In Due Season

Posted in Books, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Novels on 2016-05-29 00:53Z by Steven

In Due Season

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
May 2016
375 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-77112-071-5

Christine van der Mark (1917–1970)

Afterword by:

Carole Gerson, Professor of English Department
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada

Janice Dowson, Lecturer in English literature and Academic Writing
Simon Fraser University and University of the Fraser Valley

First published in 1947, In Due Season broke new ground with its fictional representation of women and of Indigenous people. Set during the dustbowl 1930s, this tersely narrated prize-winning novel follows Lina Ashley, a determined solo female homesteader who takes her family from drought-ridden southern Alberta to a new life in the Peace River region. Here her daughter Poppy grows up in a community characterized by harmonious interactions between the local Métis and newly arrived European settlers. Still, there is tension between mother and daughter when Poppy becomes involved with a Métis lover. This novel expands the patriarchal canon of Canadian prairie fiction by depicting the agency of a successful female settler and, as noted by Dorothy Livesay, was “one of the first, if not the first Canadian novel wherein the plight of the Native Indian and the Métis is honestly and painfully recorded.” The afterword by Carole Gerson and Janice Dowson provides substantial information about author Christine van der Mark and situates her under-acknowledged book within the contexts of Canadian social, literary, and publishing history.

Christine van der Mark (1917–1970) was born and raised in Calgary. While teaching in rural Alberta schools, she attended the University of Alberta, receiving her B.A. in 1941 and her M.A. in Creative Writing in 1946. Much of her writing expressed sympathetic concern for the Métis of Northern Alberta.

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Rereading Pauline Johnson

Posted in Articles, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2013-08-06 05:11Z by Steven

Rereading Pauline Johnson

Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes
Volume 46, Number 2, Spring 2012
pages 45-61
DOI: 10.1353/jcs.2012.0018

Carole Gerson, Professor of English
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

This essay argues for a broader appreciation of Pauline Johnson’s creative range and poetic accomplishment. Rereading her work in relation to some of J. Edward Chamberlin’s ideas about narrative and about home brings fresh perspectives to her writing and reception in relation to her reversal of the White masculine gaze in her representations of Native peoples, Canadian history, wilderness, and gender. Her first Euro-Canadian audience used her work to assist with their own indigenization and help them feel at home in Canada. Because most current readers construct Johnson as figure of resistance, concentrating on a small selection of her poetry on Native topics, they continue to ignore her poems that invoke a female voice to possess the wilderness, along with her innovative erotic verse that reinhabits the female body by empowering the female gaze.

Having written extensively about Pauline Johnson in the past—most recently in relation to celebrity (Gerson 2012)—I welcome the opportunity created by this collection of essays associated with the Grand River Forum to bring some of J. Edward Chamberlin’s observations about storytelling to bear on my current interest in returning approaches to Johnson. My goal is to bring fresh attention to the craft and range of her poetry and to the complexity of her reception. Chamberlin’s analysis of narrative as essential to human experience, however contradictory the stories on a given topic might seem, is amply borne out by the unusual life and career of Emily Pauline Johnson (1861-1913). The well-known part-Mohawk poet was closely associated with the Grand River region, where she honed her skills in canoeing and authorship, her talents converging in…

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This is Not a Biography: Pauline Johnson and the Process of National Identity

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2012-03-16 22:07Z by Steven

This is Not a Biography: Pauline Johnson and the Process of National Identity

Canadian Poetry
Volume 48 (Spring/Summer 2001)

Shelley Hulan, Associate Professor of English
University of Waterloo, Canada

Carole Gerson and Veronica Strong-Boag. Paddling Her Own Canoe: the Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson–Tekahionwake. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2000. 331 pp.

Anyone familiar with the literary criticism on early twentieth-century Canada knows that the writer and performer Pauline Johnson has long been a source of fascination for students of the period. Because she occupied both Native and White worlds, and because her work contributes something to dialogues on race, women, performance, and imperial identity in the young Canada, she has been the subject of several studies, most of them biographical. As biographies must, these examinations of the poet and performer seek the identity of their subject by attempting to recreate the person. Biographies often serve as bellwethers for the interests of the times when they are written, and the continuing appearance of new ones about Johnson demonstrates that she still provokes many questions for contemporary scholars. Biographies also require their authors to make inferences, sometimes tenuous, about the subject’s life on the basis of documentary evidence, sometimes sparse. This practice is especially difficult in the case of someone like Johnson, many of whose private papers were burned by her sister Eliza shortly after her death. In Paddling Her Own Canoe: The Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson–Tekahionwake, Carole Gerson and Veronica Strong-Boag do not attempt another biography of Johnson but undertake, instead, an analysis of the texts that she wrote in the contexts of her own time. Freeing themselves in this way from the necessity of heavy speculation on a life that is inaccessible to readers, they devote the book to a reconstruction of the milieu in which Johnson lived and to a scrutiny of writings by and about her.

