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Paul Stuewe.

Toronto, Proper Tales Press, c1984.
110pp, paper, $5.95.
Distributed by Proper Tales Press, Box 789, Station F, Toronto, ON, M4Y 2N7.
ISBN 0-9690381-94.

Grades 11 and up.

Reviewed by Alan Thomas.

Volume 12 Number 6
1984 November

As the title indicates, this lively and outspoken book of literary criticism sets out to level certain reputations and raise up others. To do so, Stuewe challenges the widespread and, as he sees it, dangerous emphasis upon theme in current critical practice in Canada, This emphasis arose in the work of Northrop Frye, he argues, and has been continued with a multiplying effect through such disciples as Margaret Atwood (hence the reference in the title to her critical book Survival and has led to much banal generalization and flaccid criticism. Demolishing the thematic approach involves pulling down structures erected upon it: the reputations of FP. Grove and Morley Callaghan are the ones here chosen to go down.

Stuewe's brisk attack upon some respected works can be used by a teacher of advanced grades to raise general questions about the nature of literary criticism. The discussion is at an accessible level and covers a number of titles (Atwood's Survival and Surfacing, Grove's Our Daily Bread, Callaghan's A Fine and Private Place commonly found on the reading lists of high-school Canadian literature courses. Of further value to teacher and student are the suggestions of authors and titles to replace what Stuewe regards as over-valued works. Here Martha Ostenso's Wild Geese, Robert Stead's Grain, Edward McCourt's The Wooden Sword, and Laura Salverson's The Viking Heart are recovered from the lower shelves and offered as alternatives. Possibly the best effect of this book lies in its expansive and generous implications, the substitution of a dense growth of so-called "minor" figures for the barer landscape of conventional critical thought dominated by a few "major" writers.

Sister Alan Thomas, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
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