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348 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 innovation of frottage and then proceeding with his own analysis, Patten patiently walks the reader through Ferguson=s (rather obsessive) efforts to find materials with the properties he desires and to adjust them to meet his purposes by cutting and arranging them. In conveying, and then exhibiting, the physical and intellectual struggle of Ferguson=s trial and error, Patten powerfully demonstrates, rather than alludes to, Ferguson=s commitment to reveal painting as a practical medium full of life and deconstructionist potential. When, at the end of the essay, he addresses the way frottage complicates the already fraught relationship between the real and its referents, the analysis seems firmly grounded in the work. The second and slightly longer essay, >Late Style in the Work of Gerald Ferguson,= is by National Gallery curator Diana Nemiroff and was previously published in the Journal of Canadian Art History. Nemiroff sets out to consider the notion of a >late style= and its theoretical problematics. However, in this context, her essay serves primarily as a counterpoint to Patten=s. Nemiroff traces the long span of Ferguson=s career and the larger artistic and social milieu in which he has functioned, stopping at precisely the historical moment in 1999 where Patten begins. Nemiroff=s essay also ensures that the larger catalogue can function as both a comprehensive primer on Ferguson and a scholarly consideration of his recent practice. If the texts fall short on any front, it is in offering a sense of Ferguson=s place in wider current art practices. From art historical literature, it would seem this is a common problem in the consideration of senior artists. While it is most probably unintentional, the authors impart the sense that Ferguson responded extensively to external conditions and other artists when he rose to prominence in the late 1960s and even through the 1980s but that now he responds primarily to himself and to his own practice. Catalogues are not the obvious place for comparative criticism, but a notable absence in these discussions is another senior Canadian artist, Betty Goodwin, whose prints of clothing may not follow exactly the same method (stamping rather than frottage, print rather than paint) but whose process is not far off and produces a remarkably similar aesthetic. Moreover, taken together, a more nuanced discussion of the relations between the >real= and the >representation= might be possible. (SARAH PARSONS) Margaret Atwood. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing Cambridge University Press. xxvii, 219. US $18.00 Based on her Empson Lectures for 2000, Negotiating with the Dead is Margaret Atwood=s most recent collection of essays; it is also her most personal. With a glance at biography B there have been two recent biographies B she offers readers her most autobiographical narrative to date, which makes sense, given the topic of the lectures and this volume. At their humanities 349 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 best, these six chapters, each one a meditation on the act of writing (or reading), display the irony and incisive wit that I find in Second Words or Strange Things. They also reveal a good deal about Margaret Atwood, the writer. In revising her lectures for book form, Atwood has provided a number of relevant prefacing quotations from a wide range of writers who constitute her own great tradition; each one of these passages, like the works considered in each chapter, serves to enrich the points she makes about the writing life B its discipline, loneliness, rewards, dangers, and seductions. Writing, she argues in the title trope of the volume, is a negotiation with the dead, with writers who have gone before, and with figures (real ancestors, deep-seated fears, powerful images) who tempt and haunt our imaginations. To undertake this negotiation, the writer must enter the labyrinth, descend into the dark underworld to learn the secrets of the dead, and return, if possible, to tell us what they have found. Atwood describes the writer as powerful but elusive. In her second chapter, she situates contemporary writers in a postromantic tradition of slippery doubles, split...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 348-350
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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