The deconstructive project of Yann Martel's Life of Pi is to replace the Enlightenment belief in the power of reason to liberate humanity with a belief in the transforming power of story. By employing the techniques of realism in fusing mundane details with an "incredible" story, Martel gives formal expression to the reason-imagination, fact-fiction debate at the centre of the novel. Life of Pi attempts not to prove God's existence, but to justify belief in Him, thereby calling into question the devaluing and displacement of imaginative truth by positivist notions of physical, material truth. That Pi shows little or nothing in the way of personal growth, however, seriously compromises this project, calling attention to the epistemological and political limitations of the postmodernist view of language's equivocal relation to reality.
Rather than the Bengal tiger with whom he shares a lifeboat for 227 days, Pi Patel's true adversary in Yann Martel's Life of Pi is doubt. Pi and his author-narrator align their conception of God with an idea of the work required to believe in narratives that surpass the limits of possibility. Neither Pi nor his author-narrator makes any distinction between the temporary suspension of disbelief and firm religious faith, between the acceptance of a believable story and the embrasure of an omnicient God. By dramatizating the anthropomorphic impulse, which finds expression primarily in response to doubt or disbelief, Life of Pi succeeds in conflating poetic and religious faith.
Literary critics, psychologists, and psychoanalists have recently taken up the question of whether narrativizing traumatic events can serve to transform pathogenic memories into accessible, articulate renderings, or speech acts that engender relief in those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some hold that the "talking cure," coined by Freud and Breuer, demands a vocabulary and syntax in some sense incommensurable with what went before it. Eden Robinson's text asks how one deals with trauma when the "talking cure" is not a viable healing stratagem. In "Queen of the North," the absence of a suitable addressee forces Adelaine to look for an alternative outlet for her traumatic experience. Adelaine's use of the practical or tangential joke, while ultimately ineffectual as a remedy for trauma, enables Robinson to avoid reducing the complexities of trauma and its cures.
From Earl Birney to Northrop Frye to Tomson Highway , Canadian writers have contributed to the notion of Canada as a blank space, and have created a literary tradition rooted in notions of Canadian cultural absence. The motif of haunting in Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees works to challenge both the limits of official history and the notion of impermeable identity. Relying on Freud's concept of the uncanny as the intersection of the strange with the familiar, MacDonald constructs a narrative in which both identities and geographies are subject to rnegotiation. MacDonald's characters continually renegotiate their individual and cultural identities, and her narrative stages a redemption of the uncanny history of Cape Breton.
A Sleep Full of Dreams must be read as an experimental text: Edna Alford courts disunity within the sequence of stories, limiting the centripetal power that a unified setting or a sustained development of Arla's character would lend. Instead, Alford employs imagistic and linguistic links as textual redirections which, complemented by shifts between narrative points of view, compel the reader to view the Pine Mountain Lodge community in its totality. While Arla prefers to either idealize or ignore the women of the Lodge, Alford carefully demonstrates the dangers of both responses, allowing her characters to emerge as imperfect and fully formed individuals.
In Anil's Ghost, Michael Ondaatje turns to alternative models of causality to explore the horrors of the Sri Lankan emergency, confounding the Western model of cause and effect with a narrative of events whose non-linear logic amounts to effect without cause. The presence of Buddhism in the novel allows Ondaatje to negotiate between postmodernist relativism and epiphanic insight into universal truths. Ondaatje's use of the Buddhist vision of the endless process of becoming and extinction, making dissolution paradoxically the principle of a higher form of cohesion, allows for a view of the world that includes a sense of fragmentation and the relativity of cultural truths.
In The English Patient, storytelling allows the teller to continue to grow as a person; it adds to his or her sense of self by corroborating his or her identity. Michael Ondaatje's text develops two lines of narration: an official Narrator, who reveals himself only at the close of the novel, and a collaborative narration, made up of the stories or confessions of the novel's four main characters. These stories are enabled by the presence of the English patient, whose narrative, once delivered, serves as a pool in which the characters see reflections of their own truths. As the English patient provides an opportunity for the characters to reflect on and understand their own lives, the Narrator, in turn, provides a text made up of oral narratives that grows with its reading, and that readers can inhabit.
In general, the contemporary thrust of poetry in terms of myth is not toward orthodoxy of belief and action but toward a plurality and constant evolution. Literary poetry today is an embodiment of a certain kind of myth-telling that is much more concerned with the introduction of new ideas, with cross-cultural mythological imagination, and with making a space for meditation. In The T.E. Lawrence Poems, Gwendolyn MacEwen seeks to illuminate the reader's own personal relationship with myth, and, through an investigation of T.E. Lawrence's pattern of identification with the Other, to explore how the poetic imagination copes with bringing cultural and personal myths to the surface.
Evelyn Lau discusses the recurring themes of relationships, travel, and place in her poetry. Finding a way to voice the emotional and to critically engage with the confessional mode in poetry is important, and balancing an awareness of form with a concern to avoid rigidity allows the poetry, from one collection to the next, to become increasingly accomplished. For a number of Evelyn Lau's women characters the source of strength comes from seeing, from being observant. Though it is very difficult to lift writing out of two people in a room together, this drama seems one of the most natural vehicles for poetry.