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Preface to Freeside Europe - Canadiana Special Issue of 2012


Preface to Freeside Europe-Canadiana Special Issue of 2012

Judit Ágnes Kádár, guest editor


As the guest editor of Freeside Europe-Canadiana special issue of 2012, I am honoured to introduce a series of essays that present some directions in the recent crop of Canadian Studies in Hungary and some neighbouring countries. The original aim of Freeside has been to connect different academic fields related to a shared platform, in this case Canadian culture. The authors' contributions present a wide array of topics comprising of modern and postmodern literature and film, gendered and liminal identity in modern and post-colonial writing, Asian and Caribbean Canadian voices, hybridity in Métis literature, and even Dorset culture and the Paleo-Eskimo Belief System. Finally, a new initiative of introducing Canadian Studies for the high school entitled The Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader is introduced by its two authors, while in the last section of our online journal an overview  of the founding and development of the Central European Association for Canadian Studies (CEACS) which may reveal an important perspective on Central European  academic endeavours enhancing literary and cultural relations with Canada today. The first Canadiana special issue of Freeside Europe is an initiative to offer publication opportunity on topics related to Canadian culture, while we also wish to foster further studies that reflect more contemporary academic explorations of both interdisciplinary and comparative nature.


In this issue, a founder of Canadian Studies in Hungary, Anna Jakabfi's essay entitled "Canadian Identity Becoming Important to Writers - Children of the British Empire" explores some transatlantic literary ties at the turn of 19th-20th centuries, namely Ralph Connor alias Rev. Charles William Gordon, Sarah Jeannette Duncan, Stephen Leacock, and ‘Grey Owl' alias Archibald Belaney. As the author argues, they were spokespersons and teachers of some special cause: of Christian values, small town nostalgia in Anglo-Protestant Canada, or of environment protection. Andrea Szabó F.'s "Defamiliarizing the Happy Ending and Refamiliarizing the Land: Alice Munro's "Real Life" investigates some (semi-)peripheral regional cultural identities, the writer's non-nostalgic view on restrictive small towns and her character's desire to break out. Eszter Szenczi's essay focuses on the problem of cultural hybridity in Twentieth Century Métis Autobiographies, in Beatrice Culleton's In Search of April Raintree respectively. Identity politics reflected in literature are merged here with the textual analysis of reading through racial lines in the narrative on Métis identity and Indigenous reality.


A French-Canadian scholar, André Dodeman's "Writing the Province in David Adams Richards's Miramichi Trilogy" takes us to an important aspect of Canadian letters, namely regionalism and Maritime identity in particular. The author highlights Richards' notions of identity and the problem of authenticity in view of the specific sense of space and time his fictional construction of time and landscape depicts. In that context, the timelessness of peripheral provincial towns is presented as opposed to the towns as artificial centres and representations of modernity criticized by the writer.


In her essay, Judit Nagy discusses the metaphors of belonging with regards to ethnic Canadian short fiction. The problems of integration, maintenance of the home culture and interaction with the host culture as well as marginalization are analysed here, while exploring the potentials of borderline cases which emerged at the classification of Asian and Caribbean ethnic short fiction writers' metaphors of belonging and not belonging through the employment of some cross-cultural psychological patterns of acculturation. The essay reveals the lack, the insufficient or implied reference to the host culture, some ambiguous references to the home and the host culture as well as the presence of more than one host culture, extending her framework of analysis with the process of transculturation, in the context of contemporary short fiction by ethnic minority Canadian writers.


Contemporary social trends and directions in academic research are also represented by a Romanian scholar, Cristina-Georgiana Voicu, who addresses terms related to transculturation such as ‘hybridity', ‘identity', ‘alterity', ‘migration', ‘diaspora' in her essay entitled "Embodying the Boundary and The Gendered Motif of Existential Liminality in the (Alter)native Canadian Discourse" that explores transgression concepts in the context of two Asian Canadian texts, i.e. Joy Kogawa's Obasan and Sky Lee's Disappearing Moon Café. This Millennial perspective on the already extensively discussed notion of Canadiannness calls for a reconsideration of national identity that could include the possible implications of the term racialized minority peoples.


Judit Ágnes Kádár also focuses on luminal identities, however, her interest is the Indian wannabe/impostor Archibald Belaney/Grey Owl, hero of early 20th Century Canadian environmentalism, and anti-hero of the partly Ojibway Canadian writer Armand Ruffo's Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archibald Belaney. This paper focuses on Belaney's cross-cultural (trans-ethnic) transformation, its motivations, the alter ego he developed, the liminality of his fictional character as well as its power and implications in the view of the episteme and race relations of his age (epistemological trickster and racialization). Besides, Ruffo's poetic experimentation with masking and narrative unmasking is discussed, attempting to answer who needs the myths of Indianness, too. Attention is called to the dynamics of ethnic identity transfer, while an interdisciplinary approach is offered that may effectively facilitate further analyses of fictional heroes of indigenization, immigration, assimilation and correlated processes.


Following the writings of mostly literary interest, an essay related to cultural anthropology invites the reader to a trip in the ethnography of the Inuit of Canada. In his paper entitled "Miniature Carvings in the Canadian Dorset Culture: the Paleo-Eskimo Belief System", László Zsolt Zságer presents the current academic hypotheses related to the origins and the functions of the art of the last Paleo-Eskimo culture of Arctic Canada and Greenland. He calls attention to severalremarkable analogies, while giving a complex picture on Paleo-Eskimo shamanism and the Dorset bear cult.


An artistic and cultural perspective is added through Krisztina Kodó's review of a comprehensive work by Johanne Sloan on Joyce Wieland's film The Far Shore providing insight into ongoing discussion of landscape and art in Canada. The film may rightly be viewed as an "allegory of Canada" (Grace) highlighting the Tom Thomson figure and linking the Canadian landscape and identity image with that of the melodramatic romance.


Finally, Mátyás Bánhegyi and Judit Nagy introduce their Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader for high school students, a gap-filler which might be a valuable teaching resource for those interested in cultural diversity with special regards to Canada. The paper touches upon the project leading up the preparation of the tri-cultural Reader, describes the Reader and the Teachers' Notes in more detail, and discusses their use and dissemination.


Freeside Europe-Canadiana special issue is also pleased to share with its readers an interesting outline on the establishment and development of the Central European Association for Canadian Studies (CEACS) by János Kenyeres in "Canadian Studies in Central Europe: Past and Present".  The author emphasizes that the study of Canada is a worthwhile activity bringing together scholars and students from the region to form an intellectual and social community in which they can exchange their thoughts and ideas.


The works featuring within this issue offer a transatlantic perspective on the directions Canadian Studies is taking these days, in the hope that a wide circle of academics as well as others interested in Canadian culture might get further encouragement in various activities related to this wonderful country.


Canadian Identity Becoming Important to Writers - Children of the British Empire round the Turn of the 19th-20th Centuries


(‘Ralph Connor' alias Rev. Charles William Gordon /1860-1937/,

Sarah Jeannette Duncan/1861-1922/, Stephen Leacock/1869-1944/, and

‘Grey Owl' alias Archibald Belaney/1888-1938/)


Anna Jakabfi

Kodolányi University of Applied Sciences


Transatlantic ties has been the dominant feature for Canada's writers. Towards the end of the 19th century, besides writers of British birth, there emerges a new group of men of letters who may have been born in Canada on the one hand, and on the other hand the pull of London as literary centre becomes counterbalanced by that of American cities: Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Younger writers born in Canada are more attracted to the United States than to Great Britain, all the more so, because copyright arrangements made in either country proved to be more advantageous financially than one made in Canada (Klinck 284).


Some /writers/ moved to New York or Boston as journalists and then became free-lance writers; others remained in their native localities. The alignment with the American centres was less alienating for most than the alignment with London. In the American centres they were accepted as natives, or near-natives, while in London as Sarah Jeannette Duncan pointed out, they often were half-accepted as colonials. The American publishers were nearer, easier of access, and more numerous than the British. American publications had a much greater market in Canada than had British publications. The American publisher was apt to regard fiction about the Canadian scene, as an extension of American local colour writing or of American historical romance, and both were extremely popular in the nineties. The British publisher, on the other hand, was apt to find more saleable the exotic and wild aspects of the Canadian scene. (Klinck 336)


This passage not only sums up the essence about Canadian writing and its changing situation as the 19th century is drawing to an end, but also indicates a change in the transatlantic ties in the field of culture. The United States geographically easily accessible, more populous, economically powerful, and culture-wise more initiative and accepting obviously means more opportunities for Canadian writers than Great Britain on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Yet the ties are not broken, British heritage is cherished and taken for granted. It is not only the writers who move with equal ease in the three countries, but the characters of their books do as well, consequently the books are welcome by a wide reading public of three countries: Canada, Great Britain and the United States. The distribution of the books brings considerable profit not only to the authors but also to their publishers.


The development in Canada is gradual and steady due to the careful planning of the Confederation Fathers from 1867 onwards; immigration from other European areas than the British Isles is growing in number, and the emerging Canadian national institutions like the Railroad, the North West Canadian Mounted Police Force (Calgary 1873) ensure the frames for ‘law and order' in the peaceful decades of development up to the outbreak of the First World War.


The writers mentioned in the title show various aspects of Canadian literature in the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, the names are acknowledged today as well, their literary merit has not lessened, while many contemporary fellow-writers' names have disappeared from the literary scene. The works of these four writers still figure in the canon of Canadian literature at university and/or college level not only in Canada but elsewhere in the world, too. The place that is favoured by this group of writers is the small town, the small community. The city escapes their attention except that they get their education there, but action takes invariably place in a small town preferably in Ontario. This is the most British province in Canada for well into the second half of the 20th century, it is a sort of exemplary area where British values are best kept and followed, and it is near enough to the United States for it to have direct impact on the inhabitants there, too. ‘Ralph Connor' alias The Reverend Charles William Gordon (1860-1937) of Canadian birth made himself a name by advocating his staunch belief in the Presbyterian religion in adventurous writings about Ontario and the West.


The American West was practically closed by 1893, but the romance of the West remained alive and palpable on the Canadian side of the border (Winks, v). Consequently, at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries ‘Ralph Connor was one of North America's leading writers. As a Canadian, he was widely read in the United States and Great Britain, and also in his native country. His origin was in Canada, but the origin of his religious feelings came from Scotland, the Old World. Though he was Canadian born, he embodied the religious Scotsman for many readers in the English speaking world. The sudden success of Ralph Connor was phenomenal. His first book Black Rock (1898) was a collection of sketches, which the young Presbyterian minister had written for his church magazine, to help raise funds for the church's mission in western Canada. Black Rock and its sequel The Sky Pilot, published the following year, captured the imagination of a vast reading public in Canada, the United States, and England which liked vigorous religion dramatized in story form (Klinck, 336).


Charles William Gordon under the ‘nom de plume' of Connor was Canada's first best selling author of international fame. His first book Black Rock appeared and was sold out in a matter of few weeks in 5000 copies, a remarkable figure for a first book at that time (McCourt, 24). He was the son of a Presbyterian minister, he himself was ordained as minister after his university studies in Edinburgh, Scotland. He made Glengarry, the Ontarian small town as well as Black Rock, the Western small town immortal in his novels.


Ralph Connor, the writer is essentially a teacher, who teaches his audience on both sides of the Atlantic that the good always prevail and get their reward in life, and so it is worth being good in life in general. This is what many readers expected of the New World to make happen. Freedom is the way to good things, his books suggested. Black Rock (1898) and The Sky Pilot (1899) recapture the contemporary Canadian western lumber camp world. "Not its most enthusiastic apologist would call Black Rock a religious community, but it possesses in a marked degree that eminent Christian virtue of tolerance." (Connor, 1989, 99) - claims the author. Mrs. Mavor, one of the main characters of Black Rock, a widow chooses the freedom of Canada after her husband's death and stays on in the lumber camp and keeps running the shop for the miners, because it means doing good things for the men there. She helps them found the miners' Temperance League, where they can discuss all matters of common interest, can be entertained at balls etc., and thus they are kept busy instead of drinking alcohol. Due to Mrs. Mavor's beneficial influence all miners sign the founding document of the League. The good get their reward: Mrs. Mavor finds a new mate in Craig, though happiness does not come easy to them, but in the end they deserve to be happy.


The Sky Pilot (1899) is a Presbyterian minister whose main task in the West, the Rocky mountains, amidst the lumber community, is to have a church built for the congregation, and how the characters, different in age and mentality contribute to the construction. The Sky Pilot is meant to be a personal sacrifice for the church as he dies of a grave sickness before the church is in service. The book is about man's and animal's - the horse - intimate relationship, about child rearing and religion's role in the case of Gwen, the fourteen-year old untamed girl who has to pay a price for her wildness and willfulness, but who gets better in the end.

Glengarry School Days (1902), however, centres around the school and Mrs. Murray's, the minister's wife's beneficial, religious impact on the school children in an Ontarian small town.


Ralph Connor's books are about battles between evil and good, where Christian principles help bring back the characters from moral or spiritual anarchy to controlled civilization into the bosom of a stable, caring, largely religious community. He is like a true Victorian writer who stirred the readers' emotions by pathos, which combined with adventures and lively characters brought a large reading public for the author in Canada, Great Britain and the United States (Toye 306-8).


Sarah Jeannette Duncan (1861-1922), Canadian by birth, daughter of the British Empire, successful journalist of The Toronto Globe and The Washington Post, then parliamentary correspondent to The Montreal Star (Ousby 300) lived most of her life in India with her English husband. As a Canadian writer she is best known for her novel The Imperialist (1904) whose setting is in Elgin, a small town of Ontario, a replica of her birthplace of Brantford. Duncan's thoughts and action of her novels, The Imperialist included, move in the Canadian-British-American triangle. The couples in The Imperialist, who ultimately are married, genuinely love and appreciate each other and express their ideas in the complex world of the British Empire seen from a Canadian angle: "England is an area where certain trades are carried on - still carried on. In the scrolls of the future it is already written that the centre of the Empire must shift - and where, if not to Canada?"  (Duncan 239), one of the characters say optimistically. These loving lines on Canada are explained by the fact that Duncan was living in India when she wrote The Imperialist and she was  "looking back some twelve years after she had left Canada, with a combination of sharp wit and affectionate nostalgia, at the fabric of life in a small town in Ontario as she remembered it."- asserts Clara Thomas (94). Sara Jeannette Duncan summed up the way small town Canadians - who happened to come from Elgin - saw their place in the British Empire:


The complications of England's foreign policy were less significant still. It was recognized dimly that England had a foreign policy, more or less had to have it, as they would have said it in Elgin; it was part of the huge unnecessary scheme of things for which she was responsible - unnecessary from Elgin's point of view as a father's obligations might be to a child he had parted with at birth. It all lay outside the facts of life, far beyond the actual horizon the affairs of a distant relation from whom one has nothing to hope, not even personal contact, and of whose wealth and greatness one does not boast much, because of the irony involved . ...Belief in England was in the blood, it would not yield to the temporary distortion of facts in the newspapers - at all events, it would not yield with a rush. Whether there was any chance of insidious sapping was precisely what the country was too indifferent to discover. Indifferent, apathetic, self-centred - until whenever, down the wind, across the Atlantic, came the faint far music of the call to arms. (Duncan 59)


By the end of the 20th century things have thoroughly changed, as one can see from Clara Thomas's claim: "Our views of Britain and the British have no longer to be dealt with seriously, either in resentment or defensive ambivalence. We can finally afford to accommodate them, in affectionate, nostalgic and ironic memories and observations" (Thomas 104-5).


Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) as a writer of humorous books is often considered the successor of Mark Twain in the New World. Leacock was certainly proud to refer to Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and must have had a ‘ strong liking' for them as he "In popular biographies of his two great favourites Mark Twain (1932) and Charles Dickens (1933), /Leacock/ enlivened facts and conventional ideas with humour and his warm personal devotion" (Bush, 128). Leacock has been widely known in the world as a humorist writing in English, and a far less part of his reading public knows that he was Canadian and Professor of Political Sciences at McGill's prestigious university for close to thirty years up to 1936. It was in this capacity and as the author of many books in the field of economics and history in the first place that ‘he undertook highly successful lecture tours' (Ousby 568) in Great Britain and the United States.


James Steele rightfully argues that "Leacock's multi-national literary persona was consistent with his political and his historical doctrine of imperial cosmopolitanism and shared even some of its paradoxical properties" (Steele, 59). Leacock was British by birth and heredity, American by part of his university education, and Canadian by citizenship and life experience. "In his literary essays, Leacock could present himself as a Canadian, an American, and Englishman, or even as a combination of two or three of these nationalities" (Staines 3). The three cultural impacts can be easily detected in his humorous writings, however, "his largest public was in the United States" - claims Bush (144). Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, this collection of humorous sketches - as the title indicates -, his most Canadian work recaptures the "warm-hearted Canadian or Ontario version of humanity as it was in almost any small town in the Western world" (Bush 143) in the last decades of the 19th century. In little Ontario towns many people had an old-fashioned, wholesome steadiness, integrity, and dignity, a good share of what bourgeois intellectuals now stigmatize as ‘bourgeois virtues.' - stresses Bush (143). Leacock is the village story teller who with gentle irony presents small town characters: the hotel keeper Josh Smith, the barber Jeff Thorpe, Dean Drone and his protestant church, Peter Pumpkin, the bank teller, Judge Pepperliegh's daughter that Peter Pumpkin falls in love with on first sight on the Main Street and marries in the end, and Mr. Smith who wins a seat in parliament after an American style whirlwind campaign, and so on. The main character, however, is Mariposa, the small Ontario town itself, very much shaped after Orillia, the beloved hometown of Leacock. Here are a few lines to illustrate Leacock's gentle approach to his beloved Mariposa at the beginning of the book:


I don't know whether you know Mariposa. If not, it is of no consequence, for if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with a dozen towns just like it. There it lies in the sunlight, sloping from the little lake that spreads out at the foot of the hillside on which the town is built... (Leacock 1)


Of course if you come to the place fresh from New York, you are deceived. Your standard of vision is all astray. You do think the place is quiet. You do imagine that Mr. Smith is asleep merely because he closes his eyes as he stands. But live in Mariposa for six months or a year and then you will begin to understand it better; the buildings get higher and higher; the Mariposa House grows more and more luxurious; McCarthy's Block towers to the sky; the ‘buses roar and hum to the station; the trains shriek; the traffic multiplies; the people move faster and faster; a dense crowd swirls to and fro in the post-office and the five and ten cent store - and amusements! Well, now! Lacrosse, baseball, excursions, dances, the Firemen's Ball every winter and the Catholic picnic every summer! And music - the town band in the park every Wednesday evening, and the Oddfellows' brass band, the Salvation Army - why, after a few months' residence you begin to realize that the place is a mere mad round of gaiety. (Leacock 3)


This passage reveals and illustrates the tenderness and irony of Leacock at the same time. He loves the place that he criticises, yet today's reader knows that the idyllic world of the small town of the late 19th century has vanished forever in the period following the First World War. Today's readers may very well get nostalgic and pining for this small town world of old times on reading Leacock's ‘masterpiece' (Staines 3), which happens also to be the author's favourite book of the more than sixty he composed in his lifetime.


The writer who stands out of this group of writers is ‘Grey Owl' alias Archibald Stansfeld Belaney (1888-1938). Grey Owl is a special case, he is a writer who moves about in the geographical sphere of the British Empire but he seems to be starting a singular tradition, that of nature writers in Canada. Nature writing has been as old as mankind, as one can find nature lovers in the Bible, in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, in many folktales and Northern sagas. One can continue the line with St. Francis, the lover of birds and other animals. In Aesop's tales, in Chaucer's The Nun's and the Priest's Tale one can read about man's and animals' contact and even friendship, in La Fontaine's tales animals figure and personify human beings.


However conserving nature and the animal world from human civilization is a new thing as civilization was considered mankind's progress for a long time (Klinck 392-5). Environment protection is a new phenomenon. While Englishmen and women left their homeland for Canada to colonize and set up an existence in North America, there was an Englishman of the name of Archibald Stansfeld Belaney who took up an Indian name and identity after he left England in his late teens for the wilderness of Canada. He saw how conditions for plants and animals were deteriorating as the so-called civilization was spreading, he decided to do his best and defend nature to the best of his abilities.


Pierre Berton claimed that, he (Belaney) was a tireless spokesman for conservation, writing a number of best-selling books, all concerned with the preservation of the Canadian wilderness. Fighting to save the beaver from extinction, he gave lectures in Britain and the United States, coming to represent the public's perception of "the noble Indian" - a tall, lean figure with a great love for the Canadian territory (Berton 15). Seeing his selfless efforts and devotion to the Canadian wilderness, the federal government supported him by appointing him as Honorary Park Warden in Northern Quebec. On his brilliant lecture tours in Great Britain and the United States he proved to be the first advocate of environment protection of Canada after the First World War. It was the Ojibway, who gave him the name ‘Grey Owl'. It was under this name that he gave his lectures and wrote his books of which perhaps the best known is his collection of sketches Tales of an Empty Cabin (1936) which is full of humour and which illustrates his affectionate observation of nature's animal world (Toye 50-2).





Exceptionally talented writers  - ‘Ralph Connor', Sara Jeannette Duncan, Stephen Leacock and "Grey Owl" /Belaney?- round the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, each of them attained international fame. They spoke of and for Canada, and thus introduced various facets of that country and put her on the literary map of the world. At the same time each of these writers seemed to be a spokesman and teacher of a special cause: Ralph Connor of Christian values, Sara Jeannette Duncan and Stephen Leacock displayed small town nostalgia in the English speaking world, and ‘Grey Owl' was an early spokesman of environment protection. These singular characters created lasting values in their works and proved to strengthen transatlantic ties between Europe and North America.



Works Cited


  • Berton, Pierre. "125 Canadians who shaped our nation." Canadian June 1992. Print.
  • Bush, Douglas. "Stephen Leacock." Staines, David., ed. The Canadian Imagination - Dimensions of a Literary Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977. Print.
  • Connor, Ralph. Black Rock. Toronto: Avon Publisher, 1998. Print.
  • Connor, Ralph. The Sky Pilot. Lexington: Kentucky University Press, 1970. Print.
  • Duncan, Sara Jeannette. The Imperialist. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1971. Print.
  • Klinck, Carl. F. ed. Literary History of Canada. Second Edition. Vol. I. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976. Print.
  • McCourt, Edward: The Canadian West in Fiction. Toronto: Ryerson Paperbacks, 1970. Print.
  • Ousby, Ian., ed.: The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. London: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Print.
  • Staines, David., ed. Stephen Leacock: A Reappraisal. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1986. Print.
  • Thomas, Clara. All My Sisters - Essays on the Work of Canadian Women Writers. Ottawa:  Tecumseh Press Limited, Ottawa, 1994. Print.
  • Toye, William., ed. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1983. Print.
  • Winks, Robin W. "Introduction." The Sky Pilot. Ralph Connor. Lexington: Kentucky University Press, 1970. Print.


Defamiliarizing the Happy Ending and Refamiliarizing the Land: Alice Munro's "Real Life"


Andrea Szabó F.

(University of Pannonia, Veszprém)


Alice Munro was canonized as a Canadian author representing the vision and values of her native Sowesto region in the early 1980s (Thacker, "Go" 156-7). Ever since, her fiction has been seen to attest to the productivity of (semi-)peripheral regional cultural identities, far from bustling cities and centers of power. Yet, there is generally little that is nostalgic about her small towns: they are restrictive, providing little opportunity to its characters to even formulate their desires to be someone else, to be somewhere else, and to do something different. Yet, when against all odds, it still happens, the characters who aspired and managed to live a different life cannot but feel that somehow, somewhere along the road they made a mistake to want to leave their home. Sowesto in Munro's fiction is a place of curious inclusion: once one gains a full permission of entry to it, it can never be left. It is mythical in the sense that it allows for a one-way traffic only, compressing all times, places, social, cultural and historical contradictions into a place that pulls one forever back.


This is why by the 1990s, it had become a truism that Munro's heroines do not travel beyond the bounds of their home towns because they do not even need to since, as Magdalene Redekop claims, Munro has invented techniques of radical domestication that takes readers "through the homely to the unheimlich to the uncanny" (12). Thus, by defamiliarizing the domestic and the familiar through her meticulous attention to detail Munro invests the everyday with the ominous atmosphere the gothic castle enjoyed in female gothic writings earlier (as in Ann Radcliffe's novels, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady, and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca) and today (like Hogwarts School in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels and the Washington small-town in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series). Experiences at home can easily substitute for those abroad; therefore, Munro's female gothic heroines do not have to travel in search of adventure.


