The Journals of Susanna Moodie

The Journals of Susanna Moodie

by Margaret Atwood
     
 

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This cycle of poems is perhaps the most memorable evocation in modern Canadian literature of the myth of the wilderness, the immigrant experience, and the alienating and schizophrenic effects of the colonial mentality. Since it was first published in 1970 it has not only acquired the stature of a classic but, reprinted many times, become the best-known extended

Overview

This cycle of poems is perhaps the most memorable evocation in modern Canadian literature of the myth of the wilderness, the immigrant experience, and the alienating and schizophrenic effects of the colonial mentality. Since it was first published in 1970 it has not only acquired the stature of a classic but, reprinted many times, become the best-known extended work in Canadian poetry.

Susanna Moodie (1805-85) emigrated from England in 1832 to Upper Canada, where she settled on a farm with her husband. She wrote several books in Canada, notably Roughing It in the Bush, a famous account of pioneering that is still widely read. In poems about the arrival and the Moodies' seven years in the bush, which were followed by a more civilized ilfe in Belleville, and about Mrs Moodie in old age and then after death - in the present, when she observes the twentieth century destroying her past and its meaning - Margaret Atwood has created haunting meditations on an English gentlewoman's confrontation with the wilderness, and compelling variations on the themes of dislocation and alienation, nature and civilization.

The poems are supplemented by Margaret Atwood's collages and an 'Afterword' in which the poet says: 'We are all imigrants to this place even if we were born here....'

Editorial Reviews

Albert Mobilio
The autobiographies of a famous Canadian pioneer woman served as the inspiration for Margaret Atwood's newly reissued 1970 book of poems, The Journals of Susanna Moodie. As an English immigrant to the backwoods north of Toronto in the 1830s, Moodie struggled to accept the bleak and often deadly landscape of her new country. Her resistance and eventual acceptance embodies, according to Atwood, a distinctly Canadian "violent duality." In exploring the contradictory heart of her national identity, Atwood also came to see an inchoate feminism in Moodie's "thin refusal" to rejoice in the "long hills, the swamps, the barren sand."

In "The Wereman," Atwood's Moodie watches her husband stride off into the forest and she wonders "unheld by my sight/what does he change into." When he returns, "he may change me also/with the fox eye, the owl/eye, the eightfold eye of the spider/I can't think/what he will see/when he opens the door." The metaphor of marriage as a wilderness in which shapes shift and uncertainty reigns is both inspired and apt to Moodie's historical circumstance -- a time when near strangers often married.

By ventriloquizing the reluctant frontierswoman -- "I am a word/in a foreign language" -- Atwood fuses the interior and exterior landscapes (the personal and political) with a low-key yet vibratory elegance. This slip-cased reprint, with deliciously spooky illustrations by Charles Pachter, is a model of printed art -- the high-energy jostling of text and imagery creates a lush detonation that obliterates the slightly over-earnest scent that can cling to these poems in starker circumstance.
Salon

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195401691
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
08/28/1970
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
64
Product dimensions:
8.63(w) x 5.00(h) x 0.20(d)

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Meet the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty works of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Among her many awards are the Los Angeles Times Book Award for The Handmaid's Tale in 1986, the Giller Prize in Canadafor Alias Grace in 1996, and the Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin in 2000. Her latest novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003, and Moral Disorder, a collection of short stories was published in 2006.

Charles Pachter, born in Toronto in 1942 and trained in Toronto, Paris, and Cranbrook, has particularly enjoyed producing suits of prints for Canadian poets.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Toronto, Ontario
Date of Birth:
November 18, 1939
Place of Birth:
Ottawa, Ontario
Education:
B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
Website:
http://www.owtoad.com

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