Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott

Overview


As a poet and citizen deeply concerned by the Oka Crisis, the Idle No More protests, and Canada’s ongoing failure to resolve First Nations issues, Montreal author Mark Abley has long been haunted by the figure of Duncan Campbell Scott, known both as the architect of Canada’s most destructive Aboriginal policies and as one of the nation’s major poets. Who was this enigmatic figure who could compose a sonnet to an “Onondaga Madonna” one moment and promote a “final solution” to the “Indian problem” the next? In ...
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Overview


As a poet and citizen deeply concerned by the Oka Crisis, the Idle No More protests, and Canada’s ongoing failure to resolve First Nations issues, Montreal author Mark Abley has long been haunted by the figure of Duncan Campbell Scott, known both as the architect of Canada’s most destructive Aboriginal policies and as one of the nation’s major poets. Who was this enigmatic figure who could compose a sonnet to an “Onondaga Madonna” one moment and promote a “final solution” to the “Indian problem” the next? In this passionate, intelligent and highly readable inquiry into the state of Canada’s troubled Aboriginal relations, Abley alternates between analysis of current events and an imagined debate with the spirit of Duncan Campbell Scott, whose defense of the Indian Residential School and belief in assimilation illuminate the historical roots underlying today’s First Nations’ struggles.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/02/2014
Duncan Campbell Scott was one of Canada's four great "Confederation Poets," but today, he is most often remembered as an architect of monstrous social policies, the terrible legacy of which haunts modern Canada. It is not for nothing he was named as one of the 10 worst Canadians of all time. In his nearly two decades as the head of the Department of Indian Affairs, Scott worked to force the people of First Nations to assimilate, suppressing their traditions, presiding over the charnel house residential school system while turning a blind eye to the abuses his policies facilitated. The author attempts to humanize this great monster in a series of imagined conversations with the shade of the poet, giving Scott the chance to explain why he felt the policies he carried out were the correct ones, in the process underlining how Scott's essentially racist views inform some of his lauded poems. While the conceit used to frame the work is not always successful, the author does a sterling job of placing Scott in context; rather than an exceptional villain working in shadows, the poet and would-be genocidaire stands as an exemplar of fledgling Canada's ruling classes. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“Mark Abley has undertaken a daunting task: reconciling the Duncan Campbell Scott whose pen inscribed the cultures of Canada’s First Nations in justly celebrated verse, and the same Duncan Campbell Scott who, as the overseer of residential schools and head of Indian Affairs, attempted to erase those same cultures from the pages of history. Abley, a fine poet himself, turns Scott, the bogeyman, into a man of flesh-and-blood, by—in a fine twist—making him into a revenant to be grappled with in regular visitations. The conceit works admirably. Reading Conversations with a Dead Man, I felt as if I had been waylaid, not by a dour Ottawa bureaucrat, by an Ancient Mariner with the most urgent of tales to tell.” —Taras Grescoe, author of Bottomfeeder and Straphanger

“As Canadian biography deepens as a form, it will need books as intrepid, incisive, and compassionate, as this one, and before long Conversations with a Dead Man may be seen as pioneering.” —Charles Foran, author of Mordecai

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781553656098
  • Publisher: D & M Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Mark Abley studied literature at the University of Saskatchewan and, after winning a Rhodes Scholarship, at St. John’s College, Oxford. Among his books are Beyond Forget: Rediscovering the Prairies, Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, and The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English. The author of a language column for the Montreal Gazette, he lives in Montreal.
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