Reading the Postmodern
(a Canadian Literature Symposium)
May 9th|| |
in English Lobby (3rd floor, Arts Building, 70 Laurier East) |
by Frans de Bruyn, Department Chair |
1: Ideologies of Place / Place of Identity (Arts 509)
Chair: Sara Jamieson
Fischer (U. West Florida)
"The Fallacy of Canadian Postmodernism:
The Absence of National Identity in the Works of Douglas Coupland"
Wiens (U. Calgary)
"Bowering, Postmodernism, and Canadian Nationalism:
A Short Sad Book"
Allison Mackey (McMaster U.)
Postmodern Condition: Multiculturalism and Ethics/Politics of Identity"
Lunch (Glen Clever Room, 3rd floor Arts) --Registration Continues---|
2: Regions of Postmodernism (Simard 125)|
Chair: Jennifer Blair (Rutgers
Lindy Ledohowski (U. Toronto)
"Kroetsch and Kupchenko:
The Paradoxical Centrality of the Regional 'Ex-Centric'"
MacLeod (St. Mary's U.)
"Reconciling Regionalism: Environmental Determinism,
Spatial Epistemology and the Canadian Postmodern"
Dennis Cooley (U.
"The Postmodern Writer Abroad"
Panel 3: Postmodern Spaces (Simard 125)|
Chair: Anne Raine (U. Ottawa)
Cowdy Crawford (York U.)
"Reading the Suburb as a (Canadian?) (Postmodern?)
Ian Rae (McGill U.)
"Postmodern Architectures and
Anne Carson's 'The Fall of Rome: A Traveller's Guide'"
Richard J. Lane
(Vancouver Island University)
"Post-Theory Canadian Postmodern: An
Architectonic of Canadian Literary and Visual Culture"
Address (ARTS 257)
Linda Hutcheon (U. Toronto)
Introduced by Professor David Staines (University of Ottawa)
Buffet Dinner (Arts 509)|
Literary Reading featuring FRED WAH @ Avant Garde Bar, 135 Besserer
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otherwise noted panels will take place in Simard 125 |
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Panel 4: Re: Reading Hutcheon (Simard 125)|
Chair: Gerald Lynch (U. Ottawa)
Thompson (Carleton U.)
"Eruptions of Canadian Ecocriticism: Linda
Hutcheon's Postmodern Ecological Ethic"
Jennifer Blair (Rutgers U)
"'The Postmodern Impasse' and The Englishman's Boy"
Carter (U. Lethbridge)
"Linda Hutcheon's Postmodern Irony"
Panel 5: Instituting the Postmodern (Simard 125)
Christian Bök (U. Calgary)
"Getting Ready to
Have Been Postmodern"
Karis Shearer (U. Western Ontario)
Cultural Workers and the Institutionalization of Canadian Literary Histories"
Bradley( U. Victoria)
"Postpostmodernism's Prizes: Awards and Canadian
Poetry in the Twenty-first Century"
Lunch, Jazzy Restobar, Jock Turcot University Centre
Panel 6: Re: Reading Postmodern Poetry I (Simard 125)|
Chair: Zac Schnier
Louis Cabri (U. Windsor)
"The Neomodern in Canadian
Gregory Betts (Brock U.)
Decadence: Canadian Concrete and Sound Poetry"
7: Re: Reading Postmodern Poetry II (Simard 125)
Chair: Janice Fiamengo
Katherine McLeod (U. Toronto)
"Sounds Like Canada:
Situating Postmodern Listening within Canadian Soundscapes"
"Darren Wershler-Henry's the tapeworm foundry and
the Problem of the Sublime"
Christine Stewart (U. Alberta)
Discrepancies: a Spinozist Reading of Catriona Strang's Low Fancy"
Keynote Address (ARTS 257)
Susan Rudy (U. Calgary) and Pauline
Butling (Alberta College of Art and Design):
Now? Or What Recent Poetry is on About Instead"
Introduced by Robert Stacey
The Atomic Rooster, 303 Bank St.
