The Canadian Dream
Anthology of National Dreams
Anthologies (from the Greek “collection of flowers”) in classical times were collections of elegies and epigrams. One purpose for collecting dreams at the International Institute for Dream Research is to provide the basis for understanding the National Dreams.
The dream is the living tissue of the mind/body relationship, and can be used by social medicine for diagnostic examination. The Biopsy provides insight by providing a literary slice of life from the individual and communal dreamscreens, Dreamwork presents life (bios) “in the raw,” factual, visceral and in an unadulterated fashion, ready to be viewed (psy). As such the dream provides a slice of national life and when collected can provide the basis for an Anatomy of the Dream.
National Dreams: The Canadian Riddle
All nations develop a sense of community, with different sensibilities and points of view. Common, fundamental questions may be posed, but each nation answers them differently. The novels of Joseph Conrad, for example – the British-set The Secret Agent, the American-set Under Western Eyes, and the Russian-set Nostromo – are politically shaped stories that suggest the western belief in freedom and individuality is an illusion that must be surrendered. The Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye believed that the Canadian sensibility is less perplexed by the question of individuality. For Canadians, the riddle is less “Who am I?” and more “Where is here?”
We can view the riddle as a form of literature that consists of puzzling questions, similar to a conundrum or an enigma. It is the aim of this article to provide a basis for solving the riddling labyrinth that is Canadian nation building, its culture, heritage and identity.
Cultural Primitivism: The Noble Dream
Cultural primitivism asserts that “primitive” people live in a more harmonious way with nature. The Noble Savage is a metaphor devised principally the by 18th Century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau who conceived of primitive life as naturally intelligent, moral and highly dignified. Freud has pointed out that the child can be identified with the primitive. So the child, as Noble Savage, is socialized by the needs of the cultural milieu in which it lives. A work of radical cultural primitivism that advocates the compelling needs of the body over repression and inhibition in civilized society was N.O. Brown’s Life Against Death.
A biblical metaphoric equation of the noble dream, the child=primitive=Adam can be envisioned, so that each nation configures their children's imagination to the inherited mythological landscape.
The Canadian Landscape
Landscape (see CBC TV interview) refers to imaginary literary settings which today include urban/rural, national/regional, natural/cultural configurations, as well as political, religious and economic images that format the page and the screen of the imagination. Voltaire (Candide) satirically dismisses Canada as "a few acres in the snow,” creating a metaphor of a harsh and distant barren land where imperial imaginations fought for their place. Deeply ingrained by a European world views of property and Christian ideas of an idyllic (read: Eden) past, a fallen present and the search for a utopian future, the seeds and grammar for a new imagination, the Canadian imagination, were planted.
The Canadian Adam
The 16th century New World explorer Jacques Cartier described Canada as the "land that God gave to Cain.”
The impulse to give names to identify our environment provides a foundation for Western literature. In The American Adam, R.W.B. Lewis is searching for the literary foundations for American mythology, and observes that Adam was the biblical archetypal man and that the American myth was a second chance at redemption for the human race, the first being the Old World (Europe). The characterizing metaphor of a new born individual, self-reliant and self-propelled, provides the ideal for the American Dream's literary innocence.
The American archetypal poet/creator was contained in the image of the American as Adam. "It was the tragedy inherent in his innocence and newness that established the pattern of American fiction." The 19th century characters that fuelled the American imagination of Adam reborn, were those created by the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman and Melville.
The Canadian myth begins with Adam as well; however there are distinct contrasts to the American pattern.
Canadian mythology not only had to differentiate itself from the American but also from the English pattern. Peter Ackroyd, in Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, sees the English imagination as rooted in Albion, an ancient word for England. Characters that lit up the English imagination included those of Beowulf, as well as those created by Chaucer, More, Shakespeare, Milton and Bunyan. Dream Visions were pursued by the knights of Arthur who were propelled by their visions in search of the Holy Grail. As well, Arthur was haunted by dreams of doom.