With her 1994 volume published with the title Open Secrets, however, this radical domestication seems to give way to the conventional defamiliarizing device of sending heroines into places definitely other than their native Canada. Open Secrets is a "risky" (Munro qtd. in Howells 120) collection within the Munro oeuvre among others in this respect as well; it can be hardly wondered that critical attention has been scarcely focused on the short stories within the volume.


In what follows, I will discuss a short story published in Open Secrets with the title "Real Life," arguing that it is part of a group of narratives written in the 1990s that recycle the ritualistic travel trope of the female gothic by "send[ing] maidens on distant and exciting journeys" (Moers, "Traveling" 126). Together with two other narratives in the volume, "The Albanian Virgin" and "The Jack Randa Hotel," I claim, "Real Life" does not only utilize the trope but also interrogates it in two ways: (1) it highlights it as a device to give an imaginary but still plausible form to female questing asking on a meta-textual level whether it is possible to imagine female quest in ways other than the ones inherited from female gothic narratives and by that (2) it also points to its ideological underpinnings.


I will argue that the narratives that make use of the travel trope of the female gothic, "Real Life" among them,  fit into a long tradition of women's writing that puts into relief the difficulty with which female subjectivity can be portrayed as not visibly split. I wish to prove that the short story appropriates the double plot structure of the female gothic which posits the antithetical nature of female quest and gender expectations. But rather than invent or use strategies that seek to cover over to what extent it is impossible to imagine a female subject independent of the discourse of (heterosexual) love and endowed with the properties needed for a questing subject (as Radcliffean female gothic to a certain extent does), it exposes the gender ideology that constructs women as beings whose "natural" state is that of passivity. At the same time, I will also argue that on a meta-gothic level it lays bare to what extent the Radcliffean female gothic formula fosters what Diane Long Hoeveler calls "the professionalization" of gender and  femininity (xv) through its romance closure, which cannot provide a resolution to the ideological conflicts surrounding gender it raises in a fictional form. Therefore, I will read the narrative within the context of the strategy Rachel Blau DuPlessis has named "writing beyond the ending" (4) and claim that it examines alternative female life routes after the romance closure in order to highlight the inherent contradictions the female gothic (fantasy) resolution is used to mask.


What the three stories share in common, besides recycling the topos of the "traveling heroine" (Moers, "Traveling" 122), is that they start where the female gothic narrative and the heroine's quest, end: her union in marriage with a suitable partner. This allows Munro to address the impasse female gothic romance ending presents since the alternative female life routes the stories represent all point to the difficulty with which an un-gendered female subjectivity can be imagined. This becomes especially obvious when the romance ending is read together with the convention that literalizes the heroine's effort to create a re-gendered social unit less harmful to her integrity (taming the husband into a companionship based on equality), which is the ultimate female gothic fantasy.


I discuss "Real Life" claiming that it juxtaposes various marriages by following the course of three women friends' lives after the wedding. I will argue that their juxtaposition points to the semantic emptiness of "happy ending" and that the short story experiments with an alternative form of "connection" that does not recycle the underlying principles of gender ideology. Its sister texts continue in the same vein: "The Albanian Virgin" both literalizes the subjectifying/objectifying discourse of gender dichotomy and overturns it by presenting a not professionally re-gendered female gothic heroine, who is at the same time a femme fatale as well. (The conflation of a female gothic heroine with a femme fatale is by itself alien to female gothic discourse.) The re-gendering of this heroine does not follow the Radcliffean female gothic formula that Hoeveler finds to be a blueprint of "professional femininity"; or rather, it does by literalizing the formula's negotiations of gender performances propelling the short story towards a female gothic parody. Yet, it is "The Jack Randa Hotel" that presents a mock female gothic heroine, who embodies the female gothic ("professionally feminine") strategy of passive aggressiveness, which the heroine eventually rejects as a model of subjectification.


"Real Life" is the second short story in Open Secrets and it continues where the volume-opening narrative "Carried Away" closes. It takes up the theme of normalcy in marriage via presenting a traveling heroine unprecedented in Munro's earlier fiction. The protagonist of "Carried Away," Louisa realizes during a hallucinatory encounter with her by then dead beloved Platonic lover that all she wanted was getting into "a normal life" (48) when she married her husband. "Real Life" investigates exactly that: what it means for a marriage to be "normal." The issue formulated in a short story that bears ‘real life' as its title is all the more significant because Munro had been waiting to use the phrase since her landmark second book and first novel Lives of Girls and Women. As she told in an interview, she intended to publish her work as ‘Real Life' but another book was launched in the same year under the same title, so she had to fall back to her second choice: Lives (Metcalf 58). The significance of the short story thus is signaled by its title as well, which was her preferred choice for her most acclaimed and successful work as of yet, never going out of print since 1971.


The narrative falls back on the usual Munrovian parallel structure: it juxtaposes two characters and their life stories, which represent two different worlds with different fields of possibilities. Here, the two worlds of the two characters and their marriages are contemplated by a third character, who by the end throws her own former convictions into doubt and finds herself in a position of in-betweenness where she has to re-evaluate her own views. Yet, nothing is decided by the end of the narrative, the reader finds the protagonist in the middle of a process repeating the typical Munrovian lack of closure.


The story focuses on Millicent, a social climber in a Canadian small-town, who has to make do with two social companions after having set her eyes on belonging to the good society of Mrs. Lawyer Nesbitt, Mrs. Dr. Finnegan and Mrs. Doud-Louisa-and after having been refused by them on account of her social inferiority-she is a farmer's wife. One of her "friends" is Dorrie Beck, "a true Canadian primitive," as R. W. Martin and Warren U. Ober call her (1), who was once born into a wealthy family, educated at a college for girls on the "last spurt of the Becks' money" (Munro, "Real" 53), but who now lives alone in a house devoid of all comfort rented to her by Millicent in exchange for some help around the house. Her other companion, and supposedly her best friend, is Muriel the music teacher, whose sole goal in life is getting a husband, and who therefore employs all the artful tricks of femininity she is acquainted with: she always dresses dashingly in her signature color of blue, wears perfume, paints her fingernails, and does exercise to keep her figure trim. The three women, all in their early thirties, in fact, could not be more different: Dorrie is a reserved trapper and hunter who keeps to herself (she shuns company to the extent that she prefers to leave her game on people's doorsteps instead of presenting it herself)-Millicent thinks that she became maybe a little "unhinged" (Munro, "Real" 54) after the death of her beloved brother; Muriel, notorious for her love life, is yearning for a glamorous life; while Millicent's aspirations are rather down to earth. All she wants from life is a "sweetness of affection that had eliminated sex" (52) and the practical comfort of a bathroom, "a dining-room suite and a chesterfield and chairs," in exchange for which she is ready "to take what's coming," leading to three children-after which "Porter was decent-mostly [ ... ] he left her alone" (53).


One day a mysterious stranger intrudes into their world, a friend of the local minister, a visitor from Australia. Millicent invites him for dinner, at which Muriel is dressed up in turquoise crepe and smells of her select perfume because "[s]he might have written off the minister but she had not seen his visitor yet. A bachelor perhaps, or a widower, since he was travelling alone. Rich, or he would not be travelling at all" (Munro, "Real" 61). Millicent is fretting about the food because Dorrie is late (she is hunting). When she appears, she looks out of place in her good dress "suitable for a little girl or an old lady" (63). Nonetheless, the visitor is tantalized by her and by the words with which she describes her outdoor experiences. Millicent believes that he is interested in her "as a novelty, a Canadian wild woman who went around shooting things. He might be studying her so that he could go home and describe her" (64). Yet, some six months later, Dorrie announces that she is marrying Mr. Speirs, the visitor, whom she saw on that one occasion only but with whom she has since corresponded regularly.


The preparations for the wedding seem to fade out her memories of a trapper's life and her dream of going beyond the Arctic Circle-or at least she is reticent about them until the day arrives when she is scheduled to marry her fiancé. Millicent senses that she may be about changing her plans, so she walks over to Dorrie's place, in full fear of her having committed suicide since "what had happened this year made anything seem possible. The proposed marriage, such wild luck, could make you believe in calamity also" (Munro, "Real" 73). She expects Dorrie to be dead, although as she realizes later her worst fear is yet that Dorrie might want to back out of the proposed marriage. She finds Dorrie cooking dinner for herself and saying that she cannot leave her home. With her premonition confirmed, Millicent searches for explanations (is he poor? No, he is rich. Is she worried about sex? No, she is not.) and when she finds none, she tries to cajole her into marrying Mr. Speirs by expounding her belief that "Marriage takes you out of yourself and gives you a real life" (75). When that fails, she literally blackmails her because "Nobody had any business living a life out ‘here' if they had been offered what Dorrie had. It was a kind of sin to refuse such an offer. Out of mulishness, out of fearfulness, and idiocy" (76). Dorrie, cornered, consents.


She moves with her husband to Australia, where on his large estate they grow sugarcane and pineapples-after the death of her husband she continues to do so alone-she rides horses, flies airplanes, shoots crocodiles, and she eventually dies decades later when climbing a volcano. After Dorrie's good luck Muriel decides to really find a husband and so she does, a minister, who brings significant changes into her life: soon she takes care of four children, is not allowed to play her favorite music, to wear make-up, or to smoke any longer, and she obviously has no time to care for her looks. Although in the practical-minded Millicent's life seemingly nothing changes, she yet experiences Dorrie's and Muriel's turn of fate as a momentous change in her own life as well.


Although Millicent considers marriage to transform a woman's life into a "real" life, Dorrie's married life is as unreal, fabulous, and fairy-tale like for the Canadian small-town socialite as it can get: Dorrie is not only rich-after all she is comparable to the Queen of Tonga not only in her size-but she can also continue her life of adventure. The only difference between her unmarried "unreal" Canadian and married "real" Australian life is that instead of muskrats and feral cats she is shooting crocodiles. Marriage does not take her out of herself but simply transposes the scene of her contended life of primitive adventure from one continent to another. Muriel's marriage is the perfect opposite to Dorrie's: the beautiful, witty, and liberal-minded music teacher transforms into an unkempt and bigoted mother and housewife. Her "real" life is by contrast all too real.


Martin and Ober hold that the short story demonstrates Munro's comic spirit as it "lays bare the artificiality and hollowness of the social climbers Millicent and especially Muriel." Yet, they claim that "the chief thrust in the story is the respectful portrayal of Dorrie Beck, a true Canadian primitive [who] is remarkable for her integrity and innocence, the genuineness of her interests, and the dignity and worth of her unpretentious and often socially despised avocations" (Martin and Ober 1). Thus, they wish to read "Real Life" as a social comedy that reinforces the faith in Canadian values since it represents the difference between the values that the inner-directed Dorrie, the Canadian wild woman professes and those of Millicent's, which spring from a source "enclosed by bourgeois shibboleths and conventional attitudes" (1). They claim that while Munro treats Dorrie with respect, and makes Muriel the subject of mild satire, she depicts Millicent ironically because her social aspirations stop her from recognizing even at the very end of the narrative to what extent her own vision is circumscribed by her wish to achieve a higher status in polite society. On the whole, the story is structured to highlight the "contrast between bourgeois and rural life" and between "faults of taste and good sense," Martin and Ober conclude (2)-the contrast between "unreal" and "real" values.


While it can be effectively argued that the story's strength depends on its juxtaposition of the value of Canadian primitivism and of the fecklessness of aspirations for attaining a higher status in bourgeois society, interpretation in this vein neglects a most important theme in the short story, that of marriage. Marriage appears in the story not only as a social ritual of "courtship and mating," as Martin and Ober claim (1), which provides pace to the natural rhythm of life but also as a problem through which it can be adequately explored what marriage means from the vantage point of a female perspective. Marriage after all is not only a ritual in our culture but also a narrative convention that for centuries has been used to provide closure to the quest of the heroine, provided she is found worthy of survival.


The differences in the life routes of the three women are expressed through the differences in their marriages, which feature recalls the female gothic mode since in female gothic narratives marriage appears in various manifestations; and as such, it has become a definitive convention of the form. As argued earlier, closure by a happy ending is a constitutive element in the Radcliffean gothic since it caps the heroine's achievement: the heroine is first forced to enter a gothic otherworld where she confronts dark forces. Here she not only dares to question the foundational moment that is at the roots of the status quo but by her self-help she also conquers the darkness, and she eventually emerges into the ordinary world again as a victorious maiden who has also found a suitable partner with whom to start a new life. She becomes a bride to whom the wedding bells confirm her victory.


At least, this is the way Anne Williams likes to see the female gothic comedy; she argues: "[t]he female formula demands a happy ending, the conventional marriage of Western comedy." As a result of her travails "[t]he Female Gothic heroine experiences a rebirth. She is awakened to a world in which love is not only possible but available; she acquires in marriage a new name and, most important, a new identity" (Williams 103). All this is made possible by an oppositional conceptualization of the happy ending: it prepares the ground for a new kind of relationship between males and females unlike in the medieval romance, where the bride (bridegroom) is the prize for the successful completion of the quest. All the more so because, as opposed to the heroine's victory, there also may appear various female monitory figures whose marriage skirts disaster (victimized mothers, for instance) or figures who may never have been married at all (in many cases villainesses). The happy ending thus serves the purpose of confirming the gothic heroine's success at redefining her relationship to the world: her marriage rests on a different footing than that of the rest of the female figures. (This reconfiguration of her position vis a vis the world is partly rooted in the fact that she successfully reestablishes her relationship to other female figures, most eminently to her mother. Thus, she re-inscribes the importance of female-female relationships, devalued in a society conceived on the basis of patrilienal descent, into women's life while at the same time through her marriage the heroine also establishes her difference from other, possibly, failing female figures.)


Several critics, such as Ellen Moers (216), Michelle Massé (3), DuPlessis (16), and Nancy K. Miller (82), however, hold that the convention of the happy ending does not communicate the heroine's success only. Instead of concentrating on its thematic thrust they point to its function, which, they argue, is twofold: on the one hand, it provides closure to the whole of the narrative by closing her ambition/quest plot (during which the heroine learns the truth about herself-redemptive knowledge-and then with its help she redefines her position vis a vis others), and, on the other hand, it both closes and opens a second, erotic plot. Throughout most of the narrative the heroine has to fear the violation of her body by a threatening male, but by the end of the narrative she yet finds her hero. Closure in the female gothic narrative with the convention of the happy ending thus signals the heroine's success in both finding out the truth (redemptive knowledge) and finding a deserving husband. The perils that the heroine has to confront and the transformations they incur can be interpreted as the necessary prelude to the ensuing providential reward, which is becoming wife to the hero. Therefore, they argue, the meaning of closure can be described as ambivalent at least exactly because of the presence of the two plots.


This ambivalence is further reinforced by the fact that although the happy ending may be superficially held to prove the heroine's success, what it really manifests is her worthiness for marriage-and by that it only highlights to what extent western civilization is incapable of conceiving of female subjectivity as independent of males. In western cultural narratives there is no room for stray females, they have to be attached to males. The female gothic thus is a "make-believe puberty rite for young women" (Moers 216) that initiates women into the social and cultural reality of gender expectations. In Massé's formulation the popularity of the female gothic lies exactly in the fact that, with its happy ending, it fosters a "cultural amnesia" (3), which obscures to what extent our civilization depends on the destruction of women's subjectivity as independent of males; in fact, it is nothing but "masochism in the name of love" (2). Heroines after having arrived in the safe haven of normative married life are silenced-just like the heroines who have failed to live up to the patriarchal norm, who, therefore, must die. Therefore, the happy ending is like death (Miller 82; DuPlessis 16; Hirsch 27).


In sum, closure points into two directions: it both signals the beginning of an authorized erotic or marriage plot (the heroine no longer has to fear the invasion of her body from unauthorized males as she has found the rightful protector of her self, body, and property)-thus it literalizes the legal construction of woman as object; and it indicates the end of her ambition plot. Even if for the greater part of the plot the heroine proves that she can be an active agent of her own fate, the happy ending opens the possibility to revert to her former, more "feminine," i.e., passive and less ambitious, "natural" self. Thus, the happy ending re-affirms the ideological construction of woman as not an agent of action also.


Munro's "Real Life" serves a perfect ground on which to examine the two radically different assumptions about and evaluations of marriage (marriage as a relationship on an entirely new footing or as death) since it explores what comes after the happy ending. More exactly, it experiments with various plots that develop after closure: one plot presents a questing heroine pursuing her avocation even after the wedding bells' sound has faded, another shows a heroine who obeys the prescriptive cultural expectation and chooses marriage instead of her calling (which renders her dead to the world), and the third features a heroine who has made married life her vocation.


Dorrie departs with the tradition of transforming into a wife after the marriage vow and remains a questing heroine even after her wedding: she is an active dreamer, an agent of action, an adventurer, who does not frighten back from solitary enterprises. She is fully independent in her life and her dreams both before and after her wedding. By contrast, Muriel's life runs a course driven by her investment in the erotic plot and carries the transformation to extremes. She becomes housewife and mother incarnate raising four children, two born in her widowed husband's first marriage-where the dead mother is a further monitory figure-and two born in theirs while Dorrie is apparently childless. In addition, Dorrie appears as virtually sexless throughout the narrative: there is nothing about her body that is feminine, yet she is not manlike either; she is like "a doll with a china head and limbs attached to a cloth body, firmly stuffed with straw" (Munro, "Real" 63).


While the happy ending to close the first phase of a woman's life brings Muriel into an extraordinarily "real" life-where "real life" means drudgery and defenselessness against the traps of the erotic plot as the literalization of the threat posed at the physical integrity of women's bodies-, the very same happy ending brings Dorrie into an extraordinary, sexless and childless dream world of adventure where she can follow her avocation unperturbed by her husband. Marriage does not put an end to her aspirations, just the opposite, she can explore new frontiers. In comparison, Muriel acts as a casebook example of Massé's claim that marriage destroys independent female subjectivity (Massé 3). Muriel is totally transformed in her marriage, her transformation from a chic music teacher into a bigoted minister's wife is figuratively articulated in her claim that her former life makes her stomach turn (Munro, "Real" 79)-a metaphor all the more apt because it is connected to the body. These extremes are contrasted with Millicent's ordinary "real" life-a mostly decent husband, not unkind children, and a tolerable amount of work for the family, the management of which she has made the major goal of her life. She yet grows pensive on observing these two different marriages and what has become of her two social companions.


What the story thus also lays bare beside the ridiculousness of social pretensions as Martin and Ober claim is the conflict of interpretations over what the convention of the happy ending entails for women in marriage. Munro however does not suggest that either of the two "heroines" of the two plots is to be set as an example for women: neither Dorrie nor Muriel is to be followed or, on the contrary, to be pitied. Neither is truly successful since both lack something that the other has, although Millicent herself cannot verbalize this recognition, she yet senses it. In this regard, Millicent is the real heroine of the narrative and not Dorrie since she is the one who is able to contemplate life from a wider perspective.


Millicent is mostly portrayed as a practical woman with clear goals in her life and with a tiny streak for sentimentality, who thus nicely fits into the long line of asexual female characters in Munro's fiction (e.g.: Del's mother in Lives, Et in "Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You," Janet's mother in The Moons of Jupiter, and Phemie's mother in The Progress of Love). She however proves on two occasions in the short story that for all her practicality and well-arranged life she is able to experience life in its complexity without wanting to force it into pigeonholed realities: first, when she walks over to Dorrie to force her back into her decision to marry Mr. Speirs, she weeps though she does not know for what reason, and, second, in the last scenes of the narrative, when she muses over the practice of collecting walnuts. Dorrie and her brother used to collect walnuts every year and then count them since they were children. The results were written down as if in the annals of past times although the walnuts were subsequently thrown away. After Dorrie leaves, Millicent does not continue this "useless chore" (Munro, "Real" 80), yet, every year when the walnuts are falling she thinks of the practice and thinks of Dorrie, who "must have expected to keep it up until she died. [...] must have believed that she was meant to live so, in her reasonable eccentricity, her manageable loneliness" (Munro, "Real" 80). In the mean time she wonders in puzzlement why she does not pull down the dilapidated house. This same puzzlement appears when Millicent cajoles and then tricks Dorrie into her marriage "[a]t greater cost to herself, Millicent was thinking-greater cost than she had understood" (77). Although she never understands wholly what the cost is and why she is puzzled at all, she feels that it has an import for herself (she is a heroine learning to "see gothically" [Wall 210]).


At the beginning, Millicent is convinced-in full harmony with Dorrie and Muriel-that people need to live in relationships (Dorrie also must have believed what her brother, her only companion in life for long, told her: "people living alone are to be pitied" [Munro, "Real" 55]); most significantly, that women need to get married. This view governs all the three women since their motives for getting married are not emotionally charged. Millicent marries Porter for he seems to be the prospective husband capable of furnishing her with everything she needs for her household management goals; Muriel probably marries the minister because her chances elsewhere have thinned out; Dorrie marries Mr. Speirs because she has believed her brother's and Millicent's words: she is in fact "conquered" and she, "mulish, obedient, childish, female-a most mysterious and maddening person" (Munro, "Real" 76), consents. In Dorrie's and Muriel's extraordinary otherworlds apparently there is not much room for either love or ambivalence: Dorrie is solely presented as an adventurer with only some warm affection for her husband, Muriel by contrast is depicted as a stark woman willing to give up anything, her love of music, fun and people, her former friends, for the sake of marriage.


By the ending though Millicent is portrayed as one ready to "see differently," to perceive, contemplate, feel-experience. She grows hesitant over her former conviction also that marriage is necessary for a woman to enter real life (loss of "conscious worth" as self-righteousness). This way, she is approaching the threshold where she can understand that her former conviction might be nothing else than a self-deluding, self-manipulative investment in avoiding a confrontation with an illusion that covers over an essential sense of powerlessness. Margaret Atwood calls the kind of complicitous avoidance Millicent immerses herself the "Miss Flegg syndrome" (Lady 149). The major characteristic of the syndrome is that its victim often voluntarily chooses containment in a delimiting cultural norm so that she can bask in the light of fake autonomy. This however also means that she avoids any recognition of the extent this more or less conscious accommodation might prove detrimental in the long run because instead of plainly accepting her situation, she insists on complying with the cultural norm. Millicent, however, is starting to see that it is not marriage that she should expect to offer her and other women a graceful existence.


At the same time, she is led to the threshold of recognition that there is a definitive relationship-though not an interpersonal one-that does not render one other than herself implicated by the catapult into "real life." Relationships between individuals in the short story are repeatedly shown to be fleeting, of temporary value, fake, even outright dangerous: friendships cease, marital relationships quickly evolve into routine, altruistic help may lead to danger, brotherly or sisterly love requires self-sacrifice. What Millicent cannot exactly see when looking at the walnut trees and reflecting on Dorrie's and Albert's practice of collecting walnuts is an immutable attachment to the land compressed into Dorrie's announcement: "I can't leave here" (Munro, "Real" 74). Millicent's reaction at the time of announcement is rejection: "what did Dorrie mean by ‘here'? If she meant that she would be homesick, let her be! [ ... ] Millicent was not going to pay attention to that ‘here.' Nobody had any business living a life out ‘here' if they had been offered what Dorrie had" (76). Several years later she seems to be on the brink of changing her mind about this "here." When she is looking at the house and puzzles over why she would not allow Dorrie to continue her "life of customs" (80) and why she has failed to knock down the useless house, she senses that there might be other definitive relationships beside marriage.


