voice. In books such as Spit Delaney’s Island (1976) and The Invention of the World (1978), he transformed his native Vancouver Island into a mythical world populated by irrepressible characters, would-be storytellers, and giants of the imagination. The later work Broken Ground (1998) alludes to the same communities, but demonstrates—through multiple voices and points of view—how repressed stories of war and responsibility for violence return to disrupt the lives of every postwar generation in the 20 th century.
Timothy Findley (1930 – 2002) n n Findley’s novel The Wars (1977) takes the reader through the experience of World War I, symbolically recording not a new future but the death of possibility. Famous Last Words (1981) is ostensibly about a document written on a wall by Hugh Selwyn Mauberley—a character invented by American poet Ezra Pound—and discovered by a young soldier at the end of World War II. The book tells of the intrigues and quest for power that led to the war in the first place and that made fascists of both political rulers and ordinary people. Findley’s later fiction extended his inclination for revisiting classic tales. Not Wanted on the Voyage (1984) views the biblical story of Noah’s ark from the imagined perspective of Noah’s supposedly shrewish wife, while Headhunter (1992) relocates to Toronto the story of Heart of Darkness (1902) by British writer Joseph Conrad. Findley’s short fiction focuses on themes such as the power of memory, the decay of the family, and the loss of sanity.
Michael Ondaatje (1943 - ) n n n Born in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin, in 1954 he moved to England. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Michael Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient (1992), the sequel to In the Skin of a Lion (1987), was awarded the Booker Prize, the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary award, in 1992. Ondaatje was the first Canadian to win the award. His prose weaves together multiple threads of story and character to portray the complex currents of culture and history that individuals must negotiate. Ondaatje's earlier prose works, the poetic jazz novel Coming Through Slaughter (1976) and the autobiographical memoir Running in the Family (1982), mesh together historical fact and what Ondaatje calls “the truth of fiction” in fragmentary collages, a method that anticipates the woven forms of his other novels.
The “Younger” Generation n Douglas Coupland, Born: December 30, 1961 Baden-Söllingen, Germany Among the most popular and widely read of younger Canadian writers are Douglas Coupland William Gibson, both of whom live in Vancouver. Coupland’s Generation X (1991) gave a name and a voice to young, disaffected urbanites who feel their lives are thwarted by history. Its story explores lives emptied of meaning in a media-saturated consumer culture. American-born Gibson combined science fiction, hard-boiled detective writing, and pop culture in a style that became known as cyberpunk. His novels and stories, including Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Johnny Mnemonic (1995), describe a world in which unlikely protagonists struggle against crazed technocrats and insidious computer networks, articulating deep-rooted anxieties over autonomy and power.
Cyberpunk n n William Ford Gibson (born March 17, 1948, Conway, South Carolina) is an American-born science fiction author resident in Canada since 1968. He has been called the father of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. He is credited with coining the term "cyberspace". His first novel, Neuromancer, has sold more than 6. 5 million copies worldwide since its publication in 1984. The dystopic intermingling of technology and humanity is the main feature of his works.
And there are more to be added… later! n "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. . . A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. . . " William Gibson, Neuromancer Blade Runner the Ridley Scott film that gave cyberpunk SF its visual representation
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