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460 LETTERS IN CANADA 1979 vanishing western heritage - Wallace Stegner - was present for the proceedings. While the essays in Crossing Frontiers seldom offer definitive statements , they will be of interest to a wide variety of readers of several disciplines. Don D. Walker (Utah) offers an elegant plea for a mOre humanistic, less statistically preoccupied emphasis in the writings of modern western historians. He calls for a history that illuminates 'human moments: that reduces the gap between history and literature without diminishing either. Howard Lamar (Yale) and Earl Pomeroy (San Diego) discuss American western settlement on the basis of surviving pioneer memoirs and in the process throw into question many of the cherished tenets of the still-powerful Turner frontier thesis, while Lewis Thomas cogently examines the influence of the Anglicized elite in Alberta's social development. The literary essays have in common a passion for 'mythic' interpretation that is at once illuminating and restrictive. Leslie Fiedler charmingly reboils the tea leaves of The Vanishing American (rooting Thoreau in Alexander Henry and calling A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers a 'covert or crypto-Western'). Robert Kroetsch makes a poem of his comparative study offailed sexuality and the fear ofwomenthe mystique of 'the western' again! - in As For Me and My House and My Antonia. Finally, in what many felt to be the best of these essays, Eli Mandel develops an interesting distinction between the American attitude to the West as 'space' and the Canadian sense of the West as 'region,' between the idea of spiritual quest and ancestral dream, and applies this 'poetics of the West' to three widely differing poets - Edward Dorn, Michael Ondaatje, and Kroetsch. Still, with all the mythic freefalling one soon recognizes the need for other approaches. Fortunately the four summing-up views and Dick Harrison's introduction do provide glimpses of other modes of investigation and frame this boundarycrossing book with a clear sense of the ground actually covered and some trenchant insights into the 'territory ahead.' (MICHAEL A. PETERMAN) Louis Dudek. Technology and Culture. Six Lectures The Golden Dog Press. vii, 96. $2.95 paper Five of the guest lectures that make up this book were given between 1969 and 1971 and record the author's reaction to what he calls in a shy preface 'the student revolt of the sixties.' Taking an idiosyncratic position between the pessimism of Jacques Ellul and the optimism of Marshall McLuhan, Dudek assesses 'a radical imbalance, temporarily: in what he sees as an essential continuity of technology with human evolution . In the task of regaining a harmony between capability and desire 'we must rely on the gravitational pull of human nature: which Dudek affirms as progressing towards increasingly flexible and individual HUMANITIES 461 forms of control. He projects this guarded liberalism into technological innovation itself, seeing both in the trend and in the particular invention a self-correcting cycle answerable to human self-reliance. The cycle begins in the identity of user and owner, moves through estrangement and the stratification of control, to the return of the unit to the lives of the individual and smaller groups, though on a mass scale. His viewpoint applies an organic model found in George Kubler's The Shape of Time, an account of formal change in art, and it draws on anthropologists in the tradition of Morgan, Tyler, White, and Childe, who are concerned with the evolution of civilization as a whole. The model proposes that in any cultural medium complexity builds up to a point of contradiction with human need and response; the medium escapes the threat by adducing a simpler beginning. Dudek does not face clearly enough the equilibrium bias of this model which is congenial to his progressive and civilized view of cultural change. The argument is formed in the serendipity of his bookishness. It comes unsupported by cultural theory or the politics of information. Indeed, he tends to shy away from the theoretical, claiming in his third lecture that heady specialization in the modem disciplines is a case of 'hypertrophy: or the self-obstructing phase of cultural growth, when means are elaborated without due regard to ends in effective explanation (as in science), in audience response...


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