Whereas in the paradigmatic female gothic the interplay of the two plots prepare the ground for the conventional happy ending that attaches the heroine and the hero in a relationship, in Munro's short story the events that ensue the happy ending reinvent the object of desire and thus direct the reader's attention to a different kind of attachment that does not render the heroine passive. Munro suggests that the love of the land, a sense of belonging organically into one's environment, both natural and social, may also serve as the base for a self-definition, which escapes the traps of an un-reflected self-investment in the ideology of gender. This is what Millicent appears to have intimated with the passing of time: that there is a desire that resists not only the voluntarist-masochistic trajectory of desire directed at self-fulfillment through romance (love story) but the very discourse about it also. This recognition however does not mean that she becomes Dorrie's equal in her love of the land; the thrust of the narrative is not to prove that a social climber may also grow into an awareness of the reality of the land, the "here." Dorrie is in a sense a traitor: she does leave and lives a life of adventure. She never returns. Although her reasons for not returning seem reasonable-first the war, then her husband's death-she outlives both and continues with her adventures in the Antipodes. She finds, or creates, a satisfactorily interesting life there as well. Millicent, by contrast, never seems to have had a connection to the land; after all she has set her eyes on working her way up in small-town society. Yet, towards the end of her life she grows unsure about the value she has attached to interpersonal relationships and turns to the land, to nature in puzzlement without wholeheartedly embracing it as her new certainty. Her being unsure (the loss of her self-assurance rooted in her "conscious worth") is her triumph. In contrast to Dorrie's certainty in her own capacities as displayed in her feats of adventure and in contrast to Muriel's dogmatic convictions, Millicent grows less and less sure, which also means that she grows more and more open to different perspectives. She does not discard either polite society or the land as her bases for self-definition as she is progressing towards recognizing the importance of the land, the "here" as a fundamental and definitive connection.


Robert Thacker argues most vehemently that "for Munro the most urgent connection has been her rural southwestern Ontario birthplace in Huron County, Wingham-the ‘home place,' her cultural map, her profound talisman" ("Mapping" 127; original emphasis). "Real Life" erects a monument to the love of this "talisman" through a negotiation of marriage as a constitutive convention of the female gothic which puts the female gothic heroine into the matrix of a definitive relationship that escapes the pitfalls of either a "masochistic" belief in woman's highest bliss (Noble 5) or its total denial. The love of the land arises as a viable force of female subjectification escaping the ideological over-determination of woman as an object mediated by the double narrative structure of the female gothic plot.



Works Cited


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Cultural Hybridity in Twentieth Century Métis Autobiographies,

Beatrice Culleton's In Search of April Raintree


Eszter Szenczi

(ELTE, Budapest)


North America had been populated by Native groups for thousands of years when the first European settlers set foot there and changed its face for good. They divided the New World between themselves and the Natives drawing an invisible distinctive line between the two cultures. However, the unknown and hostile environment forced the explorers to cooperate with the Natives, which resulted in the birth of a new group, the Métis "who have some Native ancestry together with another race" (Sauvé and Sauvé 78).


The concept of hybridity originally designated the mixing of species but it has become an important term in postcolonial theory encompassing all forms of mixing, be it social, literal, or cultural. Homi Bhabha defines cultural hybridity as "an active moment of challenge and resistance to the dominant cultural power which transforms the cultural from the source of conflict to an element of production" (Simon 21). Cultural hybridity -in my case- describes the society that emerged from the cultural contacts of the European explorers and those explored.


The tension originating from cultural hybridity has been handled in different manners. Writing is considered one of the most effective ways of reducing Native despair. Jo-Ann Episkenew, professor at the First Nations University of Canada, argues that "converting the residual pain of traumatic events first into language and then into text enables us to distance ourselves from the trauma" (70). We can then examine the text of the traumatic event to understand the emotion it triggers which allows us to diminish its effects.


Episkenew adds that Native autobiographies have another vital function in redefining the national collective myth which is the stories that justify the settlers' existence as a new nation.  Its stories are full of heroic adventures of courageous settlers who braved journeys across the ocean to tame the New World. Nevertheless, the Natives were constant reminders of these events and called into question the settlers' pride. For this reason, Natives have often been left out of these stories. By writing down their own memories, the Natives can fill in the gaps in the collective myth of the dominant society (71-73).


Like the Afro-American authors of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s and ‘30s in the U.S., numerous Métis writers took a pen to make the dominant white culture face the Métis reality through their stories. Maria Campbell's Halfbreed (1973) recalls Campbell's poverty-stricken childhood and early adulthood. Lee Maracle draws the readers' attention to the Métis' despair in Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel (1975). Stolen Life (1998), co-written by Rudy Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson, tells the story of the only Native woman in Canada serving a twenty-five-year sentence for first-degree murder.


Beartice Culleton Mosionier (1949- ) also belongs to this generation of Métis writers who decided to share their life stories with their readers. In Search of April Raintree (1983) is a fictional autobiography which presents the story of two Métis girls' identity-search. It was so successful right after its first publication that a revised high school edition was issued a year later.


But why did Culleton choose to apply the form of fictional autobiography? Episkenew believes that Native autobiography is often subject to criticism by other Native people who have lived through the same events but perceived them differently. Disguising one's autobiography in fiction is a less risky choice. Moreover, fiction can be used to give voice to many stories, not just those of the author (Episkenew 108).


In Search of April Raintree had often been mistaken as a real autobiography although Culleton's life differed at several points from that of its main character. Culleton's life was relatively happy in her foster home, her rapist has never been found and two of her sisters committed suicide. On her own website we can read that in Come, Walk With Me, A Memoir (2009) "Mosionier shares with us how she found fulfilment - artistically, politically, and personally. She also includes the recovery of her powerful bond with her mother, a bond nearly destroyed by the family's separation in 1952" (www.beatrice-culleton-mosionier.com).


April, the narrator of In Search of April Raintree gives insight into the formulation of her identity, how she struggles between her Native and White self. In the process of search she rejects her parents and her sister, Cheryl, in order to live a complete life as a white person. So in this book, just like in other Métis autobiographies, the unquestionable identity serves as a key element of representation.


For April and Cheryl their parents emerge as the first sources of culture. Owing to his developed tuberculosis, their Métis father is forced to relocate from the Norway House community to urban Winnipeg and stops being a breadwinner any more. No longer self-sustaining, the Raintrees get reliant on welfare support. Henry and his wife become obsessed with alcohol as they cannot provide an adequate home for their children. Their distorted behaviour ends up in their children's removal to separate foster homes.


April's process of acculturation begins at the White Dions.' She yearns for acceptance so she learns to behave as if she were a French-Canadian child. She is taught how to be a good White girl. Although she enjoys residing with the Dions, it is rather their material wealth that attracts her, being a veiled policy of the regime to assimilate Native children (Episkenew 120). When Mrs Dion becomes ill, April is relocated to the money-grubbing DeRosier home where a totally different approach is taken towards her. April's description of life there is one that many Indigenous foster children would recognize. The racism that April has to face at her new home weakens her already thin bond to the Métis.


After a couple of years Cheryl joins April at the DeRosier home which brings a little comfort for the two girls. They develop survival techniques such as unconditional obedience or remaining silent and keeping their opinions for themselves. The DeRosiers' overt racism causes April to situate the Métis on the opposite pole of the Dions. As her skin is white enough, she decides to pass as white and live her life in the dominant society. This is very similar to what happened in the U.S. in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At that time physical appearance was crucial in being categorized as a particular member of society. With skin white enough the Afro-Americans could be accepted and could benefit from all the privileges the White society was provided with. And "passing" has become a reoccurring motif in American literature since then (Bollobás 462).


After having rejected her family to hide her descent, April becomes lonely and desperately needs a companion. She marries White Bob Redcliff and moves to Toronto where her mother-in-law does her best to terminate the marriage in fear of getting "a bunch of little half-breeds" (Culleton 116). April's marriage is doomed to failure and end up in divorce.


While April keeps looking to the future, Cheryl cannot stop living in the past. Full of ambition and energy she enrols to a university to train as a responsible social worker, better than the ones she met throughout her childhood. Nevertheless, her dream falls into pieces soon after finding her still alcoholic father, "a bent, wasted human form" (Culleton 197). Her idealized picture of her heroic people is ruined and she cannot come to terms with reality.  She sinks into a spiral of depression and prostitutes herself.


In the meantime, April learns about her sister's misfortune in a tragic way. She is mistaken for Cheryl and violently raped. According to Agnes Grant, author of Finding My Talk (2004), the documentation of the rape is one of the most graphic rape scenes in English literature that leaves nothing to the readers' imagination (244). When Culleton wrote her novel, the largely White, middle-class feminist movement was beginning to speak of such atrocities openly (237). April's rapists are called to account for their deeds, sentenced to prison, which lets April move towards reclaiming part of her self.


This, however, does not bring the sisters closer to each other. Cheryl's identity is built up on a fragile foundation acquired from books. When reality crushes her, her identity gets ruined and finally she commits suicide, just like her mother did years earlier. Many Native readers felt betrayed by Cheryl's transformation and were angered because they expected better from somebody who was always so proud of her Métisness (Hoy 299).


From Cheryl's journal April learns that she has a nephew who -now that Cheryl is gone- will remind her of her Native side. It is a fact which she cannot hide from so she decides to bring Henry up and invests her hope for a better future in her sister's boy. Grant argues that the readers feel that the search is over and there will be love and peace in April's life (246). However, there is no declared solution for April's problem.


Nancy Fraser, an American critical theorist, offers two approaches to handle the harms caused by racism. "Affirmation" aims at re-estimating the disdained group identities by collecting common cultural pieces of art together. However, it does not eliminate the group differences. "Transformation" attempts to modify the underlying solidified cultural structures by mapping the sources of injustice. This approach destabilizes the existing differences and blurs the line between group identities (359, 364), which seems to make it a more effective solution.


In conclusion, In Search of April Raintree presents the life of a fictive family which is torn apart by early Canadian governmental policy. Beatrice Culleton Mosionier created two characters which let her share other foster children's experience with the reader. Cullton's work served as a catharsis so that she could finally come to terms with her personal history. Through her book she could understand her mother's alcoholism and her sisters' suicides (New 128).


April and Cheryl's lives reflect the impact of society on the personality. Both girls endure the feeling of alienation; notwithstanding, they experience it differently. While April chooses to pass as White at a young age, Cheryl is determined to fight against injustice. The careless years at the Dions' intensify April's desire to belong to the White society. Cheryl's idealized picture of the Métis, on the other hand, clashes with reality. While her way out of despair is suicide, April can see light at the end of the tunnel in her nephew.


Margery Fee, Professor of English, argues that the book's "real power is its success in explaining how racism feeds destructive processes of identification that lead to despair and alcohol" (225). By documenting Native reality, the dominant White society can understand how colonisation of North America alienated its Indigenous peoples from their land and themselves. By reading Native literature the Whites can learn to treat the Natives as equal partners. It is no accident that Louis Riel, the spiritual leader of the Métis said in the nineteenth century that "My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back" (Epikenew 191).



Works Cited



  • Bollobás, Enikő. Az amerikai irodalom története. Budapest: Osiris, 2006. Print.
  • Culleton, Beatrice. In Search of April Raintree. Ed. Cheryl Suzack. Winnipeg: Portage & Main, 1999. Print.
  • Episkenew, Jo-Ann. Taking Back Our Spirits: Indigenous Literature, Public Policy, and Healing. Winnipeg: Manitoba UP, 2009. Print.
  • Fee, Margery. „Deploying Identity in the Face of Racism." In Search of April Raintree. Ed. Cheryl Suzack. Winnipeg: Portage & Main, 1999. Print.
  • Fraser, Nancy. "Az újraelosztástól az elismerésig?  Az igazságosság dilemmái a poszt-szocializmus korában." Rasszizmus a tudományban. Szerk. Kende Anna, Vajda Róza. Budapest: Napvilág, 2008. Print.
  • Grant, Agnes. "Abuse and Violence: April Raintree's Human Rights (if she had any)."In Search of April Raintree. Ed. Cheryl Suzack. Winnipeg: Portage & Main, 1999. Print.
  • Hoy, Helen. "Nothing but the Truth:  Discursive Transparency in Beatrice Culleton." In Search of April Raintree. Ed. Cheryl Suzack. Winnipeg: Portage & Main, 1999. Print.
  • New, W. H. Native Writers and Canadian Writing. Vancouver: UBC, 1991. Print.
  • "New Release! Come Walk With Me, A Memoir." Beatrice Culleton Mosionier homepage. Web. 30. December 2011. <http://www.beatrice-culleton-mosionier.com/come-walk-with-me.html>
  • Sauvé, Virginia L., and Monique Sauvé. Gateway to Canada. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.
  • Simon, Sherry, Paul H. Pierre. Changing the Terms: Translating in the Postcolonial Era. Ottawa:  Ottawa UP, 2000. Print.


Writing the Province in David Adams Richards's Miramichi Trilogy


André Dodeman

(Université Stendhal, Grenoble 3 - CEMRA)





Since the publication of The Coming of Winter in 1974, David Adams Richards's fiction has focused on the building of Maritime identity in the Miramichi Valley in New Brunswick, Canada. Over the years, many critics have debated his work, and certain academic circles in Toronto and Quebec have considered it less innovating than more recent postmodern novels because of its bleak realism. After writing novels such as Blood Ties (1976) and Lives of Short Duration (1981), Richards began writing his Miramichi trilogy in 1988 with Nights Below Station Street, which was quickly followed by Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace in 1990 and For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down in 1993. All three novels deal with the provincial life of a fictional mill town in the Miramichi Valley and concentrate on characters from the underclass who are forced to come to grips with unemployment, violence and a hostile environment. The novels focus on three central characters who have difficulty coping with family and community life. Joe Walsh in Nights Below Station Street is an alcoholic who has taken the decision to stop drinking and remain sober; Ivan Basterache in Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace is a pariah who lives outside the community to steer clear of the rumours about his beating his pregnant wife Cindi; Jerry Bines in For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down is a criminal who returns to the Miramichi Valley after having been charged with murder and sent to prison. The importance of character in the trilogy reflects Richards's concerns with the notions of identity and authenticity, and his work shows to what extent Maritime identity is fashioned by a particular sense of space and time. This essay will first deal with how Richards defines authenticity through his fictional construction of time and landscape. The effect of the writer's representation of time evokes the timelessness of peripheral provincial towns as opposed to urban centres. Secondly, Richards's notion of authenticity contrasts with the artificial nature of the centre which is often associated with the city. He goes as far as to challenge centres by shifting focalisation from one novel to the next while maintaining the narrative unity of the trilogy. As a result of this decentring process, the writer casts doubt upon the scientific validity of the centralizing forces of Western knowledge. Finally, debates around his work have led to discussions on Richards's approach to contemporary literature in general. By choosing to remain faithful to a realist tradition, the writer criticizes modernity and its thirst for innovation which he believes has relinquished the Maritimes and isolated maritime literature from the national literary canon.


Maritime Spaces


Richards's Miramichi trilogy covers a period of seventeen years between 1972 and 1989 and deals with family and community life in the Miramichi Valley. The valley in which the story is set is realistically depicted in all its harshness and resistance to human effort. Richards's choice of a third person narrator and internal focalisation allows the reader to explore the means by which his characters interact with maritime landscape. Nights Below Station Street tells the story of Joe Walsh and his family - his wife Rita and their two daughters Milly and Adele - who live by the river on the periphery of a fictional mill town in New Brunswick. Joe rapidly becomes a model of the maritime character which combines both physical strength and inarticulateness. This model becomes central in the following novels with Ivan Basterache and Jerry Bines. The verbal silence of the heroes is mirrored in the silent, inarticulate nature of the landscape. For instance, Nights Below Station Street ends with Rita's friends' wedding in a community centre and the discovery of their daughter's pregnancy. Instead of setting off to the hospital with their daughter Adele, Joe decides to return to his camp in the woods with a bottle of Vodka: "Why he had come here he had no idea. He had started out toward the hospital but had turned onto this road. He rolled the window down, sniffed the cool air, and had a drink out of the plastic bottle. The woods were quiet. A sash of snow fell over the trees, and wisped in the opened doorway of a dry shed. It was good to have this place because it looked so much like the Christmas cards, Joe thought" (Nights 222). Despite its minimalist description, landscape plays a crucial role in the text by diverting the hero from his destination and the reader from an expected outcome. The road he takes becomes an opportunity to show how landscape and subjectivity interact. Instead of leading to another place, the road leads to a different destination which is the self. In her analysis of Canadian landscape, Sensing Space, Claire Omhovère defines landscape as a mediation which connects human subjectivity and reality: "Landscape is [...] not an object, but a mediation through which human subjectivity connects with an empirical reality and, to a certain extent, produces it as its objectification results from the shaping of perception. As a mediation, landscape is therefore bound to be historically variable, socially and culturally malleable" (25). It is through the mediate function of landscape that Richards constructs authenticity as opposed to the aestheticizing of landscape that prevailed in previous Maritime fiction. Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908) still owes its success to its regional idyllic town of Avonlea, and Hugh MacLennan's Barometer Rising (1941) is characterized by a blend of American transcendentalism and British romanticism which aimed at connecting character and landscape on a national level.


The phenomenological interaction between character and landscape permits the writer to imbricate space and time by having his characters react sensuously to a given place. Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace focuses on Ivan Basterache's story and his position as outsider. The character finds refuge in the woods outside of town to keep the rumours about his violence at bay. In the following extract, it is the landscape that reveals the maritime character. Ivan's father Antony takes Ivan's horse and sets fire to the forest as a means to be hired to put it out. Finally, when Antony returns to tell Ivan he was forced to abandon the horse in a bog, Ivan goes back to rescue the animal and dies trying to save it:


The woods to the left of his grandfather's house was dry and warm. Ivan could smell sun on his jacket and the faint tang of smoke far away.

He walked straight through the woods and hit the road about an hour later.

He walked along the road, stepping gingerly here and there, moving from one side to the other, looking up at the trees for a sign of wind.

After almost an hour on the road he reached the giant puddle, where Nevin and Antony had encountered the moose the month before, and turned briskly to his right, heading through the trees. Within twenty minutes, he was at the fringe of the bog. (Evening Snow 208)


Ivan's movements from one side of the road to the other and his position at "the fringe of the bog" illustrate the social isolation of the character. Richards connects his isolated characters to interstitial spaces which compensate for the character's underdetermined nature. Ivan's peripheral social position in the Miramichi is located on the border between nature and human society. His position challenges the traditional Western assumption that human beings and civilisation are above nature. In his study of Thoreau and the Group of Seven entitled "Wilderness as Symbolic Form", Jonathan Bordo asserts that "our life in human society is marked by a separateness from nature, that is apart from, outside of, and above nature" (161). Given the inarticulate nature of the central characters and the minimalist mimetic realism used to portray landscape, Richards fashions space into a mirror which gives substance to the character. For instance, the various allusions in the third-person narrative to the "flatness" of the landscape evoke the reflective surface of the mirror.

As a result, the spatial fixity created by the bordered spaces of the Miramichi Valley has a direct influence over the novel's representation of time. The community is characterized by timelessness, and the characters are trapped in the fatalistic and deterministic world of the provincial town. When discussing the connectedness of space and time in the novel, Mikhail Bakhtin's analysis of chronotopes is particularly pertinent. He takes the example of Emma Bovary's provincial town of Yonville to underline the routine of provincial space: "Such towns are the locus for cyclical everyday time. Here there are no events, only "doings" that constantly repeat themselves. Time here has no advancing historical movement; it moves rather in narrow circles: the circle of the day, of the week, of the month, of a person's entire life" (247-8). In Nights Below Station Street, Ralphie Pillar serves as a witness to the timelessness of the province. Instead of going to university, he chooses to take a job in a mine and submit to its cyclical constraints. When the third person narrator reveals the character's thoughts concerning the place each human is supposed to occupy in life, time is represented as causal, cyclical and devoid of historical movement. Indeed, time leaves no place for improvisation:


Although Ralphie already believed that everything in the world, everyone and everything, happened exactly the way that it was supposed to, and that once something did happen, no matter how preposterous it was at first, it was meant to happen and was therefore absolutely natural, he still felt that Adele and he only became boyfriend and girlfriend because no one else seemed to think very much of them. (Nights 46)


This hypotactic passage highlights the extent to which time rejects coincidence and change. Even the most illogical and unexpected event is explained away by fate and predestination. Time is repetitive and seasonal insofar as the only changes the characters witness are brought about by the weather. The title of the second novel, Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace, alludes to the omnipresence of the snow and the cold which put an end to a hot summer marked by a forest fire and Ivan's death. Ivan becomes symptomatic of the timelessness of the provincial town and the universality of human destiny. His identity at the end of the novel becomes that of Everyman, and his epitaph reads "Ivan Basterache, A Man, 1957-1979" (Evening Snow 226).

Change remains ephemeral and insignificant to the characters who are maintained within the borders of a rigid social structure. Richards's desire to depict characters who have no choice but to cope with dire economic and social prospects explains why his Miramichi trilogy is said to shift from the phenomenological realism of The Coming of Winter to a more critical analysis of society in a provincial, decentred town. The novels are less concerned with the interaction between space and character than with the oppressive environment which traps the characters in the vicious circle of routine and prevents them from exploring other spaces, be they central or peripheral.


Artificial Centres and Authentic Peripheries


As already mentioned, the unity of the trilogy is based on family and community life in the Miramichi valley, but this unity also contributes to the uniqueness of each novel. Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace shifts away from Nights Below Station Street by drawing the reader's attention to one of the peripheral characters of the first novel. As in most trilogies, the first novel consists in setting the story in a particular place and in familiarizing the reader with its protagonists. The complexity of the first novel lies in the intricateness of the relationships between the characters and their origins. The first novel opens with the story of Joe and Rita Walsh and their two daughters, Adele and Milly. Progressively, the story turns to the Pillar family with Ralphie, Adele's boyfriend, Thelma, his bourgeois mother, and Vera, Ralphie's educated sister who returns to town after spending a year at Oxford. Ivan Basterache is introduced in the first novel as one of Ralphie's friends and becomes the central character of Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace. In this respect, the writer alternates central and peripheral characters, all for the purpose of challenging the separateness of centre and margin in the novel.

The third novel, For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down, returns to the Walsh family although Joe and Rita have died. The novel tells the story of another character, Joe's nephew Jerry Bines. The choice of this structure questions the traditional genre of the family saga which generally revolves around the adventures of a single family. Furthermore, the author attempts to resist the formal dialectic of centre and periphery by encouraging the reader to focus on alternatives to the traditional city-centred plotline. Richards offers a maritime counter narrative which concentrates on provinciality and marginalization as opposed to the centrality of Canadian urban culture. In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said writes that the centrality of American culture depends on the relative position of a province or a region:


Marginalization in American culture means a kind of unimportant provinciality. It means the inconsequence associated with what is not major, not central, not powerful-in short, it means association with what are considered euphemistically as ‘alternative' modes, alternative states, peoples, cultures, alternative theatres, presses, newspapers, artists, scholars, and styles, which may later become central or at least fashionable. (392)


Therefore, by challenging the centrality of Canadian culture which is voiced by the young Vera Pillar, Richards recentralizes a region which was peopled by Acadian and Irish communities and was forced to grow familiar with poverty and migration. The alternative consists of a narrative of authenticity and nostalgia which calls upon a common origin to justify a community's historical position within a nation.

Many central characters foster a Romantic vision of the history of the Irish and Acadian communities who were both subdued by British colonizers. Richards's central characters derive their meaning from Irish folk tales and ballads, and the nostalgic undertones of the text recall the Celtic Golden Age prior to colonization. Ralphie Pillar does not seek origin in a nation fashioned by centralizing British discourses, but in a romanticized vision of Ireland. At the beginning of Nights Below Station Street, Ralphie Pillar and Ivan Basterache reassert their affiliation to this fantasized homeland:


And he [Ralphie Pillar] and Ivan Basterache travelled about together, he drinking out of the flask and imitating others as much as possible, sometimes wearing his father's heavy winter coat, and a small blue toque. Ralphie suddenly had this affinity for Ireland, and everything about him had to be Irish. He sang Irish rebel songs and drank stout, and proclaimed loudly that he was holding the memory of his father sacred by being Irish. (Nights 46)


Even though their Irishness is purely imitative, their attitude epitomizes the individual need to belong to an inclusive historical narrative. In this passage, Irishness is associated with oral tradition, lineage and rebellion against a centralizing colonial power. Joe Walsh, Ivan Basterache and Jerry Bines recall the epic heroes whose adventures are related in Irish folk tradition. Despite a serious back injury, Joe Walsh is depicted as an extraordinarily strong character whose formidable presence forces silence upon those who surround him. These nostalgic references to a Golden Age contrast with the realistic description of the Miramichi, and such a contrast underlines the exclusion of the community from national economic and historical development. The discrepancy between the narratives of a glorious past and everyday reality also applies to the Acadian community.

In Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace, the Acadian community is voiced by Antony Garrett, Ivan's father, and Dr Armand Savard, the thirteenth child of a family of nineteen children. While Antony is the lying hypocrite who sets fire to the forest and incidentally kills his own son, Dr Savard is the successful Acadian doctor who is ashamed of his origins. Devoid of any Romantic vision of pre-colonial Acadia, Dr Savard relinquishes his roots to turn to the homogeneous discourses of the city, and it is not without a touch of irony that Richards reassesses the discourses that are shaped by middle-class values. Whenever a problem occurs in the Savard family, the solution is to be found in the city: "One day last autumn the oldest girl, Teddy, had pooped herself at a recital at school. Armand and Jennifer had not known there was a problem. But now they did all the things other middle-class families did. They got her to a psychiatrist, in Moncton, three times a week" (Evening Snow, 147). In this case, Richards satirizes city life by associating it with the absence of authenticity. The coexistence of the different languages which ordinarily characterize social classes exposes the inherent heteroglossia of the author's fictional world, the intention of which is to undermine these values.

Another representative character of the city is Vera Pillar, Ralphie's older sister, who returns from Oxford in Nights Below Station Street with her boyfriend Nevin. The relationship between Vera and Nevin on the one hand, and Ralphie and Adele on the other, reveals the discrepancy between a university education which the narrator associates with arrogant high culture and an authentic Maritime way of life:


Seated in a deep chair, with her granny glasses on, and looking (or trying to look) older than she was, she would ask Ralphie to sit down and talk to her. Ralphie would sit down for a moment, on the edge of his seat. Vera had little to say to him, and Ralphie would sit there patiently for fifteen to twenty minutes. Then, walking out into the other room, he would see Nevin sitting down by Adele, speaking to her about world problems. Adele, her eyes big and wide, would be nodding. [...] Everything about Nevin was forced, everything unnatural, and yet Ralphie was too polite to say anything. (Nights 136)


The parenthetic observation in this passage reveals the narrator's irony when dealing with the characters and their conventional attitudes. The entire conversation becomes theatrical insofar as each character plays a given role. Vera plays the role of the enlightened intellectual type with the uneducated provincial girl, and Nevin is represented as being utterly devoid of any authenticity at all. He is reduced to a patchwork of fragmented discourses legitimized by a university education. This illustrates Richards's distrust of centralizing university language and Western thinking which, in his terms, aim at silencing the uneducated. This distrust is best represented in For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down in which Vera Pillar decides to write a book on Jerry Bines's life entitled The Victims of Patriarchy (and Its Inevitable Social Results).

As suggested by the title of her book, Vera Pillar's approach to Jerry Bines's life is sociological, and Richards draws the reader's attention to the centralizing tendency of Western knowledge to subsume human subjects under pre-existent categories. In other words, Richards writes against the positivistic turn that the social sciences have taken since the theories of Emile Durkheim.[1] The use of Jerry Bines as a case study denotes the distance between the rural provinces of the Maritimes and the urban centres which control university education and the social sciences. Science is represented as a means to objectify the human being, and Vera breaks Jerry Bines's life up into moments (childhood, adolescence and adulthood) which are carefully selected only to prove her thesis beforehand. For Vera, Jerry Bines is nothing more than a stereotype that can be dissected and explained away by sociology. The character soon realizes that he is being used by Vera and science to objectify the rural people of the Maritimes and contribute to Vera's academic reputation:


[Vera] "Well, you certainly have some idea that you told on someone - and you don't like it. You probably always protected your father - your mother probably protected him as well. It's natural now to feel guilt."

Suddenly he realized he was being used for something much more complex than he ever realized. He never would understand this fully, and would go into the dark groping for it. (Wounded 183)


This passage emphasizes the didactic function of the narrator who aims at compensating for Jerry Bines's inarticulateness. By attempting to define Jerry Bines in psychological terms and portraying him as the pitiful offspring of a violent father and an inarticulate mother, Vera strips the character of his individuality, his authenticity and dismisses him as the mere product of social and economic circumstances. The narrator suggests that scientific discourse is used to confuse individuals and exert power over them by erasing their identity with psychological or sociological terminology. As a result, science is associated with linguistic domination over the poor, uneducated underclass.



The Importance of Tradition


In For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down, the reifying and fragmenting power of the written word is set in opposition with the oral traditions of Irish culture. In "Racial Discourse and Irish History", Luke Gibbons notes that oral culture is strongly associated with authenticity, the very notion that Richards attempts to define in his trilogy. In Gibbons's words, "oral culture [...] is seen as a source of plenitude and stability, of a prelapsarian innocence or communion with nature before the fall brought about by the invention of letters. The primary speech, the voice of experience, attests to the authenticity of a culture..." (489). The importance of oral culture is not only asserted by characters such as Ralphie Pillar and Ivan Basterache, but also by the act of story-telling and the rumours it involves. In her study of Maritime literature entitled Under Eastern Eyes, Janice Kulyk Keefer writes that rumours contribute to the "tightness and closeness of communal life" in the Maritimes (39). Rumours are stories that are altered and distorted by multiple anonymous voices, and in Richards's text, they participate in the very fabrication of family and community relationships. For instance, Ivan Basterache is ostracized by stories that blur the borders between story and fact: "That day another rumour had started - that Cindi had filed for divorce. Ivan, of course, had heard this rumour, the way all characters involved in rumours hear one, as if it were already true and he himself knew about it" (Evening Snow 120). Richards dwells upon the importance of rumours to underline their mythopoeic nature. They give birth to stories and legends that tighten the bonds of community life and strengthen collective identity. The importance of the legend, defined by Northrop Frye as "stories associated with some particular place or culture-hero" (Frye 30), is particularly striking when dealing with the story of Jerry Bines.


The structure of For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down is different from the previous novels of the trilogy in that Richards includes both framing and framed narratives. The first chapter introduces the reader to Andrew, a young nine-year old, who hears the story of Jerry Bines from an anonymous character in a hunting camp. The writer focuses on this mode of transmission from one person to the other and from one generation to the next in order to draw the reader's attention to how legends are born. In the narrative, Jerry Bines and his heroic feats are depicted from another character‘s perspective: "And so the boy, who was only nine, was drawn to this quality, as boys generally are, infatuated with it, as boys generally are, and romanticized this man [Jerry Bines] immediately as being the kind of man he would like to be himself. It was because of the object of his look, the almost casual disregard for private benefit when he spoke to others" (Wounded 8). According to Frye's definition of the legend, Jerry Bines is a "culture-hero". Even though Jerry Bines did time in jail for murder, he nevertheless gets killed trying to protect the Pillars against one of his accomplices, Gary Percy. It is not only the character that the narrator foregrounds, but the story that narrates the hero in the making. The following passage reveals Jerry Bines's legendary bulk even more clearly: "He [Andrew] thought of how sad it must be to be outside of life, and that Jerry's physical aspects took on a certain heaviness, as if the physical space he inhabited was somehow different and more limited that that of the other men there" (Wounded 9). This extract shows to what extent Jerry Bines is irreducible to limited space and cannot be contained within a single narrative, frame or language. The framed narrative of Jerry Bines's heroic death at the end of the novel encourages the reader to focus on the creative process of story-telling. In their article "Firing the Regional Can(n)on: Liberal Pluralism, Social Agency, and David Adams Richards's Miramichi Trilogy", Christopher Armstrong and Herb Wyile evoke Richards's resistance to sociological discourses and postmodern concerns. However, the writer's choice of a more complex structure illustrates his need to experiment with form and his acceptance of what Linda Hutcheon refers to as "the fact that [literature] is written and read as part of a particular culture" (Hutcheon 1).

The success and reputation of postmodern writers such as Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood or Carol Shields, now part of the national literary canon, have often overshadowed writers who have chosen a mimetic or referential mode. However, the fact that many postmodern writers deal with the fragmented nature of language and narrative does not mean that such subjects are not dealt with by realists. Richards's approach to story-telling shows to what extent the writer has resorted to techniques of narrative fragmentation. For example, the nineteenth and last chapter of For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down asserts the collectively constructed nature of the story:


Andrew learned of all of this over a length of time and pieced it together little by little. Some things he learned from overhearing his mother and uncle, some from the man who came those July mornings and took them to the cottage.

When Jerry was in prison, the man said, he'd taken a hot iron and burned the bare chest of another prisoner who was "making indecencies" towards him, so that the mark of the iron would always be visible on his chest, and it would always seem that he had pressed his shirt while wearing it. (Wounded 227)


Many of the ingredients which go into the birth of the legend are cited in this short passage. The story is "pieced" together "little by little" over a certain "length of time". Parts of the story are "overheard", and the story is passed on by an anonymous "man" who quotes what other people said about him when he was in prison. Even though the constructed nature of the legend echoes certain postmodern concerns with text and representation in general, Richards associates the creative act of story-telling with regional authenticity. He acknowledges the import of postmodernism and the legitimate questions postmodern writers have raised, but without adhering to its various forms. His fidelity to a realist tradition and his desire to experiment with form without embracing postmodern codes are what have led many debates to grow around his fiction.

Richards's work is all the more controversial and pertinent as he continues to pose the question of the traditional division of the country into centres and regions. Hugh MacLennan for instance, who started out as a Maritime writer, incorporated the Maritime background in only two of his seven novels, Barometer Rising (1941) and Each Man's Son (1951). His other novels were set in more central cities such as Montreal, but this choice was mainly due to his positive approach to the city and to what he believed was an absence of national myth. In a postcolonial context, Richards's work came at a time when the centre of gravity was shifting from the imperial English centre against which writers like MacLennan and Atwood wrote to a closer Canadian centre. However, a centre cannot exist without a periphery, and Maritime novels have become symptomatic of this dichotomy within Canadian borders. In her polemical introduction to Under Eastern Eyes, Keefer discusses the conflict between regional writers and the national desire for a literary canon:


It is equally understandable that a number of Canadian critics should have helped to consign Maritime literature to oblivion either by ignoring the corpus of literature the region has produced, or by ‘centralizing' its most prominent writers, minimizing whatever in their text betrays local voice or focus and placing a premium on those elements that seem to confirm whatever myth or totem has been adopted as constitutive of Canadian identity. (19)


In this respect, Richards's focus on regional landscape challenges the work of critics and academics who select and centralize more national Canadian writers. Furthermore, his critique of the centre is closely related to a critique of modernity which, in his terms, favours more innovating forms or genres. He goes as far as to consider the idea of modernity imposed by publishers as illegitimate and too likely to exclude alternative modes or genres. His position is that of a writer who believes that the discourse of the nation in Canada is over-determined in comparison with other countries whose literary histories show a more dialogical interplay between spaces.




The critical assessment of Richards's trilogy makes him more than a mere regional writer in Canada. In response to Armstrong and Wyile's critique of the trilogy as being replete with didacticism, Tony Tremblay gathered a series of essays in a collection that aimed at eulogizing Richards's accomplishments. In his essay "Richards Demonized: Academy as Greenpeace", Lawrence Mathews accuses Armstrong and Wyile of nurturing a "patronizing" approach to his work by dismissing Richards as a mere didactic writer (133). As a result, Richards's work can be read as an illustration of the multiple facets of Canadian literature and the tense debates they have triggered. Far from drawing a negative portrait of the Canadian literary scene, this essay has attempted to show that Richards is living proof that Canadian writing and criticism are dynamic. Even though the landscapes in his novels often isolate the characters from the rest of society, their literary construction allows the writer to explore the social borders that keep individuals and communities apart as well as the moral borders between good and evil. Despite the criminal records of each of his central characters, Richards questions the possibility for each of them to redeem and even accomplish heroic actions. In this respect, Richards's work has contributed to the diversity of yet another unfinished landscape which is that of Canadian literature. His work has undoubtedly inspired many other well-known Maritime writers such as Anne-Marie MacDonald (Fall on Your Knees, 1997), Alistair MacLeod (No Great Mischief, 1999) and Wayne Johnston (The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, 1998). They all write out of a realist tradition which permits them to represent a home place where individuals and families share common history and values. Richards's more recent work continues to portray the harsh life of the underclass in a rural Maritime province, but he also continues to challenge the positioning mechanisms of central Canadian culture which may appear to trap writers in mapped geographies and subsume novels under inflexible genres.



Works Cited


  • Armstrong, Christopher and Herb Wyile. "Firing the Regional Can(n)on: Liberal Pluralism, Social Agency and David Adams Richards's Miramichi Trilogy." Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne. 22. 1 (1997): 1-18. Print.
  • Bakhtin, Mikhaïl. The Dialogic Imagination. Trad. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981. Print.
  • Bordo, Jonathan. "The Wilderness as Symbolic Form - Thoreau, Grünewald and the Group of Seven." Reflective Landscapes of the Anglophone Countries. Ed. Pascale Guibert. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011. Print.
  • Frye, Northrop. Words with Power: Being a Second Study of the Bible and Literature. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990. Print.
  • Gibbons, Luke. "Race Against Time: Racial Discourse and Irish History." Postcolonial Discourses: An Anthology. Ed. Gregory Castle. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001. Print.
  • Hutcheon, Linda. The Canadian Postmodern: A Study of Contemporary English-Canadian Fiction. Toronto; New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988. Print.
  • Keefer, Janice Kulyk. Under Eastern Eyes: A Critical Reading of Maritime Fiction. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1987. Print.
  • Mathews, Lawrence. "Richards Demonized: Academy as Greenpeace." David Adams Richards: Essays on his Works. Ed. Tony Tremblay. Toronto: Guernica, 2005. Print.
  • Omhovère, Claire. Sensing Space: The Poetics of Geography in Contemporary English-Canadian Writing. Bruxelles: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.
  • Richards, David Adams. Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990. Print.
    --- For Those who Hunt the Wounded Down. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1993. Print.
    --- Nights Below Station Street. 1988. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1997. Print.
  • Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. 1993. London: Vintage, 1994. Print.



[1] Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was a French sociologist whose reputation became worldwide at the turn of the twentieth century. His work mainly consisted in analysing education and the various interactions between individuals and their respective communities.



Ethnic Canadian Short Fictional Metaphors of Belonging and Not Belonging That Do Not Belong


Judit Nagy

Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary



The individual's relation to any community, be it smaller or larger, plays a significant role in identity formation. In a previous study entitled "Metaphors of Belonging and Not Belonging in Ethnic Canadian Short Stories," I examined the works of Asian and Caribbean Canadian writers' works from the point of home and host cultural affiliations. Depending on the individual's attitude to the home and host culture, four basic categories were set up after Friesen and Friesen, Schultz and Kroeger, Sam and Berry, and Chambers: integration, assimilation, separation and marginalization. In this framework, integration characterizes the individual's parallel efforts in maintenance of the home culture and interaction with the host culture, whereas both assimilation and separation translate into individuals' refusal of their home and host communities respectively, and marginalization entails parting with both communal ties.


Metaphors can be considered both powerful and practical tools of investigation into host and home community affiliations in literary texts, especially in the case of short fiction as they are key instruments of suggestivity "to make apparently straightforward or familiar things express complexities" (Shaw 12) and "to convey meaning that often lies beneath the surface of the narrative" (May 22). Similarly to the aforementioned study, the current discussion will also work with the cognitive linguistic concept of metaphor, handling patterns of acculturation as tenors and any textual evidence expressing an idea of acculturation as vehicles realizing linguistic metaphorical expressions. The choice fell on the employment of the cognitive linguistic approach to metaphor as this view holds that metaphors are "based on a variety of human experience" (Kövecses 69) emphasizing cultural and geographical factors, which are of vital importance to acculturation.


The main point of the analysis employed in the previous study referred to above was that it handled each and every metaphor of the text separately, within its own immediate context. This approach made it possible to approximate the complexity of ethnic writers' and their characters' mindset well in terms of metaphors of belonging and not belonging for two reasons. First, this approach would not result in any contradiction if the same story exhibited metaphors testifying to diverse acculturation attitudes. Second, a character's acculturation attitude may change or exhibit complexities (e.g. shift between two stances) along the course of a story, a natural corollary of the dynamic nature of cognitive processes. Considering the individual metaphors in the short fictional text conforms better to this dynamism. (E.g.: a character's acculturation attitude may move from separation to integration within the same story, which can be detected through the employed individual lingiustic metaphorical expressions.)


However, the aforementioned analysis started out with a few presumptions which do not always hold. For one, the examined texts do not always contain bicultural references combining into metaphors. That is, the essential vehicles of overt or covert references to either the home and the host culture may be lacking, which may make it difficult to determine the given fictional characters' acculturation attitude. Another problem that may occur is the categorical ambiguity of certain metaphorical references due to the presence of transculturation, a uni- or tricultural space, or to vehicles which testify to the protagonist having controversial attitudes to the home or host culture. The current paper will be devoted to highlighting some problematic cases that, for a reason, or another, did not fit the previous, otherwise practical categorization with regard to metaphors of belonging and not belonging.


1. Lack of reference to the host culture


Some texts composed by ethnic writers may completely lack references to the host culture. How is it possible to draw conclusions for the acculturation status of metaphors of belonging and not belonging included in such pieces? To see the problem up close, let us investigate into a concrete example.


In Dionne Brand's "Sans Souci," a landscape of rampant, oppressive vegetation stifling life in its way functions as the central vehicle to estimate the extent the female protagonist is exploited by her environment:

Rough grass asserted itself everywhere, keeping the earth damp and muddy. It inched its way closer to doorsteps and walls until some hand ... ripped it from its tendrilled roots. But it soon grow back again. It kept the woman in a protracted battle with its creeping mossyness. She ripping it out ... It grew again the minute she turned her back. ... In Sans Souci, ... the people were as rough as the grass. ... the grass grew until she was afraid of it covering her. It hung like tattered clothing from her hips, her breasts, her whole large body ... she felt weighed down by the bush. (390)


Normally, the image of green lushness conjures up an idyllic, pre-civilization state or the richness and fertility of a rural Eden. However, the vegetation-related images of the above context are rather suggestive of the never-ending, Sisyphean struggle to keep control, and not just of nature. Drawn into the equation through roughness as a common characteristic joining inhabitants and grass standing for vegetation, human coarseness and brutality are implied as part of the female protagonist's quotidian experience.


Another piece of evidence for humans and landscape working in tandem is the parallel drawn between Claudine's to-be-born child and the vegetation. Pregnancy is usually a blissful period in a woman's life, but the child Claudine is bearing forms part of the lush, green and oppressive environment: "The new child, the fourth moved in her like the first, it felt green and angry" (Brand 393). In addition, the local community also victimises Claudine, which is apparent from the description of the settlement: "The shacks up and down the hill were arranged like spiders crawling towards her" (Brand 391).


As has been shown, the female protagonist's negative attitude towards her home community becomes visible through the vehicle of landscape/vegetation. But this conveys information concerning only one of the two variables which are necessary to determine any pattern of acculturation. The other variable estimating attitudes to the host country is not given any value for the lack of information. What becomes evident from the text, however, is that the female protagonist does not think of solving her problems by means of leaving the land behind for a host country as much as she contemplates suicide, the ultimate solution for her to quit her misery:


... she had walked along pretending that the boat was not there; that she did not have to go; wishing she could keep walking; that the Carenage would stretch out into the ocean, that the water of the ocean was a broad floor and the horizon a shelf which divided and forgot. An end to things completely. Where she did not exist ... She had wished the water between the jetty and the lapping boat was wider and fit to drink so that she could drink deeply, become like sand, change places with the bottom of the ocean, sitting in its fat-legged deepness and immutable width. (Brand 394)


An additional earlier incident reveals a failed suicide attempt, where, however, it is the oppressive grass which prevents Claudine from ending her life by jumping into the ocean from a cliff: "Her body would hit tufts of grass before reaching the bottom" (Brand 391).

The use of the above two vehicles, that is the landscape/vegetation and the ocean, generates two interesting questions. First, considering suicide as the refusal of any communal affiliation, could the ocean in the above context manifest as a vehicle of an extreme case of marginalization; second, can the landscape/vegetation be considered a complex and ambiguous rather than an all-negative vehicle representing home community affiliations? Obviously, even if one accepts suicide as an extreme case of marginalization, this does not offer a general solution to establish the acculturation status of metaphors in ethnic writers' texts lacking a reference to the host culture. A possible option would be to handle the lack of information as negative input for the host country thus regarding all similar cases as marginalization (negative attitude to the homeland) or separation (positive attitude to the homeland) but, especially taking Pryke and Soderlund's remark regarding ethnic writers' expected and cherished preference of their home country as a writing subject (260) into consideration, this approach may not do these texts justice. As for the second question, point three will discuss the problem more at length.


2. Insufficient or implied reference to the host culture


It may happen that an ethnic writer treats the host culture very shortly in his or her text. In such cases, it is quite likely that a vehicle may supply an insufficient (ending up in ambiguity) or implied (not overtly stated) link to the host culture.

Neil Bissoondath's "Digging up the Mountains" contains only three brief references to the host country. Through the first one, the reader is informed that the current Minister for State Security was deported to his original domicile from Canada:


[The minister] had studied in the United States and Canada, until he was expelled from Canada for his part in the destruction of the computer centre at Sir George Williams College in Montreal. He had returned to the island as a hero. The papers had said he'd struck a blow for freedom and racial equality. In Hari's circle he'd been considered a common criminal. (427)


In one reading, the minister can be considered a freedom fighter who, falling victim to racism, was unjustly punished for standing up for his people. This would obviously put the "There," that is Canada in a negative light. At the same time, the last sentence of the quoted paragraph reverses this implication suggesting he committed a criminal act. And yet again, Hari may not be considered the embodiment of absolute truth; his judgement may be flawed or unfair. And the additional information that the minister prefers imported whiskey to the local brand while claiming to stand for his people in all circumstances is not helpful, either, as it is also mediated through Hari. Therefore, the "There" surfaces as an ambiguous vehicle of acculturation in the discussed context.


Next, Hari's wife mentions the name of some Canadian and U.S. cities as potential destinations to escape to from their troubled home country: "She had given up dreams of a nursery [of trees], she wanted only flight - to Toronto, Vancouver, Miami" (Bissoondath 430). Again, flight does make the destination, the host country a temporary shelter from home country problems, but what acculturation attitude would it induce? And, if Canada and the United States figure as equally favoured places, how much loyalty to the "There" (the host country) would such a setting entail?

As for Hari's view of the host country, the reader has only indirect references. At a point there appears a critical comment on the US intervention in the life of the home country:


The Americans handed over the cheque. The Prime Minister, serious and handsome, with a shallow island whiteness, went on television: ‘the land of milk and honey ... new loans from the World Bank ... stimulation of industry and agriculture ... a socialist economy ...' This became known as the Milk and Honey speech. It was printed in pamphlet form and distributed to all the schools in the island. It was reported on the BBC World Service news. (Bissoondath 426)


That the United States and Canada collocate twice in the story (in the Minister for State Security's account and in the wife's mentioning the cities, both quoted above) creates an effect of indirectly equating the two countries. The phrases whiteness and BBC World Service reinforce the impression that it is not only the United States Hari's criticism is directed to; it may put Canada as a potential host country in the same light. Yet, when speaking of the Minister for State Security's title, Hari describes it as "more sinister, less British" (Bissoondath 427) indirectly implying that there may exist a difference between the two. To add to the puzzle, Hari is called a "Yenki slave" (Bissoondath 426) by many of his home country revealing North-American sympathy and loyalties.


As can be seen in all the three instances mentioned in this point, location (Here/There) may function as an insufficient (ending up in an ambiguous reference) and indirect vehicle referring to the host culture.


To conclude the first two points, it must be noted that none of the examined stories lacked references to the homeland witnessing that it is an essential ingredient in defining the acculturation experience, whereas host cultural references seem far less emphatic. This may also result from the expectation towards ethnic writers to stress the unique and the exotic in their experience. In other words, the immigrant writer's is "a mindset that encourages identification with the ancestral homelands and discourages identification with Canada, so that ‘There (i.e. the home country) is more important than Here (i.e. the host country)' " (Pryke and Soderlund 260). One projection of There dominating over Here could be the ethnic writer's choice of home country setting and home cultural references.


3. Ambiguous reference to the home and the host culture


Another problem which may occur during the categorization of acculturation attitudes manifesting in metaphors is that a vehicle may not read as unanimously positive or negative in its textual context, whereas the four basic attitudinal categories would presuppose a clear distinction in such cases. In the first point, Dionne Brand's "Sans Souci" already presented an instance of ambiguous reference as realized by the central vehicle of the landscape/vegetation interconnected with the ultimately marginalizing ocean.


