Sunday 6 December 2015

Strange Things

Finished November 29
Strange Things: Clarendon Lectures in English Literature 1991 by Margaret Atwood

This book contains four lectures Atwood did at Oxford in 1991. They explore how aspects of the Canadian North are used in literature. Each lecture focuses on a specific aspect to do with the North. The first lecture looks at the folklore derived from the disastrous Franklin expedition and the mystery surrounding what happened to the men on it. The second lecture focuses on white writers going native, using Grey Owl, a white man who took on the persona of a native and was only revealed as white after his death. The third lecture looks at the myth of the Wendigo as shown in literature. The fourth looks at women in the Canadian north.
Throughout the lectures she looks at the retelling of stories, the themes and how they come up in different ways, and how the idea of the wilderness as a character in its own right is portrayed. Sometimes the north is shown gendered, often female and predatory. Sometimes it is shown neutral. Sometimes it is shown positively, as a force that brings good in characters lives.
The series offers interesting insights into uniquely Canadian literature themes. I quite enjoyed it.

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