In The Incomparable Atuk, Mordecai Richler is just short of prophetic on the subject of Canadian cultural nationalism. Previous criticism underestimates the sophistication of The Incomparable Atuk's satire and trivializes its serious intent. An examination of Atuk reveals his composite nature as both the Trickster of Native culture and the fool figure of Western imperial culture. By transgressing social and geographical boundaries Atuk as Trickster undermines and reveals the authoritarian forces that have designated a marginal space for him and his people. However, as the fool accountable to his patron, Buck Twentyman, Atuk simultaneously invokes white, Western conventions. Atuk plays upon such stereotypes as Eskimo, Jew, "noble savage," and "lazy Native," finding them useful for public image and commercial enterprising. Richler uses Atuk to critique corruption, hypocrisy, and colonial mindedness. Both Twentyman and Atuk capitalize on the flaws of Canadian citizens, and thus are both representative of imperialists who colonize their subjects for personal worldly success. The serious subtext of The Incomparable Ark suggests that Canadians must move beyond insularity, beyond producing "junk," to creating authentic work.
If an articulation of diasporic identity threatens to embroil one in a reductive essentialism, a number of recent writers and theorists have attempted to deconstruct this delimiting configuration by applying a non-paradoxical vision of resistance and reconciliation to the diasporic experience itself. Fred Wah's Diamond Grill is one such text, striving to articulate a non-paradoxical vision of identity and evade the restricting designations of a narrow-identity politics. Wah effects a "de-diasporization" by which the traditional colonialist insistence on spatializing other worlds is reclaimed in the postcolonial emphasis on that space as the locus of newly asserted and shifting hybridized identities. This de-diasporization is undertaken in three ways: through the mixed ancestral inscriptions on the "diasporic body," through the narrator's ontological introjections of Canada as it was experienced by his displaced ancestors, and through the de-ontologized locale of the Diamond Grill itself. Wah shows how diasporic locations can be viewed as sites of radical reorientation — of language, subjectivity, emplacement, identity, and inheritance.
In a number of Margaret Atwood's works, sewing, knitting, and other forms of handcrafting activities come to be associated with the representation of history, both as a concept and as a narrative account of the past. Alias Grace can be seen as a work of "historiographic metafiction" in which the quilting metaphor participates in the postmodern structures involved in representing a version of the past. Alias Grace points to the paradox that structures historiographic metafiction through the image of the quilt. Atwood interrogates the metaphorical possibilities of the patchwork quilt, which comes to represent the determining paradox of the novel and of historiographic metafiction: that of making present meaning from traces of the past. The handcrafting metaphor can be usefully considered in the context of some of Atwood's earlier works.
While many readings of Robert Kroetsch's Gone Indian focus on the text's postmodern structural devices, there is yet no reading that concentrates on Kroetsch's representation of Jeremy's "Nativeness." Such a focus allows one to explore the way Gone Indian exposes the falseness surrounding the rhetoric of ethnicity by dismantling binary oppositions and challenging the stable norms upon which processes of ethnic categorization rely. Gone Indian can be read as a post-identity quest narrative through which Kroetsch can resist the fixity of ethnic identities without erasing the politics of identity altogether. It is essential to ask, what is invested in the blurring of ethnic identities? By emphasizing the performative quality of ethnic identities, Kroetsch suggests the impossibility of any individual's claim to an authentic ethnic identity. This suggestion further complicates colonial rhetoric.
A question posed in the story "Separating," — 'Where is the dividing line?' — acts as a starting point from which to explore the dividing line between various sex/gender constructs in the collection of stories that makes up Jack Hodings's Split Delaney's Island. The differences between the ostensibly natural and the culturally constructed are explored in order to understand ideas and expressions of desire that are present in the stories in the collection. Using various recent theories concerning margins, peripheries, and centres to inform a reading of the stories in Split Delaney's Island allows one to explore and challenge what traditionally counts as viable notions of sexuality and desire. In particular, such an approach challenges notions of masculinity, male desire, and sexuality, or some combination of these. Hodgins's work challenges critics to expand and refigure modes of permissible literary criticism in Canada, particularly involving meanings of gender and masculinity.
In order to examine the influence of Charles Olson on Daphne Marlatt it is useful to compare Marlatt's Steveston with Olson's The Maximus Poems. Although Marlatt identifies Olson as one of her mentors, she is also uneasy with his masculine-centred approach. This uneasiness emerges largely from Olson's confidence in the physical body and its ability to claim a space for its poetry and its possessor. Alternately, Marlatt's poems in Steveston often figure the female body and its experiences in problematic terms. Although Steveston and The Maximus Poems are similar in content and style, Marlatt begins a process of questioning just how, in the face of Olson's universal male pronouncements on the body, her own female experience should be presented. Later in her career, particularly in Touch to My Tongue, Marlatt's poetry becomes more grounded in the theories of feminist critics such as Irigaray and Cixous who emphasize the more celebratory aspects of the female body.
The interview focuses largely on Thomas O'Grady's first collection of poetry What Really Matters. He discusses ideas of home and exile, Prince Edward Island and Island literature, the idea of language and its relation to place, family history, and academics. O'Grady's use of the formalist and the Romantic tradition is considered.