PAST THE POST: An Evening of Readings and Performances will feature Gregory
Betts, Christian Bök, Louis Cabri, Stephen Cain, Wanda Campbell, Dennis Cooley,
Frank Davey, Robert Kroetsch, Christine Stewart, The Max Middle Sound Project,
and Andy Weaver. This is a FREE PUBLIC EVENT. Everyone is welcome.|
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May 11th || |
8: Re: Reading Postmodern Fiction
Chair: Cynthia Sugars (U. Ottawa)
Foster Stovel (U. Alberta)
"'Because She's a Woman': Myth and Metafiction
in Carol Shields's Unless"
Russell Morton Brown (U. Toronto,
"A Narrative of Kroetsch's Narratives; or, "Postmodern
Man on His Last Legs"
Misao Dean (U. Victoria)
Bowering and Peonies"
9: The Politics of Postmodern Reading
Chair: Cheryl Cowdy Crawford
Söderlind (Queen's U.)
"F*#&% the Ineffable!: The Allegorical
Intention in Ghostmodernism"
Margaret Steffler (Trent U.)
Beyond the Postmodern Reader as Strategist and Performer: Gathering Together the
Stephen Cain (York U.)
"Feeling Ugly About the
Postmodern Condition: Two Novels by
Lynn Crosbie and Daniel Jones"
Lunch (Glen Clever Room)
Panel 10: Visual Interpolations
Chair: Kathleen Patchell (U Ottawa)
Bowen (Redeemer U. C.)
"Postmodern Realism and Photographic Subjectivity
in The Stone Diaries"
Wanda Campbell (Acadia U.)
Ekphrasis in the Poetry of Anne Compton, Anne Carson, and Anne Simpson"
Panel 11: Postmodern Histories
Chair: Lauren Gillingham (U. Ottawa)
Cabajsky (U. de Moncton)
"Beyond Postmodernism? The New Formalism
and Recent Canadian Historical Fiction"
Jenn Stephenson (Queen's U.)
"Re-performing Microhistories: Postmodern Metatheatricality in Canadian Millennial
Herb Wyile (Acadia U.)
"A House Divided: Commodification,
Postmodern Relativism, and Historical Fiction"
The Past, Present and Future of The Canadian Postmodern
Chair and Moderator:
Fred Wah (U. Calgary)
Robert Kroetsch (U. Manitoba)
2 and The Canadian Postmodern"
Frank Davey (U. Western Ontario)
"Misreadings & Non-readings of The Canadian Postmodern"
<<To be followed by a moderated open discussion>>
faculty and staff of the Department of English are welcome to attend all panels
and keynotes free of charge. Seating may be limited, however, and priority will
be given to registered participants. Copies of the symposium program will be available
at the registration desk on Friday morning.
OF KEYNOTE SPEAKERS and INVITED PRESENTERS
Or, What Recent Experimental Poetries Are On About Instead
Butling, Alberta College of Art and Design
Susan Rudy, University of Calgary
Call for Papers for Re: Reading the Postmodern defines itself in terms
of the following question:
If, following Fredric Jameson, the postmodern may
be understood to designate, not a set of discursive tropes or literary styles,
but the dominant cultural logic of multinational capitalism in a borderless global
market, to what extent have Canadian and postmodern always
been fundamentally at odds? In other words, does the postmodern entail the erosion
of the national as a category for thinking about our literature
here, and do we care?
We want to rephrase the question
as follows: how do the tensions between the national and the transnational torque
contemporary poetics? And what other tensions inform this work, such as those
between gender and citizenship in Erín Moures O Cidadán?
(Anansi 2002); or between capitalist consumption and capitalist critique in Jeff
Derksens Transnational Muscle Cars (Talonbooks 2003); or within the
competing discourses of global exploitation and resistance in Rita Wongs
forage (Nightwood 2007). We will argue that such tensions are a dynamic
component of experimental poetry, whether in the postmodern forms of the 1970s
and 1980s or in the contemporary (postmodern?) forms described above.
