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Freeing Al Purdy: From Nationalist Cell to Post Modern Freedom (August 2003; Scanned)

Freeing Al Purdy: From Nationalist Cell to Post Modern Freedom (August 2003; Scanned)

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First paragraph:

Mark Silverberg, in “The Can(adi)onization of Al Purdy,” argues that Purdy was used by a “literary-cultural industry” (227) to help establish both a Canadian canon and a quintessential Canadian identity. According to Silverberg, in their quest to create a particular Purdy personae—that being, a backwoods, “native” (228), un-American, working-class man—critics and anthologists in the 1960’s and 70’s (and beyond) provided a very limited sense of the man to the reading public. He thinks Purdy is actually far more “paradoxical,” problematical, and “sophisticated” (231) than we have been lead to expect. Purdy, apparently, was not only more interesting but more postmodern than we have been lead to expect, too, and Silverberg offers us textual analyses of select poems in part to suggest just how aware Purdy was of the socially constructed nature of gender and of the instability of language. He therefore attempts not only to recover qualities “at the heart of Purdy’s work” (245) but to establish Purdy as someone worthy of sophisticated postmodern attentions.
First paragraph:

Mark Silverberg, in “The Can(adi)onization of Al Purdy,” argues that Purdy was used by a “literary-cultural industry” (227) to help establish both a Canadian canon and a quintessential Canadian identity. According to Silverberg, in their quest to create a particular Purdy personae—that being, a backwoods, “native” (228), un-American, working-class man—critics and anthologists in the 1960’s and 70’s (and beyond) provided a very limited sense of the man to the reading public. He thinks Purdy is actually far more “paradoxical,” problematical, and “sophisticated” (231) than we have been lead to expect. Purdy, apparently, was not only more interesting but more postmodern than we have been lead to expect, too, and Silverberg offers us textual analyses of select poems in part to suggest just how aware Purdy was of the socially constructed nature of gender and of the instability of language. He therefore attempts not only to recover qualities “at the heart of Purdy’s work” (245) but to establish Purdy as someone worthy of sophisticated postmodern attentions.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Patrick McEvoy-Halston on Jun 30, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/01/2013

