By Dick Harrison
Written from a distinctively western perspective, this e-book areas prairie fiction in its cultural and old context. Dick Harrison examines prairie fiction as a part of that better ''naming'' approach during which we try to assimilate a brand new adventure.
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Extra info for Unnamed Country: The Struggle for a Canadian Prairie Fiction
At the same time, the garden view of the West did express the basic positive response to the unnamed country as a glimpse of the first creation, and as such it remains a permanent feature of the prairie consciousness. If it obscures the less pleasant effects of isolation and hardship, it does highlight the peculiar inspirational qualities of the land and its promise which are as undeniably real. The garden motif never disappears from prairie fiction, though in many of the later novels it appears ironically, an image for the spirit of precarious optimism which is still typical of the prairie dweller.
There were no forests to cut down, and man's structures have done little to interrupt the basic lines of the landscape. And the experience of meeting it from within an alien culture remains at the heart of the literature. Sinclair Ross's Mrs. Bent ley is as much an alien to the prairie as if she had arrived by oxcart a century earlier. The incongruities of that first response to the plains have never been overcome, and their lingering effects can be seen in a century of shifting attempts to come to terms with the land, both in the fiction and in general cultural arrangements.
The Metis combination of hunting and agriculture, for example, would become obsolete with the end of the buffalo and the coming of a market economy, but it was ideally suited to its particular time and place. The river-lot survey, as the experience in Quebec reveals, has its limitations, but in the initial stages of settlement it has obvious advantages. The rectangular survey required for further settlement can, in fact, be fitted to it later, as it was along the North Saskatchewan in the 1880's.