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HUMANITIES 173 Misao Dean. A Different Point of View: Sara Jeannette Duncan McGill-Queen's University Press. 191. $34.95 Misao Dean's A Different Point ofView is a welcome addition to the work on Canadian writer Sara Jeannette Duncan. Dean's text builds on such works as Marian Fowler's Redney and Thomas Tausky's Sara Jeannette Duncan:Novelist ofEmpireand offers an interpretation of Duncan's fiction, nonfiction, and drama, denying none of the previous Duncan criticism but working towards a sharper focus: the effect of Duncan's idealism on her writing. Dean's argument is logical, stretched in some places, but with no gaping holes. Dean links Duncan's roles as writer, colonial, and woman to argue for consistency in Duncan's writing. She acknowledges the contradictions seen by other critics: the tension between romance and realism; the feminist and traditional views of women; the defence of colony and support of empire; the belief in democracy and adherence to monarchy. Essentially, however, she takes a fresh look at the Duncan paradoxes and, through idealism, attempts to bridge the gaps. In Dean's view, the distance between Duncan (the colonial narrator) and her primarily British reading public (the imperial reader) sets up an insider/ outsider motif which permits irony - as does the gap between the female writer and the patriarchal literary tradition within which she works. The butt of Duncan's jokes is consistently the noncolonial; the imperial reader is encouraged to 'identify with the colonial and laugh at herself.' Yet Dean acknowledges an apparent contradiction in Duncan's views: 'Although she was an outsider by virtue of her nationality and her sex, however, Duncan was also joined to the imperial ideological centre by her race, her class, her sense of participation in the English literary tradition, and her support for the British Empire.' Dean solves the problem by defining Duncan as an idealist; although the imperial British reader is implicated in the irony, British traditions consistently represent to Duncan transcendent values which must be linked to colonial freedoms . Accordingly, the reader is invited to share in the colonial view which 'marries' understandings (old world/new world) in an ideal union. Dean differs from other critics in her belief that Duncan's idealism denies paradox. Duncan's uneasy conjunction of romance and realism is 'a conscious decision to write against the exclusively materialist worldview ' of Howells and James. While Duncan wishes to 'reflect observed reality,' her reality includes 'some form of transcendent reality' so that 'lifelike description' connects with 'a higher or transcendent life.' This is an interesting argument which does not quite explain the facile loveplots in such works as The Imperialist. Dean tackles the problem of the romantic love stories by defining them as metaphors, tangible evidence of Duncan's idealistic desire to unite 174 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 colony with empire. Duncan is clearly pro-colony in her writing, advocating practical independence in everyday affairs; yet the British Empire with its civilizing mission has something of value to bring to the colony: the two must work together. Duncan uses marriage to illustrate necessary and ideal co-operation; there are three such pairings in The Imperialist. There is a problem with Dean's argument at this point. The marriages represent resolution and alliance, but Christie Cameron, Hugh Finlay, and Arthur Hesketh (the representatives of the imperial centre) are rapidly becoming Canadian, experiencing a transformation as each recognizes the larger possibilities of the new land; Hugh Finlay sees in Advena 'his idea [of Canada] incarnate.' The gains of the immigrants are apparent - freedom, larger possibilities. But what have Advena, Dr Drummond, and Dora gained? Might not the marriages suggest an acceptance by the immigrant of Canadian ideals? While strained at times, however, Dean's interpretation of marriage as metaphor is useful; the idealism implied by the metaphor is a quality needed to link colonial outpost with imperial centre: 'The reality of marriages between characters in the novels offers a way to reconcile central principles with the places and peoples on the margins of the Empire.' As defined by Dean, Duncan's idealism permits a 'different perspective' on the split between romance and realism, colony and empire. Like her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 173-174
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-25
Open Access
No
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