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HUMANITIES 129 experiences distinct from, and in opposition to, the dominant stories and structures of history. The narratives of the Guatemalan women in The Granddaughters oflxmucane are intended to counter the propaganda of the Guatemalan ruling elite and the disinterest of a North American media tired of death-squad stories. It is undoubtedly Smith-Ayala's hope that, in some ideal future, these women's narratives may be brought back to Guatemala to help rewrite the history of a country liberated from terror and oppression. (JOAN SANGSTER) Linda Hutcheon. Splitting Images: Contemporary Canadian Ironies Studies in Canadian Literature. Oxford University Press. xii, 136. $14.95 paper Citizens of a country which is engaged (in early summer, 1992) in keeping itself together by splitting apart will be easy to persuade that irony is a condition of their existence. Linda Hutcheon does not, in this book, discuss the constitution, but the conditions that make that document a problem do inform her examination of other Canadian texts, both visual and literary, in support of her claim that 'Canada often speaks with a doubled voice, with the forked tongue of irony.' Before declaring irony the national trope, however, we should be warned by the response to some earlier attempts to find the Canadianness of Canadian art: they have been accused of claiming as specifically Canadian forms and concerns current in much of the art of their time. In this book, however, Hutcheon convinces us that there is something about our situation that makes us more than usually prone to use and be treated with irony in our postmodern artistic productions, even in the context of postmodemism as an international phenomenon. There can be very few Canadians whose sense of identity is not confused by a complex set of relationships with ancestral, national, and local cultures. Postmodernism 's concern with issues of margin and centre, official and unofficial histories, and the constructedness of meaning and identity makes it particularly relevant to an understanding of ourselves, and its forms widely adopted by Canadian artists. Sections of the book examine the specific ironies of work that raises issues of ethnicity and race, postcolonialism, feminism, or homosexuality or is the product of a collectivity (such as General Idea) rather than an individual. The argument's persuasiveness depends on the strengths it shares with all of Hutcheon's work: its extraordinary range and breadth of research and the perceptiveness of its examinations of individual texts. These are particularly illuminating when visual art works are discussed, perhaps because the need for description produces more detailed readings, while the literary works seem to whiz by with few slowings down for close reading, in particular of formal elements. 130 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 Hutcheon offers stimulating theorizing as well as readings of the work of particular artists. An example of the former is her summarizing of the debate which has taken place about the intersections and incompatibilities of postmodern and postcolonial theory. The Canadian situation vis-a-vis postcolonialism is more complex than most; we occupy multiple positions in a network of colonial relationships, within the country and with other nations. Hutcheon finds thatwork in this highly politicized area intersects with the sometimes less politically engaged postmodernist stance through a shared use of irony: 'As a double-talking, fork-tongued mode of address, irony becomes a popular rhetorical strategy for working within existing discourses and contesting them at the same time ... doubleness also makes it a most convenient trope for the paradoxical qualities ofboth postmodern complicitous critique and post-colonial doubled identity and history. And indeed irony ... has become a powerful subversive tool in the re-thinking and re-addressing of history by both postmodern and post-colonial artists.' Joyce Wieland is one of the visual artists whose work is examined in several chapters; this discussion adds up to an illuminating analysis not only of the production of one artist but of the possibilities of common cause between feminism, environmentalism, and Canadian nationalism. The ironies of the Canadian nationalist position might have been worth a chapter to themselves - if they are showing up in enough avant-garde works of art. The book's concentration on a particular kind of work which is...


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pp. 129-130
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