The Dominion of Women: The Personal and the Political in Canadian Women's Literature

The Dominion of Women: The Personal and the Political in Canadian Women's Literature

The Dominion of Women: The Personal and the Political in Canadian Women's Literature

The Dominion of Women: The Personal and the Political in Canadian Women's Literature

Synopsis

This examination of the works of 18 women writers in English Canada's history demonstrates how Canadian women's literature provides rich insight into the social and political development of the country. Arranged chronologically from colonial times through the 1980s, the study provides in-depth analyses of works of such notables as Frances Brooke, Ethel Wilson, and Margaret Atwood. Fraser's contention is that the literature, as a forum where women voiced their personal concerns, reflects Canada's political identity as a country with a continuing commitment to the essentially feminine values of compromise, cooperation, and international peace.

Excerpt

This book grew out of a love of reading. While reading, I noted the use of the term "interior colonisation" to describe women's position in a male- dominated society. Because the "colonial mentality" of Canadian literature and culture was a well-accepted concept, I wondered if there could be any literary relation between the two "colonies." I do not know how to convey my surprise upon discovering, on the first page of Frances Brooke The History of Emily Montague, the hero stating his choice of Canada over New York for the purpose of colonization because "the women are handsomer." Could Brooke, I asked, a clergyman's daughter and a clergyman's wife, be conscious of the innuendo in Rivers' talk of "cultivating" the "human face divine"? Three pages later, with ribald humor, Rivers' friend uses the term "colonisation" with just such sexual connotations. Two hundred years ago! In the first Canadian novel! By a woman! In amazement, I proceeded to examine the literature of Canadian women for what other female authors did with--to use Brooke's phrase--"the politics of the little commonwealth of woman." My discoveries, still ongoing, have, I suggest, implications for historians and critics of women's literature.

I make my invitation to historians with some degree of humility, for I realize that I could be a better historian, more knowledgeable about historical facts and issues. Nevertheless, every stage of research revealed that each author was confronting the events and issues of concern to historians. Frances Brooks, Anna Jameson, Catharine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie have been long valued for their historical interest, that is, for the pictures of life they recorded of their times. But such factual interest in these works overlooks the personal dimension and thus misses the implicitly political. For instance, in later editions of Jameson's journal, many personal references were edited . . .

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