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S ilv e rb e rg ,
i n '"T h eC a n (a d i)o n iz a tio n
o fA l P u rd y ,"a rg u e sth a tP u rd yw a su s e db ya
d fff"ra ry -c u ltu ra l
in d u s try "(2 2 7 )to h e lp e s ta b lis hb o th a C a n a d ia nc a n o na n daq u in te s s e n tia l
Y
C a n a d ia nid e n tity .A c c o rd in gt o S ilv e rb e rg ,
in th e irq u e s tto c re a teap a rtic u la rP u rd y
p e rs o n a e -th a t
b e in g ,a b a c k w o o d s ,
" n a t i v e "( 2 2 8 ) , ,
u n -A m e ric a n ,
w o rk in g -c la s s
m a n -c ritic s
a n da n th o lo g is ts
in th e S e S a "d
,d '(a n d
b e y o n d )p ro v id e dav e rylim ite ds e n s eo f th em ant o
th ere a d in gp u b lic . H e th in k sP u rd yis a c tu a llyfa rm ore"p a ra d o x ic a l,"
p r o b le m a tic a l,
a n d
t'b b
. f
V ,'
y rt_ $ $ "O h is tic a re d "
(2 3 1 )th a nw eh a v eb e e nle a dto e x p e c t.P u r d y ,a p p a r e n t l y ,
w asn o t o n lym ore
in te re s tin gb u tm orep o s tm o d e rnth a nw e havebeenle a d to e x p e c t,to o ,a n dS ilv e rb e rg
o ff-e rsu s
te x tu a la n a ly s e so fs e le c tp o e m sinp a rtto s u g g e s t
ju s th o w a w a reP u rd yw aso fth e s o c ia lly
y '
c o n s tru c te dn a tu reo fg e n d e ra n do f th e in s ta b ility o f la n g u a g e .H eth e re fo rea tte m p ts
n o to n lyt o
re c o v e rq u a litie s"a t th e h e a r t o f P u r d y 'sw o rk "(2 4 5 )b u tto e s ta b lis hP u rd yassom eonew o rth y
o f
s o p h is tic a te d
p o s tm o d e rna tte n tio n s .
S ilv e rb e rga g re e sw ithR o b e rtIrc k e rin th in k in g th a td u rin g "th ed e c a d efro m 1 9 6 5t o
lg 75 -(2 2 6 ),"th en a tio n a lp re o c c u p a tio n
w ith d e fin in ga C a n a d ia nid e n titytra n s la te din toa [... ]
lite ra ry -c ritic a l
in d u s tryw hosep u rp o s ew a sto fin d o r c re a teim a g e so f th a tid e n titf' (2 2 7 )'P v d y '
b e c a u s e
o fh is"ru ra l,h is to r ic a llym in d e d ,d o c u m e n ta ry J ik e
v e rs e[ .. .] [ , ]w asdeem edth ep e rfe c t
c a n d id a tefo r c a n o n ic ity " (2 3 2 ). llts w ork w a s th e re fo rew id e lyc ritiq u e d a n d a n th o lo g iz e d ,
b u t
s e le c tiv e lys o : s in c ea n th o lo g is ts /c ritic s
w a n te dh im to b e u n d e rs to o da sp rim a rilyin te re s te di n
c ra ftin g"s k e tc h e s "
o f" s u ita b lyn a tiv ela n d s c a p e [s ],
in "g a rris o n /s u rv iv a l"
n a rra tiv e s ,
a n di n
/ .m a in ta in in gth e" c o n tin u ityo fth ep re s e n t
a n d th ep a s t"(2 3 0 ),o n lypoem sw h ic h b e s td e v e l o p e d
\a "-
, , ,
jd p t',tr"r"
s u b je c tsa n d th e m e sw e re w id e lyc irc u la te da n dc o m m e n te du p o n .
; r , .
S ilv e rb e rgb e lie v e sth a t th e a n th o lo g is ts /c ritic sd e s iret o" p ig e o n - h o le "
P u rd yas an
(.2 \.-\.*J
"a u th e n tic[ . . .] C a n a d ia n "(2 3 0 ) h a s m e a n tt h a t w e h a v e b e e n o ffe re da v e ry s k e w e da n d J i{a ite tL
s e n s eo f th ep o e t.B e c a u s eth e " a n th o lo g iz e d
p o e m sa r e i n v a r i a b l yd o c u m e n ta ry
a n dm im e tic ,"
S ilv e rb e rga rg u e sth a tw e ra re lye n c o u n te r
P u rd y 's" fin e e x p e rim e n ta l
a n dm o r e te c h n ic a lly
s e lf-c o n s c io u s
poem s"(2 3 0 ). B ecausea n th o lo g is ts /c ritic s
d id n o tw a n tto c o m p lic a teh is s ta tu sa s
a ru ra lC a n a d ia np rim a rilyin v o lv e dw ith , a n din te re s te din , h is n a tiv eh a b ita t,w e ra re lye n c o u n te r
h ispoem sa b o u t " C u b aandG reece"(2 4 1 ),orher abouth is tra v e lsa b ro a d .B e c a u s e
a n th o lo g is ts /c ritic s
w a n te dto lin k h im to h is C a n a d ia np o e ticp re d e c e s s o rs ,
h ispoem sd e d ic a te d
)1 fto
D .H .L a w re n c e ,
D y la nThom as,
E z raP o u n d ,[ . . .] [e tc .,]h a v ec o n s is te n tlyb e e np a s s e do v e r in
S ff*i
o fm orep a ro c h ia l
s u b je c ts "
(2 3 r).rn s h o rt,
p e rb e re b e lie v e s
th a tr e a d e rs
h a v eb e e nle ft
& \
l a r g e l y u n a w a r e o fth e fu ll e x te n to f P u r d y 'ss o p h is tic a tio n
a n d c o s m o p o lita n is m .
\
\
S ilv e r b e r g 'sin te re s t
in th e e f f e c t so f n a t i o n a l i s t
id e o lo g yo n th e c irc u la tio no f P u r d y 's
p o e trys u g g e s tsth e in flu e n c eo fN ew H is to r ic is ta n a ly s iso nh is th o u g h t.T h e in flu e n c eo fo th e r
c ritic a la p p ro a c h e su p o nh is c r itic is m is a p p a re n t
in h is "re c o v e ry "o f th e c o m p le xn a tu reof a
c o m m o n ly a n th o lo g rz e dpoem ,"S o n g o f th e Im p e rm a n e n t,"a n din h is a n a ly s isof ala r g e ly
u n a n th o lo g iz e dp o e m ,"O n R e a liz in gH e H a s W ritte n S o m eB a d P o e m s ."T h e"S o n go fth e

Im p e rm a n e n t,"a c c o rd in gto S ilv e rb e rg ,is o fte n b a d lym is re a db y c ritic s e a g e rt os h a p eP u rd yin to a"ru g g e d ,m a s c u lin e ,w o rk in g -c la s sC a n a d ia n "(2 3 3 ). S ilv e rb e rgd o e safe m in is ta n a ly s iso f th e p o e m ;e x p lo re s th e " s p e a k e r 'sb la ta n t m is o g y n y "(2 3 6 );a n dd e c id e sth a tth e p o e m is b e s t

u n d e rs to o da s as o p h is tic a te d"s a tire "w h ic h "e n a c ts c e rta in s o c ia lc o n s tru c tio n so fm a s c u lin ity " (2 3 7 ).H e a ls od o e sa n a n a ly s is o f "O n R e a liz in g "in w h ic hh elik e n sP u rd y to th e s tillfa s h io n a b le c ritic ,F re d ricJam eson.S ilv e rb e rgc o n c l u d e sh i s a n a l y s i so fth is p o e m b y a s s e rtin gth a tP u rd y , lik e a n a le r ts tu d e n to f d e c o n s tru c tio n ,

