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554 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Reinhold Kramer. Scatology and Civility in the English-Canadian Novel University of Toronto Press. viii, 258. $5o.oo This book is a rare treat. It is highly sophisticated, theoretically nimble, critically insightful, and hilariously filthy without being in the least offensive. Few scholarly works make one laugh aloud or guffaw with juicy relish (at least not intentionally), but Reinhold Kramer manages to do just that in Scatology and Civility in the English-Canadian Novel. This is a superb, funny, and thoroughly scholarly exploration of filth (and its baggage) in Canadian writing, an exploration well worth the effort it takes to engage fully with Kramer's complex arguments and subtle reasoning. Kramer is the most interesting kind of eclectic thinker; on one hand he marshals an extensive cast of fellow theorists, but on the other hand deploys them only in the most critical of ways and only in the best interests of his own arguments. He works with premier scatologists such as Derrida, Elias, Bakhtin, Bataille, Baudrillard, Mary Douglas, Freud, and Kristeva; he also culls interesting strategies from critics like Elaine Scarry, Peter Stallybrass, Allon White, and Arthur Kraker. But what marks the book as both deliciously whimsical and intellectually weighty is not the lists of theoretical glitterati, but the fact that Kramer moves so deftly throughout from low to high to in-between and back again (as it were). The book contains equally erudite discussions ofJonathan Swift, flush toilets, bodily ejecta, bums, and the etiquette books of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries -not to mention the most bawdy aspects of major Canadian writers such as Atwood, Cohen, Davies, Klein, Mitchell, Munro, and Richler. Along the way Kramer also includes insightful discussions of both scatologically tangential writers like Margaret Laurence and Susanna Moodie, as well as lower-profile authors such as Harold Sonny Ladoo and David Williams. The book is divided into three sections, dealing respectively with 'Manners and the English-Canadian Novel,' 'The Social Body: Scatology and Ideological Hierarchy,' and /Two Studies in Scatology and Literary Genre.' Within this triptych Kramer then traces the multiple ways in which bodily disgust· (and its objects) function in English-Canadian writing. Kramer's interests run the gamut from purity and defilement (and how this binarism can be used to differentiate the civilized from the savage) to the exclusion of filth to mark the creation of a civilized self, to the intriguing scatological markings of race, class, gender, and subjectivity (not to mention science, technology and religion). Kramer is at his best when he weds a literary theory of scatology to a psycho-sociological theory of class or race or gender. Through this strategic yoking he can redirect Bakhtin's (and Stallybrass and White's) homologous readings of the personal and social body, and in the process develop a startlingly original reading of English-Canadian writing. Within these contexts Jake Hersh's refusal to HUMANITIES 555 pick up his own stool in St Urbain's Horseman, for example, marks not simply a moment of bourgeois squeamislmess but a poignant symbolic moment of public strain and personal ambivalence. IfScatologtj and Civility in the English-Canadian Novel has any weaknesses, it is the irritating (editorial?) choice to include both the original language and its English translation within the main body of the text. Because Kramer works so extensively with Freud, Kristeva, and other French and German theorists, the book often has multiple languages cranuned into a single paragraph; this creates an effete self-preening effect in the book, one easily avoided by relegating the original languages to the endnotes. This, however, is a minor quibble about a superb accomplishment, a rich and nasty feast of a book that rewards a thoughtful (but not penuckety) reading. (GARY BOIRE) Sheila Latham and David Latham, editors. Magic Lies: The Art of W.O. Mitchell University of Toronto Press. xi, 360. $24.95 This many-minded collection ably explores several vital issues in Canada's long and complex relationship with one of its best loved, if not best understood , literary figures. One quiet but widespread view has held that W.O. published what became a classic in 1947, but that in his subsequent career, varied...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 554-555
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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