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570 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 cultural mixture that we have in Canada, particularly in Winnipeg, where there are over thirty-one nationalities. Hoda should be the head of a new tribe which includes all the former ones.' Wiseman's small fictional canon -in which, as one of her former students records, 'the end of a novel was a question and the novel itself an answer'- remains an important one, and it is one that will endure. Like Hoda, she too was, in her own substantial way, the head of a new tribe. (RUSSELL BROWN) Pauline Butling. Seeing in the Dark: The Poetry ofPhyllis Webb Wilfrid Laurier University Press. xiv, 184. $24.95 In her preface to her study of Phyllis Webb's poetry, Pauline Butling describes her critical approach as a somewhat uneasy blend of traditional formalist analysis and more politically engaged feminist and postcolonial critical methodologies. She explains that she has chosen a circular rather than a linear structure for her exploration of Webb's work in order to resist 'the evolutionary metaphor of growth and development' that traditionally shapes single-author studies. Thus, while her first chapter focuses primarily on Webb's earlier volumes of poetry, it also includes discussion of later work Although Butling's suggestion that Naked Poems (1965) represents a pivotal point in the development ofWebb's poetic from a somewhat rigidly formalist modernism to a more open, postmodemist style seems to nndermine slightly her stated aim of resisting linearity, the overall structure of the ensuing analysis does circle throughout Webb's work. Butling's second and third chapters examine Webb's Water and Light (1984) from different perspectives; Chapter 4goes back toWebb's work of the 1950s and 196os to trace a shift in her pronoun usage from a traditional 'l/you' configuration iri the earlier poetry to a more inclusive 'I/we' configuration in more recent volumes such as Wilson's Bowl (1g8o) and Hanging Fire (1990); chapter 5 focuses on intertextuality in Wilson's Bowl and Water and Light and also considers intertextual elements in other volumes. In her final two chapters, Butling shifts her focus. Chapter 6 reviews Webb criticism from the 1950s through the 1990s, tracing a progression of critical readings of Webb's work from formalist to feminist and poststructualist analyses. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Webb's work was interpreted in traditional liberal humanist formalist terms, an approach which values its formal complexity but tends to limit and distort its range of potential meanings. In the 1970s and 198os, several feminist interventions in Webb criticism usefully challenge the patriarchal values that nnderlie traditional formalist aesthetics and recognize the feminist elements in Webb's writing, but sometimes tend towards a limiting essentialism. From the late 1980s into the 1990s, critics have adopted more sophisticated HUMANITIES 571 approaches, producing a 'situated and historicized criticism' which offers more fruitful avenues of approach to the style and meaning of Webb's poetry, and which accounts for the processes of the construction of meaning both in the poetry and in the critic's own analysis. Finally, chapter 8 provides a 'bio-text' which situates the poetry within the context of the events of Webb's life; this chapter is particularly interesting for the glimpses it offers into the politics of Canadian literary production and canon formation over the course of Webb's career. Butling's aim is to contribute to the contemporary critical opening up of entrances into what she calls the 'dark' of Webb's poetry, which she defines as the 'dark' of the Western patriarchal symbolic order which ascribes such negative attributes as darkness and irrationality to women. Butting argues that even in her earliest work, but more particularly in work produced after her introduction to Black Mountain postmodernist poetics in the early 1960s, Webb's writing works to undermine the binary oppositions of Western thought: 'Webb blurs [the] Enlighterunent bifurcation of mind/body, reason/sensuality by initiating a seeing within the dark,' articulating the experience of the 'other' and working to decentre the sovereign subject and open up possibilities of multiple subjectivities. Butling'scarefulreadings of Webb's poems are nuanced and perceptive, and her argument that Webb's poetics...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 570-571
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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