Five-Part Invention: A History of Literary History in Canada

Article excerpt

E.D. Blodgett, Five-Part Invention: A History of Literary History in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 371pp. Cloth. £42. ISBN 0- 8020-4801-3.

A comprehensive history of Canadian literary history has not, as far as I know, been attempted before. Blodgett's project is to read literary histories as literary texts, outlining their 'plots' and value systems. His primary aim, he states, is 'to argue that those truths that appear perfectly valid for histories conceived as the articulation of a specific group or even two groups with designedly shared preoccupations lose much of their validity when examined from a larger perspective. Exclusive perspectives simplify matters and, indeed, always make the attitudes and ideologies of any group appear more persuasive than those of others' (p. 4). Hence 'Five-Part Invention' - Blodgett sees Canadian literary histories as a set of texts which articulate the separate perspectives of five groups: English-Canadians, Québécois, First Nations, Inuit and immigrant ethnic minorities. His attention is not divided equally between these five groups, but considering the relatively recent development of literary history in three of his five categories, this is not surprising. He is unusual, however, in giving equal attention to francophone and anglophone writing and, indeed, he quotes so liberally from histories of French-Canadian writing that a reading knowledge of French is essential to gain a thorough understanding of his argument. …


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