UBC Theses and Dissertations
Rudy Wiebe and the historicity of the word Van Toorn, Penelope
"Rudy Wiebe and the Historicity of the Word" analyzes Wiebe's six major novels published to date: Peace Shall Destroy Many (1962), First and Vital Candle (1966), The Blue Mountains of China (1970), The Temptations of Big Bear 1973), The Scorched-Wood People (1977), and My Lovely Enemy (1983). Traditional literary critical terms and concepts prove inappropriate to Wiebe's work because they implicitly reinstate the ideological postulates Wiebe calls into question. This study therefore employs the theoretical framework developed by Mikhail Bakhtin and V. N. Vološinov. The introductory chapter provides a synoptic view of the six novels, relates Wiebe's authorial objectives and practices to his cultural and religious background, surveys relevant critical discussions of Wiebe's work, and defines the central theoretical principles of Bakhtin and Vološinov. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss Peace Shall Destroy Many and First and Vital Candle respectively, establishing that although Wiebe shows considerable interest in "the dialogic principle" at a thematic level, his overt rhetorical intentions prevent him from realizing this principle in his writing. Chapters 4 and 5 examine Wiebe's use of polyphonic narrative forms in The Blue Mountains of China and The Temptations of Big Bear. Analysis of the inter- and intra-textual politics of these two novels demonstrates that overtly dialogic narrative forms may remain functionally monologic. Chapter 6 considers The Scorched-Wood People and Wiebe's strategy of embedding voices within other voices, a practice which compounds the "internal dialogization" of the prose. Chapter 7 discusses My Lovely Enemy as a challenge to various forms of anti-imaginative discourse, and to prevailing notions of artistic creativity. Chapter 8 focusses on the question of the provenance of "voice" and concludes that although Wiebe's novels exploit the historicity of the Word—indeed, of all words—they also bear the legacy of a monologic Christian fundamentalist model of language. An Appendix entitled "The Early History and Doctrines of the Mennonite Church" describes Wiebe's dialogue with Menno Simons' doctrines of the Word.
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