The Canadian imagination is younger and generally not as dark or as tragic as that which propels the English or American mythic pattern. Canada came into existence on July 1, 1867 as a nation called the Dominion of Canada with Sir John A. Macdonald (see CBC TV documentary clip) as its first Prime Minister. In the Canadian constitution the national character was expressed as a mandate for "peace, order and good government.”
Myth is a major genre in oral cultures worldwide and if the final goal of metaphoric images is Vision ... then the final goal of all literary metaphor is Dream Vision. Other nations have produced such social mythologies and Dream Visions of racial superiority (Nazi Germany), manifest destiny (America), and the dictatorship of the proletariat (Communist Russia).
In Canada, the First Nations natives (i.e. Cree, Mohawk etc), provided the first mythologies and collective memories of the Iroquois Kanata (village). From the earliest beginnings of the colonization of the New World poetry was composed by both the French and British. The first Canadian lyric poetry was both descriptive and promotional.
Canadian mythology as Daniel Francis (National Dreams: Myth, Memory and Canadian History) finds, is based on such myths as the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway, completed in 1885). The CPR, as Pierre Burton relates in his Governor-General Award-winning epic Towards the Last Spike, was a bold heroic dream of an iron road uniting disparate regions of a nation. The myth of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, created by the federal government in 1873) reveals a basic identification and understanding of Canadian history. Popular with Hollywood and the American Public, films made the Canadian Mountie a familiar heroic icon beside that of the cowboy and the hard boiled detective. The Canadian Mosaic (multiculturalism) is a central guiding myth and metaphor of Canada; it was John Murray Gibbon Canadian Mosaic: The Making of a Northern Nation who suggested the mosaic as a way for Canadians to live in their communities. With a single stroke Gibbon contrasted the Canadian form from the American melting pot philosophy. Less of a mythology, but every bit as important to our national sense of self, is universal health care, a sacred cow of Canadian federal and provincial philosophy and policy.
Canadian Culture: Configuring the Canadian Dreambed
Modern society impresses its norms, expectations, and metaphoric narrative values on its children. This process is called socialization. The popular cultural industries (CBC interview with Norman Jewison) that promote socialization of consciousness and the unconscious include the visual arts, literature, film, music, photography and fashion, to name just a few. Molson's I AM CANADIAN (see TV clip) commercial provides a humorous view of Canada and Canadians.
In Canada the modern configuration of the social unconscious energies engages all channels of mass media which work to configure the Canadian imagination via dominant ideological and utopian messages of Democracy and Capitalism.
Strong connections exist between the Canadian government and Canadian culture industries. The Canadian Broadcasting Act of 1932 created the CBC which has remained a dominant player in the Canadian cultural landscape ever since. The National Film Board (established 1939) is a Canadian filmmaking institution designed in part to promote and interpret Canada for Canadians and foreigners.
Canadian Heritage: Dream Vision in the Rear View Mirror
The historical phases of Canadian Dreams can be viewed as: Colonial Dreams-French Dreams 1500-1760, English Dreams 1760-1867, Dream of A Nation 1867-1945, Canadian Postmodern Dream 1945 -present; multiculturalism, postmodernism, globalization.
(Department of Canadian Heritage)
The literary history and heritage of Canadian Dreams represent a literary museum of five cultural communities: Aboriginal, Anglophone, Francophone, Inuit and Minority ethnic groups. The modern Canadian novel's structural and functional diversity speaks to a deeply ingrained inheritance of a democratic utopian pattern, dream and guiding fiction. Canadian utopian writing has a rich history, with roots in the visions of the earliest explorers. Susanna Moodie's A Visit to Grosse Isle (1847) opens with an immigrant vision of the New World as paradise, Canada being a place for those looking for a new start or an escape from oppression. However, utopian visions have their nightmarish dark counterpoints, which are characterized by disillusionment and alienation. Canada is not immune to such dark existential processes. These counterpoints remind us of other literary visions such as that of James Joyce's Ulysses character Stephen Dedalus who points out that we must awaken from the tragic nightmare (Adam's nightmare) of history.
