New Perspectives on Margaret Laurence: Poetic Narrative, Multiculturalism, and Feminism

By Greta M. K. McCormick Coger | Go to book overview

Preface

Coming to the South to teach in Senatobia near Oxford, Mississippi, I learned how Southern writers are highly prized: for instance, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams are celebrated in yearly symposia; Elizabeth Spencer, Walker Percy, Stark Young, Richard Wright, and Alice Walker have lived in and written about Mississippi. John Grisham became a popular culture literary phenomena who supports the annual Book Festival and The Oxford American. Furthermore, the American local color tale is a major indigenous literary mode. I compared its themes to Canadian regional and Leacock humor, Scottish reductive idiom, and African oral tradition. Margaret Laurence makes use of all three. The transition of American local color tradition to sophisticated narratives has a Canadian parallel in Margaret Laurence's creative narrative techniques: some of these are sayings; slogans; radio news lines; newspaper headlines; "Memorybank Movies"; tales (revised when retold) mythologizing ordinary, personable, and historical people; and dramatizations of past and present. The Southern attachment to land, as shown in William Faulhner's literary creation of Yoknapatawpha is as strong as the Scots-Canadian attachment to land, which Margaret Laurence shows in her "Manawaka" novels. Margaret Laurence vividly creates Manawaka as "a place to stand on."

All of this prompted me to compare Margaret Laurence's literary region of Manawaka based on a prairie town similar to Neepawa, Manitoba, and to explore the Scottish migrations in the nineteenth century to Mississippi and Manitoba. Margaret Laurence lived in more than one country--Canada, Somalia, Ghana, Britain. Her odyssey was similar to my own: I lived west of Neepawa, went to United College, and studied and taught in Scotland and West Africa. In Sierra Leone, I first read Margaret Laurence's African writings. When I came to Mississippi to teach, after completing my doctoral studies at the University of Colorado, I noted the literary industry of William Faulkner. I began to compare Margaret Laurence and her literary region to Faulkner and his and to Elizabeth Spencer whose odyssey took her from teaching at my college (where John Grisham was a student) in Senatobia ( Mississippi) to Rome ( Italy),

-xiii-

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