The text mentioned in the second point, that is, Bissoondath's "Digging up the Mountains" also exhibits some vehicles with ambiguous references to the home culture. First, let us consider heat, a vehicle central to the story. In the protagonist's home, it "suggested comfort, security; it was like the heat of the womb" (Bissoondath 432), that is, a protected environment. Yet, outside, heat signifies an uninviting character of place, menace and aggression: "He could see waves rising like insubstantial cobras from the asphalt paving; he dripped with perspiration" (Bissoondath 431) and it also "held menace, was suggestive of physical threat" (Bissoondath 432).


This ambiguity persists in the protagonist's attitude to his homeland as also signified by the vehicle land(scape)/mountains:


In those mountains, Hari had once found comfort. His childhood had been spent in the shadow of their bulk and it was through them, through their brooding permanence, that he developed an attachment to this island, an attachment his father admitted only in later life when, as strength ebbed and distances grew larger, inherited images of mythic India dipped into darkness. ... The island, however, was no longer that in which his father had lived ... Now things had changed: The mountains spoke only of threat. He didn't know if he could trust them anymore. (Bissoondath 424).


As the above excerpt reveals, Hari's blissful childhood made him grow fond of the land but the current situation poisons this relationship. Yet, the narrator also confides, "This is my island. My father born here, I born here, you born here, our children born here. Nobody can make me leave, nobody can take it away" (Bissoondath 431), providing evidence for Hari's attachment to the land in spite of the occurring hardships. Still, this attachment is not without bitterness and spite, therefore Hari's all-positive attitude towards his home country is called into question not just through the vehicle of heat, but also through that of land(scape)/mountains.

Another story with vehicles manifesting in ambiguity of acculturation attitudes towards the home country can be found in Perviz Valji's "Thought of a Winter Night," which story is introduced as follows:


Sometimes, when the evenings are silent and the bare trees stand still and frozen in the wintry dark, my mind goes back to the tropical evenings of another land, far away where the sun beat mercilessly all day and in the evenings went down like an orange ball of fire, having spent all its fury ...I wonder if life would be the same if I went back to Tanzania. Would the same sounds echo? (6)


In this description, the sun, an element of weather, features as merciless and is associated with fury. Yet, juxtaposed to the cold silence and bare trees of the host country, which the melancholic, philosophical tone of narration even amplifies, the home country also gains positive meaning.


Similarly, the narrator remembers sounds from his home country such as the ticking of a clock in the quiet afternoon heat, which reminds him that "life was unfolding continually" (Valji 6). He could not sleep as the sound disturbed him, at the same time, he could find comfort in that sound, which again testifies to the ticking clock being a vehicle reflecting ambiguous attitudes to the home country in the given context.


Finally, memories may also render attitudes to the home country ambiguous. In Valji's story, the main protagonist's reminiscences mediate pleasant (abundance) and unpleasant (hunger, starvation) memories alike, testifying to his mixed feelings towards his home country.

As the above examples also suggest, two vehicle groups yield particularly to home cultural ambiguities: geography-related terms (land(scape), weather, etc.) and narrative objects (stories, memories, thoughts, etc.).


The capacity of a vehicle to hold ambiguity does not pertain solely to the home culture, it also extends to host cultural attitudes. To furnish an example, the protagonist's mother of Edward Lee's "Son of the Dragon-Queen" uses English to communicate her criticism both towards his son and the host country: "[The mother] switched to her pidgin English - as she always did when she wanted to emphasize what she felt was an especially important point to her dense son. ... Why you need girl for show people how sit? ... You think fat lo fan women don't know how sit down?" (85) On another occasion, her criticism targeting the host country again, she uses a French term: "serve a lunch-time entrée of spring rolls to a pair of chain-smoking fonctionnaires" (86) even though she is "illiterate in both official languages" (86). In the given example, language embodies the vehicle reflecting ambiguous host cultural attitudes on Chak Yan's mother's part: the fact that she uses the language of the host culture to communicate her criticism towards it may be interpreted as her simultaneous acceptance of the host culture. (Another possible interpretation will be put forward in the last point of the paper.)


The examples realizing host cultural attitudinal ambiguity in the analysed texts are fewer and diverse, so that no consistent pattern is observable in them. Interestingly, the examined Asian and Caribbean Canadian writers' short fiction contained nearly five times as many vehicles realizing ambiguous home cultural references as there were host cultural ones in the analysed texts. Pryke and Soderlund's observation referred to earlier can furnish an explanation, but, in addition, ethnic writers tend to be more critical towards the home culture, which they usually possess a thorough knowledge of, and which they have the chance to see more objectively from a distance. In this sense, attitudinal ambiguity can be interpreted a sign of objectivity.


To be able to judge which acculturation pattern the given metaphor belongs to, it would be essential to gain an unambiguous contextual home or host cultural attitude. One way of doing so could be to emphasize the dominant attitude and perform the classification in accordance with this. Such a solution may work well provided that enough input is presented and the given information mostly points in the same attitudinal direction. Yet, one cannot help feeling a little deprived of the richness of metaphorical complexity upon employing any such simplification.


4. The presence of more than one host culture


As Edward Lee's example also implies, it may happen that two (or more) host cultures are present in a text. This presents yet another problem when establishing host cultural attitudes. It may happen that one host culture is reflected upon positively, and the other negatively. What does this amount to as an all-in-all host cultural attitude?

To be able to attempt to answer this question, let us consider a few examples first. Austin C. Clarke's "Griff!" has a main protagonist whose own ideas of his blackness are revealing from our point:


Griff was a black man from Barbados who sometimes denied he was black. Among black Americans who visited Toronto, he was black: ‘Right on! Peace and love, Brother!' and Power to the people!' would suddenly become his vocabulary. ...He thought of himself as a black Englishman. ... It must have been this double identity of being British and being black that caused him to despise his blackness. (157)


Griff thinks to possess a ‘civilised' bearing: he "ha[s] an edge, in breeding. ... He hate[s] to be regarded just as black" (Clarke 157). As the above excerpt also illustrates, the presence of another host country (in this case, Britain) makes it difficult to identify Griff's host cultural attitudes. His blackness functions as a vehicle to reveal his multiple loyalties and "double identity" which result from his first host culture becoming his second home culture, and his facing his second host culture with this cultural surplus in an extended process of acculturation.


A second possible type of double host cultural setting is illustrated through Griff's home in the same story. The Scandinavian style settee Griff's wife bought is "like Denmark in the fall season" (Clarke 160) being reminiscent of European taste, yet, the image of a clothes hanger dropping "on the skating rink of the floor" (Clarke 160) reveals a Canadian mindset. Here, if one stays with the previous reading, the first host culture is competing against the second through the image of home. Yet, the interpretation that the two host cultures supplement each other to reinforce host cultural dominance may also hold.


The two examples discussed in this point imply that, to establish acculturation patterns with two host countries, a two-step transitive analysis is needed. However, this may result in a lengthy and impractical discussion. The only case without difficulty arising is where the two host cultures are congruent in the attitudes exposed by the vehicle. To go back to the same story for an example, Griff, succumbing to impulses dictated by the first host culture, consciously chooses his appearance to reflect his superior breeding at all cost, which is a British rather than a Canadian trait. Yet, his principle that his wife "must dress well, and look sharp, even in the house" (Clarke 159) could be equally characteristic of white Canadians and the British. As the attitudes of the two host cultures point in the same direction in this case, no controversy results.


5. Transculturation


The quoted excerpts from Lee's and Clarke's story suggest a phenomenon at work in both stories which may necessitate a fifth category in our classification, that of transculturation. The literary manifestations of the notion entail the adaptation of "new or ‘foreign' elements of contextual, aesthetic or any other language-related nature" (Greiner 1). Or, as Silvia Spitta puts it, transculturation denotes complex processes of adjustment and re-creation-cultural, literary, linguistic and personal--that allow for new, vital and viable configurations to arise out of the clash of cultures" (Spitta 2).


In this sense, Edward Lee's "fat lo fan women" (85) and "a pair of chain-smoking fonctionnaires" (86) can be considered instances of transculturation realized by the vehicle of language. And, looking into Clarke's story, Griff's controversy in perceiving his blackness, the Scandinavian style furniture, and the couple's dressing manners reflecting superiority may also be interpreted as transcultural vehicles.


To provide a third example, the protagonist of Rui Umezawa's "The Dalai Lama and the Postmodern Sublime" gets into conflict with the driver on bus number 4, and considers killing him at one point in the story. In his contemplations, he remembers that number 4 is "the Chinese number that signifies death" (83). Employing the previous categorization, it would be difficult to decide whether the reference to the meaning of the Chinese number comes from the home culture -- Japanese knowledge of Chinese culture --, or from the host culture -- multicultural space. Considering the example as an instance of transculturation, however, resolves this ambiguity.


It is worth mentioning that, in all the three quoted examples of transculturation, three cultures are present simultaneously. Indeed, it also follows from the definition of the term that transculturation is the most likely to occur at the meeting of more than two cultures, and therefore, a multicultural setting is an ideal space for it to surface. On a last note to this point, language and cultural items act as typical vehicles of transculturation, which also follows from the definitions presented above.




To sum up, the current paper can be seen as an attempt to explore the potentials of borderline cases which emerged at the classification of Asian and Caribbean ethnic short fiction writers' metaphors of belonging and not belonging through the employment of acculturation patterns in the Berryan scheme. The discussion touched upon the following problems: lack of reference to the host culture, insufficient or implied reference to the host culture, ambiguous reference to the home and the host culture, and the presence of more than one host culture. With a varying rate of efficiency, the offered solutions range from handling the lack of information as negative input to emphasizing the dominant attitude, from a two-step transitive analysis to introducing transculturation as a fifth category.



Works Cited


  • Berry, John W., et al. Cross-cultural Psychology. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.
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  • Bissoondath, Neil. "Digging up the Mountains." The New Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories. Ed. Atwood, Margaret and Robert Weaver. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. 423-435. Print.
  • Chambers, Jack K. "Multilingualism and Nationalism." Budapest: Hungarian Academy Of Sciences - Institute of Linguistics, 4 Dec. 2009. Lecture.
  • Clarke, Austin. "Griff!" The New Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories. Ed. Atwood, Margaret and Robert Weaver. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. 156-170. Print.
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Embodying the Boundary and The Gendered Motif of Existential Liminality in the (Alter)native Canadian Discourse


Cristina-Georgiana Voicu

Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi


Article pulled back due to authorship issues.


Archibald Belaney/Grey Owl, the Liminal Being of Ruffo's Long Verse.


Judit Ágnes Kádár

Eszterházy College, Eger, Hungary


Archibald Belaney alias Grey Owl, is a hero of early 20th Century Canadian environmentalism and an anti-hero of the partly Ojibwa Canadian Ruffo's Grey Owl: the Mystery of Archibald Belaney (1996). In a longer paper I explore the question as to why his cross-cultural transformation is still met with such excitement today and what we can learn about transatlantic relations in the view of this shape shifting protagonist? Here I focus on Belaney's cross-cultural (trans-ethnic) transformation, the motivations underlying his change, the alter ego he developed, and the power and implication of his character from the perspective of the episteme and race relations of his age (epistemological trickster and racialization). In addition, I discuss Ruffo's poetic experimentation with masking and narrative unmasking, and I attempt to answer the question regarding who needs myths of Indianness in the first place. I analyse Ruffo's long verse on the basis of the dynamics of ethnic change, following the whole process of indigenization presented by the narrative, i.e. the author's understanding and poetic interpretation of Archie Belaney/ Grey Owl's passing from an English boy to a Canadian celebrity Indian.


The preface depicts the very concept of viewing the central character's life as a transformation, based on the archetypical topos of journey. The geography and the people he encounters on his way mark the direction he is taking, and these are the two poles of the narrative. The chapters signify the various stages of personal development, from "Beginning," through "Transformation" and "Journey" to "No Retreat." The photos at the beginning underline their very essence, too. The first presents the twelve year old Archie with his dog, in a typical English middle-class "good boy" outfit. The second was taken in Canada, and Gertrude/Anahareo poses with Belaney and the minx, referring to the happiness of wilderness and Indian lifestyle. The third presents him in a fake Indian pose and outfit next to his agent, Lovat Dickson. The picture refers to how he has commercialized Indianness, while in the last picture Grey Owl is fixed in a posture resembling the Curtis photos, and this frozen artificial image entraps him like a self-imposed prison with no escape. The author gives numerous indications of the fluidity of Belaney's identity.


Following the identity development phases and factors of ethnic passing, I focus here on the acculturation conditions in the original and receiving society, along with the perceived intergroup relations reflected by the multicultural ideology influencing the character. Hastings, England represents Belaney's Old World, the vantage point to which he returns many times in his life. It is first presented like a photo that freezes the captured moment for ages, and a postcard is added (GO 4-5) to the mention of English tea and ladies strolling along the streets. In the child Arche's microcosm, Aunt Ada is a symbol of discipline, conservativism, and social norms (GO 8), "their best intentions/ made me run for the door" (GO 11). Whenever he returns to England for his performances, the hotel room in which he lodges is the epitome of Victorian respectability, like a coffin (GO 98), heavy and suffocating. Belaney asks Dickson to help him escape (GO 100). Ruffo's text implies that England of the day, with its conservative social norms, meant a Catch 22-like place for him, since it is his mother country, and Hastings his birthplace, but due to its rigidity and his lack of parents, he must escape it, run away, and then return frequently to test his new identity, justify his achievements and success, and then go back to his home in the Canadian wilderness. The descriptions of Bisco or Lake Temagami represent negatives of the original society from which he escaped.


Investigating the acculturation conditions that had a significant impact on Belaney's passing, and the perceived intergroup relations and multicultural ideology in particular, before actually taking a look at Ruffo's narrative, it is worth referring again to the work of Werntitznig for clues regarding the episteme of Belaney's age. In the chapter entitled "Dressing in Feathers-Transatlantically: Grey Owl and Neo-Primitivism" (Chapter 4 in Europe's Indians, Indians in Europe) she argues that the changing paradigms of Noble Savage and vanishing Indian at the turn of the 19-20th centuries were and are influential in the Western world. The white man's Indians are "neo-noble loincloth bearers" (Wernitznig 115), role models for youngsters and subjects of shape shifter fantasies. Playing Indian has been a mostly European habit (Wernitznig 96-7), creating a "parallel Indian universe" and an escapist fantasy called Grey Owl. She adds that Belaney's Indianness is rather physical/ behavioristic, not spiritual at all, and he built on his recognition of "Indian marketability" (Wernitznig 101) to sell his image. His life and myth drew such public attention that many followers tried in various ways and to various extents to exploit the same opportunities, finally resulting in a term introduced by Margaret Atwood: the Grey Owl Syndrome (a chapter title in her Strange Things).


The perceived intergroup relations and multicultural ideology of Belaney's reality derive from what we can develop as our impressions of England of the day from the text. Ethnic stereotypes well-known in colonial discourses (e.g. GO 6), prejudice, and public attitudes towards anyone non-Anglo (and Native Americans in particular) surface on the pages of the novel, first as the socio-cultural background of his childhood and then as the transatlantic context of his shows and public life. The child Archie reads Indian books (GO 2) and watches Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1903. These are the sources of his fantasies about a parallel reality and alternative Indian identity: when playing Indian, "I can pretend that I am savage and free" (GO 4). He then escapes on the SS CANADA and never wishes to return (GO 4). This is all the reader is given as an understanding of the perceived intergroup relations and multicultural ideology, and it's not much, but Belaney's whole personality change and life is a grotesque mirror to the episteme of his original culture. The fact that he was able to make a major reputation for himself, win fame, and do remarkable business selling his fake Indianness in England is quite telling. But what can we learn from this story about the receiving society?


One might well ask, is the receiving society Canada? Is it any particular Native community? Or the England of his showmanship? They are all outside his sphere of control. There is no real identification with locality as home except for Lake Temagami ("these are the riches I want. Is this not in fact freedom?" GO 15), or with any community for Belaney. His perceptions regarding Canada and the Native communities he visits are not elaborated in Ruffo's text. Because of the strong emphasis on Belaney's self-imposed alienation, and due on the one hand to his concern with his own vision of the world and himself, on the other hand his lack of significant time spent in a community anywhere in Canada, no real attention is devoted to people and places as communities. Consequently, there is no sharp contrast between his perceptions and the objective information with which the reader is provided.


Next, I explore the individual dimension of background variables, the psyche, experiences, capacity to reintegrate and the various risk and protective factors that affected Belaney's personal development in the context of the novel. Belaney never seems to have psychic balance. There are numerous indications off the Freudian relevance of childhood experiences, mostly related to the lack of parental care. His father appears as a ghost with whom he talks. In fact in the second half of his life this father image is often the second person singular he is talking to, while the Indian component of his identity also appears as the ever present and unreachable You with which he is in dialogue. One of the most exciting sections of the long verse is the riddle in which this double bond and schizoid state of mind is visible: "Yes, I am in America/ just like you/ looking for the one face/ I needed but never new" (GO 11). Moreover, his mother is also a non-existing element of his life. She remarried and had another child, leaving Archie behind in his aunts' care. This primary denial results in Belaney's inability to enter and sustain deep human relationships or become a head of a family. In Healing the Child Within, Charles L. Whitfield identifies such symptoms as the repetitive compulsion: due to the absence of proper parental care, the vicious circle of trauma, shame and alienation results in compulsive behavior which apparently fosters another series of chain reactions from some realization of the true self, through temporary relief, up to a state at which the self remains incomplete (Whitfield 50). At this point the correlations between psycho-therapy and trauma narratives of transculturation are tangible, especially in view of the fact that a possible cure of these mental toils is to tell the story of the trauma and pain to supportive others, which is in fact what happens in passing stories.


The above mentioned social distance is underlined by the constant playing with the first person plural identifications, that is, who is he identifying with? Is it the English or the Native Americans? Canada or Europe? He concludes: "Well, I don't belong,/ not any more" (GO 98). Friends and acquaintances are watching him (GO 33), without actually getting very close to him. Belaney's capacity to reintegrate seems appropriate, for he is highly motivated and ready to leave his original culture behind and supposedly join a community to which he can belong. However, due partly to his self-imposed alienation (neurotism?), and partly to his identification with Indianness, he is not able to integrate into any real Native community and have personal attachments that could substantially help him, except for Gertrude, a special relationship discussed a bit later on.


Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of Ruffo's Belaney figure in the context of our cross-cultural psychological investigations is the risk and protective factors behind his acculturation orientation and passing. Among the self-orientation related ones, one can interpret the information provided by the text regarding his self-esteem and various need-driven motivations, while his others-orientation includes his self-monitoring, extraversion and agreeableness in the view of environmental pressures.


Firstly, as for his motivations, I consider his need for power, affiliation, achievement, perseveration, self-development and materialism to be the leading drive behind his deeds. His need for power is relevant, as he wishes to obtain more control over his reality, while his need for affiliation is directly due to his insufficient familiar support. However, regarding his need for self-development, I do not see significant positive change, at least the significant change Belaney had expected. The reason is that in the absence of any specific achievement motivation that might give him some positive orientation, he mostly ends up in frustration. His coping strategies (detailed later on) focus on his emotions and are mostly problem-solving and avoidance oriented. But is he adventure or risk-oriented in Ruffo's vision? Certainly he must be, as long as he emigrates for the unknown New World. However, I believe that he was less driven by some quest for adventure than by escapism and his equally important need for cognitive closure and a firm locus of control in his personality, which results in the fluctuating dynamics of his life and his transformations.


Finally, as for his material motivations, they are clearly indicated in the text, for he returns to England to make money and then develops an interesting colonial trading policy that exploits English hunger for the exotic (colonial subject), a kind of vice versa commercialization of an exotic cultural commodity. There is only one instance in the narrative in which he mentions values he appreciates, namely environmental conservation (ethics), tolerance (Emersonian individual liberty) and an anti-value: security (GO 78). Nevertheless, the problem is the lack of other values to which he can relate, and this might be partly due to his refusal of his original society and misconnection with his receiving community, which could have provided him with a set of values to accept and cultural norms to adopt, with the exception of environmental friendliness.


In Ruffo's narrative, Belaney's self-esteem is generally low because of his upbringing and the socially and emotionally hostile conditions he experienced. He therefore develops an alternative identity, a compensatory strategy of masking that he seems at times to overdo, resulting in constant stress, anxiety and shaky human relations. He fortifies himself with the mask that freezes on his face, like Simon Jack, "The Ornamental Man" in Louise Erdrich's The Pained Drum (2005), whose Indian dance costume is stitched to his skin, growing and dying together with him, separating him from others and replacing the real man, too. Why doesn't he try to address his anxieties once he realizes these correlations? His urge to move on, to escape responsibilities is poetically signalled with a hyperbole (GO 28-9): his second marriage, which he entered for the sake of peace of mind, lasts for half a year, and what they share with Gertrude is their instinct to run away (GO 86). In the fear of being revealed at public shows (for instance hallucinating someone's accusing shrieks of "liar" GO 104), and under the pressure of bewildering publishers' orders (GO 94), which he cannot balance with in the relaxation of his wilderness home, he constantly felt "two hands wrapped around/ your throat" (GO 108), fought his own demons, and became an alcoholic, sleeplessness and lonely in the celebrity prison of his hotel rooms, consequently draining his energies.


This brings us to his others-related orientations, namely his self-consciousness and self-monitoring, which make him paranoid. He is aware of his transformation and its impact, but less of his psychic change, so be becomes neurotic. His unending self-denial, doubt and confusion (e.g. GO 14) are "something/ chewing at his insides"....[while] others "just watching him,/ nobody wants to get too close" (GO 33). He cuts himself away from people this way. Moreover, he has major communication problems with Gertrude as well: they share the "nervous silence" (GO 114) into which he wishes to slip with his utterances. The silence connects and divides them at the same time. In a nutshell, the thin thread of his life and consciousness depend on fragile relationships and a shaky identity, both ego-recognized and alter-ascribed.


All the above mentioned motivations and factors resulted in Belaney's unique acculturation orientation, that is neither a wish to adopt (A) any new culture (mainstream Anglo-Canadian or marginal Native Canadian), nor a longing to sustain his ethno-cultural Anglo roots (B), but rather Othering through anticipatory socialization. When leaving England, he plans "to remake himself" (GO 18). He seems to start the process of culture learning among the Natives, but soon he turns out not to acculturate properly, to stay an "Indian torn man" (GO 23), even though meeting Gertrude, the Native born but steadily whitened young woman, could have given him an opportunity to find himself and his happiness on the borderline of cultures. Since Gertie/Anahareo is another trans-cultural mediator who has an impact on Archie/Grey Owl (GO 48) and who needs his honesty and company, she is his chance for a better life and a clearer sense of identity and orientations. However, his inability to take responsibility for others alienates him and leaves him with his fake image in the mirror, (GO 196), making up his desired notion of identity, his strategic mask and trans-cultural path, as well as the frozen image that captures and imprisons him.


Now let us turn our attention to the psychological acculturation and socio-cultural adaptation processes Belaney goes through, in Ruffo's interpretation. The first large component of culture learning and adopting is the psychological adjustment process anyone moving between cultures goes through. I examine his behavioural shift, coping strategies, cognitive processes, and acculturation stresses and psychopathology that his passing presents in the book. An anachronism, the term "obedient rebel" comes to mind when one takes a look at the photo images of Archie, the benign English boy who fantasizes about playing and going Indian, and Grey Owl, the environmentalist Natty Bumppo, who cannot stop serving his audience with his fake Indian fantasy. He rebels against his upbringing and social milieu with emigration and going against mainstream social norms in his Indian feathers. He rejects the responsibility of fatherhood and marital relations, and even any expectation of acquiring Native cultural traits once he wishes to "use" (to make a living by using) some selected rules of that culture. However, he obeys the self-imposed rules of his lifestyle, his impresario's suggestions, the publishers and the audiences expectations all the time. The earlier mentioned deviant behaviour, drinking, leaving his kids and women behind and lying is counter-balanced somewhat in the text by the honesty of his internal monologues and his love for Gertie (e.g. GO 91), though she "watches/ him struggling with himself" (GO 19), without hope of ever healing him.