Glories of Hindsight: What We Know Now
Linda Hutcheon, University of Toronto
the saying goes, hindsight = 20/20 vision. Twenty or so years ago, when I published
my books A Poetics of Postmodernism and The Canadian Postmodern
which attempted to theorize literary and aesthetic trends in what was then our
contemporary culture, I, like other theorists engaged in the task of understanding
a new literary concept and movement, could not foresee what would happen to the
"postmodern" with time. Sometimes our lack of predictive (in)sight was
the result of personal experiential limitations (e.g., never reading/studying
children's literature); at other times it was because of new additions to the
theoretical matrix (Queer theory, postcolonialism); at still other times, it was
our inability to guess the appearance of new art forms (e.g., the rise of the
graphic novel) or new media (interactive electronic technology). This paper explores
what someone theorizing the postmodern today might want to consider, with the
benefit of hindsight.
and Non-readings of the Canadian Postmodern
Frank Davey, The University
of Western Ontario
I plan to discuss how Canadian postmodern writing
is misrepresented when it is conflated with American postmodernism, and how this
conflation has led internationally to a lack of recognition that there is a second
and unique kind of postmodernism in North America. With reference to early theorizations
of the postmodern in Canada, including the work of Linda Hutcheon, I trace the
critical reception of non-conforming texts and suggest that the omission of these
texts from the history and criticism of the postmodern in Canada has led to a
skewed and incomplete view of the postmodern tradition here.
Journal Boundary 2 and Canadian Postmodernism
Robert Kroetsch, University
I propose to give a personal account of my experience as
founder and co-editor, with William Spanos, of "Boundary 2: A Journal of
Postmodern Literature" while I was at the State University of New York at
Binghamton in the early 1970s. I will explore the origins of my version of Canadian
postmodernism, a concept and set of theoretical concerns which prompted our creation
of the journal, and which I continued to develop in my subsequent work in literary
criticism, poetry, and fiction.
Decadence: Canadian Concrete and Sound Poetry
Gregory Betts, Brock University
theories by Matei Calinescu and Charles Russell articulate a detemporalized "decadent"
aesthetic that historically reacts and indeed subverts the progressivist agenda
of the avant-garde. As many Canadian postmodern authors have wrestled with and
often rejected the idea of the avant-garde, my paper will attempt to situate Canadian
postmodernism within the tradition of an ideologically decadent and anti-progressivist
writing that emanates from Baudelaire through the Symbolistes, the Dadaists, and,
ultimately, postmodern practitioners. My paper will focus on examples of postmodern
Canadian concrete and sound poetry by the likes of bpNichol, Judy Copithorne,
Beth Janka, and bill bissett as examples of postmodern decadence.
Postmodern Impasse" and The Englishman's Boy
This paper questions the extent to which Canadian criticism
realizes the productive potential of the contradiction between textualized history
and "real" historic events, a contradiction that Linda Hutcheon identified
as a key feature of "historiographic metafiction." It argues that Vanderhaeghe's
emphasis on Henri Bergson's "intuition" in The Englishman's Boy
can serve to revive the potential that Hutcheon envisioned. If postmodernism's
"linguistic turn" defused the tension between text and reality (with
its insistence that reality is linguistically constructed), then Bergson's materialism
points us toward new critical avenues that should enable us to overcome this "postmodern
Ready to Have Been Postmodern
Christian Bök, University of Calgary
may be two decades old in Canadian criticism but I suggest that the term has yet
to refer to the very genre that it purports to identify. While Linda Hutcheon
argues that postmodern literature occupies a marginal position at the periphery
of culture, she fails to discuss such fiction on the grounds that it has only
a minor status among the major voices in Canada. I believe that, since her study,
critics have mobilized the term "postmodernism" in order to appear topical
and engaged with the most contemporary vocabularies, while evading any sustained
encounter at all with the truly scary cases of postmodern innovation, ignoring
the rare cases of a more experimental genre in order to depict as progressive
the many cases of a more conservative genre.
Realism and Photographic Subjectivity in The Stone Diaries
Bowen, Redeemer University College
In Carol Shields's The Stone
Diaries (1993), photographs play a silently subversive role in countering
the verbal text. Shields's declared intention is to demonstrate the randomness
and inadequacy of photographic traces; but in the event, the displaced and re-appropriated
materiality of the photographic subjects speaks also of a lost particularity in
production and of the ethical imperatives in the hemeneutical enterprise. Hutcheon
has ascribed to postmodernism a rethinking of novelistic realism (Canadian Postmodern
21); the centerfold of The Stone Diaries suggests that, at its most extravagant,
the photographic image may reinstate realism as the more subversive of the two
Prizes: Awards and Canadian Poetry
in the Twenty-first Century
Bradley, University of Victoria
This paper asks whether it is yet possible
to identify a generation of Canadian poets who work in forms that diverge notably
from Canadian postmodern poetics; and if so, whether their poetry evinces characteristic
aesthetic, ethical, and ideological concerns. The paper examines, as a sample
of recent poetic activity, the books shortlisted since 2001 for Canada's two major
awards for poetry, the Governor-General's Award and the Griffin Prize. It seeks
to investigate whether "postmodern" remains an illuminating way of describing
contemporary poetry and how poems by younger writers cast the attitudes and aesthetics
of older poets into relief.
