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Robertson Davies

A Mingling of Contrarieties

Edited by Camille La Bossière and Linda M. Morra

Publication Year: 2001

This collection of essays on the writing of Robertson Davies addresses the basic problems in reading his work by looking at the topics of doubling, disguise, irony, paradox, and dwelling in "gaps" or spaces "in between." The essays present new insights on a broad range of topics in Davies' oeuvre and represent one of the first major discussions devoted to Davies' work since his death in 1995.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

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Introduction: Davies Tristram-gistus

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pp. 1-11

Once upon a time, in 1949, Robertson Davies revisited the time of his youth to recall of his first reading in Aldous Huxley that it lifted him into "the sunshine world of high comedy" and cast over his life "a summer glory... which no conceivable winter could dispel...

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The Concert of His Life: Perspectives on the Masks of Robertson Davies

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pp. 13-32

It is the spring of 1985 and Robertson Davies is writing to his old friend Gordon Roper about an exhausting publicity trip he has just undergone to promote What's Bred in the Bone. He writes from Windover, his well-appointed rural retreat in the Caledon Hills north of Toronto, where above his desk hangs Yousuf Karsh's photographic portrait of Carl...

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"A Hint of the Basic Brimstone": The Humour of Robertson Davies

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pp. 33-44

The comic mode is inseparable from Robertson Davies' way of viewing the world; it is the illuminating medium, that "light that plays on the writer's mind, in which all aspects of his work live and take their being."

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Undermining Comedy: Shadows of Determinism in the Salterton Novels

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pp. 45-56

Robertson Davies' Salterton Trilogy has long played a poor second cousin to the more accomplished and widely studied Deptford novels. But if the first trilogy has garnered less attention than his subsequent fiction, the critics who have examined Tempest-Tost (1951), Leaven of Malice (1954), and A Mixture of Frailties (1958) have spoken with a perhaps...

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Magic in the Web: Robertson Davies and Shamanstvo

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pp. 57-65

Robertson Davies published books in seven different decades, books ranging from literary criticism to popular journalism to drama, and, perhaps most importantly, to novels. My edition of Happy Alchemy advertises thirty-two books by Davies-and that list does not seem to include all the plays. The task of coming to terms with the whole of Davies' oeuvre is a...

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The Leaven of Wine and Spirits in the Fiction of Robertson Davies

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pp. 67-80

"Visited a friend this evening who had procured a bottle of a very special tonic called Noilly Prat; in the interest of temperance, we experimented to see how much of the tonic it was necessary to put with a jigger of gin in order to kill the horrid taste. After several tries we got the measurements exactly right." So says Samuel Marchbanks in his...

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Metadrama and Melodrama: Postmodern Elements in the Plays of Robertson Davies

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pp. 81-97

Robertson Davies' first play, Three Gypsies, a romantic comedy set in Wales, was written during Davies' final year at Oxford (1937-1938), just before his brief first career as a theatre professional.

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"Where There's a Will, There Are Always Two Ways": Doubling in World of Wonders

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pp. 99-110

In World of Wonders there are, as Magnus Eisengrim says, "double words for everything."

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Authentic Forgeries: Hermeneutics, Artifice, and Authenticity in Robertson Davies' What's Bred in the Bone

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pp. 111-124

When Simon Darcourt calls Francis Cornish a "true son of Hermes" early in What's Bred in the Bone, he provides a hermeneutic "skeleton key" both to meaning in the novel and to a comprehension of Davies' sense of self as moral fictionist.

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The Myth and Magic of a Textual Truth and/or a Metaphorical Reading of The Deptford Trilogy

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pp. 125-146

This is a fine Davies-like observation: symptomatically uncomplicated and rich in allusion as only the uncomplicated can be. It echoes a number of his comments that relate to the act of reading and to the actual reader. Condensed, all of them in one way or another convey what Davies succinctly noted in A Voice from the Attic: "The reader can only interpret, giving the author...

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"Converting the Clerisy": Quest/ioning, Contradictions, and Ethics in The Cornish Triptych

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pp. 147-155

Canadians can be great seekers, or questers, for identity. The quest for identity is not one that can be achieved by the individual, for persons always evolve, and a conclusion to a quest must necessarily indicate some form of closure, just as we expect our stories to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is in this context that I see Robertson Davies' work. We set off, a company of...

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"Medical Consultation" for Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man

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pp. 157-174

This is not an academic paper but a story with academic interest. It is the story of a book collector who particularly collected the books of Robertson Davies and who contacted him to ask if he would sign some books. From this grew an acquaintance of eight years and from that acquaintance came a correspondence in which that highly encyclopaedic among...


E-ISBN-13: 9780776616865
E-ISBN-10: 0776616862
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776605319
Print-ISBN-10: 0776605313

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2001

Series Title: Reappraisals: Canadian Writers