- Canadian Poetry 57 (Fall/Winter 2005)
- "Underground, Unseen, Unknown: Negotiating Toronto in Girls Fall Down." Forthcoming in Canadian Literature (2013)[abstract]
- "Redrawing Nationalism: Chester Brown's Louis Riel: A Comic-strip Biography." Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 1.1 (June 2010): 63-81.[abstract]
- "Untenable Imaginings and Imagined Communities: Robert Lecker on the Failings of Criticism." Henry Street 7.2 (Winter 1998): 7-21. [abstract]
- "Achebe and His Critics: Racism in Heart of Darkness." In-between: Essay & Studies in Literary Criticism 3:2 (Sep 1994): 101-10. [abstract]
- The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction. Gen. ed. Brian W. Shaffer. Vol 3: World Fiction. Ed. John Clement Ball. Oxford: Wiley- Blackwell, 2010. (contributor)
- "What is Canadian Literature?" The Globe and Mail 15 August 2009: F9
- Great Events from History: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Events. Lillian Faderman et al, eds. Pasadena: Salem, 2007. (Contributor, three articles.)
- “Gay and Lesbian Literature (Canada).” Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly, eds. London: Routledge, 2005. 565-67.
- “Queer Eyes, but No Gay Guys: ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ as Supporting Cast.” GEND 3317 course pack: “Gender and the Media: Themes and Controversies.” Nipissing University, Winter 2005, Dr. Sal Renshaw.
- “Losing Parents.” The Globe and Mail, 30 March 2002: A16.
- Who’s Who in Lesbian and Gay History. Robert Aldrich, ed. New York: Routledge, 2001. (Contributor, three articles)
- Contributor, ongoing, The Literary Encyclopedia (online).
Girls Fall Down proposes that an awareness of how to one's position in relation to the situation of others and other things-that is, the very ability to clearly map one's place in relation to other, shifting people and things-also demands a self-understanding that a control over one's environment (including how one presents oneself in it) is merely a fantasy. A person's inability to always map out with certainty the city as it is encountered suggests, in Helwig's book, a crisis of legibility that is inherent in the urban landscapes themselves. Helwig's various networks-from assorted means of transportation to interpersonal human relationships-are fragile and fraught, to the extent that what we easily label as "the city," despite its seemingly solid material forms (both alive and inert), is best understood as provisional: the confluence and convergence of its actors underscore both a place and a landscape that is constantly re-envisioned and is always makeshift.
Chester Brown's hybrid art/text biography reconstructs the circulating (historically fraught) symbols to deny the paternalizing and binding impetus that Canadian nationalism fosters in its attempt to harness Riel as a salve to its anxieties and cleavages. In Brown's delineations of the Riel saga, the author fosters attention on the concepts and ideas surrounding the man, rather simply communicating the biographical history itself. The result is a work that frames the accumulated ruins of Riel's history in a calculated strategy to question visions that have attempted to contain Riel in the service of a transcendent Canadian nationalism. These distinctions are brought to bear upon Brown's engagement of the archetype of the hero to establish that Louis Riel's visual vocabulary abjures the consolidating mythologies associated with ostensibly national, unifying icons.
Of Munro's transformative body that is the novel Lives of Girls and Women itself, Marjorie Garson writes that readers are teased "to construct wholes while at the same time undermining the notion of any whole of which they could be part." One assumes, here, that Garson might also be referring to strategies that may threaten to ground women, and female experience, in a paradigm of eternal, paradoxically non-transformative, margins. Now that necessary feminist readings of Munro (such as Barbara Godard's) have shifted the methods of discourse and have lead to more nuanced understandings, it is time to rethink the role of men in Munro's novel.