Northrop Frye, Fables of Identity and Dream Vision
Northrop Frye (Fables of Identity) sees the quest of the hero (the quest myth being the central myth of literature) as rooted in a number of literary archetypal metaphors, namely "…the solar cycle of the day, the seasonal cycle of the year, and the organic cycle of human life...The human cycle of waking and dreaming corresponds closely to the natural cycle of light and darkness, and it is perhaps in this correspondence that all imaginative life begins.”
For Frye, the culturally inherited literary and mythological universe is divided between desired and abhorred visions, the former expressed by comedy and romance, the latter by tragedy and satire/irony. Frye's concept of human nature and culture as they relate to literature sees literature and literary canons not as an imitation of the world but rather the expression of the total dream of being human. The Canadian Canon and Dream has a distinct pattern of romance and comedy, tragedy and satire/irony, which is unique from the dynamics of other Dream Visions such as that of the American or English Dream.
A canon can be described as a selection of works that are considered the best or most representative works of the human imagination. Canons influence all aspects of discourse including writing, reading, speaking, teaching, publishing and criticism. A canon can expand, contract, be modified, negated or affirmed. The Canadian canon was criticized in the 1920s by the modernist movement, by the socialist/humanist movement in the 1930s (over class inequalities) and in the 1960s by Canadian literatists who were in search of a Canadian identity and pressed for the inclusion of Canadian literature in academia. Now in the 21st century the criticism of the Canadian canon operates on numerous levels such as the gay and lesbian movement, feminist movement, regional political movements and multiculturalism/ethnic movements. The best(worst) of the Canadian imagination is what this article is about.
The Canadian Stage: Drama of Everyday Life
The Canadian stage imprints a distinct socialization pattern on its children. This socialization pattern is visible in the dreams of its children. With its own communal framework of political, economic, religious, domestic and ethnic institutions, values, roles and rules of the everyday Canadian life, children (CBC archived music video of "Canada") learn to live and take part in the Canadian imagination.
Sheila Egoff (The Republic of Childhood: A Critical Guide to Children's Literature in English) believed there were distinct Canadian characteristics of Canadian children's literature and imagination, however this belief today has become suspect inasmuch as Canadian protagonists are no longer inevitably men and women confronting the perils of the wilderness. Even so, the communal dreamscreen of Canadians reflects the distinct community memories, folklore, folkways and the unique social problems of the life-cycle of Canadians and their modern Canadian Dream.
Canadian Beliefs, Literature and the Communal Dreamscreen
Dreams may be described as movies, with images projected onto a screen within the mind. As literary narratives or screenplays, dreams can be categorized into genres. With the narratives of the dreams of individuals, patterns, common themes and symbols emerge which are indicators of collective literary narratives for the groups to which individuals belong.
The collective daydreams of Canadians provide the screenplays of Canadian literature and film. Anne of Green Gables (CBC Radio clip about Lucy Maud Montgomery) imparts values of plucky perseverance in the face of hardship. Hockey a Canadian pasttime (CBC TV clip of winning goal of the 1972 Canada-Russia series), (NHL) and its interpretation through media impart values of stoicism (taking a hit), revenge and pre-emptive violence (the role of designated “policeman"). The CFL is a Canadian tradition which has seen in recent times the enthusiasm for the game in Eastern Canada wane; it remains however strong and healthy in Western Canada, providing a brand of football generally more exciting than its American counterpart (NFL).
The Canadian Imagination
The British colonial writer Susanna Moodie’s canonical work Roughing it in the Bush (1852) is a social commentary, recording the struggles and problems of mid-19th century Upper Canadians. Moodie has been described as the trans-historical mother of "the violent duality of the Canadian imagination" (Atwood).
Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s prophesy, that "The 20th century shall be filled with Canada" is echoed by Frye’s observation that "Adolescent dreams of glory haunt the Canadian consciousness (and unconsciousness), some naive and some more sophisticated." In the coming of age story of Canada's heroic role (CBC TV clip of the Canadian invasion of Juno Beach) in the air, in the trenches and on the beaches in the two World Wars, Canada proved itself on the world stage and made Laurier's prophesy self-fulfilling. At the beginning of the 20th century Canadian nationalism meant Imperialism and the maintenance of the British connection. By the end of WWII Canada emerged carrying the Commonwealth banner whose configuring equation of nationality was self-determination and self-definition. Now a number of generations later even this banner has become superfluous.
