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ENG252Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Femininity, Rationality, Richard Rorty

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Robert Mc Gill
Study Guide

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ENG252 Lecture Notes from Term 1: September 16-December 2, 2014
(Almost) All Lecture Notes from Term 1
Prof: McGill
Texts and short stories:
Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water
L.M. Montgomery, Emily of New Mon
Michael Ondaatje, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid
And many short stories and poetry featured in the Anthology of Canadian Literature
in English, third edition (2010)
Lecture #2 Sept 16: Thomas King: Green Grass, Running Water
Literature and Nation
Culture and Mythology
Rhetoric and Ideology
Questions to Ask: (1) What does it mean to talk about Canada as a Nation?
(2)What are literatures relation to Canada, and what counts as Canadian Literature?
Answer: (1) Canada, broadly speaking, is easily definable as a Nation-State, but is harder to
define as a Nation
General Definition of a Nation: A group of people claiming political
sovereignty due to a shared ethnicity, language, religion, history, territory
and/or culture
Each point is debateable since there is not one clear distinction. (Eg. In
Canada, there is not one set religion; in fact, there are many different kinds).
(2) In order to properly answer the question of what is literatures relation to Canada, it
must be known that culture and literature work together to act as foundational aspects of
Canadian Identity.
How? For example, print and nationalism work hand-in-hand to form and
imagine a community centered largely on literature. This occurred quite
often in Europe and would occur often in Canada
This now requires another definition of a Nation: “[A]n imagined political
community and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.” –
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
What could then count as Canadian Literature could be a multitude
of aspects not only including literature (eg. Canadian TV and music).
Why? Because maybe by putting an emphasis on literature, it could
aid in other methods of being able to establish Canada as its own
nation that could be the very reason why the Canadian gov’t puts
such an emphasis on Canadian Literature
But these very institutions (eg. Canadian gov’t) and others also allow for the circulation of
Mythology: A set of stories that dramatize the world vision of a people or culture
Myths often talk about how a community was formed; their origins; their survival, etc…
Myths also circulate and re-circulate, so they cannot be singlehandedly attached to one
author they belong more to the community as they circulate throughout the world
Examples of Canadian Myths suggested by students in lecture: Canadian politeness
(eg. Canadians apologizing for bumping into others); Mounties: The key figure of

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Canadian “peace, order, good government,” as they were originally established to
maintain order and good gov’t in the Canadian West
Northrop Frye on literature: “conscious mythology”
Certain literary texts begin to hold certain myths and stereotypes of a nation that could
eventually take apart a nation and their meanings, as the meanings become more for show
(eg. Their cultural stories and backgrounds, etc…)
*Refer to the opening quote on the syllabus by Jonathan Kertzer
It suggests that literature is an art of cultural persuasion
Its also asking us to think of literature as rhetoric (the art of verbal persuasion),
suggesting that literature is making arguments in one way or another
In a station of the metro: the apparition of these faces in the crowd; petals on a wet,
black bough Ezra Pound (1913)
Offering a metaphor, which has two parts: the tenor (literal thing being described,
which is the faces in the crowd) and the vehicle (describing the literal reference:
the petals) and the last statement is the argumentative portion
It’s also describing it in such a way that it wants the readers to believe that that is
how the world is portrayed as. That’s how the author wants the readers to see their
How Jonathan Kertzer (man on front page of syllabus) describes National Literature
in Canada
1) It is through cultural persuasion that nations come into being as imagined communities
Must be persuaded that such a group exist one way literature might function to
sway the nation is to tell another nation of a nation’s tale in an attempt to make it
their own
2) The national life can be unjust, even monstrous
The use of the definite article ‘the’ in “the national life,” denotes emphasis on
singular and national life, which could be used to imagine how there might be a
certain national exclusionary to the Canadian land (eg. Leaving out certain people;
their history, etc…)
Another example: Birth-rite lottery, which could be seen as unfair to others, as
people born in other countries might already be provided with more opportunities
(eg. Being born in a first world country VS. being born in a third world country)
3) Literature is compromised by its immersion in ideology
Ideology: A set of ideas that shape one’s worldview while making that view seem
natural and correct
Stories tell coherent narratives that are bound up in ideology they present the
world in certain ways
4) Literature has the potential to critique ideology
How it can go about critiquing ideology (student views): Satire (eg. Literature
becoming critical of the world by mocking or playing up on certain aspects); irony;
figurative language (eg. The use of metaphors to challenge and provoke the readers)
GGRW is a story interested in mythology (Canadian, western & eastern myths; the creation
of the world and how myth can be ideologically infective), and how the North American
world view has been informed and altered by certain texts and places (eg. The Bible and
Hollywood), and how those two, combined with mythology, affect the lives of Indigenous
people & their nations
GGRW is asking what happens if you try to tell a story a different way maybe with
consequences or what happens if you tell the story 100% truthfully

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Green Grass, Running Water (GGRW)
The Beginning: Coyote and that GOD
Dr. Hovaugh and Sergeant Cereno
First Woman, Ahdamn and Naming
“Iron Eyes Screeching Eagle”
The Oral and the Written
Alberta’s History Lesson
Thomas King wasn’t born in Canada
He was born in California; raised and educated in the US before moving to Canada
GGRW is his second novel to focus on characters in a black-foot community in Alberta
The story is partially about the characters, but it distinguishes itself with separate stories
(eg. Coyote and Narrator)
There are allusions to biblical elements within the story
(pg. 1): “So. In the beginning… just the water” – Allusions to Genesis, the Bible, the
story that tells the Origins of the World
The “Just the Water” is a parody as its how Genesis begins
There’s an intervention of wanting to put an Aboriginal in the figurehead of the
biblical aspect easily seen as a blending of community and Aboriginals
Ahdamn sounds like Adam another similarity to Genesis
There’s an emphasis on creation stories of how the people came to be – they suggest within
the novel that each one could be adapted and heard again
In this story, we also get a figurehead, Coyote, who is displacing God in the Judo-Christian
creation story, and is made to be seen as Creator of that world
(Pg. 1): “So. In the beginning… just the water” – This passage also suggests that stories are
put into dialogue with each other
“So,” the novel’s very first word might be associated more with spoken word than
literal text it helps to displace the text more and instigate more of an emphasis
on the differences of Cultural Narratives VS. Oral Narratives
It will be thinking of different commentaries between the two (their strengths and
(pg. 9) “This according to the lone ranger….” – literally an oral dialogue; the story being told
aloud… or at least attempted to be told aloud
This is a perfect model of how an oral story is told it involves collaborations;
interruptions and attention to mistakes (eg. Storytellers can make mistakes
highlights the ideology that no story has a perfect ending).
(pg. 16): “Dr. Joseph Hovaugh… Green pond in the garden – saw it was good” – biblical
reference again (Genesis)
Particular characteristics that mark the doctor out to the 4 Indians he’s
solitary and lives in his own head; he doesn’t listen to others (eg. How he
interacts with his employee Babo); he’s more focused on the written word,
Sergeant Cereno interviewing Babo, its clearly seen that he wants to be in charge but the
problem is that he’s a bad listener and only hears what he wants to be heard
By having Sergeant Cereno say that he wants to know everything to Babo, he is
inadvertently aspiring to obtain the position of the Judeo-Christian God who aspires
GGRW is condemning a certain kind of story-teller who doesn’t listen and
automatically assumes they have authority/superiority over their readers
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