New nations, in throwing off the vestiges of colonialism, often reference conservative ideas about masculinity and heterosexuality that might result in a strong and procreative country. Arjie, Selvadurai's protagonist, comes to embody the tensions in these (post) postcolonial struggles. This essay examines the question as to whether Arjie, in any comprehensive sense, queers what the Sri Lankan majority might conceptualize as viable nationhood, especially as it, though disturbed, carries on hybridizing its former colonizer's concepts of Western conguity and coherence, all of which are understood by the imperatives of heteronormative masculinity. I argue that Ajie's engagement with transgressive difference -- that is, his gender and sexual "disobedience" -- is mostly congruent with an expression of make perogatives that can deliver him a measure of personal power.
The project of queering identity has not resulted in the freeing up of all desires (including primarily those labelled as transgressive) but has simply reinstalled the fetish of individualism, with its attendant consumerist identity attitude, as the locus of privileged selfhood. I argue that a return to the materialist base of identity is required in order to rethink the empty imperatives of the queer project.
Recent critical examinations of Sinclair Ross's As For Me and My House which draw attention to the work's possible (homo)sexual ambiguity paradoxically reinscribe a dominant "straight" view of Ross, and his creation Philip Bentley, as pathologically motivated by psychologically-conflicted homosexuality. The result is a denial of homosexual subjectivity as it may have been lived in either Ross's life or fiction.
Because Hodginsand his criticsfocus on issues of identity, it is surprising that work on Spit Delaney's Island has shied away from addressing a crucial aspect of the self suggested by the location of the mytho-philosophical question raised in "Separating": "Where is the dividing line?" (14). Indeed, this question is the nexus of our critical inquiry of "Separating" and "Spit Delaney's Island." We propose a reading that explores the dividing line between sex and gender constructs informing libidinal desire, between the natural and the culturally constructed. These, we argue, are crucial aspects when deliberating the various transformationsmythical, allegorical and symbolicthat occur particularly in Spit Delaney's own transformation, the pivotal trope in these framing narratives.
In examining the nature of desire in these stories, the complexity and ambiguity of the quasi-mystical catechism in "Separating" that critics grapple with similarly point to the folly in attempting to attain a normative sexual and gendered reading of Hodgins' narratives. We are, rather, situating Hodgins' writing in the context of recent literary theories concerning margins, peripheries, centres and other grounded spaces that have revealed how traditional Western thought has fostered as natural humanist concepts of universality and impartial rational, especially as such philosophies have underscored what counts as viable sexuality and desire.
Robert Lecker argues that much literary criticism has lost its public function, especially as it circulates in academic isolation in Canadian universities. However, Lecker's plea to "make it real" (as outlined in his recent text of the same name) attempts to use the same theoretical tools to dismantle the critical house of cards he sees as inaccessible to the general public. The result is that, despite his sincerity, Lecker does not fundamentally address a way for universities, for example, to disinvest themselves from the segregation he sees as being their ultimate downfall.
Beautiful Losers deserves it reputation as "subversive" insofar as its author, Leonard Cohen, can be seen to be disrupting sexual norms; indeed, this "obscene" novel abounds in libidinal freedom, "abnormal" desires, and references to the anal and scatological. Yet, notwithstanding the author's questioning of acceptable discourses, the (hetero)normative orderof dominant knowledges, social hierarchies, and binary oppositesis reinscribed and reaffirmed. Despite its reputation as an experimental novel, Beautiful Losers fosters male (heterosexual) subjectivity through the appropriation of the Other, primarily women and homosexuals. Cohen's traffic in alterity is congruent with a presumption that simply evoking otherness will imply knowledge or understanding of that Other's specific and discrete difference.
Ross, in his "prairie trilogy""A Day With Pegasus" (1938); "Cornet at Night" (1939); "One's a Heifer" (1944)does not explicitly depict queer behaviour, though a close examination of the stories reveals an indeterminacy that permits a sexual reading but does not dictate one. By writing these stories (contemporaneous with his canonical As For Me and My House, 1941) within the proscribed boundaries of expression in mid-century Canada, Ross gestures toward the desiresoften masked as friendship or rivalrywhich inform the lives of his fictional male characters.