One can see that the acculturation stress Belaney developed is in fact not a consequence of any culture shock or challenges of the new environment. In my reading of Ruffo's narrative, the stress, neurotic disorders and anxiety are predominantly the consequences of the depressive heritage he brought with him as his load across the ocean and his struggles with himself (GO 19). The anxiety, the schizoid symptoms of developing two controversial components of his self and the paranoid symptoms related to the constant fear of being revealed develop a weird constellation of psychopathology clearly visible in the hotel scenes (GO 97). He still decides to sustain the myth, to carry on lying, cheating the public, for one thing, the Natives and the environment for which he speaks, and for another thing, his believe in his own Indianness. When rumours accuse him and make him "Confess! Confess!".... "I feel as an Indian, think/ as an Indian, all my ways/are Indian, my heart is Indian" (GO 83). That is his way of working out the disparity between Archie Belaney and Grey Owl.


As for his coping strategies in his trans-cultural, transatlantic environments, occasionally Belaney seems brilliant with them, and at other times he is miserably entrapped in the rat race of his own trickster fantasy. The very first coping strategy he presents is the way he lives in his Hastings environment, developing escapist fantasies to survive the emotional challenges of his early childhood and his Victorian conservative environment. Then his next step of running away from Hastings to Canada and the series of major mistakes such as leaving the pregnant and then ill first wife, Angele, alone (GO 21), put him into the turmoil of a downward spiral. He wants to go invisible "Go absent-without-leave again and you're one dead Indian./ I can live with that" (GO 26), and especially at the time of World War I his chief strategy is escapism. He gets caught up in a situation there: he is wounded and discharged, while "Some accuse me of shooting myself. Others say impossible" (GO 27).


Since his strategies prove both failures and successes, and since he cannot develop other ways of managing difficulties, he enters the most comfortable escape, which makes him invisible: he not only plays but actually goes Indian, like Sylvester Long Lance, the great impostor. Francis discusses the virtues associated with Native Americans that these celebrity Indians stood for and the price of living as an imaginary Indian (Francis 110) in a chapter entitled "Celebrity Indians and Plastic Shamans" of The Imaginary Indian. In another chapter entitled "Marketing the Imaginary Indian" he examines the qualities associated with Indianness, the paradox of the ideal Red Man and the business application of native culture-related artifacts and non-native made images, all very useful insights to understand Grey Owl like figures and the even today powerful widespread tendencies to prefer Indianness over Native culture. Belaney appropriates his image with the help of some Native helpers, such as Anne Espaniel, who has sewn his clothes since 1923 (GO 38) and learns basic vocabulary, some rituals and hunting methods that greatly helped him.


However, the next challenge is to make a living in the woods, after the disappearance of some hunting opportunities. So he turns his wilderness notes into articles for Country Life and then books, which provide an even better living for him (GO 60). Realizing the merchandize power of the wilderness man image, as well as of the European and Anglo-American demand for Indianness, he decides to utilize his knowledge and intercultural skills and enters the "Indian business" (GO 37) whole-heartedly, extending his writing career with public speeches and in 1929 employing Dickson as his PR agent (GO 85). When doubts surface, he makes up a story: "I simply announced to the press/ Although my mother was a Jicarilla Apache,/ my father was an American scout named McNeil/ with a sister in England, who is to be credited / for providing me with a sound education" (GO 84).


Beyond the tales of Indianness with which he serves the "public hunger for aboriginal wisdom," (Francis 110), he somehow has to cope with his emotional needs and guilt complex for having abandoned members of his family members. Poni and Archie become surrogate parents for two minxes, which apparently are surrogate kids for them (GO 59). However, having substitute relationships and a fake identity obviously cannot bring him happiness in his personal life, and his coping strategies do not seem to work well in the long run in public life either. At the very end of his life, both laymen, journalists, and anthropologists wonder how to evaluate Belaney's shape shifting. They generally agree that his masquerading does not deploy his appreciation for his environmentalist oeuvre (GO 207), but Ruffo closes the book with the sheer facts of Belaney's birth, the road he took and his death (GO 209), adding a couple of intertextual fragments from commemorative articles that further invalidate any univocal approach to this very exciting historical figure.


The cognitive processes that Belaney's passing involve basically two remarkable fields of interest: one is his actual cognitive development and maturation and his changing perceptions of the self, his natural and human environment; one of his chief motivations is the need for cognitive closure and control. The other is the question: by going Indian, who is he fooling (GO 29)? The second is answered elsewhere in a longer essay and now I focus on the psychological process of cognitive maturation.


Question/ Answer


The question is whether

or not.


What do I see?

What do you?

Do we see the same?

(How can we?)


So I stand and speak.

I have no choice.

I cannot live with what I see.


What choice is there anyway?

Do we chose birth




Do we chose time?


The time it takes.

Enough to try

at least

to answer. (GO 112)



The question Ruffo poses here is not what Belaney sees but how he perceives the world, and how we approach reality. Our perceptions are constantly changing, influenced by all the factors mentioned in the chart on ethnic change, including our motivations and our human and natural environment. Archie wonders if we see that same, and I think the question is almost poetic, implying we surely do not, cannot see the same, there is no way to share a particular approach totally due to the above mentioned factors. "How can we?" suggests: how could we, and he continues with the loneliness of "So I stand and speak." The next two lines "I have no choice./ I cannot live with what I see" explains the deepest reason for Belaney's concerns, for he feels entrapped in a pre-coded, choiceless life, already determined by his background and experiences. Maybe his seeing is the problem? If he is so unhappy about what he sees, and so unable to make a substantial change, that then what is all the hassle of emigrating, shifting his ethnic identity, taking notes of another culture and writing books, lecturing about? I believe that this is the most confusing aspect of Ruffo's Belaney-figure.


I would like to argue that on the one hand, one of Belaney's chief motivations is his profound need for cognitive closure, the grail he was questing for constantly and unfortunately did not seem to have found. On the other hand, reading this particular piece of literature underlined my conviction that seeing, the way one perceives the world decides his fate much more than we tend to think, and factors influencing our seeing, the way we mentally digest experiences, our cognitive processes, are more relevant psychologically than actual influences, for instance events that happen to us.


Taking a closer look at this particular cognitive process, we can see that besides the societal, affective domains of behaviour, the third, cognitive part that consists of language and thinking is extremely important to understand. Psychologist call attention to a less well-known component of our psyche, that besides general, emotional and cultural intelligence and competence take a major role  in shaping who we are and how we live our lives, and that is cognitive competence, the progress towards a number of culturally valued norms (Berry, Handbook 113). Berry analyses four approaches to cultural cognition in his Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology, each of which might be useful in understanding Belaney's cultural cognition, the central problem of his life shared with millions who go through inter-cultural and ethic identity change-related experiences. The first approach focuses on general intelligence that is considered the overall most influential factor in cultural cognition. In an enriched cultural context, the individual's growing central processor (Berry, Handbook 115) may stimulate his intelligence that is in direct relation with his cognition.


The second, so-called generic epistemology approach focuses on the sensori-monitor/ preoperational/ concrete operational/ formal operational stages (Berry, Handbook 115) of cultural cognition and I think, the chart on the dynamics of ethnic change as the basis of our literary analyses presents a similar approach, except for the difference between the words stages and phases, that do make a difference, for shape shifters, indigenizing and other ethno-cultural persons do not present clear cut stages of personality development but rather overlapping phases, where the shift in emphasis is more characteristic of the psychological processes than stepping in and out of certain categories or developmental processes.


The third approach focuses on specific single abilities that trigger certain cognitive processors separately. Some examples, like Belaney's selection of identity components that he has changed consciously and altered according to his understanding of constructing a better working image and personality, could underline this approach. His interest in environmentalism and hunting habits of Native Americans made him smart and sensitive, a great orator for that cause in England and Canada. However, he selected this particular aspect of Native culture and ignored others like spiritualism. Therefore, we can see the direct link between his singe inter-cultural sensitivity, ability and skill and processor of his mind that "digests" his experiences and transforms them to ideas that will stimulate his actions. Moreover, I can also see the correlation of this with the previously mentioned sensori-monitor/ preoperational/ concrete operational/ formal operational processes he goes through, for he monitors his surroundings, the original and new human environment, prepares partly consciously and partly unconsciously preoperational ideas and strategies leading him to the further concrete and formal operational steps.


The fourth approach Berry calls cognitive styles, a person's cognitive portfolio s/he develops over the whole life span, including certain clusters of experiences, processors and performances that are activated in a particular instance of cultural cognition. Berry calls here attention to the difference between field dependent and field independent persons. The later type is less oriented towards social engagements, more mobile, have a preference for loose social stratification, asserted socialization and autonomous functioning, and he adds that acculturation increases field independence in general (Berry, Handbook 116). Readers of Archie Belaney/ Grey Owl's myth can see how much he matches the field independent type and how much other indigenization story hero(in)es are field independent, also proved by the cognitive processes they present, see for instance Cooper's epistemological sensitivity and cognitive processes in Frazier's novel analysed earlier. Therefore, without committing myself on any of these approaches, I would like to emphasize the opportunities for further analysis provided by all these approaches and cross-cultural psychology in a broader sense as well. The above examination of the psychological acculturation process we have taken a closer look at should be extended with a parallel process in personality development the indigenization.


The second large component of ethno-cultural passing and culture learning is socio-cultural adaptation, more precisely the axes of belonging/alienation and conformity/deviance, the control of interactions and the possible maladaptive pattern a person under indigenization may present. As for Belaney's need for affiliation, for belonging to a family, a local or ethnic community, certainly this is the central challenge of his life, just like for anyone else who goes through ethnic and trans-cultural transformation. However, in his case I believe that this belonging versus alienation dichotomy is the chief negative force that slowly kills him in the form of an extended spiritual suicide. We have mentioned earlier his inability to deeply relate to anyone, his tendency to escape, as the title of a section implies: "Why I Retreat (When Anyone Comes Too Close)" (GO 90), as well as his attempts to sustain some relationships that could hold him safe and sane. For the latter, let us briefly refer to some instances, for example in his love letters to Gertie struggling with emotions and communication defects when asking her to leave while he actually meant her to stay (GO 88-9), or his attempt to secure harmony with a marriage after returning from the war (GO 281), and another marriage to Yvonne Perrier, a complete stranger when he is falling apart mentally in 1937 (GO 152). Ruffo calls Belaney's abandoned kids the "Children of compassion and pain" (GO 199) and one can see how he reproduced the paternal lack of care pattern, in stead of attempting to break negative family patterns, as self-help literature (e.g. Rebecca Linder Hintze: Gyógyítsd meg családtörténetedet!-Healing Your Family History, 2006) suggests.


The next axis that of conformity/deviance, is obviously related to the previously discussed one, moreover, it shows similarity with its long-term negative impact fluctuation. On the one hand, he makes efforts to meet expectations. He is a good listener (GO 163) and he bends over backwards to serve his audience. Dickson advises him on career issues: "yet another invitation/ to dine with the socially prominent, the elite,/ and it would be a good idea to accept as selected members/ of the press will also  be in attendance. As usual,/ he says to do what I think is best....He appears to need company" (GO 113). Ruffo adds: Belaney/ Grey Owl is "a mythic/ and modern Hiawatha....the show begins/ to the pleasure of all concerned" (GO 173). He also understands that in Canadian politics a "play along" attitude (GO 102) works effectively, and so he does, though some conclude that "the problem with Grey Owl/ is that he appears to be too good to be true" (GO 178).


On the other hand, Belaney has major problem with controlling his interactions and emotions. He presents some behavioural problems (GO 175) due to his loss of control back in Bisco, he is punished for "Unlawful conduct in a disorderly manner whilst drunk" (GO 41) there. In my understanding, the directly visible behavioural issues mostly characterize his early period of acculturation in Canada only, later on he learns the new rules of public life and adopts as much as he can, consequently suppressing his maladaptive tendencies and symptoms, letting them work on his psyche unnoticeable for the public. Only his immediate surroundings can see his alcoholism and depression, his gradual falling apart. His deviance in that sense slowly shifts from physical to self-destructing nature, from being slightly different to becoming a unique, extremely successful but at the same time tragically alienated and flawed person, and Ruffo's literary approach magnificently depicts the psychological depth of this figure. Again, the main point is not the historical truth of the literary text but the understanding the reader may obtain of similar trans-cultural passing experiences.


Finally, let us take a look at the acculturation outcomes Belaney/ Grey Owl's shape shifting presents in Ruffo's story, as regards to the socio-cultural competence cultures he lived in, his intercultural skills that contributed to his partly successful passing and his psychological well-being as well as the ego-recognized and alter-ascribed cultural identity he has constructed. As for his original English society, as a child he only felt the psycho-social impact of social order, what he really had a grab at is colonial relations, with special regards to the merchandize power of Indianness. I consider Belaney's competence in ethnic, that is, Native American culture to be not too impressive, especially as compared to other shifters mentioned in my analyses. Perhaps it is only the other chief impostor, Sylvester Long Lance who presents such a limited interest in real Native culture. Both of them exploit the superficial knowledge they obtained during the not too long time they had spent among Natives and only select features of the First Nations lifestyle and spirituality they wish to incorporate in their own Indian image. The language, costumes and rituals they practice mostly seem ridiculous for their Native surroundings, but apparently fulfill the demand of their white companions and audiences. Nevertheless, we can admit that the lack of authentic cultural knowledge is not necessarily the lack of inter-cultural competence: all these shape shifters, and Grey Owl in particular, are very much aware of inter-cultural relations and the colonial discourse Anglo-American and European people moved in. A proof of his successful intercultural tactics and communication could be when he speaks for Natives at court successfully: " "Well/ you can imagine the judge's face/ hearing this halfbreed trapped dressed in braids/ and buckskin speak like Moses himself./ / In well-enunciated English./ /Instead of two years the Indians get a month" (GO 52). At another occasion, he talks about Canadian wildlife to the King who appears interested (GO 174). These instances underline Belaney's superb understanding of inter-cultural relations without a deep knowledge of the history, culture, social and political correlations of any culture in particular.


Nevertheless, his efficiency, acceptance, public fame and admiration, the widespread hunger for his wisdom was contradicted by his snowballing stress due to the urge to keep on (GO 144), his feeling of losing himself and his mental collapse (GO 116). In a letter to Gertie/ Anahareo that we cannot tell whether he actually sent or kept as a dialogue of his imaginary diary he writes:


I think I'm loosing it. You. Your love. Myself. Yes,

most surely I've lost myself, to this man I've become,

this man I am, to this work I've taken on, to the public,

the people who think they know me but don't understand and

never will. My body, my spirit one with this trail or trial

or whatever you want to call it. (GO 115)


Ruffo's Belaney figure is aware of the mental state of mind he was in and the process of losing ground. He also knows that he is one with the journey he is taking, the "trail or trial" double bond that takes his spirit and his life energies.


After this point his psychological well-being surely takes an unavoidable downward spiral direction with a tragic ending. All the external and internal conflicts and accumulated stress is adding up and taking the chance of harmonious life away forever. The text signifies this change (most visible at GO 174-5 and 190) with the growing number of internal monologues (e.g. GO 133) of mostly double talk nature (e.g. GO 171 where Belaney talks to Grey Owl), contrasted with outsiders' views on the same changes. By then, the passing proves a personal disaster, killing the individual and leaving his mask, his Indian skin behind to take as a mystery, a strange cult icon of Grey Owl: "Forever and Ever. Dream Cather. You" (GO 175).


In the last part of the present chapter on the cross-cultural and indigenization processes this fictional hero presents for us, attention is focused on cultural identity as a significant outcome of ethno-cultural passing. Firstly, the ego-recognized aspect of this identity is discussed in the view of Ruffo's interpretation of Belaney/ Grey Owl, followed by others' impressions and opinion reflected by the metafictional fragments the book contains.


Grey Owl?


Archibald Stansfield Belaney?

Whiteman? Red Man?

Who's speaking? You yell

as you now break your pledge and stand and rush

to the mirror and make your Indian face. (GO 68)


I begin by singing my name Grey Owl,

and saying I was adopted by the Ojibway,

and that for fifteen years I spoke nothing but Indian;

then before I know it, I have Apache blood.

Finally, I'm calling myself an Indian writer. (GO 71)


As for Belaney's perceptions of his own identity, there seems to be some development between the confusion and uncertainty he presents when leaving England and questing for his father, his new life, his Indian alter ego and his self in Canada, and later on his maturation with experiences and developing another identity concept that functions as a defence for doubts and accusations, too. "I feel as an Indian, think/ as an Indian, all my ways/are Indian, my heart is Indian" (GO 83), "I am the voice of nature" (GO 107), he claims to the public, and signs his letters as Chief (GO 150) to underline his identification. At this point he consciously takes this leap from playing Indian (GO 135) to going, being Indian (GO 139), admitting also that "I don't have to preach to the Indian. They knew conservation/ before I was born or my father before me. They don't need me,/ unless it is the civilized halfbreeds and Indians/ who have gone white" (GO 122). In a nutshell, Belaney seems to fell comfortable with the binary identity that has worked well for the public and himself. However, what he might not have realized in time is perhaps the effect of playing, masking for too long, without any authentic basis and without any substantial emotional support in the background. Therefore his ego-recognized cultural identity is actually a vacuum, a negation of any real(istic) attachment to any ethic, cultural, local or familiar community.


As for his alter-ascribed cultural identity, it is also a complex question how people along his journeys perceive his figure and what kind of identity categories they try to apply on him. The ambivalent impressions are reflected by the wide array of names and titles receives: Indians call him Snake, Nottaway (GO 40), and he is the Modern Jesse James for his Poni, Gertrude (GO 45). He himself also plays with his names (GO 46), and curiously Mr Confident (GO 47) is astonished by being misunderstood (GO 160). Dickson helps him construct his Indian identity, when stating Grey Owl has got "the look of a wildwest preacher./ Perfect....a visionary/ or a fanatic" (GO 96). He is becoming a mystery:


Strangers want to visit me.

Reporters want to interview me.

They announce that I'm the first

to promote conservation:

the beaver,

the forests, the


way of life. (GO 71)


For the Canadian national parks he is an asset (GO 75, 77) and receives other flattening public opinion (GO 87) for his merits, too. News articles (GO 109-110) romanticized his image, even an Oxford anthropologist claims that he is not fake put a powerful shaman (GO 111) and his overall impression at the peak of his showman Indian career is that of "the famous Canadian celebrity extraordinaire" (GO 131).


However, the problem with his identity is at least three-fold: one is the lack of authenticity that constantly threatens him of being revealed, the other is the mental and psychological consequences explained earlier, and last but not least, Native views on his Indianness, career and accomplishments are ambivalent as well.


An Indian can tell who's Indian.

Grey Owl can't sing or dance.

But he's doing good

and when we meet

I call him Brother. (GO 128)


Native Americans sometimes refer to him as one of them, while at other times there are kind-hearted or ironic indications of his fake identity, for instance Anne Espaniel feeling his war dance and Indian costumes funny, his Indian speech like the North wind (GO 156).


Another identity-related issue is that while he becomes too political (GO 148), journalist more and more often investigate his origins and threaten with revealing him (GO 157), even if they are impressed by his figure. They find him admirable but secretive (GO 177). Moreover, official public opinion (GO 81) is harshly contrasted with his son's view who calls him "Archie Baloney" (GO 82). His former Hastings school mates reveal his playing Indian (GO 106), making him sick and obsessed with hiding the truth escaping anyhow. The very last public opinion fragments come from articles on his death and finally, seem to somewhat balance his public image by indicating the relevance of his environmentalist achievements against his personal tragedy of faking an Indian identity.


In conclusion, without discussing the power and implication of Belaney/ Grey Owl's character, let me argue, that the comprehensive psychological analysis of Archibald Belaney/Grey Owl's ethno-cultural passing in Ruffo's long verse not only can provide us with an understanding of a particular historical person's transformation story, a given literary piece's relevance and artistic merits, or the power of colonial discourse in the context of whiteness studies, although certainly that goal could be a nice challenge for us, too. The interdisciplinary research with its findings was applied with the purpose of obtaining a substantial insight into the broader dynamics of ethno-cultural change in the hope that some elements of these processes are shared not only by subjects of inigenization but also by immigrants and others who face challenges related to their notion of ethnic identity.


Works Cited


  • Atwood, Margaret: "The Grey Owl Syndrome." Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature.  Oxford: Claredon, 1995. 35-61. Print.
  • Berry, John, et al eds. Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997. Print.
  • Erdrich, Louise.  The Painted Drum.  New York: Harper Collins, 2005. Print.
  • Fergus, Jim. One Thousand White Women: The Journal of May Dodd. New York: St Martin's Griffin, 1998. Print.
  • Francis, Daniel. The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp, 1993. Print.
  • Frazier, Charles. Thirteen Moons. Toronto: Vintage, 2007. Print.
  • KreinerPhilip. Contact Prints. Toronto, Doubleday, 1987. Print.
  • Larsen, Deborah. The White. New York: Knopf, 2002. Print.
  • Linder Hintze, Rebecca. Gyógyítsd meg családtörténetedet!-Healing Your Family History, 2006. Print.
  • O'Toole, Fintan. White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America. London: Faber and Faber, 2005. Print.
  • Ruffo, Armand Garnet. Grey Owl: the Mystery of Archibald Belaney. Regina, SK: Coteau, (1996) 2000. Print.
  • Wernitznig, Dagmar.  Europe's Indians, Indians in Europe.: European Perceptions and Appropriations of Native American Cultures from Pocahontas to the Present.  Lanham: UP of America, 2007. Print.
  • Whitfield, Charles L. Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families. Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 1987. Print.


Miniature Carvings in the Canadian Dorset Culture:

the Dorset Belief ‘System'


László Zsolt Zságer

Péter Pázmány Catholic University, Piliscsaba





If one takes a look at the occupants of the Canadian Arctic during the course of history one can make a distinction between Paleo-Eskimo populations and Neo-Eskimo populations. The term Neo-Eskimo refers to the recent occupants of the Arctic, whereas Paleo-Eskimo pertains to preceding populations and cultures. The term Arctic Small Tool tradition (ASTt) comprises the Denbigh Flint Complex, Independence I, Saqqaq, Pre-Dorset and Dorset cultures. Dorset culture is considered to be a late Paleo-Eskimo culture because of its distinctive technological and artistic achievements enabling more efficient ways of hunting a wide range of species, the almost sedentary way of life and the emergence of an artistic style called Dorset Art.


Around 1500 B.C. deteriorating weather conditions made their influence felt throughout the Arctic impacting crucially on the Paleo-Eskimo way of life. As a consequence of these circumstances, sea animal populations were restricted due to the thicker ice-cover, the movements of migratory animals became unpredictable, and the number of species harvested dropped drastically because the tree line had retreated southward. These harsh conditions forced Paleo-Eskimo populations to leave Greenland and the High Arctic and establish themselves close to the Barrenlands. However, the regions like Baffin Island and Hudson Bay were still inhabited by the Arctic Small Tool tradition peoples; furthermore, they developed more effective hunting techniques and the ability to adapt to the deteriorating circumstances. (McGhee, "The Prehistory and Prehistoric Art of the Canadian Inuit" 14) These populations were known as the Dorset culture named after the remains unearthed at the Cape Dorset Site, which were the first indicators of the existence of this culture. Shortly, this culture spread throughout the Arctic as Dorset people reoccupied the High Arctic islands, Labrador and Newfoundland. Dorset domination lasted for almost two thousand years, and this culture suddenly disappeared from archaeological record around 1000 A.D. It is hypothesized that their disappearance could have been attributed either to the arrival of the Thule people, which could have intensified the competition for limited resources and/ or to the warming weather conditions which affected the availability of animals putting "the Dorset way of life under considerable stress".[1]


Dorset - Thule contact has been in the focus of long-standing debates which have not yet been resolved since "current evidence provides little proof of contact and claims that nature of interaction would be difficult to detect archaeologically" (S. B. Milne)[i]. If there was no contact at all, what is it that results in scholars identifying the Dorset people with the so-called Tuniit appearing in Inuit oral historical record testifying Dorset - Thule contacts?:

"They used to have winter tents built out of the old Tuniit tents. I knew that, when they used winter tents that had been built by the Tuniit."

