More than 80 presenters from the international scholarly community gathered at Mount Allison University on May 23-25, 2003 for an interdisciplinary bilingual conference on the theme of "Women in Motion." In offering this sample of the best papers to emerge from the conference concerning Canadian writing and culture, we hope to illuminate various ways in which the apparently gendered nature of movement can be interrogated, and highlight challenges to age-old models of feminine stasis. Such challenges are posed not only by women's travel and migrancy narratives, but also by problematizing the very notion of mobility, so that even ostensibly static domestic experiences can signify an interior mobility that extends the concept beyond its traditional physical paradigm.
Mina Hubbard's 1908 account of her travels along the Nascaupee and George Rivers made lasting contributions to the cartography, ethnography, and toponymy of northern Labrador . Although her motives for undertaking the expedition were relational — her husband had died two years earlier in attempting the trip — her wish to be viewed as an explorer necessitated the adoption of masculine models of legitimacy. The maps and photographs accompanying Hubbard's narrative, while remarkable in demonstrating her unique personalization and domestication of the landscape, still encompass the explorer's conventional obligation to portray himself (or herself) as the first to arrive at key points along his (or her) journey, and the first to convey geographical or ethnological information to outsiders.
The writings of Agnes Macdonald, the wife of Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, represent an important but largely unrecognized contribution to the "narratives of nation" written by women. In her diary entries, which document both her own visits to the House of Commons and the incursions of politics into the Macdonald household, Agnes merges home and parliament, recalibrating the political playing field to one in which the domestic — the feminine — has a definite place. Her published sketches convey intimate details in an active and authoritative narrative voice, evincing her dynamic role in the political life of her husband, and, perhaps more importantly, in its remembrance.
Le retour de Flora à Québec, après trente ans d'exil volontaire, lui permet de transcendre les limites spatiales, sociales et temporelles imposées aux femmes de son époque. La mobilité ou l'immobilité de Flora Fontanges prend tous son sens dans le contexte des contraintes imposées aux femmes par leur milieu et leur classe sociale. Le déclin financier du couple bourgeois Eventurel, sa famille adoptive, représente le comblement des sociétés qui accordent des droits aux citoyens en fonction de leur statut de propriétaire foncier. Dans Le Premier jardin d'Anne Hébert, la liberté de mouvement est alligné à la liberté de la femme et, par extension, de la société dans laquelle elle se trouve. L'identité souple de Flora représente une nouvelle génération vouée à l'égalitarisme et à la mobilité.
Identity politics permeate Bharati Mukherjee's texts, often finding resonance with recent feminist and geographical theory emphasizing the interrelatedness of space, place, subjectivity, and gender. In Desirable Daughters, the ancestral story of a young girl married to a tree and confined for life to her father's compound becomes a touchstone for the present-day characters, raising questions as to whether mobility truly offers these women a way of redefining their identities. The novel ultimately suggests that one's birthplace does form one's identity, and that identity performance remains constrained within the ideological determinants of home and community.
Les notions de l'écriture migrante sont liées à une dialectique du mouvement et de l'immobile, tant au niveau de l'espace physique qu'au niveau de l'espace spirituel. Ce sont précisement ces notions qui se trouvent au coeur même des Lettres chinoises de Ying Chen. Deux modes d'être, celui d'immobilité de Sassa et celui du mouvement incessant de Da Li, s'opposent diamétralement l'un à l'autre. Chacun est associée dans le roman à les images qui évoquent ces differences, et les tentatives des personnages de s'expliquer et d'expliquer a l'autre les motivations de leur choix de rester sur place ou de partir, mènent vers la conclusion qu'il s'agit de deux visions du monde opposées.
Destabilizing official multiculturalism's assertion that there exists, in "heritage" sites such as Chinatown, an always present unity between the spatial present and the historical past, Sky Lee's Disappearing Moon Cafe refuses to let its own architectural centre represent Chinese-Canadian history and identity. Instead, Lee's characters drift within a spatial grid of knowledge constructed by the European imagination while, at the same time, disrupting any representation of an essential "Chineseness." Ultimately, the novel's consistent references to spectrality ensure an experience of "being with" ghosts: an experience of recuperating the past without succumbing to multicultural policy's insistence that ethnic histories function to sell spatial or architectural images of diversity and tolerance.
In contrast to a contemporary ideal of positive aging that positions the elderly as self-reliant consumers of leisure, Alice Munro's representation of old age introduces realities such as relative poverty, dependence, and physical decline that place this ideal beyond the reach of many retired people. "Pictures of the Ice" portrays photographs, mirrors, and acts of seeing to acknowledge and critique the influence of visual impressions over perceptions of the old in our image-obsessed culture. Although Munro's protagonist, Austin Cobbett, does not literally appear in the titular "pictures," his presence therein is sensed by those he leaves behind, who cannot perceive him in any but visual terms.
By combining Aboriginal storytelling, European performance entertainment, and the printed word, E. Pauline Johnson's practice of publica(c)tion challenged and still challenges the prevalent Eurocentric notion of Canadian literature as a literature that is created, published, and consumed in print. She could not be stopped in her career as a storyteller-writer-performer when she encountered the financial and material obstacles of print publication, which she circumvented by reverting to alternative modes. In the stage performance of her Victorian Romantic poetry, the dramatization of her short stories, and the wearing of costumes that catered to both elite and popular tastes, she crossed the boundaries of "high" and "low" literature, written and oral communication.
Marilyn Dumont discusses the influence of her Cree and Métis ancestry on her poetry, with particular emphasis on the women who raised her. Stereotypical notions of the role of the Aboriginal writer, and misconceptions about the nature of oral tradition have both had their effects on the reception of Dumont 's writing. Personal disclosure in poetry can have an important normalizing effect, alleviating the shame that often accompanies close observation of one's psyche and family. Dumont has developed a flexible sense of writing as ritual, quite apart from the communal rituals of Catholicism and Aboriginal belief with which she grew up.