Critics such as Marie Battiste, Lee Maracle, Sákéj Henderson, and Lewis Gordon have called attention to how knowledge was and is a central target of colonial domination, as well as to how the other side of genocide is epistemicide. With this troubling history of “cognitive imperialism” (Gordon) in mind, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, João Arriscado Nunes, and Maria Paula Meneses insist that “there is no global social justice without global cognitive justice” and the “monoculture of [Western] scientific knowledge” must be replaced with an “ecology of knowledges.” For such a critical approach to be developed in a way that would be relevant for Canadian literary criticism, and to contribute to an ethical space of study, the genealogies underpinning Eurocentric knowledge systems must be questioned, and the kinds of Indigenous knowledge that have been suppressed and dismissed through them must be reconsidered.
Jeffrey Moore’s The Memory Artists (2004) represents a recent turn in contemporary Canadian literature involving texts that investigate the implications, ethics, histories, and epistemological power structures of science, scientific theories, and the linguistic and philosophical interplay between literature and science. Attending to the philosophical tradition of Henri Bergson, Silvan Tomkins, and Jean-Paul Sartre highlights the ways in which the representation of biological conditions such as synaesthesia and hypermnesia, as well as Alzheimer’s and amnesia, inform The Memory Artists – how the chemical makeup of individuals produces different ways of knowing the world and forces us to question what separates human knowledge from the material body in which it arises. In doing so, the novel reconstitutes the traditional boundaries between memory and matter, science and art, and the fictional and factual into a sliding scale of degrees of difference.
There is no hard evidence that when he wrote Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912), Stephen Leacock had read Sara Jeannette Duncan’s The Imperialist (1904). In addition to circumstantial factors, however, internal evidence in the form of a tonal resemblance and key plot parallels — a bank robbery and a dominion election — suggests that Leacock had read Duncan. A comparative discussion of the novels throws into sharp relief not only the modulations of Leacock’s and Duncan’s satire, but also how Duncan’s liberal individualism contrasts suggestively with Leacock’s pragmatic conservatism. The striking similarities and engaging differences between the works suggest that the two authors would have had much to say to each other about the forces shaping Canadian life.
Dans Les anciens Canadiens (1863) et ses Mémoires (1866), Philippe Aubert de Gaspé évoque le monde du régime seigneurial. Étant lui-même le dernier seigneur de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, il déplore l’abolition de ce régime et voudra dans ses écrits établir « la défense et l’illustration » de cette institution que les « démocrates », comme il les surnomme, ont vilipendée. L’écrivain poursuit aussi un deuxième but, de nature plus politique. Les anciens Canadiens et les Mémoires donnent à entendre que le moyen pour les Canadiens de survivre à la suite de la débâcle que fut la Conquête consiste à accepter le nouvel ordre politique et de se fondre dans la nouvelle entité britannique. L’œuvre en est une d’affabulation compensatoire qui par effet de style propose une vision d'une société canadienne-française basée sur un régime seigneurial idéalisé et des accommodements avec le gouvernement britannique, mais qui menace d'être balayée par le réveil des « va-nu-pieds » démocrates.
In Anne of Tim Hortons (2011), Herb Wyile argues that Leo McKay’s novel Twenty-Six (2003) situates the 1992 Westray coal mining disaster in a broad set of economic and social conditions affecting Atlantic Canada at the end of the twentieth century. This essay considers McKay’s novel in the context of a wider debate over public space in northern Nova Scotia’s Pictou County through post-industrial critiques from Tim Edensor, Rebecca Scott, and Stephen High and David Lewis. While the state’s memorial infrastructure privileges straightforward narratives about the bravery and sacrifice of the miners who were killed in Westray and other disasters, and presents a smooth transition between the dangerous and violent industrial era and the clean and efficient post-industrial era, Twenty-Six employs a nonlinear timeline and images of abandoned space to contest this progressive image of the region.