This is an ambitious and exhaustively researched study, both in its quest for new documentary clues to Johnson’s situation in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Canada and in its bibliographical search for Johnson’s many uncollected prose publications. Gerson and Strong-Boag believe that a thorough survey of Johnson’s writing is necessary in order to understand her place in the history of Canadian ideas. They forego nothing in Johnson’s life work, considering everything from her ode to Joseph Brant, which was read at the unveiling of the monument raised to the Native chief in 1886, to her early literary essays, her memoirs of her mother, and the occasional verse that she wrote for different towns on her performance circuit in later years. One of the fruits of their bibliographical research is a detailed chronology of her publications, a chronology that enables them to challenge the pattern of development into which other critics have persistently tried to place the poet-performer. Their inquiry into the expectations of the markets for which Johnson wrote suggests that writers like her addressed, at different times, two very different audiences. On one hand, there were the readers of Johnson’s poetry (which was largely unremunerated and found in anthologies and newspapers), and on the other there were the readers of her fiction and memoir-writing (which was paid writing for specific audiences with well-defined expectations). Framed by their research into her historical context and into her publication record, Gerson and Strong-Boag’s argument is that Johnson alternated between expressing popular Canadian imperialist sentiments and challenging prevailing preconceptions of Native peoples as vanishing, weak, and invisible.

Like Johnson’s biographers, Gerson and Strong-Boag view Johnson as a figure through whom many questions about turn-of-the-century Canadian culture may be asked, and they want to know how her many identities–as a woman, as a person of Mixed-race heritage, as a member of the middle class, and as a performer–made her such an enduring contributor “to the national imaginary” (11). The first chapter extensively reviews the various attitudes toward race at the end of the nineteenth century, dwelling particularly on ideas of racial hybridity in Canada. By examining a variety of texts published in Canada during Johnson’s lifetime, including anthropological studies of Native North Americans, newspaper clippings, and correspondence, Gerson and Strong-Boag argue that “in enforced encounters with English language, texts, and laws, Indians increasingly confronted attitudes that designated them and their traditions as subordinate” (27). In this way, they begin to outline the sense of conflict under which they subsequently argue that Johnson lived and worked. Johnson’s immediate family (she had a White mother and a Native father) captures the complicated situations of Native and Mixed-race persons who, like Johnson’s father, simultaneously held positions of authority on a Native reserve and worked closely with federal imperial authorities. The authors draw attention both to the mixed feelings of some Reserve members towards this Native elite and to the settler community’s equally noncommittal stance towards it, and they suggest that the two groups’ always-reluctant acceptance of Native leaders shaped Johnson’s early consciousness…

Read the entire review here.

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Paddling Her Own Canoe: The Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Posted in Biography, Books, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2012-03-16 20:27Z by Steven

Paddling Her Own Canoe: The Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

University of Toronto Press
June 2000
354 pages
Paper ISBN: 9780802080240
Cloth ISBN: 9780802041623

Veronica Strong-Boag, Professor of Women’s History
University of British Columbia

Carole Gerson, Professor of English
Royal Society of Canada at Simon Fraser University

Winner of the Raymond Klibansky Prize, awarded by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Frequently dismissed as a ‘nature poet’ and an ‘Indian Princess’ E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) was not only an accomplished thinker and writer but a contentious and passionate personality who ‘talked back’ to Euro-Canadian culture. “Paddling Her Own Canoe” is the only major scholarly study that examines Johnson’s diverse roles as a First Nations champion, New Woman, serious writer and performer, and Canadian nationalist.

A Native advocate of part-Mohawk ancestry, Johnson was also an independent, self-supporting, unmarried woman during the period of first-wave feminism. Her versatile writings range from extraordinarily erotic poetry to polemical statements about the rights of First Nations. Based on thorough research into archival and published sources, this volume probes the meaning of Johnson’s energetic career and addresses the complexities of her social, racial, and cultural position. While situating Johnson in the context of turn-of-the-century Canada, the authors also use current feminist and post-colonial perspectives to reframe her contribution. Included is the first full chronology ever compiled of Johnson’s writing.

Pauline Johnson was an extraordinary woman who crossed the racial and gendered lines of her time, and thereby confounded Canadian society. This study reclaims both her writings and her larger significance.

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