New Perspectives on Margaret Laurence: Poetic Narrative, Multiculturalism, and Feminism

By Greta M. K. McCormick Coger | Go to book overview

Stone Angel among other things makes us feel what it is like to be inescapably old, to realize that one has not always been what one might have wanted to be and not be able to do much about it, but still not want to give up, and to experience grace that is there for the accepting or the taking. A Jest of God makes us feel what it is like to be in a trap, but able to make a gesture towards responsibility and freedom, and to experience the frightening but reassuring infinity of that freedom. The Fire-Dwellers makes us share the experience of feeling how little we know ourselves, our mates, our children, our neighbors, and how reassuring it is to get glimpses of our common humanity and of a meaningful coherence beyond our individual and collective horrors. A Bird in the House makes us feel what it is like to grow up, to come to terms with our own most stubbornly resisted identity and with our own mortality. The Diviners, among many other things, make us feel what it is like to be an outcast, an emigrated Scot, a Métis, a teenager and a teenager's mother, a victim of sexism, and to be a diviner--whether a garbage collector, a water-diviner, or a writer--and to experience the mystery that makes all our identities significant. What emerges from all these books at their most successful, in language that is nearly always memorable in itself, is the expression of the qualities of experience. In terms of Frederick Pottle's definition, Margaret Laurence in her fiction has written little but poetry.


NOTES

Page references to novels refer to the New Canadian Library reprints (noted as "NCL") published by McClelland and Stewart and the University of Chicago Press reprints (noted as "UC"). Paginations for both in-print editions are given.

1.
Margaret Laurence and poetry is a much larger and more complex subject. Her first published volume is a collection of translations of poetry and poetic prose. All her books except the collections of short stories and the books for children have epigraphs, most of them poetic, that direct the reader to what the author considered to be important in the volumes that they introduce. The titles of four books come directly from the epigraphs. Snatches of songs and nursery rhymes and stanzas of hymns pervade the novels and short stories. The versions of some of these raise interesting questions, and the quotations themselves are always significant in context. These topics deserve treatment elsewhere.
2.
Cf. Clara Thomas, "The Chariot of Ossian: Myth and Manitoba in The Diviners," Journal of Canadian Studies 13.3 (Fall 1978): 55-63.
3.
Cf. William Wordsworth, Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads, The English Romantics: Major Poetry and Critical Theory, ed. John L. Mahoney ( Lexington and Toronto: Heath, 1978), 100.
4.
The African country of the setting was the Gold Coast before it became Ghana.
5.
As Coleridge uses the term in Biographia Literaria, Chapter 13, Mahoney, p. 243.
6.
McClelland and Stewart Limited in association with Heorte Music. Lyrics Copyright © 1973, Margaret Laurence; Music Copyright © 1973, Ian Cameron. Recording remastered and produced by Quality Records. Vocals by Ian Cameron and Joan Minkoff. Guitars, Ian Cameron, Bob Berry, and Peter MacLachlan.

WORKS CITED

Blewett David. "The Unity of the Manawaka Cycle." Journal of Canadian Studies 13.3

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