In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews77 through vicissitudes of taste and economics described in memoirs, biographies, the press, and novels. Memoirs and biographies, however, are, like novels, complex genres of symbolic patterns and dense significations. The hypostatized exemplar of the struggling-artist-whoattains -fame-and-fortune was too common to be read literally; its objectivity and function require interrogation. The relation of biography to history is problematic and analyses of such documents as the Artists ' Benevolent Fund records (see Kent 487-506) or professional societies' logs help contextualize the intentionaUty of memoirs and contemporary biographies intended for the general public. This complicated infrastructure demands further excavation to problematize topics suggested by Gillett ' s excellent seminal study. Works Cited Clark, T. J. The Painting of Modem Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers. New York: Knopf, 1984. Cooter, Roger. The Cultural Meaning of Popular Science. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Kent, Christopher. "Short of Tin' in a Golden Age." Victorian Studies 33.4 (1990): 487506 . Julie F. Codell Arizona State University Carole Gerson. A Purer Taste: The Writing and Reading of Fiction in Nineteenth-Century Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1989. xiv + 210. $30.00 (cloth). $16.95 (paper). This book essays a literary history of British North America ' s and, later, Canada ' s English-language fiction over a ninety-year (1820-1910) period. It is a courageous book because the problems of the period's social, political, and cultural histories have only recently been traced, while the questions of its Uterature are only now being systematically raised, and have not hitherto been comprehensively addressed. While Carole Gerson deserves credit for her careful attention to out-of-the-way sources in periodicals of the time (still unavailable to her through the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions [CLHM] at the time of her 78Victorian Review work), the underlying premises of the book have not been considered with the same care, and the assembly of the research has not been fully shaped. A Purer Taste leaves one with the sense of a partial study, giving rise to questions about treatment of these ninety years together. Gerson ' s chief finding is not a new one: the period ' s fiction was conservative in temperament ideology, and form. But was it homogeneous to the extent that Gerson implies? Cultural historians Carl Berger and Doug Owram, intellectual historians A. B. McKillop and Susan Mann Trofimenkoff, science historian Suzanne Zeller, and religion historian WiUiam Westfall have not found homogeneity a principal quality of the pre- and post-Confederation periods in Canada. They have tended to work inductively, by approaching strains of ideas as they developed over more modest temporal spans than Gerson has chosen. Westfall has cut a great swath but Two Worlds details remarkable changes, not similarities, in matters religious and spiritual in only Upper Canada. There lies another matter: Gerson ' s grander project ' s choice not to pay attention to region as a significant factor in her survey. If, then, her findings are strikingly homogeneous—the period beginning and ending with the sentimental/historical romance as both the pre-eminent form of fiction and the choice of critics and reviewers—they must be seen as exceptional. I do not mean to imply that the findings are not accurate; it may be that chiefly agricultural societies yield romantic and sentimental temperaments artistically, while industrialism produces the disruption of realism by moving workers from the land to a more abstract definition of their lives. The point is rather that Gerson · s findings require counterdistinction from studies of early Canada from other perspectives. Not to treat the literature of the period and society ' s response to it in the light of cultural and intellectual history seems odd, especially in view of most readers ' , including Gerson ' s, view of the lack ofgreat works of fiction. A. B. McKillop has sketched out the route for intellectual historians, and literary historians would do well to consider it before adopting something else: ... if the intellectual historian in Canada looks for originality of thought he will find precious little. But having faced this fact, he should not let it serve as an excuse for ignoring the thought which did exist If he sets as the aim...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 77-81
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.