Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

In the Interval of the Wave: Prince Edward Island Women's Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Life Writing

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

In the Interval of the Wave: Prince Edward Island Women's Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Life Writing

Article excerpt

Mary McDonald-Rissanen, In the Interval of the Wave: Prince Edward Island Women's Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Life Writing (Montreal and Kingston: McGillQueen's University Press, 2014), 292 pp. 9 b&w photos. Cased. £74. ISBN 978-0-7735-4212-9. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-4389-8.

'I shall speak about women's writing: about what it will do'. That comment by French feminist theorist Hélene Cixous provides a model for Mary McDonald-Rissanen's study of the unpublished diaries of Prince Edward Island women between the 1860s and 1930s. As an Islander now living in Finland, McDonald-Rissanen stages her own homecoming through close attention to her grandmother's diar y and to other women's diaries discovered through archival research. Reading these handwritten documents 'through the lens of other texts: histories, advertisements, and literary and linguistic theories' (p. 21), she reinvents these women as writing subjects who position themselves as social beings in everyday settings, while recording an era of change from a traditional rural economy to the modernist era. Her project of retelling Maritime histor y in the feminine sits alongside the work of Gwendolyn Davies, Danielle Fuller, Margaret Conrad, and Irene Gammel, while its appeal derives from its intimate analysis of hitherto unexamined documentary evidence contained within that 'subversive genre, the diary' (p. 5). The diar y as object is important here, as the photographs of diary pages suggest, offering glimpses of a woman's penmanship, her stylistic quirks, and her page layout as she records the events of her life in this private textual space.

Framed by a theoretical discussion of women's life writing and a chapter on representations of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Island women in local newspapers, obituaries, and community histories, the five main chapters trace a historical arc highlighting the changing lives of individual Island women (all white Anglo-Saxon Protestants of differing class and education): 'The Emerging Pioneer Subject', 'A Rural Woman's Perceptions of Home and Beyond', 'The Modern Professional Woman', 'Urban Bourgeois Women', and 'Travelling Women's Diaries'. …

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