Career; or, "A Narrative of Kroetsch's Narratives; or, 'Postmodern Man on
His Last Legs'"
Russell Morton Brown, University of Toronto
honors course: The Possibilities of the Novel. Should have been Postmodern Man
on His Last Legs. "(Robert Kroetsch, The Crow Journals 26)
has said that The Man from the Creeks is his last novel, which invites
his critics to find a shape in his career as a novelist, a narrative of his narratives,
a metanarrative perhaps, that tells the story of a prominent novelist's progress
through the last third-the postmodern third?-of Canada's twentieth century. Kroetsch
was strongly identified with Canada's version of postmodernism long before he
was dubbed "Mr. Canadian Postmodern" by Linda Hutcheon, but a reading
of his fiction shows how his postmodernism existed in tension with and was disturbed
by other attractions-to a kind of regional postcolonialism on the one hand, and
to a desire to continue the very old tradition of the storyteller on the other.
The New Formalism
and Recent Canadian Historical Fiction
Université de Moncton
This paper will address a move "beyond"
postmodernism in recent criticism on Canadian historical fiction, towards a "New
Formalism," or what Marjorie Levinson (2007) has described as a renewed critical
interest in "old-fashioned" matters of plot, character, and setting
as problems with important political ramifications. Recent articles by Venema,
Ware, and Cabajsky and Grubisic suggest that skepticism towards master narratives
and formal playfulness are no longer sufficient objects of celebration in historical
fiction. My paper will argue that an awareness of traditional literary forms and
conventions should be brought to bear with ethical rigour on recent "postmodern"
texts whose appeal to traditional conventions, characters, and plots is not historically
Neomodern in Canadian Postmodern Poetry
Louis Cabri, University of Windsor
paper re-reads Canadian postmodern poetry in relation to cultural signs of the
return of the neo-modern. Jameson distinguishes the "untheorized and nameless
practice" of what are now called the modernists, from the "conventionally
named and recognized productions" (198) of the neo-modernists. But Canadian
poetry has had the identifying name of modernist shaping its practices
from the start, thereby signalling not so much a return to modernist and away
from postmodernist values, as a confirmation of existing postmodern practices
and conditions under which its poetry has been written.
Ugly About the Postmodern Condition:
The novels of Lynn Crosbie and Daniel
Stephen Cain, York University
This short paper proposes
that Sianne Ngai's study of affect and aesthetics, Ugly Feelings (2005),
might profitably be paired with Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition (1984)
to critically illuminate the work of two 1990s Toronto novelists, Daniel Jones
and Lynn Crosbie. These novels can be read as aesthetic responses to a lack of
agency faced by subjects in the mid-1990s: Crosbie's novel articulates many conflicting
and irresolvable issues surrounding the sexual, ethical, political, and journalistic
elements of the Bernardo trial, while Jones's novel can be read as an reflection
of the economic and emotional stagnation of the artistic community during the
same time period. Yet, when viewed in light of Lyotard's insights into knowledge
and power, an examination of these two novels, and the question of affect within
them, will provide an example of the postmodern condition in Canada during what
can now be regarded as crucial cultural period.
Cubed: Postmodern Ekphrasis in the Poetry of
Anne Compton, Anne Carson, and
Wanda Campbell, Acadia University
use of "the visual" in the literary text can be explored through ekphrastic
poetry (from the Greek for "telling in full"), defined by James Heffernan
as "the verbal representation of visual representation." In postmodern
ekphrasis, the triangle of conversation between the experience of artist, poet,
and reader is extended to even more voices, a polyphony that challenges navigation.
Through a close examination of ekprhastic poems by Anne Compton, Anne Carson and
Anne Simpson and the images of Vermeer, Renoir, Hopper and Hawkins that inspired
them, we will explore the permeable borders of postmodern poetics.