Samuel Hearne’s lurid and sentimental recounting of the “Bloody Falls” massacre in Journey to the Northern Ocean (1795) has raised doubts as to whether the fur trader was, in fact, the account’s author. However, historical documents indicate that Hearne was capable of writing at the level of complexity and correctness seen in this passage: Hearne’s letters to the London directors of the HBC significantly differ stylistically from his post journals; Hearne’s family, education, and interests are consistent with those of an aspiring writer; and most importantly, the account of the massacre is consistent with ideas, analogous incidents, emotional expressions, and the narrating persona found throughout the Journey, all of which suggest Hearne’s familiarity and engagement with the influential sentimentalist thought of his time.
Cette étude tente de faire la lumière sur une oubliée dans les lectures du roman de Laure Conan, Angéline de Montbrun (1884). En effet, le roman s’ouvre sur un échange de lettres où l’héroïne, Angéline, est presque silencieuse. A contrario, son amie Mina Darville mène le jeu épistolaire, s’adresse à chaque personnage, a un avis sur tout. Peu à peu, le malaise du personnage se dessine : Mina est la seconde après Angéline, son amie et en même temps sa rivale. Retranchée dans des rêveries et des lectures qui la font espérer, Mina suit peu à peu le destin d’une héroïne tragique vouée au silence après la mort du personnage masculin.
Demeter Proudfoot, the first-person narrator in Robert Kroetsch’s The Studhorse Man (1969), borrows from the techniques of oral storytellers, and the unnamed speaker of Kroetsch’s Seed Catalogue (1977) borrows Demeter’s penchant for fragments, repetitions, and set phrases that Demeter uses. The resulting metafiction — that is, writing that simultaneously reads itself — simulates the experience of reading aloud — that is, speaking that simultaneously listens to itself. Whereas The Studhorse Man parodies the oral tradition by collecting intertexts, challenging narrative conventions, and commenting on the act of storytelling, Seed Catalogue parodies the verbal expression within that novel. Moreover, the long poem performs its own interpretation through a “poet” speaker who appears to anticipate the response of readers, and provokes us to utter words we normally read to ourselves. Such a reading practice materializes the compositional method in Seed Catalogue.
The fiction of Barbara Gowdy is peopled with physically or spiritually aberrant characters that can trigger shock and disgust in readers. Her novel Mister Sandman (1995), however, calls for a more nuanced response to "the unusual," one triggered by Gowdy's parodic use of the gothic and grotesque as well as by instances of humour, comic relief, and a light-hearted tone. Such a combination of literary modes arouses sympathy for the novel's "monstrous" characters, making Mister Sandman representative of what Catherine Spooner calls the "Gothic-Carnivalesque." The novel's parodic rewriting of E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "Der Sandmann" (1816), and Gowdy's use of grotesque imagery to produce humour rather than horror, are emblamatic of what Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik call "the comic turn" in contemporary gothic fiction, and complicate the traditional concepts of the grotesque articulated by Wolfgang Kayser and Mikhail Bakhtin
In Pico Iyer’s autobiographical travelogue The Global Soul (2000), Toronto functions as a kind of ideal space of globalization, a representation that perpetuates the myth of Toronto as the pioneering bastion of successful multiculturalism. The contradictions and problematic assumptions inherent in Iyer’s “global” Toronto are thrown into sharp relief when set against Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For (2005). Focusing on the character of Quy particularly enables a more complex understanding of Toronto as a globalized urban space. The interpolation of Quy in the narrative constitutes a sustained examination of how multicultural Toronto is implicated in a distinctively unequal form of globalization. Such a reading of Brand’s novel reinforces recent critiques of global, multicultural cities articulated in Doreen Massey’s World City (2007) and Kit Dobson’s Transnational Canadas (2009).
Critics of Barometer Rising (1941) tend to treat the novel’s various personages as rigigly representing aspects of Canadian identity. Such an approach, however, reduces characters to components of an abstract national schema that sits awkwardly alongside the novel’s visceral descriptions of the Halifax Explosion. This dualist view fails to account for how feelings and sensations are also among the building blocks of national identity in the novel. Sara Ahmed insists that “affective economies” are key to aligning individuals with communities through public events that elicit shared emotional responses. Barometer Rising stages such events to bring Haligonians together emotionally and physically, representing and rehearsing a particularly somatic nationalism. In this regard the novel makes a significant contribution to accounts of national identity in its insistence that citizens are drawn into the nation through their emotional and erotic lives.