Body-less/unvoiced drama, drama perceived only as the written page, and literary criticism about this drama, cannot capture the immediacy of performance. Drama's connection to Canadian literature and the contesting and reshaping of the dramatic canon are crucial questions for critics: what kinds of dramatic production get recognition and at what cost (literal and metaphorical)? Bennett discusses the five other essays on Canadian drama in this issue and links them through their attentiveness to the production-reception relation and their examination of how theatre creates meaning within Canadian culture.
Identity in physical theatre is constructed: the performers construct identity through the physical art form, and meaning is carried within these constructions. Dancing Docs and Dandies, a performance art company working on the Fringe circuit in 1995, tackles literary conventions and gender stereotypes; the two dancers, Cooke and Lott, (re)construct their bodies through manipulation of art and audience participation. This construction of identity opens new and useful avenues of exploration for drama critics.
The "cracks" can be seen in the reconstruction of the ideology of Western masculinity in the Belfry Theatre's 1993 production of The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje and JoAnn McIntyre. The iconic Western male is presented as both ideal and critique. Derksen questions both the actors' presentation of this icon (in certain scenes) and her own position as critic and concludes that both actors and critic are a nexus of multiple, often contradictory gender and sexual ideologies.
In Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, the cultural and spiritual values of Native and non-Native Canadians collide. The negative and positive consequences of cultural collision on characters leads, in some cases, to magical transformations. Nanabush, a central trickster figure in Native culture, aids in these transformations. Another area of cultural collision, the white audiences' reception of these plays, also transforms the response to Native culture.
Daniel Brooks and Guillermo Verdecchia state that The Noam Chomsky Lectures is a course, based on the political writings of Noam Chomsky, in intellectual self-defence and semiological guerilla warfare, which gives the audience the tools to resist the manipulation and control exerted by mass media. However, Brooks and Verdecchia, and Chomsky himself, do not question the "transmitter-message-receiver" model of communication. The play maintains the audience-performer division of power and sets up the performers as "provos of Critical reception," thereby failing in its appointed task.
Auto-performance, scripted or non-scripted, has characterized much Canadian performance in the last decade, especially in alternate venues. Comic monologuists like Karen Hines, Sandra Shamas, and Brigitte Gill explore the humour of the body, low humour, the "life of the belly" (Bakhtin's term), the humour of the carnival. The comedians infringe on taboos and follow the carnival tradition of using words and gestures unfettered by decorum. The laughter invoked is both festive and ambivalent, a fusion of identification and self-mockery.
À l'encontre du "bavardage féminin," culture orale exerçant peu de pouvoir sur la définition des grands canons littéraires, le roman La Vie en prose de Yolande Villemaire construit ce qui semble être une subversion des conventions du personnage romanesque. Ce qui est mis en valeur ici est le phénomène de la pluralité des voix. L'identité individuelle des sujets parlants est brouillée par leur surabondance, ce qui crée une hétérogénéité à tous les niveaux du roman. Selon Jean-François Lyotard, l'hétérogénéité d'un roman plutôt que son homogénéité est un élément du postmodernisme. Donc, l'altérité et l'impossibilité de l'appropriation autoritaire des voix transforment le roman de Villemaire en récit postmoderne.
Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God has strong affinities to Claire Kahane's analysis of the Gothic narrative tradition: these include the supernatural, sleep-like states, difficulties in telling a story, discovery of secrets, discussions of female sexuality, absent mothers, a secret room, a controlling male figure, a mysterious lover, and different narrative voices. Gothic novels also explore the position of women in the home and family. Laurence incorporates Gothic conventions but modifies them, allowing her heroine, Rachel, to find her own voice(s) and escape from the guilt, shame, and imprisonment of her past.
Carol Shields's The Stone Diaries foregrounds the problems of writing a woman's autobiography; the novel is a metafictional container for the pitfalls and inadequacies of constructing a speaking (female) subject. The ostensible subject, Daisy, occupies a cavern of vacancy at the centre of the text: she is faceless, silent, ambiguous. Although wholly constituted by language, Daisy, as a post-structuralist subject, has no existence outside of language, but rather is a language construct. The narrative ambiguity in the text results from shifting narrative points of view, gaps in information, and the questioning of language itself to tell a subject's story.
Karen Connelly speaks about her distrust of academic settings and critical theory, the change in critical attitude towards her when she won the Governor General's Award for Touch the Dragon, and the lack of value placed on poets in Canada, especially when compared with the respect for poets and poetry in other countries. The painterly quality of and the significance of many different landscapes (Thailand, Spain, Greece, and Canada) to her work is discussed. Connelly says that "to praise what is alive" is what she is does in her work.