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Department
English
Course
ENG353Y1
Professor
Jenny Kerber
Semester
Fall

Description
English 353: Canadian Fiction General Introduction to the Course:  Office hours: Monday to Wednesday from 1 P.M. – 3 P.M. (or by appointment).  An idea and its expression are inextricably bound. o Improving your writing then is improving your communication (e.g., knowing and choosing the right words, proper semi-colon use, clearly communicating your thesis, not using confusing and deadweight words that mean nothing but sound witty. For example a recent politician said in an interview, “batting your weight,” in regard to the current status of Canada’s economy. When considering what the meaning of his words there is a colloquial pretence to it, however the meaning expressed by the phrase is ambiguous and begs the question: Does this mean something good or bad about the given subject?  Note: The professor reads the Globe and Mail, and apparently has taking a liking to the author Russell Smith.  When reading through the course material you will want to think about these questions: o Where is there evidence colonial themes in the text if any such examples exist? o What is the state of Canada’s identity in the text, given that we are considering this text a piece of distinctly Canadian fiction? o What is the significance of the literary form of the text?  Canadian nationalism has tried to bring Canadian fiction and literature into the limelight rather than distinctly British literature that is linked to Canada because of its status as a former British colony. One may consider whether or not British literature or its elements, are in fact an essential part of our identity as a former colony, or whether the Canadian identity is far- removed from British influence.  Furthermore, we may consider whether or not Canadian Fiction is a region-based literature. o E.g., Perhaps Canadian literature is necessitates a setting that is distinctly Canadian such as Nova Scotia or P.E.I. where the cultural mosaic is less prominent given their more distinctly Canadian traditions and circumstances. Perhaps the native of Canada is a better suited character to uphold the title of “truly Canadian,” and that those in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia are merely misguided Europeans.  In considering the regional-basis of Canadian Fiction, should Canadians view foreign writers who have emigrated to Canada as indeed Canadian writers that represent the country?  More broadly we are concerned with the question: What truly is Canadian Fiction? What are the essential qualities – of its authors, themes, settings, forms, movements, and so forth, that make it Canadian? The History of Emily Montague  The book is set in the aftermath of the fall of the French in newly established Canada.  Writing about animals in the text connects to topics such as: animal consciousness, Darwinism, and human-animal relations.  Canadian literature is filled with animals (e.g., the survival theme that is essential to the genre as per Atwood’s prescription).  Recalling that the book begins in the wake of Seven Year War between England and France it is understood that the war influenced her writing a great deal. The French in this war were defeated by the British army at Quebec -- which Brooke uses as her setting. Moreover, Brooke’s central male character Ed Rivers falls in love with the most irresistible French woman in the world whose name becomes the title of the book. o Note: It is interesting that she uses the name Montague of all names for her central female character because of its relation to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Being from England herself she must have read or seen the play, and therefore we can assume that she meant to take the role of Romeo, who is of the House of Montague, and invert the gender such that the female character in her play has a masculine quality. A masculine quality which although is not understood in her imagery, is rather noticed in her thoughts and actions that embody Brooke’s progressive views on gender equality.  Regarding her personal life, Frances Brooke joined her husband in Canada after the war had ended and the treaty of Paris was signed which hailed the end of the war.  Frances Brooke, using her characters as a mouth-piece, expresses her progressive political views on gender quality which were also present in other pieces written by her. She wrote, under the name Mary Singleton, articles in the Old Maid wherein she voiced her views. o These views come out in The History of Emily Montague as nonchalant remarks by characters which seemingly had a comic quality masking their radically different implications within the circumstances they were presented.  Such an example is the view that women should run elections because they are the best judges of male character. Taken as a prescription for social attitude it is radically different from the times in which it was written, however, it is masked by the comical circumstance in which it is uttered, that is – between two men on the topic of the difference between conduct by Englishmen and savages in the institution of marriage, arguing that the savage is more refined than the Englishmen creating an ironic juxtaposition that overshadows the implied political prescription.  The book is structured around pairings that reflect particular Greek forms being the pair of lovers that are same-sex and opposite-sex – both bound by the intimacy of their friendships.  The form of the writing taken by Frances Brooke emerges from the French “sensibility novel,” that is at the same time a travel log. o It also has a didactic purpose whereby it means to instruct young women and men how to conduct themselves in friendships that grow into the institution of marriage leading to true happiness; knowledge that Ed Rivers seems to be the sole proprietor.  Landscape plays an important role in the way that it is the external world that is mediated by human subjectivity which distinguishes person’s by class, refinement, and most importantly sensibility. It is by these differences in characterization that we can understand two juxtaposed characters more completely by their antithetical characterizations, or their similarities. o Landscape also creates a symbolic topographia (enargia) wherein elements of the topographia symbolize social hierarchy hence representing such individuals as the sublime when referring to wild or astonishing and less refined aspects of nature (e.g., the bottom of the falls, less noble and majestic – likened to the peasants). o Also, recall how Rivers complains to Temple that the man who is to marry the girl of his dreams, Emily Montague, looks on a picturesque landscape and gives no reaction, no thought. Other times he looks on beautiful women only to retire to his chambers for lack of sustained interest in the beautiful.  