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164 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 they should take the time to state their thoughts clearly, and that they should not turn the literature into weapons for a particular cause. From the reviews, one easily discerns Clarke=s criteria for good literary art. Even if the critic >is not called merely to celebrate but to elaborate the condition of his or her subject(s),= here Clarke tilts in favour of celebration. In fairness to him, the books he exults over merit their praise. The >Surveys= section is every researcher=s dream, for it provides an exhaustive bibliography of primary works and collections that will prove invaluable to future scholars of African-Canadian literature. The vast erudition evident in Odysseys and the rhetorical skills required to shape it are impressive. It is full of the provocations critics of a >new= literature need to help clarify their methodologies and sharpen their conclusions. (H. NIGEL THOMAS) Conny Steenman-Marcusse, editor, The Rhetoric of Canadian Writing Rodopi. 304. US $65.00 Both strengths and disappointments of this uneven but earnestly goodwilled and exceptionally diverse gathering of essays find a kind of emblem in its title, which recalls my sixth-grade teacher=s doggerel contribution to rhetorical theory: >THE has a weakness / When it hints at uniqueness.= Admittedly this collection title is merely an adoption from that of the fourteenth Leiden conference held three years past, when >the Association for Canadian Studies in the Netherlands (ACSN) assembled scholars from all over the world ... to present their views on the rhetoric of Canadian writing past and present.= Conny Steenman-Marcusse is coy about confirming that all inclusions in the collection were originally delivered at the conference, but in many individual contributions and subtly in the tone of the whole encapsulated in its title, I sense that blurring of distinctions, that benevolent softening of focus, that can easily occur among objects viewed at a distance. Indeed, between yet another enthymeme of Canadian identity implied in >The Rhetoric of Canadian Writing= and the balkanized exempla composing its content there exists a virtual oxymoron, reflective perhaps of the goodwill and positive ethos invested in >multiculture,= that officially sanctioned oxymoron whose >-ism= is evoked uncritically more than once in the collection. Sixteen commentators with little procedural common ground discernible among them beyond a loose drift towards feminist and/or postmodernist gestures mine a richly marbled vein of work by writers (curiously characterized by the editor in her introduction as >lesser known but certainly not lesser quality=) so varied in time, place, generic assumptions, and circumstance as Tomson Highway, Wayne Johnston, Margaret Atwood, Nancy Huston, Elizabeth Simcoe, Thomas King, Catharine Parr Traill, Rudy Wiebe, Elizabeth Montgomery, Patrick humanities 165 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Anderson, Susan Swan, and Stompin= Tom Connors. And, of course, there are separate essays, both excellent of their type by Louise Dupre and E.F. Dyke respectively, for French and Aboriginal writing: eclectic, relentlessly eulogistic, and (well) separate. Given this ambitious range and variety, the collection sustains a commendably high level of scholarship and stylistic flair. Highlights include Susan Swan=s wittily self-referential and innovative keynote entry on >the writers= conscience= as well as Steenman-Marcusse=s adroit analysis of autobiographical topoi in Swan=s own novel The Biggest Modern Woman in the World; Robert Druce=s elegant deconstruction, again through biographical topoi, of Patrick Anderson=s poetry; Eric Miller=s splendid threnody on >Elizabeth Simcoe and the Fate of the Picturesque=; Kathleen Venema=s diligent mapping of Wiebe=s rhetorical strategies in A Discovery of Strangers on those of English-Canadian exploration texts; Hans Bak=s fascinating reconfiguration of Johnston=s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams as historical tragedy; Martin Reinink=s sophisticated cautionary analysis of metaphor and metonymy in the inventio of literary history; and the intelligent negotiation by J.M. MacLennan and John Moffatt of Stompin= Tom Connors=s songbook as a commonplace book synecdochal of Canada=s regional angst. Unsatisfactory as this brief list must be, it will serve perhaps to justify my contention that a cleavage of promise and delivery exists between title and content...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 164-165
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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