Northrop Frye, in The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination, writes "it is simpler to notice the alternating current in the Canadian mind, as reflected in its writing, between two moods, one romantic, traditional and idealistic, the other shrewd, observant and humorous (see CBC TV clip).” Frye in The Educated Imagination believes that "The constructs of the imagination tell us things about human life that we don't get in any other way. That's why it's important for Canadians to pay particular attention to Canadian literature, even when the imported brands are better seasoned."
The Educated Imagination
The Canadian dreamscreen is part of a perceptual and narrative theatre, with the individual, society and the past providing the characters, literary scripts and landscape background. Educated people are assumed to converse with their national canons, and via criticism decide what is remembered and what is better forgotten or ignored. The national and literary history of Canada provides the backdrop for past and future writings and dreams.
Frye in Educated Imagination observes that "Art according to Plato (ancient Greek philosopher), is a dream for awakened minds, a work of imagination withdrawn from ordinary life, dominated by the same forces that dominate the dream, and yet giving us a perspective and dimension on reality that we don't get from any other approach to reality... In ordinary life we fall into a private and separate subconscious every night, where we reshape the world according to a private and separate imagination. Underneath literature there's another kind of subconscious, which is social and not private, a need for forming a community around certain symbols like the Queen and the flag, or around certain gods that represent order and stability, or becoming and change or death and rebirth to a new life. This is the myth-making power of the human mind, which throws up and dissolves one civilization after another."
Collecting the dreams of Canadians provides the basis for insight and understanding for Canadian myths, literature and the Canadian Dream.
Growing up in Canada
Bildungsroman is a style of novel that emphasizes the psychological and moral maturation of its characters. Individual dreams frequently use similar themes. Dreams offer a narrative reconstruction of the socialization process that can be viewed through memory recollection and free association. They are autobiographical reconstructions of the Self as it interacts and unfolds within the dynamics of the surrounding society. Dreams provide insight into dynamics of formative memories filtered through the lens of the genre of life writing.
Canadian life writing in the conventional sense of the genre (being non-fictional and privileging the "I" of the narrative point of view) may exist in archives or personal collections waiting to be discovered. Canadian life writing is filled with memoirs and autobiographies including those of politicians such as John Diefenbaker’s One Canada and Judy LaMarsh’s Memoirs of a Bird in a Gilded Cage. LaMarsh moves away from the traditional romance aspect of the heroine, to one of mocking life of a woman in political office, thereby voicing a form of Canadian satire, namely Canadian feminine protest. Others such as the economist John Kenneth Galbraith's A life in Our Times and Faye Schulman's A Partisan's Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust provide an understanding of the diverse range of dramatic plots, characters and experiences for Canadian life stories.
Canadian Characters, Characteristics and Situations
Characters are persons represented in narrative works who have inherent intellectual, emotional and moral qualities. These qualities represent aspects of the characters' personality.
Stock characters and situations (characters interact within the plot) provide the backdrop for many dreams. Canadian character development is dependent on collective didactic and pedagogic experiences. The Canadian character or the persona (the "I" who narrates the story or experience) can be serious (dramatic) or comic. They can be based on historical figures such as Wayne Johnston's Joey Smallwood in Colony of Unrequited Dreams or as in Carol Shield's The Stone Diaries a tale of Daisy Goodwill's journey through life and her daydreams and musings about the writing and telling a life. Shield's novel won both the Governor General's award as well as the Pulitzer Prize.
What is Canadian is deeply rooted in the tradition of romantic philology (the study of the structure and development of language). Early writers were shaped and reflected the European Romantic ideology whose fundamental feature of national culture development was expressed using the metaphors of the organic cycles of parent/child and tree/fruit. The central implication being that without great literature no nation could claim to have a distinct identity.
