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The Beautiful and the Doomed: Essays on Literary Value

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Miroslawa Buchholtz

The book addresses the problem of literary value in North American literature, children’s literature, film and poetry. Chapter One: The Ennob(e)led focuses on institutions which are instrumental in attributing value to literature: literary critics (e.g. D.H. Lawrence) and award givers (e.g. the Swedish Academy). It explores W.B. Yeats’s, T.S. Eliot’s, Czesław Miłosz’s and William Golding’s lives with the Nobel Prize. In Chapter Two: The Forgotten homage is paid to four authors who lost popularity, or never enjoyed it: Lorenza Stevens Berbineau, Frank Stockton, Charles Chesnutt and Conrad Aiken. Chapter Three: From Margin to Mainstream compares various Chinese, Japanese, First Nations’ and other ethnic voices in Canadian children’s literature. Chapter Four: From Mainstream to Margin juxtaposes scholarly pursuits with cinematic praxis, and cinematic praxis with political activity.

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Conclusion: A Never-ending Festival

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Within a quarter of a century of my academic work, I have attended dozens of confer- ences and only one literary festival. The conferences often resembled the one William Golding described in The Paper Men, unless an inspired and passionate critic, some- one perhaps like D.H. Lawrence, came along. Such cases were, however, rare because many literary scholars seemed to be more passionate about tenure, promotion, and ac- knowledgment than about literature. The festival I attended took place in Eden Mills in Ontario, Canada. To participate, one needed not only good will, but also a car, which my husband and I rented for the occasion. On the day of the festival, a sleepy village far off the beaten track turned into a fountain of literary inspiration, and several houses along the main street into venues of thematic meetings. I was at home in the children’s literature house, or in fact, garden behind the house, where Dennis Lee, among many other excellent writers, performed his poetic jazz and jazz poetry. The audience was mostly adult, but responsive – as children with decades of experience should be. There are obviously many other literary festivals worth visiting in person or via the Internet: the Edmonton International Literary Festival, the International Literature Festival at the Villa Gillet, or the du Maurier Festival in Fowey, to name just three out of dozens of examples. In contrast to academic conferences, literary festivals are open to general public, which is a quality they share with book fairs. Unlike...

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