The recent literary exploits of Carol Pope and Toller Cranston emphasize the importance of a performative lesbian and gay subjectivity in the Canadian cultural arena. Both Pope and Cranston wish to locate and define their respective positions in Canadian cultural life by using the shaping power of narrative to affirm their status as pop icons. While Pope uses her lesbian subjectivity as a catalyst by which to explore her role in the transformation of Canadian (music) culture, Cranston eschews any queer self-identification, preferring instead to endorse a view of himself as a misunderstood aesthete whose self-aggrandizing in the realms of skating and visual art is not merely a role but a responsibility. Whereas Pope sees her sexuality as a wellspring of creativity (playing off a rather essentialist notion of homosexuality), Cranston instead asserts a natural, intuitive and (again) misunderstood character as the source of his creative passions. Canadian queer autobiography is a cultural practice which affirms the relation of the subjective to the political, whether it aspires to do so (Pope) or not (Cranston). Queer self-exposure shapes the practice of autobiography by "shaking the foundations" of homogenous, linear and largely heterosexual narratives of normative self-discovery, to reveal that being in and out of the closet (continues to) carry the freight of personal cost and repressed or expressed subjectivity. Pope and Cranston thereby continue the dialogue of the personal-as-(a)political and demonstrate its necessity even in today's age of queer ambivalence and postmodern cultural theatricality.
If the hostile reception to Scott Symons's Place D'Armes is the measure by which John Glassco took his cue when writing Memoirs of Montparnasse, it is perhaps unsurprising that Glassco encouraged the appellation of a Casanova-like "bad boy" of Canadian letters, and followed the path laid by Leonard Cohen (in his Beautiful Losers) rather than Symons: Use homosexuality as a provisional stance to embolden the need for a virile heterosexual nationalism. While much criticism has examined Glassco's infamy in terms of his fabulation, little attention has been paid to the notion of the social context which, I contend, determined the author's understanding of and struggles with homosexuality, both his own and others', and his subsequent "fictionalized" downplaying of it. The critical anxieties, which nervously skirt a thorough discussion of Glassco's lived existence, reveal much as to how the scepter of a looming or abiding homosexuality evident in his writing has indeed influenced (and has been reflective of) the broadly social need to keep him "straight," particularly in service of a national heterosexual literary tradition. And this need is something that Glassco acquiesced in. The critical staging of a conflicted Glassco, who searches for alternate possibilities of sexual/literary expression, entails the implicit argument that such quests are a move away from heteronormativity, when it is in fact, I assert, a move toward it: Glassco's pursuits were not aimed at something so formidable as "queering the canon," in the manner of Scott Symons, but at suppressing any open declarations of avowed homosexual conduct.
The psychological horror in Jeff Erbach's 2002 film mounts gradually, and simultaneously with actual physical decay. An impulse kiss between youths gives way to division and surreptitious gothic duality, suggesting that negotiations of formative same-sex desire is fraught with self-censure and pressured by the weight of adult edicts to follow, as it were, the straight and narrow.
Chinua Achebe eschews Western theoretical dialogues because he fears that such posturing covers up the real conditions of racism, and he views much theory as jargon which, being divorced from the actual conditions within Africa, does little to adequately address, in concrete terms, the tangible manifestations of discrimination. It seems likely that Achebe resists theoretical grafts because theory's critical paradigms are most often constructed by the progeny of European imperialism, who, in a fashion similar to "art for art's sake," are critics merely for criticism's sake.
Yet theoretical frameworks are often helpful in understanding Conrad's perspective, implicated though he was in the temper of his times. The question to be pondered, then, may not be whether Conrad was racist in his depictions of Africans but, rather, given the ideology he was steeped in, whether Conrad (and his literary art) could have moved beyond his own ingrained and likely racist comprehension of African reality. In this essay, I examine the critical responses to both the historical and modern discussions of Heart of Darkness.