Acknowledging Myths

The Image of Europe in Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners and Jack Hodgins’s The Invention of the World
  • John Thieme


During the late 1960s and early 1970s the upsurge of nationalism that, not for the first time, characterises Canadian writing is particularly manifest in a quest for origins, an attempt to identify the distinctive specificity of Canadian culture by employing discourses of the past to examine the ancestral heritage. This process of exploration takes various forms, most of which are based on historiographical or archaeological models of investigation. Thus Rudy Wiebe, in The Temptations of Big Bear (1973) and The Scorched-Wood People (1977), redefines the parameters of the Western Canadian experience by upending received versions of Prairie history, which have largely been constructed by outsiders to the region, and replacing them with versions which emanate from Western sources, while Margaret Atwood and Robert Kroetsch have rejected the model of history entirely, preferring an approach that is more appropriately viewed as archaeological. In Surfacing (1972), Atwood’s unnamed protagonist’s quest for identity involves laying bare her personal past and is enacted through her search for her missing father, whom she comes to view as ‘an archaeological problem’.1


Official Version Irish Origin Canadian Culture Canadian Identity Canadian Literature 
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  1. 1.
    Margaret Atwood, Surfacing (London: Virago, 1979) p. 46.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    This theme is discussed in my article ‘Beyond History: Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing and Robert Kroetsch’s Badlands’, in Shirley Chew (ed.), Re-visions of Canadian Literature (Leeds: Institute for Bibliographical and Textual Studies, University of Leeds, 1985) pp. 71–87.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    All three poems are inclined in Jack David and Robert Lecker (eds), Canadian Poetry, vol. 11 (Toronto: General Paperbacks, and Downsville: ECW Press, 1982); Al Purdy, ‘Elegy for a Grandfather, pp. 45–6; Eli Mandel, ‘“Grandfather’s Painting”: David Thauberger’, pp. 68–9; and George Bowering, ‘Grandfather’, pp. 154–5.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Al Purdy, Being Alive: Poems, 1958–73 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1978) pp. 22–3.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Margaret Atwood, The Animals in That Country (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1968) pp. 36–9.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Robert Kroetsch, ‘F. P. Grove: The Finding’, in The Stone Hammer Poems (Lantzville, B.C.: Oolichan Books, 1975) pp. 46–7.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Margaret Laurence, The Diviners (New York and Toronto: Bantam-Seal, 1975) p. 289. Subsequent references are to this edition and are included in the text.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    For a discussion of this pattern in Canadian writing, see Diana Brydon, ‘Wordsworth’s Daffodils: a Recurring Motif in Contemporary Canadian Literature’, Kunapipi, vol. IV, no. 2 (1982) pp. 6–14.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Jack Hodgins, The Invention of the World (Scarborough, Ont.: Signet, 1978) p. 69. Subsequent references are to this edition and are included in the text.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Margaret Laurence, Heart of a Stranger (Toronto: Bantam-Seal, 1980) p. 158.Google Scholar

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© John Thieme 1990

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  • John Thieme

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