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  • Comic Heroes and Green Tories: Stephen Leacock and Thomas King Creating Ethical Space on Uncommon Ground
  • Jon Gordon

Editors’ note
Jon gordon died in 2016 as this article was in process; esc proceeded with its publication with the support of Jon’s wife, Dr Elizabeth Willson Gordon. As this article and the review of his book Unsustainable Oil: Facts, Counterfacts, and Fictions (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2015) that also appears in this issue will affirm, the work this young scholar had begun to develop since defending his thesis and graduating from the University of Alberta in 2007 represents a vital consideration of cultural rhetoric across competing registers: his work importantly traces the destabilizing challenges and alternatives in literature to institutional and industrial logic of certainty; he characterizes this cultural work of unsettlement as “counterfacts.” Jon’s serious attention to imaginative texts as sites of crucial cultural engagement is well known to colleagues at the University of Alberta, where he completed his undergraduate degree as well as his PhD, in which he focused on questions of “belonging and homelessness” in postmodern Alberta fiction. His understanding of the work of literature as crucial to the understanding of the relationships of humans to each other, to the spaces and histories they inhabit, and [End Page 21] to the social and political structures they construct and maintain is also well known to his students over the decade and more of his teaching at the University of Alberta and other institutions. In 2012, Jon was the recipient of the Faculty of Arts Contract Academic Staff Teaching Award and the prestigious university-wide William Hardy Alexander Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Alberta. At that time, Dr Elizabeth Sargent suggested that “U of A students are perceptive … in valuing an educator who does not seek the limelight, who doesn’t win them over with charismatic showmanship but instead by unrelenting, shrewd attention to their work.” Jon Gordon, a father and husband, an educator and scholar, a student and colleague, was thirty-six.

The essential requirement for change is that we change our minds about what we are here for, what we are fitted for as human beings and therefore what our stance or comportment should be inside modern technology and the empire where we find ourselves.

Arthur Davis
“Did George Grant Change His Politics?”

Laurie ricou has called Green Grass, Running Water “Canada’s finest dam novel” (276), and although it is about much more than a dam, the dam serves as a potent symbol for the target of its satire. I would like to put alongside it Stephen Leacock’s Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich as both Canada’s finest dam short story cycle and a noteworthy intertext in King’s novel. Like King’s novel, Leacock’s collection is about much more than a dam, but the building of a dam in “The Wizard of Finance” similarly symbolizes the target of Leacock’s satire. The satire in both texts can help readers change our minds about what our stance should be within a world dominated by dams and other technologies of control. My title, meanwhile, plays on John Stackhouse’s title “Comic Heroes or ‘Red Niggers’?” that King takes up in The Truth About Stories. King argues that Stackhouse’s article “was as much about the different categories of Indians—authentic and inauthentic—as it was about the show [The Dead Dog Café] itself” (88) and asks “is it possible for us to move past this limiting dichotomy?” (89). I take the phrase “uncommon ground” from Daniel Coleman, which he uses to “back away from coercive assertions of common ground” and “read away from the self” (“Reading Beyond the Book”).

One reference to Leacock’s collection in King’s novel provides a hint of the potential dialogue between these two texts: “Eli found a copy of [End Page 22] Stephen Leacock’s Arcadian Adventures of [sic] the Idle Rich at a used-book store. ‘You ought to read it,’ he told Karen. ‘It’s funny as hell’ ” (162). This dialogue is worth exploring because reading them together shows parallel lines of thought in different traditions, traditions...


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