Hutcheon's Postmodern Irony
Adam Carter, University of Lethbridge
paper revisits Linda Hutcheon's theorization of a historically specific postmodern
irony in her work preceding Irony's Edge and reads this theory within and
against the theoretical explorations of irony provided by Friedrich Schlegel and
Paul de Man. I will argue that Hutcheon's understanding of postmodern irony involved
both a suppression of a potential affinity with what has come to be known as "romantic
irony," but also the covering over of a more profoundly deconstructive and
abyssal operation of irony. In Irony's Edge Hutcheon seems to recognize
that her earlier attempts to historicize irony constituted "an utter red
herring," yet she never, to my knowledge, reflects, as the latter part of
my paper will endeavour to do, on how this realization might threaten the writing
of literary history and of a "poetics of postmodernism."
Canadian Postmodern Writer Goes Abroad
Dennis Cooley, St. John's College,
University Of Manitoba
The texts that came out of Canadian modernism
tended to construct travel as an occasion for sudden and illuminating connection
(Earle Birney), or as an opportunity for intense aesthetic appreciation (P.K.
Page). What we might call postmodern travel texts are less inclined to think of
their narratives as offering life-altering or life-intensifying opportunities.
Frank Davey's Abbotsford Guide to India names the traveller as suspect
in his motives and subject to intense irony. Robert Kroetsch in "The Frankfurt
Bahnhof" depicts a bewildered, disoriented, and almost fumbling figure who
happens upon bizarre but inexplicable connections. In Eli Mandel's travel memoir,
Life Sentence, the Mandel figure is often diffident, even hesitant, in
his meanderings. My claim would be, then, that the postmodern traveller is marked
by limited confidence and modest expectations. S/he certainly harbours no hopes
of being brought into a transcendental moment.
the Suburb as a (Canadian?) (Postmodern?) Space
Cheryl Cowdy Crawford, York
Like the suburban communities hovering on the borders of
the metropolis, the suburban literary landscape haunts the margins of our national
literary canon-its presence and meaning essential to our understanding of our
culture. Like the city, the wilderness and the small town, suburban space is a
product of our society and culture, inevitably changing what space means in relation
to assumptions about national identity. Frequently characterized as ambiguous
and amorphous, my paper will argue that the suburb as it is represented in a variety
of post-war Canadian texts works well as a spatial metaphor for a postmodern,
postmillennial Canadian sensibility that is as vague and contradictory as the
dream of suburbia itself.
Bowering and Peonies
Misao Dean, University of Victoria
narrator claims that A Short Sad Book is both "ghost-written"
and "ghost-ridden," written by and ridden by the ghost of the novel.
The book deconstructs each of the conventions of the realist novel in turn, including
setting, description, dialogue, character and plot, not merely by calling attention
to their construction but also by including the puzzled comments of friends who've
read the draft. This rejection of the novel is only the first of what seems to
be a total rejection of totalising systems of representation - including thematic
theories of Canadian literature and the supposed dominance of Ontario-based scholars
and scholarship in the discourse of nationality. However, this "refus global"
is only seeming. Bowering naturalises something else in its place - the fragmentary
post-modern novel-- as though, despite the theory he relies upon to attack the
novel, there were still a "natural" kind of writing and a natural kind
of reading. The central metaphor he uses to naturalise his own practice are the
processes of growth, blossoming and decay (peonies are a central image), and the
"normal" interpersonal relationships of writer and reader - while for
the narrator descriptive language is not transparent, direct conversation with
the reader is.
Fallacy of Canadian Postmodernism:
The Absence of National Identity in the
Works of Douglas Coupland
Erica Fischer, University of Western Florida
postmodern dissolution of the metanarrative of national identity that is embraced
by Frederic Jameson's borderless global market is epitomized in the works of Douglas
Coupland, and as such, Coupland's work stands as evidence for the dissolution
of national and cultural boundaries that results from the dominant late capitalist
postmodern logic of the 21st century. Following Jameson's theory of postmodernity,
the study of postmodernism in a Canadian context is a fallacy because Jameson's
conception does not allow for a specific designation of any particular national
form of postmodernism. If one were to try to define Canadian postmodern literature,
the conception would then become a hyperreal manifestation of itself, very much
like the constructed identities Coupland examines in his novels.
