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HUMANITIES "47 gentleman who later became prominent in the establishment of copyright and the protection of both author and publisher. Although such reservations about this first study of the book trade in Canada are necessary, one hastens to add that this most welcome work of scholarship is a significant contribution to the knowledge and awareness of our intellectual and practical cultural life. Parker's book has set the general scene by virtue ofhis many new insights. Itwill stimulate others to . undertake inore specialized bibliographical and biographical studies in those areas impossible to coverin an extensive work of this kind. (DOUGLAS G. LOCHHEAD) Gaile McGregor. The Wacousta Syndrome: Explorations in the Canadian Langscape University of Toronto Press. 473ยท $29.95 'From one pointof view the "box" makes a mockery ofhuman aspirations. Fromanother, a demythicized landscape says that anything is possible - at least "inside". Canadian literature in the twentieth century has largely addressed itself to the task of negotiating if not actually reconciling these two extremes.' Thisstatement, occurring in Gaile McGregor's The Wacousta Syndrome at the end of chapter 4, seems to me to be the book's most viable and most valuable thesis. A reader mayor may not accept the restating and extending of the familiar Wacousta/nature/man thesis in chapter 1, 'The isolated fort ... becomes a correlative for the beleaguered human psyche attempting to preserve its integrity in the face of an alien, encompassing nature.' It may well be difficult to accept an extension of this statement as a continuing, underlining constant in Canadian society and the 'Canadian psyche' and equally difficult to accept entirely the premise that our literature, first to last, in spite of time, geography, and the diversity of our ethnic origins and experiences, reflects that beleaguered psyche. For example, I would point out the benign influence of New England Transcendentalists and their precursors, particularly Bryant and Whittier , on the imaginative processes of a long line of our writers and poets from Traill, Moodie, Roberts, Carman, and Lampman to George Elliott (The Kissing Man, 1962). It is not difficult, however, to accept McGregor's notion of our literature's negotiating and reconCiling role, especially in view of her encyclopaedic knowledge and insightful readings of scores of examples from both prose and poetry. This book is a vast compendium of literary and art criticism, a comparative study of Canadian and American works and writers, Fenimore Cooper to Ken Kesey, and a continuing argument for Canadians ' essential differences from Americans. Its nationalistic bias is attractive, perhaps seductively so, for who among us does not wish to be a part of a unique Canadian identity, differentiated, even if negatively, from the American mass? Reviewing the book entirely and fairly is difficult, however - perhaps impossible, for art critics will be as incapable ofjudgingMcGregor's literary criticism as Iam ofjudging her opinions on our art. Because I can see easily what she sees I can certainly accept her statements on the Group of Seven: 'Whatever they might say about the effects of nature they actually saw something there that was far from wholesome: and specifically on the work of Lawren Harris: 'He seems to want to distance himself from what he feels to be an alien environment by transforming it into geometry.' But I have neither the experience nor the criticaltools to follow or evaluate her findings on many other artists or the generalizations she draws from her observations. Ican, however, and do, applaud her nerve in crossing disciplines - far too few of us try to break out of the confining moulds of our so-called 'special fields: Her chapters have provocative names, often self-consciously so, and they could all do with explanatory subtitles: 'The House of Revelations' (obsession with death and the impelling urge to life); 'Harlequin Romances' (strong, surviving, enduring women); 'Farewell Charles Atlas' (males and females and the forging of new relationships). Chapter 3, 'Frontier Antithesis: is especially interesting as McGregor demolishes Frederick Jackson Turner's ' frontier thesis' as applicable to Canadian experience and expansion. For some time, as she notes, contemporary Canadian historians have been revising the work of earlier colleagues who adopted premises implicit in Turner's thesis and thereby came to define the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 147-149
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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