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humanities 283 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 limits of deconstructive readings when confronted with explicit issues of culpability and the demands of good judgment. Cobley=s own preference for pastiche in dealing with modern/postmodern theory means she forgoes this kind of historical criticism, the kind characterized most forcefully by Habermas=s confrontation with his Frankfurt School forefathers and the problems of modernity in his Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Though her egalitarian and fair treatment is a welcome relief from some of the more tired polemics, it is also the Achilles heel of a very challenging argument. (RICHARD SCHAEFER) Glenn Wilmott. Unreal Country: Modernity in the Canadian Novel in English McGill-Queen=s University Press. viii, 236. $65.00 This is a valuable study of modernist fiction in Canada. It provides a series of illuminating lenses for reassessing our novels and offers fine close readings of well- and less-known texts. Glenn Wilmott=s central argument is that modernism existed in the English-Canadian novel from the turn of the last century, but it was not the high modernism of Joyce, Eliot, and Pound. Rather than debate the evolution of modernist critical thought, however, Wilmott provides ways of looking at what we have always had and, thereby, helping us to see it anew. He takes the aesthetics of expressionism, the gendering of history, and the concretely situated specifics of regional location as instructive frameworks for his readings of selected texts, which range from Think of the Earth by Bertram Brooker, to familiar novels by F.P. Grove, Sinclair Ross, and Ethel Wilson, to the now neglected The Nymph and the Lamp and several other Maritime novels unknown to me. Of these three frameworks, the one I find most interesting is that of expressionist aesthetics. True, I have argued that any understanding of modernism must include expressionism, so I guess that, with me, Wilmott is preaching to the converted. However, he explores the expressionist aspects of his chosen texts with care and nuance and leaves a reader with an increased awareness of the complexity and richness of the modernist moment B a moment that has been greatly oversimplified by scholars. When he turns his attention to matters of gender, with the binary of masculinized transcendence grounded on a feminization of history, I find his readings of Grove and Wilson especially exciting. My only complaint here is that I would have liked more: how about Watson=s The Double Hook? Or MacLennan=s Two Solitudes? I also wish Wilmott had introduced the visual arts into his frame of reference because this analogy works nicely in the chapter on expressionism. For example, as we grapple with the hierarchy enshrined in visual modernism, which values abstract above representational (figural) art and defines the former as serious, masculine, and transcendent, but the latter as trivial, feminine, and sentimental, it helps 284 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 to know that similar oppositions are at work in literature. This hierarchy exists in Canada with the valorization of automatisme, the colour-field work of Jack Bush, or the aggressive technique and rhetoric of Harold Town over the more representional work of women contemporaries such as Prudence Heward, Kathleen Munn, and Molly Lamb Bobak. In his final chapter Wilmott tackles that other Achilles heel of Canadian modernism: regionalism. Here he argues that the invisible modern cities in rural (and regional) Canadian novels are present, even if we don=t see them, and I think he is absolutely spot on. Surely that is exactly what presses in on the stories in Grove, Wilson, Watson, Raddall, Buckler, and many others! Put simply, Wilmott reminds us that just because the setting is rural does not mean that modernity is not a force to be reckoned with or that the narrative and stylistic resources of the writer are not modernist, even as they express what Wilmott calls an anti-modernist agenda. Although I would argue with Wilmott=s term anti-modernist (I prefer categories of modernisms that include the realist and the expressionist), he explains his term and uses it consistently to describe the resistance to modernity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 283-284
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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