Saturday, February 23, 2008

An essay on the writing of Mavis Gallant: Politics and Religion, Language and Art by Daniel Woolford for Sudies in Canadian Literature

Mavis Gallant's Overhead in a Balloon:
Politics and Religion, Language and Art
An essay by Daniel Woolford

The full text of Daniel Woolford's essay on Mavis Gallant is available online at Studies in Canadian Literature.

Here is an excerpt:

"In this essay, I will examine the Speck stories and "Luc and his Father," with a glance also at the Grippes group, to determine what Gallant has to say about politics, religion, language, and art.


On the religious question, too, Gallant is equivocal. While insisting that she is not "a practising anything," she does aver that "I can't completely-and this is nobody's business-take seriously a philosophy that excludes the possibility of divine intervention" (Hancock 53). The explicitly private nature of this avowal sets it at a considerable remove from the sometimes politically suspect complacency and selfrighteousness of the Church, and indeed from the whole orthodoxy of the Judeo-Christian tradition. And it removes any possibility that Gallant's fiction may have a religious axe to grind.

Indeed, I would suggest that Gallant's nonaligned position is what enables her to create a text that is truly "interrogative," that engages the reader in considering the issues brought to attention, a text that is, in Barthe's terms scriptible (writable) rather than merely lisible (readable) (see Belsey 105). Returning to "Overhead in a Balloon," we can once again see how, rather than offering us a single, fixed, prepackaged position which we are simply required to learn and accept, the text articulates a variety of possible positions for our consideration. Again, I am not suggesting that Gallant never makes value judgements; on the contrary, false or dangerous political positions are ruthlessly exposed. But there is not necessarily one position that merges as being the correct one. "

To read the entire essay by Daniel Woolford on Mavis Gallant at Studies in Canadian Literature click here.


Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant, the unabridged audio edition narrated by Margot Dionne is available from Rattling Books.