Questionable cultural assumptions inform the works of Hugh MacLennan, Robertson Davies, and Margaret Atwood. These authors are proponents of a liberal ideology that relegates all social evils to individual psychology; this is what Russell Jacoby has termed "psychologism." While the authors in question criticize the existing social order, they cannot seem to envisage a world other than the current Western order of liberal capitalism. MacLennan's novels tend to diminish the entire socio/political sphere to a kind of mass Oedipal complex. Davies does not even examine the arguable notion of the primacy of individual psychology in society--his novels simply presume it. Atwood's novels demonstrably bear the imprint of psychologism and the rhetorical devices that it engenders. Political activism in her novels is invariably contiguous with psychological inertia.
Une analyse formelle du roman Angéline de Montbrun de Laure Conan démontre l'impossibilité de le taxer d'un seul genre. Le roman pourrait être défini comme idéaliste, psychologique, autobiographique, pastoral, précieux, à thèse, épistolaire et lyrique, mais il ne devrait cependant pas être lu comme roman "rose" ou "sentimental". On s'apprête donc ici à étudier les rapports entre la forme et le sens d'un texte à tendances romanesques dont les trois segmentations graphiques (section épistolaire, intervention narrative, et le journal d'Angéline) aident à augmenter l'indétermination narrative du genre du texte.
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Emily is highly fragmentary, as the character of Emily attempts to sort out the different aspects of her life. Notably, she is fascinated with words, and her fledgling attempts at writing are alternately criticized and praised by the people in her life. Ultimately, the suggestions have little effect, as her maturity into an artist is essentially a series of self-discoveries. Emily, like Montgomery herself, use silences -- the unspoken -- to convey meaning. the suggestion is that reading between the lines is vital to the related elements of life and of art. Emily is an artist, always standing aside and watching, unrepentant.
Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, while not a novel "proper," contains a unifying element in the character of Josh Smith. Smith, a self-serving individualist, is portrayed to be in opposition to the town of Mariposa (which is the book's other central unifying factor). Although Leacock's ironic stance precludes any simplistic observations about the ostensibly simplistic little town--so that any "truth" is automatically an equivocation -- there is nevertheless evidence that self-serving business and political attributes are destructive, and that the resilience of community is finally victorious.
As Northrop Frye has noted, Canadian literature is remarkably similar, at times, to Middle English literary works, such as the medieval debate form of "The Owl and the Nightingale" or Chaucer's "Parliament of Fowls." The similarity is most evident in the notions of a bleak environment confronting the artistic mind, and the vision of a man coming to terms with the social and religious structures and protocol of the day. In Dave Godfrey's story "River Two Blind Jacks," the motifs and the structures of "The Pardoner's Tale" are used in a contemporary setting. The religious and social allegory of Chaucer's tale remains largely intact, albeit modified and transplanted.
Audrey Thomas's tendency to tell and retell a single story has been harshly criticized. Although this aspect of her work is occasionally frustrating, it is above all suggestive of her concern to tell about her own growth. There are some conflicting ideas in her novels, which engenders some critical disagreement as to whether the conflict is a weakness of artistic philosophy or an accurate depiction of the disparity of human existence. For example, the stated presumption that God does not exist sits uneasily with the pervasive sense of guilt and punishment in her novels. Thomas is comparable to Malcolm Lowry; both writers are uneven masters of confessional fiction.
While writers such as Joyce, Eliot, and Pound used allusions of an orderly past to impose structure and order on a chaotic present, Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano makes no such temporal distinction; the allusions in the novel are wholly analogous, linking past and present through sameness rather than through contrast. In Under the Volcano, allusions imply not antithesis but identity, fusing past and present. Lowry's novel is a Dantean and a mythological allegory: many events correspond to the sufferings and punishments of Dante's criminals, as well as to the criminal/heroes of Greek myth such as Sisyphus and Prometheus.
For Robert Kroetsch the play of language and consummation, word and world, is an intricate one, a Derridean replication of substitutions that always ensnares man in alibis. There is a perpetual deferring of what a character wants by its alibi; everything is exposed as a sign of something else. This is symbolised principally by the recurring motif of panties, which provide, at best, a false succor for unrealized desire. The problem in the larger sense is that of identity as well as of identifying. A similar theme is present in Kroetsch's Gone Indian. Characters wish to unlock the secrets of language but are stymied by transposed signifiers.
Malcolm Ross describes his childhood in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He discusses the scarcity of libraries at the time, and how this situation was improved during the 1920s and 30s. He has done graduate work at Cornell University, and has taught there as well as in Indiana. Later, during his years of teaching in Manitoba, he had as students Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman. He worked with the Film Board, and was editor of Queen's Quarterly. He was also instrumental in starting the New Canadian Library series.
The mystical aspects of Roberts' poetry is his richest and most persistent vein. There is a mystical quest apparent early in the poet's career, and this intensified as his career developed. Related to his mysticism is his exposure of the life-denying absurdity of asceticism. The tragic sense inherent to his poetry and to his animal stories is intrinsic to his mysticism.