An Architectonic of Canadian Literary and Visual Culture
J. Lane, Malaspina University College
postmodernism is a powerful theoretical mode of cultural questioning, analysis
and interrogation, of landscape, of imposed colonial codes, of globalization,
of identity-formation. I will argue, with reference to Stan Douglas, Eden Robinson,
and Moshe Safdie, that post-theory Canadian postmodernism is a spatial event or
Ereignis. I will examine three virtual architectural or city spaces to
show how literary and visual cultures are important components of the Ereignis
of Canadian postmodernism: Stan Douglas's Vancouver in Journey Into Fear;
Eden Robinson's Vancouver in her Haisla First Nations novels and short stories;
and Canada's capital city as produced and oriented via Moshe Safdie's National
Gallery of Canada.
and Kupchenko: The Paradoxical Centrality
of the Regional "Ex-Centric"
A. Ledohowski, University of Toronto
How can a postmodern politics
of resistance located in "the specific and the local" (Hutcheon 175)
account for those who feel as though they only have one foot in "the specific
and the local" and one foot elsewhere - even an imagined/remembered elsewhere?
Can a postmodern prairie aesthetic (like that ascribed to Robert Kroetsch, "Mr.
Canadian Postmodern"  for Hutcheon) account for those stuck between
places/subjectivities/times as diasporic subjects so often are? My paper explores
these questions through a specific case-study. I compare Kroetsch's The Studhorse
Man that playfully explodes masculinist traditions and the mythology of the
West to Yuri Kupchenko's The Horseman of Shandro Crossing that is set in
the same Alberta locale and which focuses on a horse-breeder who is the antithesis
of Hazard Lepage. Diasporic considerations (and the related postcolonial ones),
emphasizing multiple and complicated subject-positions that have come to the fore
in the past twenty years since Hutcheon's articulation of Canadian postmodernism
may offer insights into our new post-postmodern moment.
Regionalism: Environmental Determinism, Spatial Epistemology and the Canadian
Alexander MacLeod, St. Mary's University
looks at two novels that illustrate what Edward Soja would describe as the dominant
"spatial epistemology" of Canadian Postmodernist fiction: Guy Vanderhaeghe's
The Englishman's Boy and Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma. Although
readings of geography and nationalized social space play central roles in both
novels and though both texts can be studied as fictions that are simultaneously
regionalist and postmodernist, The Englishman's Boy and Girlfriend in
a Coma differ in dramatic ways. The paper argues that Vanderhaeghe's well-known,
already canonical novel essentially confirms the environmentally deterministic
spatial conventions of Canadian postmodernism, while Coupland's more flexible
and explicitly "Americanized" reading of social space offers an alternative
Situating Postmodern Listening within Canadian Soundscapes
McLeod, University of Toronto
In this paper, I ask what the possibilities
are for theorizing postmodern listening. Moreover, what does this practice call
for from its audience, particularly in the case of polyphonic poetry? Focusing
on the cultural politics of polyphony, this paper examines Robert Bringhurst's
Ursa Major: A Polyphonic Masque for Speakers and Dancers (2003) and George
Elliott Clarke's Québécité: A Jazz Fantasia in Three Cantos
(2003). In working towards a postmodern listening through polyphony, I pursue
the implications of positing dissonance as a mediation of cultures. In other words,
how does postmodern listening both inform and respond to the multivocality of
Multiculturalism and the Ethics / Politics of Identity
Mackey, McMaster University
Popular and political debates over Canadian
multiculturalism exhibit a sense of intense anxiety: on one hand, there is a fear
of anarchy in the perceived lack of national identity - the proliferation of "ethnic
enclaves" and lack of social cohesion - while on the other, there is a fear
that "integration" in fact means assimilation. In the decades since
its adoption as state policy in Canada, official multiculturalism has come under
attack by numerous critics who have traced its historical development. However,
these thinkers are strangely hesitant about condemning multiculturalism tout
court, wanting to maintain that there is something worth rescuing in the ideal
of multiculturalism. In this paper I briefly outline some of these criticisms,
before imagining the possibility of reviving the ethical impetus behind multiculturalism
as a critical and self-reflexive project. Despite postmodern celebrations of "hybridity,"
I explore whether it is possible for multiculturalism to operate beyond the service
of the neoliberal global economy, especially given the commodification of difference
in (multi)cultural production in Canada.
