To be sane, you need to feel a sense of unity – according to Lang.
Schizophrenia means a division in body and mind for the character in Surfacing.
She feels “amputated.”
Lang derives the definition as a kind of split between body and mind through an etymological
SCHIZ – BROKEN
PHRENOS – SOUL/HEART
It can be seen as a woman degenerating into madness and schizophrenia.
Madness is exhibited through the split.
Pg. 181 – She starts to give up language. One of her guardians is devoid of nouns.
Why? She’s getting rid of things provided by civilization. There are no people, places, things because
they’ve been ruined for her.
Nouns are responsible for reason, stuff, our ideas – but ideas and things that conform to social
Split from the modern world and a movement back to a world outside of it.
The break in syntax mirrors a break in the narrator’s mind.
We see the break in the language – show’s break in the mind.
Narrator loses a sense of self and merges into her environment – she’s a bird, she’s a tree.
She has lost her sense of autonomous subjectivity.
Madness has an association with powerlessness.
Narrator’s degeneration may represent effect of being victimized by the world/men.
But also shows a sense of empowerment as well.
Can lead to unity and health.
Madness may actually be a good thing.
Protagonist acting out urgent need to heal mind and body.
Look at it from a feminist perspective: empowerment; needs to go crazy to heal from what society did to
She is a metaphor for Western Civilization.
She’s reflecting western civilization back at itself.
Madness is simultaneously disempowering and empowering.
Narrator reflects the madness of western culture (particularly its impact on women).
Ramsay Cook: 1926 – pivotal year where Canadian economy separates itself from Britain and becomes
close to US economy.
Loss of Canadian identity. Canada starts to define itself as opposition to the US.
Fear that Canadian national identity will be consumed by the US.
Nationalist fantasy is legitimated through demonization of the US as consumers, capitalists and
Landscape has been ravaged and robbed. Blame placed on the Americans.
Natural world is depicted as malevolent in this novel? There is a power to it; it must be respected. Has a
presence, is constant regardless of anyone’s existence. Like a parent. It can be exploited. Atwood – nature is a defeated giant. No longer a problem to worry about being swallowed up by this
The heron is the symbol (pg. 115): the men who killed the heron are Canadian (not American, as she
assumes). And the others thought they were American as well.
She is furious with them (129): “they’re still Americans, they’re what’s in store for us, what we’re turning
into.” – being American is a disease.
Could be read metaphorically.
The water is important?
She hates the Americans who have created this society.
Predicament of nature reflects the predicament of the narrator.
Natural world and women are exploited and victimized by patriarchal society.
Wasn’t born in Canada, but was educated here.
Firstly, a poet. Won the governor general’s award for Billie the Kid at 26.
He never really tackled CanLit until later in his career.
This is his great Canadian novel – well, for Ontario (Canada is so regional).
Opening of the novel:
Images of winter. Archetypal symbol of Canada: Snow & Winter.
Central tension: Canadian kind of death – death by freezing and death by drowning.
Canadian landscape, winters, and victimhood.
Turning point in our understanding of Canadian literature.
Stylistics in this novel are very different than many other CanLit novels.
Novel is primarily realist.
Ondaatje begins to reconfigure Canada. Shift in what is happening in Canadian literature.
It’s cold, there is nature everywhere.
The nation is moving, not just this character.
Canada is about immigration, it’s about the multicultural mosaic.
Approaches to CanLit were inherently thematic. th
This did recognize settlers and the unwilling immigrant. Not our view of the late-20 century immigrant.
The latter become prominent in CanLit; became a central focus.
This novel marks that shift.
Harmonious multicultural mosaic:
Laws that protected diversity and such.
Shows the trials of immigrant experience
Changes to immigration policy lately – cahllenges for immigrants.
Ondaatje’s novel shows we should respect and revere our immigrants.
The story of Canada is one of immigrants.
Ondaatje is reflecting that changing story.
Immigrant is a national icon.
2. Reclaim the Immigrant Shifting content and also, style.
A. Ondaatje uses postmodern writing.
Linda Hutheon’s definitions of postmodernism.
Setting up and knocking down is an idea we’ll see in SkinLion
B. Historiographic metafiction is aware of itself, while it’s being made.
Challenging views of history that it’s all facts.
Two meanings – things that happened in the past and telling a story about things that happened in the
HISTORY ISN’T AN EVENT IN THE PAST, IT’S A STORY OF AN EVENT IN THE PAST.
History becomes textualized.
An unsettling idea – that the past