Herb Wyile. Anne of Tim Hortons: Globalization and the Reshaping of Atlantic-Canadian Literature

By Fuller, Daniel | English Studies in Canada, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Herb Wyile. Anne of Tim Hortons: Globalization and the Reshaping of Atlantic-Canadian Literature


Fuller, Daniel, English Studies in Canada


Herb Wyile. Anne of Tim Hortons: Globalization and the Reshaping of Atlantic-Canadian Literature. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier up, 2011. 294 pp. $42.95 paper.

When you have one of the best Canadian literature book titles of the last several decades on your cover there is a danger that the contents will not live up to it. Herb Wyile more than delivers on the title's promise. This engaging and lively discussion of contemporary Atlantic-Canadian literature offers far more than an explication of the ideology that situates a fictional creation, the world-famous girl with the ginger hair, within a network of commodities that also contains Canada's favourite doughnut store chain. Simply put, Wyile's impassioned study reminds us why literature matters in neoliberal times. It matters because, as Wyile demonstrates repeatedly, literature can explore the human costs of living in a time of unfettered free-market economics in subtle and creative ways that render visible moral ambiguities as well as social and material inequities.

Wyile begins his introduction with the contention that "the Atlantic Canada of today is very much caught up in the profound economic, political, cultural, and social shifts that have come to be described by the term 'globalization' " (1). Writers from the four Atlantic provinces are thus well placed to critique the fallout from the so-called flows of global capital (that would be the flow that rushes right past your small rural community or through your region's natural resources and on to somewhere else). This is, after, all, a region that is still frequently depicted in the Canadian media and, as Wyile notes, in speeches by federal ministers, as a "have not," cash-sucking part of the nation-state inhabited by people who ought to shut up, ship out, and get a job in the Alberta oil sands. Such attitudes alone would be sufficient to inspire many creative writers to produce counter-narratives about their home places, but Atlantic Canadians must also grapple with the popular images that posit their region as a leisure space for tourists and as the site of Folk archetypes and Edenic bliss. In many ways, as Wyile reveals through his close reading of a staggering range of texts, these images are the trickiest ones for writers to negotiate because they are, in part, self generated. The Folk haunt the popular and literary culture of Atlantic Canada and form a kernel around which this book is formed. In many respects Wyile's study can be understood as a long conversation with Ian McKay's The Quest of the Folk (1994), a seminal critique of the Folk paradigm that has had a profound influence on the contemporary field of Atlantic Canadian studies. One of the achievements of Anne of Tim Hortons is that Wyile appreciates McKay's delineation of anti-modernist ideology but that he also successfully fulfils his aim of pushing against the historian's tendency to frame activities associated with the Folk--"fishing, farming, fiddling"--as either naive, ironic, or cynical (25). Rather, through his lively and careful interpretations of novels, poetry, and plays, Wyile is able to identify how "fiddles and shopping malls, lobster boats, and satellite dishes can and do happily and unselfconsciously coexist" (25). At times, the passing of maritime or rural traditions may be elegized or satirized by writers, but the iconography arising from those traditions is also questioned, contemplated, and taken seriously. Here is a body of literature, Wyile argues, that is at once cosmopolitan yet astutely engaged with expectations that it will be anything but that.

The book's introduction offers a compelling synthesis of theory about neoliberalism and globalization, as well as an energetic discussion of how and why contemporary Atlantic-Canadian writers understand and contest the political, economic, and cultural realities that surround them. Keeping faith with the argument that the region's writers are well-placed observers and sophisticated critics of the ways that neoliberal economics reshape work patterns, communities, and understandings of time and place, the book is organized into three sections, each with its own introduction and conclusion. …

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