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456 LEITERS IN CANADA 1979 of animal behaviour led him to recognize the survival value of mutual aid. These collective values he sees as opposed to the 'whiggishness' of the progressive era. Having established the theoretical context in his introduction, Wadland proceeds to document the life of Seton, using it as a launching pad from which to challenge the assumptions inherent in an increasingly homogenized technological world. His obvious sympathy with Seton's anti-anthropocentric stance, however, results in a failure to make a serious challenge to Seton's often primitivist and utopian thinking. In his pursuit ofSeton the radical ecologist he often loses sight of Seton the Victorian, the sentimentalist, and the utopian American. The more Wadland insists on the sharp division between Seton and the progressive era, the more the reader becomes aware of the biographical details which point, just as urgently, to the divisions within Seton himself. For example, in his account of Seton's confrontation with the Boy Scout association Wadland portrays him as a victim of American nationalisma 'red Tory' colliding with the liberal American dream of dominating the frontier. From his account ofSeton's confusion and bitterness, however, it is equally apparent that Seton was ambivalent about his nationality. One important division in Seton, stressed by Wadland, is that between the scientist and the artist, a division reconciled in the genre of the animal story. It is in his discussion of Seton's fictions, however, that the limitations of WadIand's approach become most apparent. His emphaSis on the factual basis of Seton's anthropomorphic stand leaves him little opportunity to investigate the workings of myth and symbol. The resulting confusion is reflected in the follOWing statement: 'As a universal term, wilderness is an abstraction. Only when it is attached to some geographical location can its diverse parts be pinned down with any degree of accuracy. And, even then, as symbol it suffers from subjective interpretation.' Wadiand stops just short of recognizing that the truth of myth is not judged by terms such as 'accuracy' and that the pattern of narrative (even the myth of his own life) often dictated the details Seton used. It is none the less a tribute to Wadland's historical method that, unlike Seton, he allows the details to contradict his pattern. (MAGDALENE RBDBKOP) Patrick O'Flaherty. The Rock Observed: Studies in the Literature of Newfoundland University of Toronto Press. X, 222 . $15.00 Critical tools and theories forged for the study of a metropolitan literature are often too refined and specialized for the frontier, where literature and culture and history are not easily delineated one from another. The Rock HUMANITIES 457 Observed: Studies in the Literature of Newfoundland is a good book of its kind, in the first place because its author knows this and doesn't waste time in drawing fine distinctions or making abstruse formalistic connections . This is, after all, not another variation on a well-played theme but the first serious attempt at a survey of the literature of a people with almost half a millenium of history behind them. Literary histories, when they are good, are praised for such qualities as comprehensiveness, organization, judiciousness, and clarity. But they are still histories, and no one expects them to be, in the best sense, literary. Which makes The Rock Observed an unusual book and a remarkable achievement. Merely to have given a coherent account of the diverse writings of explorers, missionaries, tourists, adventurers, settlers, poets, propagandists, and novelists would have been laudable. O'Flaherty has done more: he has written a book which is as full of insight as of information and is, on balance, as sound in its critical judgments as it is at times extreme. It is informed by a passion and a caring for the people and events described. It is that rare thing: a scholarly work that is also a good read. For O'Flaherty the real history of Newfoundland is that of the common people. And a grim bitter history it was: a perpetual struggle for survival with, on the one hand, a capricious, unmerciful sea and, on the other, an inhospitable, recalcitrant land. Writers, like BQnnycastie in the nineteenth century...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 456-458
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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