Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sixth Lecture: Ethel Wilson

Simply, the lecture today was a preparation lecture for reading -- well, re-reading, because obviously you've all read it once already -- "The Innocent Traveller." A background of understanding is required for Ethel Wilson's superlative fiction because she is, as I claimed in lecture, an author sui generis.

The distinctions between "modern," "modernity," and "moderism" were detailed, as these are terms from the stories we have read so far. This places Wilson in the literary chronology, but what distinguishes (in two senses) her fiction is its difference from -- and implied challenge to -- the prevailing mode of her times.

More to come ...
Literary modernism was explained, in part, as placing importance on a stable structure: a set of fixed symbols (such as classical mythology); a narrative clearly based in reason; and a "day in the life" experience. Evidence was given that Wilson was deliberate in differing from this convention -- such as her resistance to an intended publisher's demands that Innocent Traveller be re-written. The fact that Wilson wrote well into the modernist period, combined with her inventiveness, justify the argument that Wilson is Canada's first Post-Modernist writer.
Wilson's remark that "Life is without plot but full of meaning" forms the centre of our study her fiction, which is full of incident, action and dialogue and pointed and pungent metaphysical remarks by the narrator.
Also addressed in lecture were the significance of the book's opening paragraph, and of Wilson's location in Vancouver relative to colonial Britain.

I hope you enjoy Innocent Traveller as much as I do!

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