"I have also seen a pot that used to be used by the Tuniit, the pot that they have saved. They used to use it to boil meat in; we could not handle it by ourselves." (Bennett and Rowley 148)


Robert Park contends that there was no need for face-to-face contact for the Thule to know that earlier peoples had lived there because Dorset site remains were visible on the surface. The Thule people were able to tell Dorset artefacts were antique and different from their own, thus they created Tuniit as a way to explain that these earlier peoples had lived where they had (Park, "The Dorset-Thule Succession in Arctic North America" 232). As far as Inuit oral tradition is concerned, I do not suppose that the uniformity of stories about the Tuniit perfectly supports the aforementioned statements unless latter cultures had good communication channels and forums to share their observations and cultural achievements.

With regard to the reconstruction of the Dorset belief system, it is crucial to know whether any of the characteristics survived and were bestowed upon latter cultures by the Dorset because analogies found in Thule culture might help scholars get a more complex picture of Paleo-Eskimo shamanism. If not, then reconstruction ought to be based upon analogies found in ancient cultures inhabiting the core area from which Paleo-Eskimos funnelled out and started colonizing the Canadian Arctic.


Dorset Art: Origins, Dominant Themes and Distinctive Features


Dorset people excelled in harvesting sea mammal populations including larger species like the walrus and narwhal. In addition to these, they harvested caribou populations on a seasonal basis. Caribou was an excellent source of meat and clothing, and caribou bone - along with driftwood - served as a good material for carvings Dorset culture has always been famous for. These miniature artefacts and Dorset art, which might be treated as the continuation of Pre-Dorset art, have been the cause of academic debate and have given rise to numerous speculations on the cosmology, religious beliefs, and healing practices of Dorset people as well as the functions these carvings might have had. In my opinion, these disputes are unlikely to be settled for a number of reasons: firstly, constraints in the archaeological evidence and in ethnographic knowledge (even the diversity of) of northern shamanic practice and secondly, archaeology cannot reconstruct the totality and the complexity of an ancient culture (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 136). Moreover, it is not entirely apparent which cultures (Siberian cultures or Neo-Eskimo cultures that inhabit or once inhabited the Arctic) would help scholars to explore the Dorset way of thinking, which on the basis of the variability of artefacts does not appear to be a uniform entity as stated by George Swinton and William Taylor in their paper published in 1967 (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 135). Therefore, it is also quite problematic to ascertain the function of the miniature Dorset carvings carved in ivory, driftwood, antler, bone and soapstone.


Most portable Dorset art pieces represent animals, humans and spirits, while the rest can hardly be identified due to the high degree of stylization (like on the spatula-like objects) or simply because those creatures and objects were not present in comparable cultures. The broad consensus is that the vast majority of these artefacts are hypothetically connected to shamanism. Genevieve LeMoine argues that "some Dorset art is specifically shamanic, that is belonging to a shaman as part of his or her ritual paraphernalia, and some is shamanistic, belonging to and created by individuals as amulets" (128).


This would justify the setting up of two categories. However, I suggest that three categories should be set up for Dorset carvings: The first includes ceremonial and ritual objects used by spiritual specialists mainly for preventive (prophylactic) and sympathetic (propitiatory) magic; the second comprises magical objects (amulets mostly worn as pendants in particular) used by individuals in everyday context (this is supported by the distribution of these artefacts within Dorset dwellings); finally, the third is made up of household utensils or other utilitarian objects such as toys, dolls and so on. The first category can further be divided into three subcategories based on the three interrelated shamanic themes displayed on them: 1. human-animal transformation, 2. shamanic flight and 3. skeleton as an avatar of the soul (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 138).



Zoomorphic/ Anthropomorphic/ Zoo-anthropomorphic Artefacts


As it was pointed out earlier, most - though not all - of the Dorset artefacts are zoomorphic, anthropomorphic or zoo-anthropomorphic portrayals and have incised skeletal and ‘X-ray' motifs on them. Representations of animal species of economic and spiritual significance (polar bear, musk-ox, caribou, fox, falcon, owl, loon, walrus, seal, etc.) either in naturalistic or in abstract ways make up the overwhelming majority of artefacts (The Brooman Point assemblage is a good case in point.)[2]. It is beyond doubt that the figure of the bear is the most domineering, whereas - interestingly enough - the frequency of the portrayals of the walrus declined. As Patricia Sutherland points out in her paper, this phenomenon can be explained by the dispersion of Paleo-Eskimos into different areas where walrus was no longer the primary food resource (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 137). Consequently, Patricia Sutherland concludes that economic, environmental and historical factors must have had an influence on regional and temporal variants of Dorset art (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 137).


As far as representations of humans (portable and parietal art pieces alike) are concerned, these can be interpreted as portrayals of living persons who may have lived in the close proximity of the ‘craftsmen' or most likely different spirits. Most of the time depictions of humans do not portray the full-size person but their face. The most common vehicles of portrayal of faces are masks, maskettes, multiple face carvings (wands or sacred places, for instance, Qajartalik petroglyph site in Québec), sculptures (often representing women) and other schematic carvings. Faces "portrayed on most late Paleo-Eskimo pieces clearly exhibit distinctive Asiatic characteristics" (Helmer 196) such as almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, etc. The most peculiar facial type displayed on Dorset artefacts is "triangular shape with rectangular upper face and strongly pointed chin" and "round in outline with accentuated cheekbones and underemphasized chins" on multiple face carvings (Helmer 196).




The Skeletal and ‘X-ray' Pattern


One of the distinctive features of Dorset (not exclusively bear) carvings is the incised skeletal and X-ray motifs, which shows circumpolar and Eurasian distribution (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 140) testified by analogies ranging from Asia Interior through Siberia (Devlet 43) to Europe. These motifs appear on Siberian shamanic coats (Prokofyeva 138) or even in Asian rock art. Ekaterina Devlet interprets this motif as a way of protecting the individual from evil. She also adds that this could have a lot to do with "the dismemberment occurring during the initiation process" (44). The same idea was coined by William Taylor and George Swinton concerning the dismemberment of the body (Siberian-Aleutian tradition) at the joints, which are marked by X-s to protect one against the evil power of the victim's spirits (Swinton 41). Moreover, Alan McMillan points out in his paper that designs resembling skeletal elements and joints may also represent shamanistic vision: "powerful shamans among the historic Inuit were supposed to be able to divest themselves of flesh and blood, flying through the air as skeletons" (245). Besides these, Patricia Sutherland speculates that the skeleton cannot only be perceived as a remnant of the dead body, but also as a container of the soul spirit (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 138). So the spirit was present in the object, if the skeletal/ ‘X-ray' patterns were displayed.


If the Dorset people revered bones (skeleton), "why, then, do we find so many of them in the ruins of houses or in refuse dumps?" - asks Robert McGhee. One possible explanation could be that these carvings were not valuable at all or were lost (especially if having been worn as pendants). Robert Park found out that miniature "implements and carvings were restricted to the midline of the structures to the walls" (Park, "The Dorset Culture Longhouse..." 245) at Brooman Point Site.[3] "The way in which miniature items/ carvings are restricted to the midline and walls suggests that these items were discarded or lost in the context of yet another distinct use of the space within the structure." (Park, "The Dorset Culture Longhouse..." 245)  In my view, it is likely that people were afraid of the magical power of these discarded carvings, especially if those were possessed by a shaman who had turned malevolent, or people from other cultures relocated them.


All in all, the skeleton usually appears in a highly stylized form, so these can be seen as standardized series of lines and joints using "+" or/and "X" marks as joint or bone markings. Not only carvings with skeletal pattern, but also isolated limbs, parts of the vertebral column and animal skulls hint at the importance of the skeleton in the Paleo-Eskimo belief system.


During the Late Dorset period one can recognize a tendency of increasing abstraction and stylization resulting in "flat and spatula forms of abstract bear figures" (Sutherland, "The Variety of Artistic Expression..." 291). This might imply the mass production of these carvings which quite probably testifies to an increased concern for spiritual life. This increase might have been a response to the unusual weather conditions experienced around 1000 A.D.


Carvings with Unknown Function


Unfortunately, in the Dorset assemblage there are artefacts which are not easy to interpret. This is the problem in the case of the small, flat disks cut from bone. These disks have perforated holes, which serve as a starting point of radiating lines. Objects like these were very popular among Siberian peoples, and were commonly associated with the shaman's clothing (Jochelson 108). Patricia Sutherland suggests that these can be interpreted as representations of a cosmological plane with a central opening, which is actually a channel between different worlds (Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 141). We have comparable imagery from Alaskan cultures contemporaneous with Dorset culture. As for the number of radiating lines, one can recognize the importance of the number four and its multiples. This numerological hint may also be justified by multiple-face carvings with e.g. forty faces carved on them (Lantis 98; Weyer 318).


Besides these, there are bone tubes in the corpus, which are believed to be soul catchers (McGhee, "Ancient Animals" 24). This hypothesis is based on Siberian analogies. These tubes - originally unadorned - end in open mouth-like endings frequently representing the mouths of two opposed animal heads with incised skeletal motifs. The presence of opposed forces (represented by the two opposed animal heads) may have increased the efficiency of the tube through which shamans are thought to have sucked the spirits/ malevolent beings which were believed to cause illness out of the body.[4]


Within this category, one can also find the group of figurative carvings often referred to as spatulas. It is difficult to define what these were intended to depict, but these are likely to represent living creatures (most of the time bears). On the basis of the various combinations of "+" and "X" patterns found on these spatulas could justify this previous statement. The majority of these artefacts have heads which are crudely carved and have "X" markings on the back. There is a spatula though which is made special by the animal head being replaced by a miniature harpoon head. This suggests a "symbolic equivalence between the major predators (jaws of the polar bear) and the harpoon of the human hunter" (McGhee, "Ancient Animals" 24).


These miniature harpoon heads whose function has been in the focus of long-standing debates make up the majority of functionally important artefacts of the Dorset corpus. On the one hand, based upon Inuit analogies, these can be considered toys, whereas other scholars firmly claim that these harpoon heads may have been used as real tools. In William Taylor's opinion, these are too small to be used, hence he prefers the idea that these can be treated as religious objects involved chiefly in healing rituals. The harpoon heads without sockets can be thought to be symbolic representations of pain/ illness which were ritually removed from the sick person's body (Park and Mousseau 267). On the other hand, the rest can be handled as toys. If these were toys, this might explain the regular and gradual increase in the size of the harpoons. As children grew older, they might have been playing and practicing hunting with larger and larger harpoon heads. (For further interpretations, see Bear Cult and Ceremonialism.)


Bear Cult and Ceremonialism


As it has been pointed out earlier, in the overall inventory of portrayals those of the bear are numerous. Most of these carvings have etched skeletal patterns on them, but depictions of crouching, swimming, standing, sitting and flying bears are also to be found. These carvings best support the thesis according to which Dorset culture could be classified as an Arctic culture, which puts bear cult or ceremonialism at the focus of their spiritual life. Bear cult is a circumpolar phenomenon, so in my view too, it would prove to be fruitful to examine analogies of bear ceremonialism, such as that of the Inuit culture, in which the omnipresence of the polar bear - not only as an "instrumental and symbolic support of male authority" -"from the very beginning of the cosmogonic myths to the limits of the powers of the shaman, as well as in everyday life" is remarkable (D'Anglure 169).  We have to refrain from assuming direct continuity among these cultures, though.


Some of these carvings, for example, the one found by Jorgen Meldgaard near Alarnerk (Igloolik) dating back to 500 A.D., have hollowed out ventral grooves and some traces of red ochre. Helge Larsen came up with a possible interpretation: this aforementioned carving represents a "hanging polar bear skin such as those featured in the bear-cult rituals of Siberian peoples" (qtd. in Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 140). He contends that the "animal represented has been eviscerated", thus only the skin or the skeleton is depicted (qtd. in Sutherland, "Shamanism in the iconography..." 140). His theory is also supported by the skin treatment practice of the Netsilingmiut. Larsen also emphasizes the special attention given by the Eskimo to the head and the skin of the bear: for example, on the top of the head there were gifts meant for the bears or other utilitarian objects placed to be imbued by the spirit (Larsen 32). The tiny Dorset harpoon heads analyzed by Moreau Maxwell and Robert Park (Maxwell (1974); Park and Mousseau (2003)) might have been used in the practice of hunting magic in the same way that Larsen described in his account or the way the Ainu did with their ceremonial arrows during the Bear Festival.[5] Besides these, there is a great deal of evidence from several Dorset sites showing special treatment of the bones (especially the skull and the paws) of bears. On Dundas Island for instance, there were selected bear bones, mostly skulls with a dotted pattern painted on them in the midden and on the rocks around the Dorset settlement, in addition, in the so-called "Maze village" separately treated bear heads and paws were also found (McGhee, "Late Dorset Art from Dundas Island..." 143, 144).


Many bear carvings have perforated holes making it possible to wear them as pendants, possibly as amulets attached to garments or belts. For Dorset culture is known to be a hunting culture, it seems possible that not only shamans, but individual hunters also wore such pendants to ensure a successful hunt or simply propitiate the preys' ‘souls' to ward their vengeance off as seen in other Eskimo cultures. The broad distribution of amulets (McGhee, "Late Dorset Art from Dundas Island..." 143) and stylized skeletons found on utilitarian artefacts (Sutherland, "The Variety of Artistic Expression..." 292) are also indicative of their common usage. It is beyond doubt that there are carvings (representing flying bears, in particular) that can exclusively be associated with shamans and shamanic practices like shamanic flight. In the Inuit shamanic complex, bears are not powerful just because of their robust bodies, but they were believed to be the great transformers (C. Trott).[6] In the Inuit Nuliajuq legend (reported by Knud Rasmussen), the magical power of the polar bear skin (spirit) enabled Nuliajuq's father to adapt to aquatic way of life. Thus it seems probable that a polar bear helping spirit would enable a ritual specialist to undertake a flight to distant points of the universe. Sutherland brings up a carving of a flying polar bear as a possible representation of a helping spirit. Referring back to helping spirits, in the Dorset corpus there are other carvings associated with shamanic flight, namely carvings of birds with the faces of humans staring from the abdominal cavity of the birds. One can find analogies for this ornithomorphic nature in Central Asian and Siberian shamanic complexes (Devlet 45).




Taking everything into consideration, the complexity of the Dorset art corpus cannot totally be understood due to several hindrances such as the lack of archaeological evidence and the diversity of analogies from all over the Arctic. In my paper, I intended to draw one's attention to different analogies other than analogies found in Siberia. There are several remarkable similarities and analogies that cannot be ignored: the skeletal and ‘X-ray' design showing Eurasian and American distribution and the act of shamanic flight, in particular.


On the basis of analogies and the archaeological finds one can come to the following conclusions concerning the relationship between the Dorset miniature carvings and the Paleo-Eskimo (mainly Dorset) belief system:


  • The broad consensus is that the vast majority of the artefacts outlined previously are connected to shamanic practice, whereas the other half of the artefacts can be regarded as everyday utensils or amulets (if perforated).
  • Artefacts with carved ‘X-ray' and skeletal motifs can undoubtedly be associated with religious practices. One half of these artefacts were likely to be used by individuals in everyday contexts, while the other certainly belonged to the shaman's paraphernalia.
  • As far as the ‘X-ray' and skeletal motifs are concerned, these can be interpreted in diverse ways: these might have protected the individuals from evil, or might have represented shamanic vision, or can be considered to be a container of the soul spirit, or can be associated with the Siberian-Aleutian tradition of the dismemberment of the body at the joints.
  • Based upon comparable analogies and imagery carvings with unknown function such as flat disks with radiating line designs, bone tubes or spatulas have also got a lot to do with magic. The flat disks and the bone tubes could have been used by ritual specialists whereas spatulas by individuals. The everyday use of spatulas is implied by the high degree of stylization which testifies to the mass production of these artefacts.
  • Figurative Dorset artefacts are zoomorphic, anthropomorphic or zoo-anthropomorphic portrayals. The anthropomorphic carvings mainly depict faces and not the full-sized person. The zoo-anthropomorphic artefacts can beyond doubt be connected to shamanic practices best shown by artefacts depicting human-animal transformation. With respect to zoomorphic carvings, in the Dorset art corpus representations of the (polar) bear - which has been known as the most powerful spirit helper - is the most numerous possibly emphasizing the importance of bear ceremonialism in the Canadian Dorset culture.: The veneration of certain body parts of the polar bear testified by a series of archaeological finds, remote analogies and the number of carvings depicting bears (perforated items and non-perforated sculptures alike) support the following hypothesis: bear cult was a significant component in the spiritual life of the Dorset people.




Works cited



  • Bennett, John and Rowley, Susan, eds. Uqalurait: An Oral History of Nunavut. Montréal: McGhill-Queen UP, 2004. 143-150. Print.
  • D'Anglure, Bernard Saladin. "Nanook, super-male: the polar bear in the imaginary       space and social time of the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic."  Signifying animals: human meaning          in the natural world. Ed. Roy Willis. Routledge, 1994. 169. Print.
  • Devlet, Ekaterina. "Rock art and the material culture of Siberian and Central Asian       Peoples."  The Archeology of Shamanism. Ed. Neil S. Price. London and New   York: Routledge, 2001.  43-55. Print.
  • Helmer, J. W. "A face from the past: an early Pre-Dorset ivory maskette from Devon    Island, NWT." Études Inuit Studies 10.1-2 (1986): 179-202. Print.
  • Jochelson, Waldemar. "The Yakut." Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 33 (1933): 107-122. Print.
  • Lantis, Margaret. Alaskan Eskimo Ceremonialism. New York: J..J. Augustine, 1947.          98. Print.
  • Larsen, Helge. "Some examples of bear cult among the Eskimo and other northern        peoples." Folk 11-12 (1970): 27-42. Print.
  • LeMoine, Genevieve. "Woman of the House: Gender, Architecture, and Ideology in       Dorset Prehistory." Arctic Anthropology 40.1 (2003): 121-138. Print.
  • Maxwell, Moreau. "An Early Dorset Harpoon Complex." Folk 16-17 (1974): 123-132. Print.
  • McGhee, Robert. "Ancient Animals: The Dorset Collections from Brooman Point."         Uumajut: Animal Imagery in Inuit Art. Ed. B. Driscoll. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art           Gallery, 1985. 21-30. Print.
    ---. "Late Dorset Art from Dundas Island, Arctic Canada." Folk 16-17 (1974): 133-145. Print.
    ---. "The Prehistory and Prehistoric Art of the Canadian Inuit." Inuit Art - An Anthology. Ed. A. Houston. Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer, 1988.  12-20. Print.
  • McMillan, Alan D. "The Arctic." Native Peoples and Cultures of Canada. Vancouver:      Douglas and McIntyre, 1988:  239-264. Print.
  • Park, Robert W. "The Dorset-Thule Succession in Arctic North America: Assessing          Claims for Culture Contact". American Antiquity 58.2 (1993): 203-234. Print.
    ---. "The Dorset Culture Longhouse at Brooman Point, Nunavut". Études Inuit Studies 27.1-2 (2003): 239-253. Print.
  • Park, Robert W. and Mousseau, Pauline. "How Small is Too Small? Dorset Culture         "Miniature" Harpoon Heads." Canadian Journal of Archeology 27.2 (2003):         258-272. Print.
  • Prokofyeva, Y. D. "The Costume of an Enets shaman." Studies in Siberian                                   shamanism. Arctic Institute of North America, Anthropology of the North,      Translations from Russian Sources 4, Ed. H.N. Michael. Toronto, 1963: 124-   155. Print.
  • Soby, R.M. "The Eskimo Animal Cult." Folk 11-12 (1969): 43-73. Print.
  • Sutherland, Patricia. "The Variety of Artistic Expression in Dorset Culture." Fifty                        Years of Arctic Research, Anthropological Studies from Greenland to Siberia. Eds. R. Gilberg and H.C. Gullov. Copenhagen, 1997: 287-293. Print.
    ---. "Shamanism in the iconography of Palaeo-Eskimo art." The Archeology of Shamanism. Ed. Neil S. Price. London and New York:            Routledge, 2001: 135-146. Print.
  • Swinton, George. "Prehistoric Dorset art: the magico-religious basis." The Beaver 298, 1967: 32-47. Print.
  • Weyer, Edward Moffat. The Eskimos: Their Environment and Folkways. New Haven:      Yale UP, 1932. 318. Print.



Online references:

"The Realm of the Shaman." Canadian Museum of Civilization. Web. 19 November 2010. http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/archeo/paleoesq/pes01eng.shtml

"The Bear Ritual of the Ainu." Web. 19 November 2010.    http://www.bears.org/spirit/ainumyth.php

Park, Robert W. "Dorset culture." Archaeology in Arctic North America. Web. 19 November, 2010. http://anthropology.uwaterloo.ca/ArcticArchStuff/dorset.html


[1] http://anthropology.uwaterloo.caArcticArchStuff/dorset.html

[2] Milne, Suzanne B. - personal communication with the assistant professor from the University of Manitoba, Department of Anthropology, Arctic Prehistory course, fall term 2006/07

[3] Robert Park hypothesizes that long houses could have been structures built to accommodate communal events like shamanic rituals.

[4] http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/archeo/paleoesq/pes01eng.shtml

[5] http://www.bears.org/spirit/ainumyth.php

[6] Trott, Christopher - personal communication with the assistant professor from the University of Manitoba, Department of Native Studies, Inuit Culture and Society course, fall term 2006/07.



Canadian Studies in Central Europe: Past and Present


János Kenyeres

Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest, Hungary


Canadian Studies in Central Europe can be traced back a few decades; in Hungary, the first Canadian Studies course was launched in 1979 at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, and several other Hungarian universities followed suit in the 1980s. In Yugoslavia, too, Canadian Studies started relatively early, but then came to an end with the breakup of the country in the 1990s. Apart from these sporadic examples and single individuals teaching Canadian courses in the Czech Republic and Slovenia, Canadian Studies emerged in the Central European region only in the second half of the 1990s. The first meeting of Central European Canadianists took place in Budmerice, Slovakia, in May 1995 and the 1st International Conference of Central European Canadianists was held in Brno, the Czech Republic, in 1998. For the next five years, a Central European Steering Committee for Canadian Studies was in charge of directing the activities of Canadianists in the region. This initiative was then followed by the formal establishment of the Central European Association for Canadian Studies (CEACS) in the summer of 2003. The first president of the association was Prof. Don Sparling, of Masaryk University, whose perseverance and organizational skills were instrumental in bringing about the foundation of CEACS. The website of the association (http://www.cecanstud.cz) contains regularly updated information on Canadian Studies activities, events, publications, grants and scholarships.


In accordance with its Constitution, CEACS comprises member countries, or "national/multinational chapters," including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia and Slovenia. The activities of the association are assisted by two bodies, the Executive Committee and the Advisory Board. The supreme body of the CEACS is its General Meeting, composed of all the members of the association. In 2011, CEACS had 285 members, academics and students alike, which shows that the association has managed to attract new members over the years; in 2005, it had 176 members. Figures for this year (2012) are not available yet.


The first General Meeting of CEACS was held in early May 2004, which was an important time in a larger, historical context as well; it was on May 1, 2004 that four CEACS member countries, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, joined the European Union.

Soon after its establishment, CEACS became an associate member of the International Council for Canadian Studies (the ICCS), and in 2007 it became a full member. In the past few years, together with its member countries and Canadian Studies Centres, the association has been the host of a number of international events, including a meeting of the European Network for Canadian Studies in Budapest in February 2009, a range of conferences in various parts of the region, as well as a summer school and a European student seminar in Maribor in September 2009. In addition, CEACS's member countries and Canadian Studies Centres have been involved in a whole range of local cultural events related to Canada. Over the past few years, the association has had triennial conferences in Debrecen (2006) and in Sofia (2009), and the next International Conference of Central European Canadianists will be held in Bratislava in October 2012.


CEACS's periodical, the Central European Journal of Canadian Studies (CEJCS), is a peer-reviewed journal covering several areas of Canadian Studies and offering an important forum for CEACS members for the publication of their scholarly output. The CEJCS was launched in 2001 and is published on an annual basis. Thanks to its editors and contributors, the CEJCS has become a distinguished publication over the years.


In 2007, for the first time in its history, CEACS established its own multinational research group around what was called the CEACS Diaspora Project, embracing scholars from all eight chapters of the association, with the intent to explore the oral histories and written work of the Central European diaspora in Canada. This research, led by Prof. Vesna Lopicic, of the University of Nis, was completed in 2010 with the publication of two volumes under the title Migrating Memories: Central Europe in Canada. The first volume is a literary anthology, containing texts in English and French, written by authors with a Central European background, while the second volume comprises a series of interviews with Central European immigrants to Canada, providing their "oral histories."