Architectures and Anne Carson's
"The Fall of Rome: A Traveller's Guide"
Rae, McGill University
This presentation will draw comparisons between
the narrative strategies and architectural motifs of Anne Carson's long poem "The
Fall of Rome: A Traveller's Guide" and the theory and practice of postmodern
architecture. The presentation will survey the two principal phases of postmodern
architecture, beginning with early designs that emphasized historical pastiche,
and moving toward architectures that refined the practice of pastiche by developing
continuity around notions of torsion and flow. It will then compare these architectural
trends to Carson's long poem, her use of pastiche, and her development of narrative
continuities through architectural and painterly allusions.
Cultural Workers and the Institutionalization of
Canadian Literary Histories
Shearer, The University of Western Ontario
Postmodern poets Robert
Kroetsch, Fred Wah, Daphne Marlatt, Roy Miki, and George Bowering have all engaged
in a variety of extra-poetic activities, thereby involving themselves in the production,
distribution, dissemination, and theorization of their own work and the work of
their fellow poets. These cultural efforts often serve to provide a context for
the writers' own radical poetics and marginalized social/cultural concerns. This
paper focuses primarily on critical responses to the postmodern cultural worker,
drawing on such texts as Pierre Bourdieu's Fields of Cultural Production
and Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy to examine the critical assumptions
behind these responses. Ultimately, I argue that the poets' interventions self-consciously
draw attention to themselves as interested interventions and in doing so highlight
the material processes of canonization and deny the possibility of the disinterested
critical ideal espoused by Arnold and his followers.
the Ineffable!: The Allegorical Intention in Ghostmodernism."
Söderlind, Queen's University
This paper will address the identification
of allegory as "the topos and trope of interlinkage between the modern
and the postmodern" (Azade Seyah). Allegory depends on "the shape of
the signifier" and I examine how modernism's striving to 'eff' the ineffable
morphs into postmodernism's desire to 'F
' it. The struggle over interpretive
control between authorial will (modernism's view of the author as the one who
'effs' the ineffable) and readerly agency (the reader's subjective pleasure
as the locus of interpretation) in novels by Timothy Findley and Leonard Cohen
is allegorized -- in a way presaging current political rhetoric--in fascism.
Beyond the Postmodern Reader as Strategist and Performer:
Margaret Steffler, Trent University
political climate in Canada is calling for the Humanities to be accountable and
relevant to audiences and readerships beyond itself. This paper proposes that
until we are willing to move beyond the restrictive and self-reflexive performance
of the strategic postmodern reader, we will be limited by the habits of postmodernism.
We need to respond to postmodern discourse rather than imitate it. It is
in our response that we will move beyond the postmodern insistence on prolonging
exposure and subversion, and thereby manage to "link life and art" in
order to have an impact on what is being exposed and subverted. The paper uses
examples from texts by Rohinton Mistry, Carol Shields and Adele Wiseman in order
to argue for the need to be open to the possibility of coherence as we re-read
Microhistories: Postmodern Metatheatricality in Canadian Millennial Drama
Stephenson, Queen's University
The primary focus of this paper is to
engage critically with "historiographic metafiction" (Linda Hutcheon)
as a defining characteristic of postmodern poetics and to adapt the dual terms:
"historiographic" and "metafiction" to the context of millennial
Canadian drama. In terms of historiography these plays, for the most part, look
at history on an intimate scale invariably reflecting personal or local histories.