Romance Canadian Style
While it may be said that May Agnes Fleming dominated the late 19th century Canadian Romance story, it was Harlequin books that shaped the 20th century. Harlequin Enterprises has grown to become Canada's most successful publishing house. With its humble beginnings in Winnipeg in 1949, the Harlequin genre is a female-centred love story which focuses on themes of work, abuse, divorce and masculine and feminine roles. By the 1990s Harlequin had reportedly become a global enterprise with estimated sales of over 175 million books world wide in 23 different languages.
Required Reading: Dominant Canadian Voices
Influential Canadian voices leave their mark on the Canadian landscape. They inform of both the fictional and non-fictional visions Canadians share, by creating a community of the imagination in which we all consciously or unconsciously, voluntarily or involuntarily, observe and participate. The satirical characterizations of Canadian life by the likes of Robertson Davies and Mordecai Richler are based on the assumption that an identifiable Canadian landscape of the imagination exists. Stephen Leacock is for some the most celebrated Canadian humorist and in his Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town about the happenings of the fictional small town of Mariposa, Leacock introduced characters and images which still resonate in the Canadian imagination.
Alice Munro in Dance of the Happy Shades portrays small town Canadian life from a gothic and grotesque/noir perspective, where particular attention is given to superficial etiquette and social decorum contrasted by hidden scandalous stories of transgression and desire. Munro's literary range of storytelling include the Bildungsroman Lives of Girls and Women as well as romance stories The Beggar Maid and the fictitious female autobiography of My Mother's Dream in which secrets are glimpsed but never completely revealed.
Timothy Findley’s The Butterfly Plague, set in the 1920s and 30s Hollywood, projects an image of a culture industry gone mad, fabricating an American Dream entre deux guerres. Findley was interested in the political dynamics of the imagination especially as it related to the historical novel. In his Governor General's award winning novel The Wars, the story is narrated by an archivist revisiting the life story of a young Canadian soldier driven to an act of treason. In this case the image of a life is viewed as either helpless and paralysed or turning to acts of madness.
Others such as the literary award-winning Canadian peace activist Margaret Laurence, whose diverse national and international themes include African tales, give voice to those nations and characters who cannot speak due to the dynamics of imperialism and colonialism. Transcending national economic and political interests, Laurence saw the need to protect human rights and dignity in an increasingly interdependent global community.
Canadian Communication Technology: Gazing at Canada
For the Canadian communication theorist Harold Innis (Empire and Communications, Bias of Communications) technology is a central driving force of the Canadian imagination. His work influenced that of Canadian media expert Marshall McLuhan (see CBC TV clip), who recognized that a nation’s popular culture iconography provided the language that determines its identity. McLuhan in The Medium is the Message, argued that national media cultures move towards global markets and thereby creating the new metaphor and myth of the "global village" (see CBC TV clip).
The Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (see CBC news clip) had an interesting comment while flying in the space shuttle (implementing “Canadarm” (see CBC news clip) as a symbol of successful globalization). His comment was a typical Canadian insight: “The Earth has no boundaries“; most likely meaning the Earth is a complete entity, and nations are political and literary fictions created in the face of unknown anxieties and territorial imperatives.
So Dreams Come True
Laura Goodman Salverson’s Confessions of an Immigrants Daughter, which won the Governor General's Award in 1939, is a first-person historical narrative of an immigrant community's struggle to adjust in the New World. Born in 1890, Salverson relates the problems growing up and the ostracism and depersonalization of being Icelandic and a woman in North America.
As part of Canadian cultural heritage, Confessions operates on both personal and social levels creating a cultural document that dramatizes the complexities of life in Canadian society in the early 20th century. In Salverson's own words at the end of her book, "I have seen what I came to see, I have seen the fulfillment of a dream.”
Mackenzie King Diaries and the Canadian Dream
King was Canada’s longest reigning Prime Minister. He left behind his diaries (note: to research the diaries by keyword, key in the keyword dream) that revealed a man obsessed with supernatural signs and divine guidance. The allegory that King chose to guide his life was Bunyan’s A Pilgrims Progress which uses the root metaphor of “the similitude of a dream.” King’s dream is the Canadian Dream. King was the national leader who brought Canada to the world stage (especially during WWII), to play an international role greater than our numbers warranted, he remains a mostly forgotten (see CBC TV clip) eccentric antiquity of Canadian national and literary history.