The association's second research group was formed in 2010 under the direction of Prof. Katalin Kürtösi, of the University of Szeged. The CEACS Translation Research Project set itself the goal of mapping out translations, existing in the languages of the Central European region, of literary and theoretical works originally written in English and French in Canada. Scholars participating in the Translation Research Project are creating an online database of these translations with extensive bibliographical information. The research is also focused on the reception of the translations in the region. The Translation Research Project held an international conference in Budapest in October 2011, entitled "Canada in Eight Tongues," with the participation of Prof. David Staines of the University of Ottawa as keynote speaker. The project is expected to conclude with the publication of a book of essays investigating the features of Canadian works in translation, as well as the impact of the translations on the individual countries concerned.


In 2009, with a view to rejuvenation and securing the future development of Canadian Studies in Central Europe, CEACS encouraged its graduate and doctoral student members to form their own group, the network of Young Canadianists. This community of Young Canadianists was launched in 2010 in order to provide a forum for students in the region to exchange ideas, organize workshops and conferences and to support research. The website of this group of Young Canadianists (www.yc-jc.eu) provides information about programmes, scholarships and grants available for young scholars.


Through the association's own grants and the grants and scholarships offered by the ICCS and the Government of Canada, a number of CEACS members managed to participate in conferences and carry out research in their fields. The association has been helping the ICCS and the Government of Canada in the pre-selection of applications for a range of programmes offered to academics and students, and through its electronic mailing list and website it has been assisting Canadianists in the region to have access to information about Canadian Studies events, scholarships and programmes.


For Canadianists in Central Europe, the study of Canada is a worthwhile activity for various reasons. First of all, it brings together scholars and students from the region to form an intellectual and social community in which they can exchange their thoughts and ideas. Exploring Canada's culture, history, political and economic development and challenges is both fascinating and rewarding, just like teaching about Canada's past and present at the universities and colleges of the region.


Canada's growing significance in the world in terms of politics and economy is undeniable and so is its growing importance in the field of culture, literature and science. Canada, famously a multicultural country, is especially significant to Central Europeans, as this region, too, is multinational and multicultural. So much so that at the annual conference of the International Council for Canadian Studies, the Central European Association for Canadian Studies is represented by the most flags at the roundtable, which means that CEACS is the most multinational Canadian Studies association in the world. The title of the association's last triennial conference held in 2009 in Sofia, "Managing Diversity and Social Cohesion," related to the Canadian model, but the knowledge gained through studying Canada had significant implications to the Central European region as well.


The need for tolerance, the acceptance of difference and variation, has always been an important issue in Central Europe. It was already an essential ingredient to the formation of the multinational states of the region in the Middle Ages. Although often pushed to the background in the course of subsequent centuries, it is worth bearing in mind that the management of the diversity and difference in this modern sense is inherent in the Central European tradition. While it is essential to keep in mind our own traditions and past as a community in Central Europe, we must also see that today Canada is a world leader in exploring policies and practical approaches that are required for the peaceful and fruitful coexistence of different cultures and traditions.



Challenging New Perspectives on Joyce Wieland's Film The Far Shore


Krisztina Kodó

Kodolányi University of Applied Sciences,

Székesfehérvár, Hungary



There are countless works and representations of Tom Thomson's life, art, and the mysteries surrounding his early death, but Joyce Wieland's 1976 film The Far Shore is certainly noteworthy, which according to Sherrill Grace is


an allegory of Canada, embodied in the figure of the artist as an anglophone northern landscape painter in love with a francophone musician, ...reinforces the iconicity of Thomson as representative of the North, of artistic vision in tune with nature, and of the best possible unified future for the country. (136)


This is a fair comment, but the film also raises further questions and perspectives that are I think worth examining.


Johanne Sloan, offers a challenging new approach in her comprehensive work on Joyce Wieland's film The Far Shore. This is a feature film that encourages us to pose questions. In her work Sloan argues that Wieland's film is a significant addition to the ongoing discussion of landscape and art in Canada and at the same time manages to link the singular genres and media means of landscape and melodrama thereby creating a "melodramatic landscape film" (15). Sloan's detailed and in-depth examination is not limited to merely considering the film, but takes a look at Wieland's whole artistic development and career as a filmmaker. The work is divided into three major sections, the first focuses on Wieland's artistic career, the second on the Tom Thomson figure (featuring as Tom McLeod) and landscape art within the film, and the third part concentrates on the female protagonist, Eulalie, as a crucial element connecting the characters, and the political and artistic import of the film.


Wieland (1931-1998)[1] spoke of herself as a "political artist" and her artistic oeuvre certainly testifies this concept. This underlies Wieland's comment that she was setting out to make a political film, embedded in a romance (Sloan 112). At the time of its release, the film was assessed quite seriously and received many thoughtful and favorable press reviews, generating ample discussion. These reviews and critical writings are all assessed and compared by Sloan providing a thorough and objective factual analysis. On the basis of her assessment, the film did not become the "box-office" success that had previously been predicted. According to film critiques enumerated by Sloan, the film must be considered an experiment.


From an art-historical point of view what Joyce Wieland did with the landscape genre is radical, original, and experimental in the most profound sense. Through the medium of film and through the narratological and affective drive of the movies, Wieland sets the still landscape in motion. (Sloan 113)


Therefore, the film is in "many ways a culmination of an exploratory and innovative art practice" (Sloan 114).


Sloan emphasizes that the film is not about Tom Thomson's life and artistic legacy, rather the "conservative Thomson icon is dislodged, to be replaced by a more open symbol of Canadian cultural identity" (5).  Because Thomson is such an enigmatic personality, his life and death seems to demand to be retold constantly. Though Thomson died in 1917, and the setting of the film is 1919, Wieland brings the artist back to life in order to die again for a new audience presented with a highly romanticized image of the Tom Thomson figure. But Tom remains a mystery, and as Sloan's work suggests the major outline of the story concentrates on Eulalie, a Quebecoise, and it is through her consciousness and visual experiences that we see the Tom Thomson character come alive.


The film focuses on three main locations, namely scenes of rural Quebec in the beginning, then the rural milieu of the city, Toronto, with major interiors as Rosedale mansion, Ross' office, a restaurant and Tom's shack. And only towards the end of the film do we see Ontario's "north country". There are only four characters (Tom, Eulalie, Ross and Cluny) featuring in the film, but they all carry within their characteristics the usual melodramatic ingredients. Eulalie and Ross are married, though not happily and the audience acquires the impression that this is rather a marriage of convenience. Ross and Cluny are business associates and friends, but we also learn that they had been at war together. With this Wieland makes us aware of the political situation following the First World War on a wider perspective. And finally there is Tom the artist and painter, with whom Eulalie falls in love. The characters may be further divided as "good" and "bad", whereby Ross and Cluny may be considered the "bad guys" as being ruthless, intent on exploiting those held to be inferior, but in this respect also the land for a profit, since he wishes to mine silver in the "north country". Ross as an engineer (being violent and hypocritical) is the exact opposite of Tom (honest and gentle and the "good guy"), who represents the artistic side of the modernist imagination. As Sloan points out, the male characters dominate the film and they are also in charge of the domestic arrangements. The interior domestic space seems to constrain the characters eliciting a melodramatic excess realized in the form of emotional upheaval and the eruption of desire (94). Interestingly, Eulalie moves within this harsh world of greedy and dishonest men, and Wieland encourages us to see from Eulalie's perspective. The film displays a wide range of male character types and it is within this masculine "world" that Eulalie's personality gradually achieves coherence. Through Eulalie's character Wieland introduces a series of political issues as the tensions explicit in the anglophone and francophone relations, feminism and women's emancipation, and also the ecological exploitation of the "north country" during the 1970s evident in the Crees' fight for the preservation of their land. According to Sloan, Wieland also took part in these demonstrations (73). Eulalie, as a Quebecoise, is virtually a "stranger" and "foreigner" (so called by Ross) in a male dominated world, and as a francophone, and her sensitivity is further enhanced by the fact that she is a musician, a pianist, whose only emotional outlet is when she is able to play the piano. Therefore, it is Eulalie who features as the central figure with all the others revolving around her. It is therefore inevitable that she falls in love with Tom, who ultimately represents all that is honest, good and natural.


Wieland, here also makes use of Tom's shack, which as also noted by Sloan is based on a historical fact, since Thomson actually lived in such a shack during the winters of 1915-16 and 1916-17, when he was unable to finance the cost of renting a place in the Studio Building and his friends built him this shack beside the studio building, which ultimately became a cult object, to be later bought and relocated by the McMichael Collection and placed in Kleinburg, Ontario (76).  Within the film the shack is the location where a number of short scenes take place, which may be considered relevant for the narratological development of the storyline and we also get a glimpse of Tom working on one of his paintings. Actually, this is one of the rare occasions when we do see him at his work. The shack takes on a quasi symbolical meaning, since it is here that Eulalie comes when she is lonely to talk to Tom, it is also here that she sees him paint, and it is again here that they ultimately fall in love. These are intimate scenes that are in stark opposition with the outside world. The only other occasion that Tom is seen painting is in the "north country" actually almost eighty minutes into the film when we see Tom for the first time perched on the bank of a lake painting on a small panel (51). This is again a historical fact that Wieland makes use of since Thomson and the Group of Seven were known for the small sketches they made while moving around in Algonquin Park. This is the only moment in the film when he is seen alone and also painting in the natural environment. And this act of "plein-air" painting in nature is what Thomson and the Group is famous for (53).


The first part of the film moves rather slowly, but the pace of the last part, which takes place in the "north country" suddenly quickens and all the action occurs quickly and somewhat confusingly. All the tension that had been melodramatically kept under control now surfaces and erupts, and all the characters become active. Wieland gives the "north country" added emphasis in showing how nature acts as a catalyst bringing all the conflicts to the surface, where the characters transform. Here Tom is not a detached observer anymore, but a lover, fugitive and finally murder victim. A very symbolical and certainly decisive moment in the film is when Eulalie fully clothed dives into the water to swim across the lake to Tom. According to Sloan, with this act "she washes away her old life and claims the landscape for herself" (82). This way Eulalie's attempt to break out of her "gilded cage" is successful, thereby managing to leave one world ("one shore") behind, and she is on her way to another place, the "other shore". Throughout the film Tom is closely associated with the land, while Eulalie is like a "water deity. She is also water-like in its constant movement and shape-shifting" (Sloan 107). Eulalie swimming towards Tom may be viewed symbolically and according to Sloan through this act Tom becomes Eulalie's wilderness and also her inspiration (108). But what does the "far shore" symbolize? Through her actions Eulalie seems to be reaching out for something that is otherwise unattainable such as freedom, fulfillment and happiness. From the moment Eulalie dives into the water with the intention of reaching the "other" shore and through this act, her beloved, Tom, our expectations are triggered hoping for a happy end where the lovers are finally united. Wieland, however, still manages to surprise us and we realize that the "far shore" is perhaps "an imagined landscape, a site of refuge; a place of ecological, aesthetic and sexual bliss" (Sloan 116). We must realize by the end of the film that the natural environment is now much more than merely a beautiful background, since it has acquired a specific function, which


achieves a kind of agency and narrative force in relation to

the human characters. The vectors of desires and gazes in

Wieland's film are complicated by the impact of the natural

environment. And the erotic figuration of man/woman does not,

in a sense, take place against or even in nature, but rather with

nature. (Sloan 109)


The lovers are first pursued by Ross and Cluny, then finally murdered, which ultimately hinders them in achieving their goal of reaching a/the "far shore".


The major notion behind the northern myth that it is utterly pure, wild and ultimately empty of animals and human beings is false, still this wilderness imagery has become so embedded in the Canadian imagination, that for a Canadian artist to aesthetically interpret the Canadian landscape it is essential to find a way through this imagery created by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. And Wieland's interpretation allows the introduction of contemporary ideas, political issues and a new perspective of emotionally understanding the landscape. In this way the landscape is brought back to life. And Johanne Sloan succeeds in providing a very well-written, detailed and complex examination of Wieland's film highlighting the artistic relevance of fusing the Canadian landscape and identity image with that of the melodramatic romance.


Works cited


  • Grace, Sherrill. On the Art of Being Canadian. Vancouver: UBC, 2009. Print.
  • "Joyce Wieland." N.p., Web. 29 July 2011. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?Nm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0008583
  • Shribman, David M. "The Many Mysteries of Tom Thomson." Review: Non-Fiction. Globe and Mail. 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 23 April 2011.
  • Sloan, Johanne. Joyce Wieland's The Far Shore. Toronto: University of Toronto Press UP, 2010. Print.



[1] Joyce Wieland studied at Central Technical School, Toronto, and in 1960 held her first exhibition of paintings at the Isaacs Gallery, Toronto. There she showed paintings in an abstract expressionist genre as well as drawings and cartoons and later her constructions. From 1962 to 1970 she and her then-husband, artist Michael Snow, lived in New York, where she became an important figure in the experimental film world with such award-winning films as Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968) and La Raison avant la passion (1967-69). She was also widely known for her feature-length film The Far Shore (1976). Wieland's work was exhibited throughout Canada, in the US and in Europe. Passionately concerned with the aesthetic perspective of the woman artist, Wieland drew inspiration from Canadian history, politics and ecology (www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com).



Canadian Studies for the High School: The Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader

Mátyás Bánhegyi and Judit Nagy

(Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Budapest)



1 Introduction


The Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader Project was initiated as a pilot project and aimed to bridge the gap between difficult-to-grasp and hard-to-present cultural information and its simple, easy-to-understand classroom presentation. Based on Kramsch's (1991) notion that "culture and language are inseparable and constitute one single universe" (Kramsch 217), the English language Reader wishes to show that even subtle cultural topics can be addressed in classrooms of less advanced language proficiency. Furthermore, the project also intends to reveal how complex foreign policy and cultural policy priorities can be transferred into challenging and inviting classroom activities through already acquired knowledge contents, which enable easy access to these otherwise demanding topics. In addition, the project demonstrates that ideally designed activities will serve the purpose of teaching both language and culture.

The tricultural Reader has been realised with the help of an Understanding Canada grant, and targets the upper primary and secondary school (grades 7 to 12) audience and their teachers. The editors include Judit Nagy (PhD) (Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary), Mátyás Bánhegyi (PhD) (Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary), Dóra Bernhardt (MA, ThM) (Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary) and Albert Rau (MA) (Erzb. St. Ursula-Gymnasium, Brühl, Germany and University of Cologne). The Reader is mainly based on the contribution of teacher trainees and students of Canadian Studies attending the above universities. The volume is made complete with a Teacher's Notes containing hints and tips, keys, sources, background information and websites to consult.

The present study first discusses the project and the project activities leading up to the preparation and compilation of the Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader. Then it introduces the Reader and the accompanying Teacher's Notes in more detail. Next, it reveals how and for what purposes the Reader can be ideally used and, finally, it provides an insight into the dissemination of the project results, the Reader and the Teacher's Notes.


2 Project Activities Leading up to the Publication of the Reader and the Teacher's Notes


In order to compile the Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader, the following project activities were carried out: a) identification of the priority topics issued by the International Council for Canadian Studies (ICCS); b) generating student involvement and participation; c) compilation and selection of raw materials for the Reader provided by the students; and d) editing the materials and preparing the Teacher's Notes.

The ICCS Understanding Canada Program priority topics selected for the project and focalized in the book are: managing diversity; democracy, law and human rights; economic development and competitiveness; peace and security; and the environment. These up-to-date topics have been chosen as they lend themselves for cultural comparison between the three cultures and have been envisaged to increase students' civic participation and cultural tolerance over time as well as engage students' interest.

Generating student involvement and participation was a crucial step in the project since it has been assumed that teacher trainees have a closer insight into what topics and issues seem to be intriguing for the target group. At the same time, young Canadianists' contribution was equally essential as they possess the relevant factual knowledge for the Canadian content included in the Reader.

The compilation and selection of student-provided raw materials for the Reader were the most painstaking job as the materials finally included in the Reader had to be culturally acceptable, informative and motivating for all the cultures addressed in the Reader (primarily Canada, Germany and Hungary). The Reader was finalised through editing the materials and consequently the Teacher's Notes was prepared.


3 The Reader and the Teacher's Notes


The Reader and the Teacher's Notes have been written with the latest methodological developments in mind. The presented units are communicative, content-based and intercultural in their approach and are predominantly characterized by the presence of tasks facilitating cooperative and peer learning.

The 28 units in the Reader are communicative as they create situations where the exchange of relevant information comes as a natural process and where students can only cope with the tasks successfully if they communicate their own ideas in a meaningful way. The units are also content-based as each unit is organized around one unifying theme, which is further elaborated on through the teaching and practice of relevant vocabulary and grammar. The themes contained in the 28 units are shown below (Figure 1.)


1. National Symbols

15. Tourist Attractions

2. Famous people

16. Wellness Spas

3. Holidays and Festivals

17. Television

4. Education

18. The ‘56ers

5. Music

19. Engagement in Afghanistan

6. Sprots

20. Terrorism

7. Human rights

21. Disaster Response: Aid for Haiti

8. Minorities

22. Famous Natural Parks

9. Religion

23. Wildlife Conservation

10. Famous Historical Figures

24. Endangered Species

11. Inventions

25. Global Warming

12. Brands

26. Ecotourism

13. A Sweet Tooth

27. Landscape Painting

14. World Famous Companies

28. Environmental Art


Figure 1: Table of Contents


Furthermore, the entire Reader is intercultural since it strongly builds on culturally familiarizing students with their own and the target cultures through cultural contents and comparison extending to Moran's (2001) cultural products, practises and perspectives. This approach is illustrated in Figure 2, which shows that the topic of human rights is contextualized in a comparative intercultural setting in the Reader.



Figure 2: Unit 7 on Human Rights


Finally, concerning the pedagogical approach taken in the Reader, cooperative and peer learning activities are ensured primarily through the incorporation of pair and group work tasks.

The task types of the activities included in the Reader have also been devised with the above methodological and pedagogical objectives in mind and thus include: gap-filling, true or false statements, matching and pairing activities, multiple choice, ranking, skimming, scanning, searching for specific information in written texts, oral discussions, tasks requesting students' own intellectual contribution, activities requiring creative language use and finding similarities and differences. Emphasis is laid on presenting new and complicated knowledge contents through easy topics that are familiar to students. An example of this is presenting the complex topic of charity through the career of well-established musicians. As an illustration, see Figure 3.



Peter Maffay is a German singer and songwriter, who ________ (start) his music career as early as 1969. He is still active; his latest album ________ (come out) in 2010 with the title Tattoos. He ________(know) for his political messages composed into his song lyrics. As a peace activist, he ________ (hold) a concert for German ISAF troops in Afghanistan in 2005. Maffay is also a charitable artist: he ________ (donate) money towards organisations helping traumatised and abused children, and ________ (set up) his own farm for traumatised children in Majorca, Spain. His efforts ________ (recognise) internationally: he ________ (give) the World Vision Charity Award.




[Figure 3: Covering famous musicians to teach about charity]


For easier use, a Teacher's Notes is available with the Reader. In fact, the Teacher's Notes is the teacher's companion to the Reader and mirrors it in the sense that it is also broken down into 28 sections corresponding to the 28 units. Each section contains the detailed description of the activities in the given unit, a key to the activities as well as further teaching ideas. These sections are elaborated on below.

The detailed description of the activities in the units extends to the following information.


  • Level: it is the level of language proficiency that is required for students to successfully complete the tasks. The level is given in the conventional system of level of proficiency (ranging from beginner to proficiency level) as well as in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (ranging from A1 to C2).
  • Time: it is the intended and approximate duration of the activity and is given in minutes.
  • Skills: it provides information on what language skills are practised during the activities in a unit.
  • Activity: it provides a concise description of the activities in a unit.
  • Preparation: it informs the teacher about any preparation (photocopying, etc. and looking up information) necessary prior to using the activities in class.
  • Procedure: it describes the different stages of each activity and their interrelatedness within the unit containing them.
  • Extension/variation: it explains and describes easy-to-realise alternatives and/or possible further activities connected to the original activity.



To lessen teacher's workload, a key contains the right (or suggested) solutions to the activities of each unit. Additionally, further teaching ideas are provided under the following headings.


  • Sources: it provides details about the texts and illustrations used in the Reader.
  • Further information: it provides further information and readings related to the topics of the units and/or the ideas under the ‘extension/variation' heading. These references direct teachers primarily to web-based links or occasionally provide further texts for reading printed in the Teacher's Notes.



4 Using the Reader


The Reader can be used both for language and culture teaching purposes. These two uses will be described in more detail below. In fact, the publication has several diverse uses and the non-exclusive description below presents only some of them.

The Reader makes an ideal supplement to general-purpose English language courses at various levels of language proficiency. Since most of the activities are open-ended, they can be solved at the learners' own language level, which makes the Reader an ideal supplement to courses of all levels. Intensive language programs and language camps can also benefit from using the Reader as the topics addressed are the most typical topics language learners need practice in.

As for teaching and learning about culture, German and Hungarian heritage classes in Canada as well as English speaking foreigners visiting Germany and Hungary or residing in these countries can greatly benefit from the Reader as it addresses very current issues and situations one might encounter in these countries and it raises issues that one is likely to be exposed to in their communication with the natives. The Reader is also ideal for teaching English speaking audiences about Germany and Hungary in an attempt to bring about cultural understanding and combat stereotypical or judgemental thinking.


5 Dissemination


The dissemination of the project results was carried out through the printed Reader, online access to the project materials, teacher training sessions, conference presentations and the incorporation of the project materials into training programmes. 400 copies of the Reader were printed and distributed free of charge to libraries, teacher training institutions, teacher in-house training institutions, practising teachers and students. Alternatively, both the Reader and the Teacher's Notes are downloadable from the web-site of the International Relations page of Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary: http://www.kre.hu/btk/index.php/nemzetkoezi-kapcsolatok and the Virtual Sources Site of the Association for Canadian Studies in the German Speaking Countries: www.education-canada.de.

To facilitate the better use of the Reader, teacher training sessions were organized both in Hungary and in Germany. On March 4th, 2011, a Hungarian teacher training session entitled "Introducing the Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader" was held, organized jointly by Károli University and the Budapest-based National Library of Foreign Literatures. In addition, an in-house teacher training session took place at Károli University on March 5th, 2011. In Germany, a teacher training session for secondary school teachers entitled "Kanada als Unterrichtsthema im Englischunterricht der Sekundarstufe II" was held in the Frankfurt region on February 10th, 2011.

Several conference presentations in Germany and Hungary focused on introducing the Reader to a diverse audiences. One conference presentation was delivered at the annual Association for Canadian Studies in the German-speaking countries (GKS) conference of the German Canadianists in Grainau on February 27th, 2011. The Reader was also introduced at the "Multilingualism in Europe" conference in Budapest on March 26th, 2011. In addition, the Reader was also presented at the annual meeting of Hungarian Canadianists organized by the Canadian Embassy in Budapest on February 21st, 2011.

Last but not least, the Reader is also envisaged to be incorporated in a number of training programmes. It will become a mentor teacher training program component and a focus of further special teacher training events (including the Károli Teacher Training Afternoons) for a wider audience at the Faculty of Humanities of Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary.


6 Conclusions


The study introduced the project and the project activities leading up to the preparation and compilation of the Canadian-German-Hungarian Cultural Reader. This was followed by a description of the Reader and the accompanying Teacher's Notes. Then the different uses of the Reader were presented and, finally, the dissemination of the Reader and the accompanying Teacher's Notes was discussed.

Hopefully, it has been shown through the above that the Reader is a truly valuable teaching resource pack for any teacher and student interested in learning about cultures in general and wishing to get acquainted with cultural diversity as well as Canada, Germany and Hungary through English.


Works cited



  • Kramsch, Claire. "Culture in Language Learning: A View from the States." In: de Boot, Kees, Ginsberg, Ralph B. and Kramsch, Claire. Foreign Language Research in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Utrecht: Benjamin, 1991. 217-240. Print.
  • Moran, Patrick R. Teaching Culture: Perspectives in Practise. Boston: Heinle and Heinle, 2001. Print.


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