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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unframing the novel : from Ondaatje to Carson Rae, Ian


This dissertation argues that, since at least the 1960s, there has been a distinguished tradition of Canadian poets who have turned to the novel as a result of their dissatisfaction with the limitations of the lyric and instead have built the lyric into a mode of narrative that contrasts sharply with the descriptive conventions of plot-driven novels. Citing the affinity between the lyric sequence and the visual series, the introduction maintains that the treatment of narrative as a series of frames, as well as the self-conscious dismantling of these framing devices, is a topos in Canadian literature. The term "(un)framing" expresses this double movement. The thesis asserts that Michael Ondaatje, George Bowering, Joy Kogawa, Daphne Marlatt, and Anne Carson (un)frame their novels according to formal precedents established in their long poems. Chapter 2 illustrates the relation of the visual series to the song cycle in Ondaatje's long poems the man with seven toes (1969) and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970), as well as his first novel Coming Through Slaughter (1976). Chapter 3 traces the development of the "serial novel" from Bowering's early serial poems to his trilogy, Autobiology (1972), Curious (1973) , and A Short Sad Book (1977). Chapter 4 argues that Joy Kogawa structures her novel Ohasan (1981) on the concentric narrative model established in her long poem "Dear Euclid" (1974) . Chapter 5 shows how Daphne Marlatt performs a series of variations on the quest narrative that she finds in Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen (1844), and thereby develops a lesbian quest narrative in her long poem Frames of a Story (1968), her novella Zocalo (1977), and her novel Ana Historic (1988). Chapter 6 explores the combination of lyric, essay, and interview in Carson's long poem "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings" (1995) and argues that the long poem forms the basis of her novel in verse, Autobiography of Red (1998). The final chapter assesses some of the strengths and limitations of lyrical fiction and concludes that a thorough grasp of the contemporary long poem is essential to an understanding of the development of the novel in Canada.

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