This lecture gave a very rigorous explication of the intellectual background to Ethel Wilson's Innocent Traveller. The book amounts to a challenge to modernism's universal rationalism and realism's strict privilege of the physical - "the same dull round over again" as William Blake put it. Wilson celebrates the permanent mystery of human life, in the irrepressible person of Topaz Edgeworth, and the real effects of metaphysical realities in daily life. The metaphysical aspect that Wilson concentrates on is Time.
Innocent Traveller is many kinds of books and - magically, inexplicably, and miraculously - all at the same time.
- personal paen
- family history
- Genesis of Vancouver
- people's history of Canada
- anatomy of the human conditions
- disquisition on ultimate meaning
A technique for helping students to get the broad sense of a work of fiction was detailed, using Innocent Traveller as a practical example. Four things should be looked at:
1.] the title
2.] the opening paragraph
3.] the closing paragraph
4.] some revealing statement or two at the centre of the work of fiction.
The last is tricky, but in Innocent Traveller, chapter 14 of the 28 chapters has merrily but without tact as the essential description of Topaz (opposing free spirit to convention) and But human beings are very strange, but there you are as the essence of Wilson's presentation of irreducible and glorious mystery of all of our individual lives.