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The Nature Of The Canadian Imagination: A Product Of Cultural Influence

2145 words - 9 pages

The Canadian imagination may be divide into two distinct (However, not uniquely apart) forms: hinterland, or that of the wilderness and being often associated with unstructured verse; and baseland, or that of the settlements, following closely with traditional structured form carried over by colonists. Although apart in terms of verse form and theme, the two are linked by a largely prominent patrilineal cultural norm. That is, that both branches of this Canadian imaginative effort borrow methodology from some other source, and are not unilaterally Canadian. With the former statement in mind, the nature of a true “Canadian” imagination becomes one of question: is it possible to ascertain a unique Canadian identity without including the biases of external cultures? Moreover, can it be possible to determine a true Canadian imagination by allowing for this range of diversity? This essay will explore a hypothesis that suggests the Canadian imagination is not truly unique, rather it is the byproduct of a cultural mosaic; moreover, it is an identity that displays no novel characteristics and is largely composed of an increasing number of external influences. Furthermore, while the previous notion might suggest Canadian imagination as being rightly a product of multiple influences, it is assumed that a truly unique identity is one that can be discerned upon reading and not left to ambiguity and questioning. For the purpose of essay, works by Al Purdy, A.J.M. Smith, A. Lampman, and Isabella Crawford will be examined to determine their consistency to a developing imagination and to what extent they portray uniquity.
In D.M.R. Bentley’s essay The Mower and the Boneless Acrobat, Bentley discusses the two orientations of Canadian poetry as mentioned in the introduction to this essay, baseland and hinterland. Bentley’s describes baseland poetry as, “… a tendency towards recollection, structure, teleology, and rational meaning,” which implicates it as the more structured of the two poetic forms as it accounts for details, design, and some sense of location in time (Bentley). On the other hand, hinterland is described as, “… process, openness, change, and uninterrupted experience,” which leads to the unstructured and in-the-moment creation of poetry (Bentley). While by definition alone the forms seem engendered to oppose each other, Bentley notes the tendency for poets throughout Canadian literary history to switch between forms (Bentley). Both forms are accepted and used, which results in a large span of Canadian prose adding to the difficulty of determining an identity. To further this already convoluted uniqueness, Bentley also notes that form adherence is a regional tendency that changes with time:
Mid-century Modernism ‘caught on in the Canadian west … because it was right for the west, where the environment is so open and undefined, child-like perhaps, easily given over to a sense of inner wonder.’ ‘Western people’ (a group which, to judge by Victoria...

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