Interesting subject treated too lengthily

White Civility, the Literary Project of English Canada
by Daniel Coleman
University of Toronto Press. 320 pages, $55.00

(Canscene) –The author, an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University examines the roots of white bias that existed from early colonial times in much of anglophone Canada and to some extent, persists to the present.

His subject is CanLit during the nation building years through the years of disillusionment that followed the First World War and the Great Depresson. He claims that four recurring allegories pervaded English literature: the Loyalist fratricide, the muscular Christian, the enterprising Scottish orphan and the maturing colonial son.

All this is presented in a highly academic fashion, as though a doctoral thesis has been expanded into a full scale book. Whereas Racial Profiling, reviewed above, strikes at the heart of its subject and bares facts, White Civility uses a profusion of examples from novels of a period in which whiteness was considered the only colour for the ruling classes, just as it was in America, England, and other European colonial powers.

Coleman’s book fails to include a chapter recognizing the enormous changes in subject matter that have surged through the pages of CanLit during the last three or four decades — books by the likes of Nino Ricci, Wayson Choy, Mordecai Richler, Rohinton Mistry, Austin Clarke, and many others — all of whose readers have realized Canada’s growing acceptance of its diversity. And critical praise for their books has been unstinted. Writers with names like Anne Michaels, Anne Marie Macdonald, Barry Callaghan, Farley Mowat and many others have shown empathy for Aboriginals and minorities.

Professor Coleman takes far too long to make his point .

Comments are closed.