We can readily view in King's diaries a distinctly Canadian story which provides insight into his own mind and the treasure of cultural, ancestral and intellectual heritage collected in its recesses through his lifetime, we may also understand how King's dreams laid the modern foundations for building the Canadian nation and guiding image for our national character. As a nation builder Mackenzie King provided the foundation for many of our modern Canadian institutions, such as unemployment insurance and passports.
King was a classical political philosopher. He believed in the perfectibility of humanity and that history is driven along a path towards a utopian paradise. From his dreams written down in his diaries, King had a clear understanding of his role as leader of his party, but also his role as a leader of a nation that contributed to world order and the drama of history.
The 49th Parallel: Multiculturalism and the Canadian Politics of the Dream
The 49th parallel acts as a metaphoric dividing line between the Canadian metaphor of Multiculturalism and the American metaphor of the Melting Pot.
Multiculturalism is a means towards an end, namely that Canadian tolerance is a means to celebrate differences. The multicultural voices of Canada speak to those in and still arriving to Canada. And although many immigrants narratives reflect a nostalgia for a distant homeland and the problems of being displaced in an environment both socially and climactically hostile, Canada also provides a home to those seeking refuge and looking for a better life.
In Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s idea of a “just society,” (see CBC TV clip) a wide variety of points of view and lifestyles (see CBC TV clip of Tommy Douglas) may be accommodated. Identity does not need to be melted down to a “common denominator” in order to be accepted by society. Cultural and ethnic identities are preserved.
Anatomy of Canadian Social Criticism: Anthology of Film Noir
The Anatomy of the Dream provides a vision and voice through which to critique the stories of Western society. When the enchantment of communal living fails, disillusionment with social reality is the result.
Disillusionment is unconsciously acted out on the communal dreamscreen and more consciously (for those with access to the unconscious) expressed through poetry, theatre and film.
Poetry reflects communal currents of enchantment and disenchantment. Among many techniques, the poet uses the rhetorical or persuasive aspects and dimensions of language that are primary to all forms of discourse including the language of the dream and the nightmare.
Film noir is the dark side of the communal dreamscreen, providing a perspective by which we can read the pathological aspects of popular Canadian culture.
Betrayals of the Canadian body politic such as the destruction of the AVRO Arrow project (see CBC TV documentary clip), political interference with the CBC, or the secrecy that surrounded the Meech Lake constitutional talks, might be seen as noir narratives, but the distinction is not always clear in Canada. The National Dream that receives positive support from many Quebecois may be viewed as a betrayal of the National Dream of Canadians in other provinces. Aboriginal self-government is a further complication to constitutional issues and definition of powers. From dreams collected from natives (see CBC TV clip) in southern Ontario (as well as other provinces), it becomes readily apparent that the native way of life and dream is an endangered species and is nearing extinction. Pierre Trudeau’s (see CBC TV clip) decision to suspend civil liberties by invoking the War Measures Act during the FLQ crisis (listen to CBC Radio clip) could be seen as an event straight out of 1950s sci-fi paranoia (see films such as the remake of The Manchurian Candidate), but Trudeau argued the action was warranted to maintain law and order. The current scandal over sponsorship (see CBC TV clip) money being spent in Quebec after the last referendum, with its allegations of corruption and payolas, is another example of the noir-ish side of the Canadian polity.
If the primal Canadian myth begins with Adam is the emergence of the Canadian Eve with the feminist movement (CBC TV clip) a betrayal or evolution? It is the feminist Margaret Atwood (listen to CBC Radio clip) after all, who has revealed the primal theme in Canadian literature, one of survival in a hostile land.
Canadian noir is gothic; evil waits in a vast, brooding landscape as in the movie based on Bryan Moore’s Black Robe.
In Canada, the idea of a dark side of humanity seems never quite to resolve to provide a distinct identity. In contrast, American Cultural Noir is far simpler, more direct and violent. Consider the works of James Ellroy, whose books American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand speculate on the roles of numerous, competing law enforcement and secret agencies, Hollywood, and the mob in events surrounding the murders of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King.
