Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

National and Female Identity in Canadian Literature, 1965-1980: The Fiction of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, and Marian Engel

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

National and Female Identity in Canadian Literature, 1965-1980: The Fiction of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, and Marian Engel

Article excerpt

Cinda Gault, National and Female Identity in Canadian Literature, 1965-1980: The Fiction of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, and Marian Engel (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 2012), 332 pp. Paper. $49.95. ISBN 978-0-7734-2622-1.

In 1976 the Globe & Mail critic William French commented, 'the surge of women writers coincided with the nationalist revival of the late 1960s' (p. 38). It is that close connection between issues of national and gender identities that Cinda Gault examines in her study of novels by the three most significant Anglo-Canadian women writers of the decade when cultural nationalism and second-wave feminism were at the top of the political agenda. Her approach is historical, as she treats these novels and the contemporary criticism related to them as phenomena to be reassessed in a radically changed sociocultural context nearly fift y years later.

Questions of identity - individual and collective - are central as she challenges the notion of unified identities and of critical interpretations which read these novels as versions of romance 'able to achieve solutions that could not in the real world be so readily resolved' (p. iv). She proposes reading from a different angle through conventions of realism, arguing that such a reading reveals 'more sustained questioning of female and national identities than has been conventionally assumed' (p. 3). The book is structured as an in-depth analysis of five novels by each of her three writers, Laurence, Atwood and Engel, using parallel chapter designs to highlight her thesis: 'Contradictions of female identit y', 'Contradictions of national identity' and 'Contradictions between female and national identities'. …

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