The virtual invisibility of contemporary English-language fiction in Quebec is in marked contrast to its prevalence in the 1940s and 1950s, when MacLennan, Richler, and Moore were at the forefront of the Canadian literary scene. The current indifference has decidedly extra-literary implications. Quebec fiction is usually perceived to be synonymous with French, although the large body of work written in English -- by authors like Trevor Ferguson, Ann Diamond, David Homel and others -- belies this assumption. This work as a whole is the only substantial body of Canadian fiction that shows an interest in relations between francophones and non-francophones. Appropriately, marginality is very often the principal subject for much of this fiction.
The Rising Village was fairly well-received both in England and in Canada, although it never achieved for Oliver Goldsmith the literary reputation which he craved. Modern critics such as Desmond Pacey have been relatively harsh in their appraisal of the poem. It can be examined through the then-popular "four stages theory" of civilization -- hunting, herding, agriculture, and ultimately trading -- of which Goldsmith would probably have been aware. In a sense, Goldsmith seems to favour the third stage, agriculture, because the final, commercial stage is fraught with moral dangers: these dangers are explicated quite carefully in The Rising Village. The poem's structure and syntax attempts to emulate the comfortably delineated and humanized world of agrarian Nova Scotia.
Alice Munro's short story "Boys and Girls" aligns capitalism with patriarchy; the story's narrator and her brother are systemically produced into their respective adult gendered roles. The controlling of space -- the farm, the fox pens, and the domestic enclosure of women -- by the narrator's father is necessary to the support of capitalist production. The narrator's initial alignment with the masculine world is eroded until she is forced into the less real feminine sphere.
Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm is in one sense about the tension between surface perception and depth perception. Whatever is trivial and banal is easier and therefore preferable to Rennie, the novel's protaganist. As the novel progresses, she discovers the depths of both intimacy and depravity. The novel, ostensibly a conventional thriller, ultimately both utilizes and undermines the conventions of genre; indeed, there is a formal dialectical tension between the underlying structure of this author's works and the direction of moral implication in which those same works tend.
Brenner argues against the stasis of ideological signification when discussing poetry, asserting that despite Klein's overt humanist ideology in this volume of poetry, the book is a production rather than a product; the complex voice of art often refutes ideological simplifications. For one thing, the poems become progressively more satirical towards the end of the book, the speaker increasingly alienated. Klein parodies Milton and Joyce: their shared belief in the primacy of art is belied by Klein's assertion of "the deposition of the poet" in the twentieth century by economic and scientific powers. Some of the poems examine and compare the Jewish and the French experience in Canada.
Power structures and the resultant abjection of their victims in Joy Obasan's Obasan are illuminated by using Julia Kristeva's Powers of Horror as a guide. Kristeva's book demystifies feminine abjection and the taboos surrounding the female body. In Obasan, these feminine taboos are present in both the white "mainstream" Canadian culture and that of the Japanese-Canadians. The book rejects the repugnance for the female body and its uncontrollable secretions, especially through the character Emily. The power structures are upheld by collating the metaphorical with the literal, so that, for example, breaking the law can be equated with committing a sin. The Canadian government uses power in this way to subject the Japanese-Canadians to a state of poverty and enforced migration.
Wayne Johnston's Story of Bobby O'Malley is self-referential and parodic. Storytelling in the late twentieth century must somehow account for the perceived chaos of the era. There is always present a tension between the ostensible orderliness of storytelling and the strangeness of the lives which the story is examining. Storytelling plays upon the boundaries between reality and illusion, truth and lies, presence and absence, and thus Bobby O'Malley's narrative constantly vacillates between concealing and revealing.
Richards discusses his influences, and how they tend to be more philosophically than stylistically influential. He disclaims his supposed anti-scholarly, anti-academic reputation, putting it in the context of a single remark he once made. Thoughtless reviews are much more bothersome than academe. His novels are largely character-driven, and are not about the Miramichi. He claims to be writing about everyone. He laments the paucity of financial rewards and recognition for writers in Canada.