Note: The sublime, beautiful, and picturesque were important to landscape painters of the time, so when Brooke writes, “paint to yourself a stupendous rock, burst as it were in sunder by the hands of nature,” she is alluding to the tradition of painting the picturesque landscape as something astonishing. o Furthermore, on the subject of the sublime recall that Fermor says of Canada, “the day is plain, but the night, the night is truly Canada’s redeeming quality *paraphrased+.” She thereby invokes the language of the sublime and the idea of the night as boundless and better suited to the description of the sublime than the day; an idea Frances Brooke borrows from Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, which was published in 1757 predating the publication of The History of Emily Montague later in 1769. o The sublime is emphasized throughout the text and also in the “vastness” of Canada which relates to stance Atwood take’s on Canada’s nature as dangerous, and how a main feature of the wilderness and what makes a novel Canadian is the theme of survival which comes from the “vastness” and inescapability of Canada’s nature. However , her negative portrayal may not be entirely accurate, but it does appreciate a Romantic view of nature as astonishing and fearful – briefly, its sublime qualities. The portrayal of Canada’s subjective experience as being particularly sublime appeals to the sensible person, the poet if we follow Woodsworth. However, in all the support of a Romantic view of Canada it depends particularly on the philosophy of the writer.  In Ed Rivers’ description of having an estate in Canada where there is a vast property available and his subjects would be bears and deer he alludes to Genesis invoking man’s governance over animals. This tells us that Frances Brooke was particularly influenced by her husband’s ministry and her religious beliefs.  In Ed Rivers’ seeking refuge in the forest to escape his melancholy – after losing, in his mind, the most ideal woman that ever existed, to a man with whom she will inevitably be unhappy with – he exhibits the most textbook example of Romanticism. It alludes to the work of Charlotte Smith who also writes about wanting to get away from the problems of the world and engross oneself in the sublime, but being unable to forget the problems that nag at the mind of the sensible person. Often these problems are emotional ones either in the making or presently occurring, the former being Rivers’ concern because he knows the inevitable unhappiness that awaits her.  Ed Rivers in the modern time period would be a dying breed of sensible gentlemen.  Thought-Provoking Question: Suppose someone asserted that Ed Rivers was “needy,” would that be true? o I would say that he is most certainly not a needy character because as a sensible gentlemen neediness does not apply. He shows careful reasoning, civility, and restraint with his emotions around others. His weakness and femininity which correspond to his sensible nature are brought to the attention of the reader privately in the form of letters addressed to Lucy Temple. The form of letters, as is described explicitly in the text, allows for one to express their most intimate thoughts that cannot be expressed in person. Hence, the form itself inhibits any notion of the John being needy, and it is only in his most private thoughts that his desires are understood, which – even as they are, are not the thoughts of a needy person, but rather the thoughts of someone afflicted with melancholy.  What might be misinterpreted as needy is the weakness he has to Emily Montague’s charm. Charm as discussed is irresistible, so to assert he is needy for that reason is to suggest all of mankind is needy, and yet we are in one sense of the word, but the overly attached neediness of individuals which one would understand in the modern sense does not apply. o If Rivers was needy his emotions would get the better of him which is different from being acutely aware of one’s passions. His desires would dictate his actions unrestrained, but he shows civility and even Emily does not have any inclination to believe he is madly in love with her. He shows the utmost restraint to respect the engagement between Sir George and Emily, despite love being the most enflaming of passions.  Recall in Dante’s Inferno the sinful and possessing power of love that burns and is represented in the bolgia of hell where we find the lovers figure eternally in flame.  The text as I understand it follows a basic structure: Sensible Conflict Insensible 1. Defining of The image of a Vs. The image of a Audience. woman as a rose woman as flowring, in full bloom and blooming, and not fruitful. yet mature. 2. Political View The sensible man Vs. The sensible man Expressed appreciates looks on beauty and Through nature, beauty, the picturesque and Nature. the picturesque, grows bored, cold, and the sublime. and inattentive. 3. Canada’s An identity Vs. An identity Formation of an represented by represented by the Identity and the paradigm of paradigm of Emily Political Emily Montague Montague and Sir Tradition. and Ed Rivers George.  The categorical groupings of characters that identify their political orientation are as follows: Progressive View (Sensible) Traditional View (Insensible) Mixed / Unstable View (Both) Ed Rivers Sir George Clayton Bell Fermor Emily Montague Mrs. Melmoth John Temple Lucy Rivers Mrs. Clayton Fitzgerald Madames Des Roches England (Figuratively) Captain Fermor Canada (Figuratively)  In the description of Montmorenci we get quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost, which portrays Canada’s wild as a new Eden, because it quote’s Milton’s description of Edmond Burke. Frances Brooke also introduces Rivers shortly after the allusion to Paradise Lost in the same manner as Satan appearing [sic]. Rivers is identified by his “air,” and it is significant that air at the time related to spirits, but more specifically Rivers is juxtaposed with Satan by their like manner of appearance. o Considering the implications of this juxtaposition of characters and the broad contrast between the two (i.e., one being the embodiment of sin and evil, the other being the sensible man) it is evident that Rivers becomes a kind of satanic figure by association. But this begs the question, why does Frances Brooke associate him with Satan here?  There are two reasons: 1. Rivers is a man who is knowledgeable of the human mind in all its evils. He knows the depths of his own passions and of women’s, and is therefore a “dangerous” figure for Bell Fermor, and likely for all women in the way he charms so irresistibly. Therein lies the first similarity between himself and Satan, being that they both charm irresistibly. 2. He is also in the Eden-like garden of Canada and is a symbol for Brooke’s of
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