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S.). COLMAN Margaret Atwood, Lucien Goldmann's Pascal, and the Meaning of 'Canada' I For Margaret Atwood in Survival, Canadian writers are, as well as being private people, 'transmitters of their culture."Jt is possible to discern in a particular literature, presumably in any identifiable literature, 'a number of key patterns' (p 13) that distinguish it from all other literatures . Each ofthese patterns must occur often enough in the literature as a whole 'to make it significant: that is, to justify its inclusion in a collection of such patterns which, taken together, constitute the specific and definitive 'shape' of the literature concerned (p 13). In these assertions so far (that there are identifiable literatures that transmit cultures and that Canadian writers, in using a number of key patterns in their work, transmit the culture of which they are members) there is no assumption about the character of Canadian culture, although it is assumed that an identifiable Canadian culture exists. For Atwood's argument to proceed it is necessary to decidewhether, in speaking of 'Canada: one is dealing with 'a country or a culture' (p 19). This distinction of hers I take to indicate the difference between a culture in the sense of a way of thought and action of some clearly identifiable and unified national entity, and a culture in some other sense. Atwood plainly chooses, or assumes, the former. The 'shape' of Canadian literature reflects 'a national habit of mind' (p 13). This jump in her argument from writers as 'transmitters of their culture' to writers as reflectors of a national habit of mind makes an important addition to her assumptions, the presupposition that there exists a national cultural entity, 'Canada: which, while different from other national cultures to which Atwood refers (England, USA, Poland), is nevertheless a national culture in a similar sense. It is conceivable, however, if one does not make this additional assumption, that Canadian writers might be transmitting their culture without its being a national culture, or without its being so in at all the same sense as the others mentioned. Medieval Europe or the Austro-Hungarian Empire might provide interesting models for comparison. But for Atwood it is true that, when a Canadian citizen reads a Canadian book, what he sees in that reflector or mirror is himself, and behind himself 'a reflection of the world he lives in' (p 15). That world, or culture, is a specific national culture, a national habit of mind, reflected in the shape of Canadian literature as a whole. Without such self-revelatory mirrors one has to UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME XLVlJI, NUMBER 3, SPRING 1979 0042-0247'79/°500-0245$01.5°/0 © UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS 1979 246 S.J. COLMAN 'travel blind' (p 16) and is in some sense lost. According to Atwood most Canadians have in fact been lost, have had to ask Northrop Frye's question 'Where is here?' (p 17), because they have paid no attention to the specific and defining characteristics of their own literature. 'Canada as state of mind' is 'an unknown territory for the people who live in it' (p 18). It may well be true that, to take another of Atwood's metaphors, Canadians have not used the map of their own minds that Canadian literature provides. But perhaps that 'geography' (p 18) is not as national as Atwood implies. The metaphor of the map itself raises questions. Who drew it, intending to indicate what, and fDr whom? Is there only one map? That there might be at least two can be seen from Atwood's admission that there is a French Canadian literature and that it is different in certain respects from the rest of Canadian literature. Although there are, therefore, as the commonplace has it, at least two cultures in Canada, for her they are both Canadian in the sense of together CDnstituting a nation. She mentions another important demarcation within Canadian culture. A change has occurred, she says, quite recently. Canadian writing has started to appear that makes 'explicit ... something that was hitherto implicit' (p 241). It has been the tendency 'in English Canada ... to connect one's social protest not with the Canadian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 245-262
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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