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HOWELLS. Coral Ann. Writing by Women, in: KRLLER, Eva-Marie, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Canadian Literature.

Cambridge: CUP, 2004.

To begin with the question of why womens writing in Canada should have suddenly leapt to prominence since the 1970s, the answer would seem to lie in a confluence of factors, which might be summed up as the rise of Canadian cultural nationalism in the late 1960s and 70s, coinciding with the rise of North American second-wave feminism. New writing by women is located at the intersection of postcolonial and feminist perspectives, as women have sought to renegotiate their positions through the imaginative dimensions of creative writing, the most popular form of which has been the novel (). () state support fostered what has become known as the Canadian Lit boom, a remarkable period which generated a new cultural self-consciousness and encouraged writers in formerly marginalized areas, such as women, multicultural communities, and Aboriginal peoples.() Evident parallels could be drawn between an emerging narrative of postcolonial nationhood and womens struggles to emancipate themselves from traditions of patriarchal authority (). (194-5) Canadian women writers of the late 1960s and the 1970s and 80s were very concerned, as was feminism at that time, with exposing the power politics of gender in heterosexual relations and with womens quests to discover their individual identities by finding their voices and reclaiming their rights over their own bodies. () There was also a new emphasis on womens ambivalent relation to literary and cultural traditions and women writers acknowledgement of their female literary inheritance, together with feminist revisions of Canadian cultural myths and official histories of settlement. Women were fighting their way out of silence via the fictional retailing of gossip and oral tales to project more dissident and authentic accounts of feminine emotional and psychological experience. () () there was also shifts of emphasis that throw the storyline open to question, as women reshape their imaginative worlds. () there was not much urban fiction by women yet, just as there was very little discussion of alternative sexualities. () A similar blankness occurs in relation to ethnicity and race, as published writers were dominantly white. (196-7) As policy and social reality, multiculturalism has played a crucial role in radical refigurings of identity concepts which have been increasingly evident during the 1990s. Together with a new liberalism which included the representation of alternative sexualities as well as shifts from a rural small-town ethos to the urban, the cosmopolitan, and the global, there has been a historical movement away from Canadas white colonial inheritance to a redefinition of postcolonial contemporary Canadian identity and a remapping of the nation space. (197-8) () negotiations over issues of identity have become increasingly complex as factors of race, sexuality, and hybridized and transcultural identities are highlighted by many of the new writers of the 1990s. (198) White middle-class women, most of them followed traditional social patterns, married and had children before they or anyone else began to see them as writers. () Such patterns of life experience affect womens careers just as they do their novels, which will be reflected in th different positions each of those novelists takes up as she explores traditional cultural dependencies in both a nationalist and a gendered sense. (198-9) Voices of the 1980s Van Herks restlessness and her ambitious project to expand the imaginative territory for feminist fiction sets the tone for womens novels in the 1980s, where suddenly transgression supplants subversion as the key motif. Many of these novels introduce topics new to fiction, such as womens exploration of alternative sexualities or issues of racial difference, frequently crossing national borders to move beyond Canadian locations. (203-4) () themes associated with traditional Canadian literature are radically recast in ethnic writing. (204) () the genre of herstory, a feminized revision of history. () Atwoods fable () could be seen as

one of her survival manuals. () Her storytelling is her most transgressive survival tactic. (205) New voices of the 1990s () what is most significant in this period is the sudden proliferation of novelists from previously marginalized minority groups, which has resulted in an unprecedented diversification of the Canadian literally scene as race and ethnicity, sexuality and nationality have all assumed new importance in the representation of identities in fiction. (205) Atwood () employs traditional Gothic motifs like dark doubles, shape shifters, and magic mirrors, while () also chronicles Torontos postwar social history with its unique mix of multiculturalism and racism. (206) () mobile, multiple identities which become such a distinctive feature with younger writers in the 1990s. (208) This is the period when Canadian womens fiction becomes insistently pluralized, as a new generation produced their first novels (though many of them had already published short-story collections, poems, and plays with small independent presses), laying down new coordinates for mapping identities by highlighting issues of race, ethnicity, and alternative sexualities. These Unbecoming Daughters, many of whose mothers and grandmothers did not come from Canada, continue the tradition of womens revisions of history though frequently from the position of being others in Canadian society, and the stories they tell are stories of diaspora, immigrancy, racial and cultural hybridity, and transculturalism. (208) By a curious logic of history the Canadian identity question so dear to the cultural nationalists is still the central question in the new wave of multicultural novels, though questions of identity have become more complicated. The old question Where is here? is transformed into Where am I? or Who am I? as the daughters searches for location, identity, and origins are driven by their awareness of slippage from origins, motherlands, mother culture, and mother languages. These novels represent womens negotiations across memory and imagination for, as Shani Mootoo remarked, its all an act of forgetting and remembering and inventing. (209) The split narrative represented by womens conversations across temporal and spatial boundaries which is a common trope in much diasporic fiction (). (209) The immigrant consciousness and the experiences of white ethnic-minority subjects are important topics in several of these novels, which despite their differences in fictional representation may be grouped together around the question of home. (210) Looking at fiction by women since 2000 is like looking into a swirl of crosscurrents: new historical novels (), transcultural novel, () protest novel against womens throttled lives (). (211) () Atwoods storytelling holds out possibilities of escape from the imprisonment of the past, opening up new spaces for women to write their identities while in the process remapping the boundaries of what constitutes Canadian fiction. (212)