Film Noir circumvents the dominant narrative of legitimate social reality and exposes the dark side of society to the prurient, sensationalistic and voyeuristic gaze of an intrusive public. Private, criminal matters are revealed, creating an atmosphere of scandal. The dramatic energy of stories in the genre is provided by the conflict between the audience’s sense of what is right, often represented by a detective protagonist, and attempts by criminals and corrupt officials to cover-up their crimes.
In the archive at the IIDR’s web-site the growing multitude of national noir/social problems found in dreams include free speech (see CBC TV clip), rape, violence, crime, fear, prejudice aids/homosexuality, right to life versus freedom of choice (see CBC TV clip of interview with Dr. Henry Morgenthaler), pornography, hate crimes, genocide (see CBC TV clip of Rwandan genocide), euthanesia (see CBC TV clip, also see clip about the/right to die). The archive is therefore aimed at a systematic conceptual mapping and accurate understanding of the Anatomy of Global Village and its' social problems.
Canadian Feminist Subversions
Margaret Atwood recognizes the folktale as a foundation of Western narratives. Atwood's novels include Survival, The Handmaid's Tale (see CBC TV clip), The Edible Woman and Bodily Harm; these titles seem to address some of the feelings found in Canadian dreams. Atwood, who was strongly influenced by Northrop Frye and the archetypal perspective of literary production, feels that especially Canadian women suffer from the "Rapunzel syndrome,” Rapunzel being one of Grimm's "Children and Household Tales" fairy tales.
Atwood's novels portray individual characters containing several stories. These dramatic stories and their underlying tensions are in need of integration and a sense of unified self. As an observer of the modern Canadian literary, social and political scene Atwood provides insight into how the literary imagination adapts to Canadian geography but also to the national archetypes of the Canadian Canon.
A Vision for the 21st Century?
According to French social theorist Jean Baudrillard, Western society has lost the fundamental structures and referents for social reality. In an information society all classical structures of reality implode which leads to a “hyper-reality” dominated by an over-determined metaphoric play of simulations. Social reality is a constructed and produced by our information codes. The film The Matrix poignantly represents these ideas.
In the era of postmodernism, arts and fashions are primarily concerned with consumerism and the explosion of communications technologies. Think of Warhol’s repeated images of Campbell’s Soup cans, and the iconography of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor. Tradition, history and faith in deeply held values have given way to conspicuous consumption, hedonism, and superficial visual stimuli. If it feels good, “just do it.”
Marshall McLuhan (hear CBC radio clip) & Bruce R. Powe wrote in The Global Village: Transformations in World Life & Media in the 21st Century that countries long blessed by strong identities are now bewildered by the grown porosity of their images in the electronic age. The low-profile Canadian, having dreamed to live without strongly marked characteristics, begins to experience a security and self-confidence that are absent in the big power situations. In the electronic age, when all services are everywhere, centralism becomes impossible. Canada has never been able to centralize because of its small, widely dispersed population. Now, with the old industrial hardware obsolete, the Canadian condition of low-profile identity and soft, porous borders approaches the ideal multi-cultural pattern for electronic living (see CBC TV clip) in the age of the Internet.
Gathering a Canadian Identity: Anthology of Canadian Voices & Visions
Canadians are the progeny of colonizers and immigrants. Few came in pursuit of a collective dream. We are a nation of separate dreamers and visions, which when seen together give us an eloquent vision of our collective identity. Our history has given us an attitude toward our progenitors; we neither venerate nor scorn our heritage. Nor have we fabricated a tedious national or collective mythology.
Ours is a personal history and our history the personal past, which originates in our pursuit of separate dreams. The dreams of Canadians represent the living soul of our culture and provide the foundation for our literature and the Canadian Novel. It is at home in world literature and speaks for a multicultural community consciousness distinct from other nations. This Canadian Novel includes Quebecois literature. The Canadian Dream as Canadian literature has a distinct voice and vision.