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HUMANITIES 2.45 between poetry and loss in women's writing. Discussing 'scenes of female enlightenment,' in which a woman is taught the 'science of herself,' Mary Jacobus suggests the manner in which melancholy, in a context where the education of the mother is conceived as a feminization of the masculine subject, functions as a form of resistance. In lThe Failures of Romanticism,' Jerome McGann explores the gendering ofloss during the Romanticperiod, and the important place of women's sentimental writing in a poetry of disillusion and despair. (ALAN BEWELL) Susan Glickman. The Picturesque and the Sublime: a Poetics of the Canadian Landscape McGill-Queen's University Press. xii, 214. $49.95 'Suppose the country to have been unexplored' is William Gilpin's 1792 admonition for the 'picturesque traveller,' and it fits theopen-minded spirit in which Susan Glickman explores the quite familiar territory of the picturesque and the sublime in Canadian writing, especially poetry. Feeling that I knew the terms, their meanings, their application to Canadian writing, I was not excited by the title of Glickman's book It didn't lead me to expect readings so refreshingly familiar with but ungoverned by critical and theoretical orthodoxy, such sophisticated thinking against the grain of certain vulnerable commonplaces ofCanadian criticism. 'It is the argument ofthis book,' Glickman says, 'thateighteenth-century aesthetic conventions still inform English Canadian poetry, particularly the poetry of landscape.' One of the book's surprises is how well the conventions of the picturesque and (especially) the sublime apply to contemporary Canadian poetry. Another is that, having read 'the texts behind the texts,' Glickman has thought her way through British poetry and poetics from the eighteenth century on. The originality of her book is by no means confined to its Canadian content. Glickma~'s belief 'that Canadian poets have consistently transformed their English (and broadly European) literary inheritance to make it speak of their experience in this country - in particular their confrontation with the land' does not dispet but certainly mitigates, the commonplace that Canadian 'colonial mentality' inevitably produced derivative writing. Thomas Cary's'Abram's Plains' will never be my bedside reading, but Glickman has raised my respect for the poem. Having addressed and solved the problem of 'how to place Canadian literature in a world context . while treating it as the product ofa specific place,' Glickman establishes, for instance, that 'Cary's conversion of the terrifying into the transcendental precedes rather than follows Wordsworth, though the existence of such a pattern in Canadian poetry - when it is acknowledged at all - is usually attributed to Wordsworth's influence.' A similar insight is that Roberts's 'Ave: An Ode for the Centenary of the Birth of Percy Bysshe Shelley' 246 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 'demonstrates a deliberate and confident appropriation of the Romantic ethos and aesthetic' of the sublime - just as his Songs of the Common Day move the picturesque towards-the imagism that is an important component of modernism. As she consolidates a shift in our way of looking at the history of Canadian landscape poetry, Glickmanslaughters a few sacred cows of Canadian criticism. She shows that Frye's 'garrison mentality' and the terror he saw Canadian nature inspiring in Canadian poets depend on selective reading driven by a predisposition towards beliefinhuman alienation from nature. Since Frye was a powerful and persuasive thinker with a magisterial way of command,ing any subject he took up, it's no wonder a generation of Canadian criticism took shape around such images. But it's surprising how partial, even wrong, he looks when the evidence he ignored is qujetly presented. Glickman rightly finds a truer accOlmt of the ambiguity of Canadian landscape poetry in Dennis Lee writing as follows on the poetry of Al Purdy: 'Canadian Literature has long included an experience which the theologians call mysterium tremendum - the encounter with holy otherness, most commonly approached here through encounter with the land - to which the appropriate response is awe and terror. It is a very different thing from alienation.' Glickmanpicks this up as a highlight of her reading for the sublime, which, she says, Iaccepts that nature is always already" Other and will evade any net of language, colonial or...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 245-246
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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