Infants in Canadian Fiction
Publication Year: 2003
Although the infant has been a consistent figure in literature (and, for many people, a significant figure in personal life), there’s been little attention focused on infants, or on their place in Canadian fiction, until now.
In this book, Sandra Sabatini examines Canadian fiction to trace the ideological charge behind the represented infant. Examining writers from L.M. Montgomery and Frederick Philip Grove to Thomas King and Terry Griggs, Sabatini compares women’s writing about babies with the way infants appear in texts by men over the course of a century. She discovers a range of changing attitudes toward babies. After being seen as a source of financial burden, social shame, or sentimental fantasy, infants have increasingly become a source of value and meaning.
The book challenges the perception of babies as passive objects of care and argues for a reading of the infant as a subject in itself. It also reflects upon how the representations of infancy in Canadian literature offer an intriguing portrait of how we imagine ourselves.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
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I'm grateful to Ted McGee and Charlene Diehl-Jones, first readers of this manuscript in all its manifestations at the University of Waterloo. Linda Warley also provided criticism that strengthened the context and arguments put forth. ...
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Beside my desk there is a painting of a dark-haired woman in blue and a fair baby clothed in white lying against a white pillow. The woman leans toward the baby who raises plump arms toward her. Neither is smiling, but their shared gaze is intent and direct. Instead of a wall behind the woman, there is the suggestion ...
Chapter One: Early Twentieth-Century Infants
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Reading the infant's place in Canadian fiction in the twentieth century involves examining its movement from the margins of textual representation to a more central site. This is the first and most obvious development. The twentieth century marked a dramatic change in social concern for infants, specifically for the ...
Chapter Two: Two Men and a Lady: (Il)legitimacy in Infant Representation, 1940-60
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Early twentieth-century babies, as Montgomery and Grove wrote about them, were sites of tension between desire and rejection, and to a degree, between romantic ideal and hard reality. Illegitimacy does not present itself as an issue in these early texts, but that changes in the writing of the middle decades of the ...
Chapter Three: Speaking of Reproduction: The 1960s and 1970s
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There is a transformation in the manner in which infants are represented in Canadian literature after 1960. During the 1960s and '70s, the baby begins to occupy more space in the literary world. Canadian women writers like Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, Audrey Thomas, and Marian Engel take up the work ...
Chapter Four: Wider Truth: Infants in the 1980s and 1990s
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Landsberg's view of childrearing in our culture is an inclusive one, referring as she does to "parental love," and not just maternal love. Moreover, she gives equal time to the "vitality and beauty of motherhood" and to "the tender feelings of the father." Those feelings have been essentially ignored in literary ...
Chapter Five: The Hope of the World
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These two epigraphs acknowledge the importance of babies to adults and the importance of adults to babies in the human capacity to sustain life. It is an acknowledgement that should be redundant and yet, as far as literary criticism is concerned, nothing is more obvious than that the baby's importance has been ignored. ...
Chapter Six: The Subject of the Dream Is the Dreamer
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Annie Dillard writes about the nature of perception, how a premature baby wrapped in foil for warmth resembles nothing so much as a baked potato. It is small but significant to the people dancing to get its attention. The image is analogous to infant representation in Canadian fiction. Over the twentieth century ...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2003