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268 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 occupied those frontiers. Best known in her day for conceiving and editing a series of popular histories of the rivers of North America that continued after her death and reached sixty-five volumes (many still in print), Skinner in her last years edged towards fame in her adopted country and is remembered by a medal in her name issued annually by the Women=s National Book Association and, more recently, by the Library of Congress for being one of the first women to rise to a position of power in the American book publishing industry. In Canada, Skinner was and is mostly unknown, forgotten by even such basic reference works as the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature until resurrected by Barman. The implicit and by its final sentence explicit claim of Barman=s biography is that Skinner >deserves the recognition of posterity.= If that=s so, it=s not for her literary merits. Barman=s chapter on Skinner=s fiction is repetitive because the stories it discusses are repetitive, the kind of marketdriven writing that prompts phrases like >another of Constance=s stock frontier heroes= and >the requisite happy ending.= The chapters on her other genres are wisely less engaged with the product than with the process, less with art or even craft than with Skinner=s considerable grit and business sense. If Skinner does merit resurrection, it=s not because of what she wrote but because of her determination to support herself as a writer in a society unaccustomed to professional women writers or non-professional historians: the sections on Skinner=s run-ins with Canadian canon-keeper William Arthur Deacon and with the increasingly university-dominated historians of her time are the most interesting in the book. Barman=s account of Skinner=s life is perceptive, sensitive, and meticulously researched. But in this case it=s not the life that matters so much as the forces (to use a word Skinner hated) that created and constrained that life. Barman knows this, even if she doesn=t always remember it. Because a writer has been marginalized by her gender, genre, or place of residence doesn=t necessarily make her interesting: what makes a literary life interesting is either an exceptional individual or exceptional circumstances. For Skinner, meeting the challenge of the latter exhausted any potential for the former. As she wrote in a brutally honest moment, >I=ve never wanted anything in my life with a single-hearted desire, but writing B i.e. writing developed into art and it seems I can=t have that.= (NICK MOUNT) Adrian Shubert. Death and Money in the Afternoon: A History of the Spanish Bullfight Oxford University Press 1999. x, 270. US $24.95 In eighteenth-century Spain a doctoral examination offered one of the customary occasions for a bullfight. An elaborate ceremony surrounded the event, including an equestrian procession by members of the university, and the successful candidate painted his symbol in bull=s blood on the wall humanities 269 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 of his college. This university custom continued to assert its presence even after the bullfights were no longer held, with red paint taking the place of blood. Like many of the striking historical details in Adrian Shubert=s excellent study, this account of the bullfight=s place in university life calls into question accepted interpretations of the bullfight as a vehicle for timeless values (such as bravery and honour) or conflicts (between nature and culture or male and female) inherent in Spanish culture. The doctoral examination is simply one of a large number of occasions for bullfights that Shubert records, and the shift to red paint indicates that the customs associated with bullfighting underwent changes and adaptations over time. In keeping with such questioning, Shubert=s central argument is that the Spanish bullfight is a >social institution= that has changed in response to shifting historical circumstances. His study places the bullfight in a complex and illuminating relationship to the general history of Spain. Shubert=s introduction reviews the three main theories that trace the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 268-270
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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