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Selected Essays in English Literatures: British and Canadian

Jonathan Swift – John Fowles – Margaret Laurence – Margaret Atwood – Di Brandt & Dennis Cooley


Herbert Zirker

This collection of essays begins with a reassessment of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, in particular addressing the universal formative impact it keeps exerting on the ‘myth of utopia’ (N. Frye) and the ramifications it displays in contemporary exemplars of utopian/dystopian fiction – The Handmaid’s Tale, Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s world success, being a most significant case in point. John Fowles, within an overview of his works, is dealt with to point out the quest-/quester-motif as an informing element, which itself forms part of the ‘myth of the picaresque’ as the encompassing literary genre. This line of argument is continued in the Margaret Laurence chapters with a view to bring to the surface ‘hidden’ subtextual relics of the picaresque now fully integrated in the Canadian vistas of her narrative texture. The Di Brandt & Dennis Cooley interview presents two representatives of Canadian Prairie literature: Di Brandt a persuasive example of (ex-)Mennonite ethno-culture and the literary creativity emanating from it since the 1980s; and Dennis Cooley, the accomplished author/critic and publisher encouraging promising talents.
Contents: Reassessment of Swift: Gulliver’s Travels, genre typology of ‘myth of utopia’ – Impact on The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Canadian author Margaret Atwood – John Fowles: Overview of works with emphasis on The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) – Quest-motif, Darwinist implications for plot and characters – Canadian author Margaret Laurence: Picaresque elements in significant narratives – Interview with two representative Canadian writers: Di Brandt from (ex-)Mennonite ethno-cultural background and Dennis Cooley poet/critic/publisher as leading example of contemporary Prairie Literature.