w asw e ll a w a re ofh o w " la n g u a g ew ill a lw a y sh a v eits w a y
over us"(2 4 6 ).
A n y o n eh o p in g th a tP u r d y 'sp o e tryw ill fin da n a u d ie n c eam ongsta c a d e m ic sw o u ld lik e ly
d
J
b ep le a s e dw ith S ilv e r b e r g 'se ffo rts . P u r d y , f o r m e r l y t h e"s e lf-m a d e ,
b a c k w o o d sp o e t'(2 3 3 )-a n
e n tire lyd is re s p e c ta b le
s o rtin th e s ed a y so f th e h e g e m o n ics u p re m a c y ,
n o t o f n a tio n a lis t
lite ra ry
c r i t i c s ,b u t o fs c ie n tific ,s p e c ia liz e d
lite ra rys c h o o ls - is m a d eto s e e ma sif h e s h a re st h e c o n c e m s
a n dp e rs p e c tiv e s
o f c o n te m p o ra ry
a c a d e r n i a .S i l v e r b e r gb e lie v e sh e r e a liz e sa m o re"a c c u ra te "
(2 3 9 )p o rtra y a l
o f P u rd yin h is e s s a y ,
b u t s in c eth ise ffo rts o c le a n ly ,s o s u s p ic io u s ly ,
e s ta b lis h e s
P u r d y 'sm o d is h n e s s ,
w e le a v eh is e s s a yr e m in d e dt h a to u r o w n re a d in go f P u r d y 'sp o e trys h o u ld
p re d o m in a te ly
in fo rm o u r c ritic a lassessm ent
o f th em anandh is w o rk .
S ilv e rb e rga ls o le a v e su s u n c e r ta ina s to h o w w e ll h e h e lp s u s m o v e b e y o n d "th e s e a rc hfo r
a s in g u la rC a n a d ia nid e n tity "(2 4 7 ),a s to s o m e e x te n th is a n a ly s iso f P u r d y 'sp o e trys e rv e st o
u p d a tera th e rth a n lo o s e n th e c o n c e p tio no f P u rd y a s a w rite r o f " q u in te s s e n tia l
C a n a d ia np o e t[ry ]"
(2 4 3 ).S ilv e rb e rgre p e a te d lyc a s tig a te s
c r itic s(s u c h a s D e n n isIre )w h o in s is to n c h a ra c te riz in g
P u rd ya s a w rite ro f "s u rv iv a l"(2 4 1 )p o e try ,y e th is o w n c h a ra c te riz a tio n
o fP u rd y 'se n c o u n te r
{a ",f*lrh
la n g u a g ea m o u n tsto a s to ryo f P u r d y 'sp e rs is te n c e
a n dh a rd in e s sin th e fa c e o f o b s ta c le s .
S ilv e r b e r gt e llsu s th a tP u rd yw a s a w a r eo f h o w " o u r s m a llin te n tio n sw ill b esubsum ed
i n
fla n g u a g e 's ]
[ .. .] b ro a d e ro u tlin e s "(2 4 6 ),b u t in s is tst h a t i n s t e a d o fb e in gb ro k e nb y th e
"'p ris o n -h o u s e
o fla n g u a g e '
t . . .l t,l tP u rd y lre a liz e [d ][. . .] th a tla n g u a g e 'st r iu m p h[w a s ][. . ']
a ls o h is o w n "(2 4 6 ).F u rth e rm o re ,
w h ile S ilv e r b e r gb e lie v e st h a tw e s h o u ld " r e c o g n i z e t h e
e x tre m em u ta b ility a n d fle x ib ility o f id e n tity " (2 4 6 ), a n d w h ileh e d o e sd ra wa tte n tio nto D e n is
Ire 's s tu d yo f P u r d y 's" p o llp h o n y "(U 7 ), h e s till e n d sh is e s s a yc h a ra c te riz in g
(a n ds e e m in g ly
s u m rn a riz in g )
P u rd ya s a m a n a w a r eo f h is o w n " b u m b lin g[ .. .] fa ilu re sa n dtre a c h e rie s "
(2 4 7 ).
T h is a s s e s s m e n t
o f P u r d yc lo s e lye c h o e st h a t o f o t h e rc r i t i c s s u c ha sR o s e m a r yS u lliv a n(w h o
b e lie v e sth a tP u r d y 's" q u in te s s e n tia l
g a z e "w a so f " iro n ic -d e fla tio n "[1 4 3 ])a n d a n th o lo g is ts
s u c h
a sG a ryG e d d e s(w h o b e lie v e sth a tP u r d y 's "s e lf-m o c k e ry "[6 6 ]e le v a te sh i s b e s tw o r k ) .
S ilv e rb e rg ,th e n ,m ig h tm a k e P u rd ys e e mm ore m o d is hth a nm o d e rn ,b u th e m a in ta in sP u r d y 's

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