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Canadian Literature and Film
2003 S
Final Exam
Outline—Major Themes
A. Nation and Global Culture
 B. Life: its Stages and Survival
Survival and its Representation
After trauma  a sense of community
Minorities: 1. The Caribbean; 2. The Japanese;
C. Race and Gender, Body and
A. Nation & Global Culture
How is Canada presented in two of the following
texts? (By drawing boundaries or showing the lack
of them? By defining certain Canadian character?
Presenting an allegory of its relations with the U.S.
in terms of gender relations? Or by showing the
various people in it?)
Denys Arcand's The Decline of the American
Empire (1986); M. Atwood "Tricks with Mirror";
Earle Birney's "Can. Lit."; Ray Smith's "Cape
Breton is the Thought Control Centre of Canada."
A. Nation & Global Culture
2. How do the following two films present
and comment on global cultures
(supermodel + media, advertisement and
Disney)? What roles do Canadian artists
play in the films?
 Denys Arcand's Stardom (2000); Jill
Sharpe's Culture Jam
Global Culture
Perspectives of media culture, not really
perspectives of the world.
It controls us. e.g. Disney,
Means of spreading global culture; e.g. TV.
Products of media– Tina Menzel;
Minority’s stances: controlled, we have the spaces
“within” to resist.
Nothing outside of media – e.g. We’re always
within the TV frames; BLF has to clean up what
they produce.
Global Culture
The role of Canadian artists:
Tina– assimilated and absorbed by the American
(not French) global culture.
In Culture Jam, small but subversive actions.
In Stardom,
the director played by Robert Lepage– following Tina
24/7, he believes that nothing exists outside of media.
Through the camera, he still shows his concern for
B. Life: its Stages and
4. Stages in Life -- The following texts, in one
way or another, deal with different stages of
human life (beginnings, initiation, endings) on a
realistic level as well as symbolically. Choose two
to discuss how they present one stage of life
realistically as well as symbolically. (Pay close
attention to the techniques--e.g. narrative
perspectives, camera angles, etc.--they use too.)
Cynthia Scott's The Company of Strangers, Don
McKellar's Last Night; Alice Munro's "The Found
Boat" Jeremy Podeswa The Five Senses
Stages of Life
Natural process with different social rituals
and different ways of communication;
 The Five Senses: and their dysfunction
Rachel – eyes;
 Middle-Aged: The doctor (ears) there are
other languages; The message therapy (touch);
 the homosexual cleaner (smell) The cook (taste);
Stages of Life
Old people in The Company of Strangers
 Experience physical and mental aging;
 A lot of stories to tell.
 Why a new beginning?
Stages of Life
Last Night
 Old people review life;
 The young decide to have funs; not afraid of
 Sandra –chooses her way of death;
 A new beginning?
B. Life: its Stages and
3. Survival --For Margaret Atwood, survival of
the victims is one theme typical of Canadian
literature and culture. How is this theme treated in
the following texts? Choose two to compare. (For
example: what ordeals or traumas they experience
and how/whether they survive them, and how they
heal/support themselves or each other.)
Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient; Joy
Kogawa's Obasan, Jeremy Podeswa's The Five
Senses and Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter;
Helen Lee's "Prey"; Clement Virgo's Rude; Austin
Clarke's"Canadian Experience."
1. Speaker: What about the new shoes, we have ten
seconds left, tell us about the new shoes.
Woman: I looked down and I remembered thinking,
why would he buy new
shoes if he was going to
kill himself?
why would he kill himself if
he had on brand new
2. And you lie there, passive and violated, feeling
like someone told you you were going to win an
award, and then you didn't get it.
Except the award was
your dignity, your
sanity, your middle
class inviolability.
It was taken away and
given to someone else who
never made the mistake of
going to a hotel room in a
strange place with a strange
2 And all you were worried about was how to get
out of there with your luggage intact,
how to avoid upsetting this man
who not only had a black belt in
Tai Kwon Do but also had your
ticket for the boat out of that
nightmare land,and how to get
somewhere safe to sleep. God,
you wanted to sleep, so bad. . .
So, you take a picture of yourself
so that you can remember what
the Mona Lisa looks like when
she realizes Leonardo is just
another letch.
2 You go home, and get on your bed, and Ross takes
a picture of you. You lie there, small and helpless
and black and white. And it looks like this:
And you think, wow, pictures don't tell you anything.
4. I wonder if you realize that all of us - Dolores, me,
the children who survived, the children who didn't that
we're all citizens of a different town now, where waters
gushed and fruit trees grew, and everything is strange
new. . .
"We die containing a richness of lovers and
tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we
have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of
wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if
trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. . . .
I believe in such cartography--to be marked
by nature, not just to label ourselves on a
map like the names of rich men and women
on buildings. We are communal histories,
communal books."
7. "
Peter wasn't trying to destroy you. . .Actually you
were trying to destroy him."
I had a sinking feeling. "Is that true?" I asked.
. . ."But the real truth is that it wasn't Peter at all. It
was me. I was trying to destroy you."
I gave a nervous laugh. "Don't say that."
"Okay," he said, "ever eager to please. Maybe Peter
was trying to destroy me, or maybe I was trying to
destroy him, or we were both trying to destroy each
other, how's that? What does it matter. . . you're a
8. The square woman farther down the slope
moves up towards me from under the curly-
branched trees.
One of her arms is now connected to her shoulder by four
hooks locked to make a hinge. It dangles there as she
approaches. She begins to speak but the words are so old
they cannot be understood. There is a calmness in her
face as she recites an ancient mythical contract made
between herself and the man so long ago the language
has been forgotten.
. . . . The dream changes now and Uncle stands in the
depth of the forest. He bows a deep ceremonial bow. In
his mouth is a red red rose with an endless stem. He turns
around slowly in a flower dance--a ritual of the dead.
Behind him, someone--I do not know who--is straining to
speak, but rapidly, softly, a cloud overtakes everything. Is it
the British officer . . . ?
C. Race and Gender, Body
and Language
5. Body, Race and Gender -- Why does
Eisha Marjara refuse to eat in "Desperately
Seeking Helen"? And how about Marian in
Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman?
Compare their reasons and their ways of
overcoming their food rejection.
C. Race and Gender, Body
and Language
6. Language and Racial Identity-- The issues of
language concern minority writers/filmmakers a lot; for
instance, they or their characters have to struggle between
their mother tongue(s) and English, over their lack of
either one, as well as through the difficulties in speech,
communication and the necessity of silence. Frequently
these conflicts influence their sense of identity and their
social positions. Choose two of the following texts and
discuss the language issues they deal with.
Joy Kogawa's Obasan; Helen Lee's "Prey"; Mina Shum's Double
Happiness; M. Nourbese Philip's "Discourse on the Logic of
Language," "Universal Grammar"; Laiwan's "The Imperialism of
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