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Lives of Girls and Women

Course Code
Robert Mc Gill

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January 11 th
Dropping Barbra Gowdy’s Presbyterian Crosswalk
Thursday February 17Leonard Cohen Suzanne Everybody Knows Closing
Time (B&B 722ff)
Reoccurring Themes/Topics so Far
Colonialism (stereotypes of Indians, vanishing or savage)
Language- Margaret Atwood claims Moody struggles with language, a kind of
language bound up in the land itself
Romantic Nationalism
The idea of a spirit in the land/environment
Community and the Individual
Snow, Barometer Rising, -- what identity can an individual have under the
pressure of collective bigger identity (community) Leacock- irony (public and
private roles)
Othering: Michel in Franklin (Indian is bad guy), Barometer Rising excludes
whole African community
Gender and Community/Nation
Franklin- male British bodies suffering for their country
Pauline, and Jesse Stein female strength and the tension it creates (A Jest of
Realism and Realities
Documentary, Prairie, psychological
See authors wrestling with different realities
Documentary like realism in Window is broken by the metaphysical
Lives of Girls and Women is about visual realities and the undergrowth of
mysterious realities
Lives of Girls and Women
The Flats Road
Each chapter is almost a short story, break it down
Alice Monroe- first book of shorts stories won Governor Generals Award
Plurality of her stories deal with girls and women who have a background in
small town, rural Ontario
Lives of Girls and Women is her second bookonly book of hers called a novel
Buildingsroman- Del grows until early adulthood, about to leave high school,
Garnet French and a sexual relationship
Its sexual explicitness has banded it from high schools in the past
Kunstlerroman- a novel about the development/education of an artist
James Joyce- Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1917)
Both LGW and PAYM communities see artists badly

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Story set in a particular small town, local detail and interaction between Del and
her home
Gender matters too! Not just to personal identity but how one lives out ones live,
the stories they tell
First Paragraph
He was not my uncle, or anybodies distancing impulse, shows how alone he is,
eccentric, marginal figure in the community, creates unsettling beginning, from
center to margins
Slim, young, green ones, the juicy adolescent ones self reflexivity, Del and the
reader are pursuing the story, through memory, her life in adolescence, she tries
to put a lid on her childhood, metaphor for memoir
Uncle Benny is a male at the beginning in a book titled about women and how
Del is at first part of a androgynous ‘we
The invisible cut she didnt notice the scarring of the small things in her
adolescence, how it would mark her, she is marked by the experience and
chase stalk squish drive towards frogs parallels families relationship with
Uncle Benny
a lot of desire, sensuous language, squish tenderly oxymoronic statements,
edged with dangerous and thrills of desire
Rattails denotes her age and pays attention to words (later she changes the line
of a song because she doesnt like the way it rhymes or sounds)
How words and stories might not be adequate to reality, how language might be
spoken without realizing full scope of meaning
Del worries is she wants to fully explain everything she will never be able to stop
First sentence: We draws us in by the mystery but alienates, the idea of who is
in the community and who is on the fringe
Wawanash River the place is named but not the we
we are introduced as if this is a real river that they should know but it is made
up relationship of place to language localizes Dels experience
self realization and self location
Uncle Benny
Foreground the marginal right from the get go
Why start on Uncle Benny?
Community builds a certain link with Benny through teasing
Foil to Del in that he doesnt know how to write (Del writes first for him),
relationship to his wife, his personality, his lifes outcome limitations, inability
to locate himself
Uncle Benny doesnt really appear much later in the novel, but this first moment
denotes his effect on Del, the first experiences often have the most profound
Motif of depths and surface through story telling one might get to the depths of

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January 12, 2011
The flats road
Who am I?/Where is here?
Attention to language, to self location, pulling up certain oppositions and how
they blur margins and centers, surface and depth, self and other (Benny and
Del) Del is very much focused on the other, experiences brought on by place.
Other people are attended to in regards to how they have influenced Del
Northrop Frye
it seems to me that Canadian sensibility is less perplexed by the question
Who am I than by some such riddle as Where is here? (1965)
Alice Monroe
Fiction is all bound up in the local. The internal reason for that is surely that
feelings are bound up in place. The truth is, fiction depends for its life on
Dels mother emphasis her place in life, how she lives on the end of flats road.
Very marginal figure in the story
Story-telling doesnt tell stories but is made into a story, the reality of
Madeline is only dimly realized here
Her brother, not Maddy, who arranges things with Benny
Figure for gossip and stories even while she is still in town, after disappearance
she becomes a stereotype the crazy woman
Cautionary hero: teenage with a child led to bad life beware sexuality
How stories can go wrong. The story has become superficial type, too simplified
The chapter hints at depths, questions that fall through the cracks (notice the
things that are falling through)
What happens when one story holds sway?
Heirs of the living body
Uncle Craig, Auntie Grace, Aunt Elspeth as Story-tellers
The dead cow
Biting Mary Agnes
Inheritance and Rejection
The influence of Family
Genealogy and Inheritance
What does it mean to share a biological connection? How does it become
translated into the social?
Building blocks are chapters, first environment, then family
Benny is a foil to Del here
Craig and Benny are opposed
Benny, disorganized, story teller
Craig, marries people, social rituals, public history, offical local history (leaves
things out)
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