This shift in magnitude is significant since it highlights not only the construction
of one's life as history but also focuses attention on the construction of individual
subjectivity in language. By treating metatheatre, rather than metafiction, this
study again will highlight basic processes of theatricality, that is, how we construct
in perception fictional subjects and the fictional worlds they inhabit. Performative
language is the link between character-playwrights who perform history in worlds-within
and actual-world playwrights who also create worlds with words. This paper will
examine the metatheatrical cross-world effects of performative acts at work in
the world of the play as a real world event and the fictional world(s) resident
within the play as they pertain to individual histories and the creation of a
Discrepancies: Reading Spinoza in Strang
Christine Stewart, University of
This paper investigates how Baruch Spinoza's theory of immanence
as applied in Louis Zukofsky's poetics manifests in Canadian poet Catriona Strang's
Low Fancy (1993). Strang's homolingusitic translation of the medieval Carmina
Burana locates the inherent state of democracy of the Spinozist metaphysics in
the physical form of poetic language. By reading Strang through the work of Spinoza
and present-day Spinozists, Antonio Negri, Gabriel Albiac, Louis Althusser, Luce
Irigary and Gilles Deleuze, who read Spinoza in order to address injurious contemporary
hierarchies: linguistic, social and political, I argue that Low Fancy facilitates
democratic systems and subjects in language. That is, at the intersection of reader
and text, Low Fancy disrupts established subject configurations and articulates
alternate modes of being: new subjects-necessary, relational, in process, local
She's a Woman': Myth and Metafiction in Carol Shields's
Most Feminist Novel,
Nora Foster Stovel, University of Alberta
The Canadian Postmodern (1988), Linda Hutcheon observes the inherent conflicts
between postmodernism and feminism, but Carol Shields succeeds in combining feminism
and meta-fictionality. Unless (2002), Shields's last novel, is her most
explicitly feminist and metafictional text. To convey her feminist vision, Shields
revises that most female of myths, the ancient Greek tale of fertility goddess
Demeter's search for her lost daughter Persephone in a postmodernist revision
of that ancient archetype, the Elusinian mysteries. Shields also employs metafictionality
as an antidote to tragedy, as her narrator, Reta Winters, uses her parodic fiction
to understand her daughter Norah's going "underground," like Persephone,
in response to female disempowerment.
of Canadian Ecocriticism: Linda Hutcheon's
Postmodern Ecological Ethic
Thompson, Carleton University
Linda Hutcheon's essay, "Eruptions
of Postmodernity, the Postcolonial and the Ecological," brings together two
potentially antagonistic critical methods, postmodernism and ecocriticism. Although
she argues that postmodernism offers a means of responding to the harmful consequences
of modern events, ecocritical theory in Canada has, for the most part, shied away
from postmodernism. As Hutcheon argues, literary criticism needs to move past
its dominant paradigm for reconciling nature and culture, Northrop Frye's romantic
description of the process of taming the land and making it productive (153).
This paper will attempt to illuminate Hutcheon's definition of the postmodern
ecological ethic by reading her essay against post-structuralist writers like
William Cronon, Donna Haraway and Karla Armbruster, who argue the need to question
the rigid way in which conventional environmental thought defines concepts like
wilderness and look instead to evaluate nature as a discursive construct.
Wershler-Henry's the tapeworm foundry
and the Problem of the Sublime
Weaver, York University
Darren Wershler-Henry's 2000 experimental poem
the tapeworm foundry evokes a strong feeling of the sublime in the reader,
a feeling of pleasure mixed with pain. In my paper, I will briefly explain how
the tapeworm foundry provokes (at least in me) the sublime emotion. I will then
proceed to argue that the sublime emotion as defined by Kant and refined by Lyotard
lies at the heart of a critical powerplay over experimental postmodern texts.
Specifically, I will focus on how, when a reader declares that a text provokes
in him or her the sublime emotion, such a statement is as much a play for power
(a play in which the reader that attempts to display his or her cultural agency
and affirm an individual subjectivity) as it is a desire to praise the text.
Postmodernism and Canadian Nationalism: A Short Sad Book
Jason Wiens, University
The relationship between postmodernism and Canadian cultural
nationalism is a complex and paradoxical one. On the one hand, most of the writing
which has come to be categorized as postmodern first emerged in the
1960s and 1970s, parallel with the growth of anglo-Canadian nationalism. Yet if
we follow Fredric Jamesons argument that postmodernism is the cultural
logic of late capitalism, then postmodernism and Canadian cultural nationalism
would seem to be at odds. My paper considers this paradox through a discussion
of George Bowerings 1977 text A Short Sad Book, a text I argue represents
a watershed in Bowerings relationship to Canadian nationalism and an increasingly
sophisticated embrace of postmodernism in his writing.
Commodification, Postmodern Relativism, and Historical Fiction
Wyile, Acadia University
One of the central debates postmodernism concerns
its political valences, an issue which resonates within the genre of historical
fiction. The linguistic turn in historical studies has been paralleled in historical
fiction that foregrounds the process of constructing history, and the interest
in social history is mirrored by fiction writers writing anti-authoritarian, revisionist
versions of traditional history. However, historical fiction also involves an
aestheticizing of historical material that underscores its affinities and potential
complicity with consumer culture. This paper examines the legacy of postmodernism
for our understanding of history by exploring its reverberations in Canadian historical