Making Babies: Infants in Canadian Fiction

Making Babies: Infants in Canadian Fiction

Making Babies: Infants in Canadian Fiction

Making Babies: Infants in Canadian Fiction


Although the infant has been a consistent figure in literature (and, for many people, a significant figure in personal life), there's been little attention focused on infants, or on their place in Canadian fiction, until now.

In this book, Sandra Sabatini examines Canadian fiction to trace the ideological charge behind the represented infant. Examining writers from L.M. Montgomery and Frederick Philip Grove to Thomas King and Terry Griggs, Sabatini compares women's writing about babies with the way infants appear in texts by men over the course of a century. She discovers a range of changing attitudes toward babies. After being seen as a source of financial burden, social shame, or sentimental fantasy, infants have increasingly become a source of value and meaning.

The book challenges the perception of babies as passive objects of care and argues for a reading of the infant as a subject in itself. It also reflects upon how the representations of infancy in Canadian literature offer an intriguing portrait of how we imagine ourselves.


The miracle that saves the world…is…the birth of new men and the new
beginning, the action they are capable of by being born. Only the full
experience of this capacity can bestow upon human affairs faith and
hope, those two essential characteristics of human experience…that
found perhaps their most glorious and most succinct expression in the
new words with which the Gospels accounted their “glad tiding”: “A
Child has been born unto us.”

—Hannah Arendt, the Human Condition

Beside my desk there is a painting of a dark-haired woman in blue and a fair baby clothed in white lying against a white pillow. the woman leans toward the baby who raises plump arms toward her. Neither is smiling, but their shared gaze is intent and direct. Instead of a wall behind the woman, there is the suggestion of wings and behind them, stars. the woman’s blue dress disappears against the bedclothes, which in turn disappear against what might be the sky, so that the woman appears to be floating with the baby. the image furnishes an effective analogy for this study of representations of the infant in Canadian fiction over the century. the painting demonstrates the interconnectedness felt by women and their babies who seem pure as they gaze intently. It also implies a sense of divine or angelic influence in the presence of the wings. the painting indicates a strong mother-infant bond that is accompanied by a sense of supernatural or extraordinary power. the edges are somewhat blurred; the lines are softened and invite possibility.

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