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Remnants of Nation

Remnants of Nation: On Poverty Narratives by Women

Roxanne Rimstead
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 304
  • Book Info
    Remnants of Nation
    Book Description:

    Treating poverty not simply as a theme in literature but as a force that in fact shapes the texts themselves, Rimstead adopts the notion of a common culture to include ordinary voices in national culture, in this case the national culture of Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7920-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Disturbing Images
    (pp. 3-38)

    There is a struggle over meaning between the poor and the non-poor that actually costs lives. The poor live shorter lives, are victims of more violence, die more frequently in childbirth and from disease, and are more likely to freeze to death on air vents in our cities or die in mine tragedies and other work-related accidents than the non-poor. As David Adams Richards has said in his book by this title, the poor live ′lives of short duration.′ Less dramatically, however, the poor are also subject to cultural exclusion in a variety of everyday situations, ranging from not being...

  5. Chapter 1 ′Fictioning′ a Literature
    (pp. 39-64)

    According to Catherine Belsey, it is possible to ′fiction′ a literature, in Foucault′s sense of the verb, by interrogating old works in new ways, especially by interrogating the dominant subjectivities reflected in the texts and implicit in the category of literature itself. Belsey has described critical discourse as a way of bringing literature, history, and politics together in order to ′fiction′ a literature for political purposes: ′the literary institution has ″fictioned″ a criticism which uncritically protests its own truth; we must instead ″fiction″ a literature which renders up our true history in the interests of a politics of change′ (1988,...

  6. Chapter 2 Visits and Homecomings
    (pp. 65-85)

    Given that English-Canadian criticism has been preoccupied for decades with the primacy of place as a cultural determinant, sustained explorations of the place of the poor and the working class in Canadian literature are long overdue. Northrop Frye′s provocative question: ′Where is here?′ largely overshadowed concern for social differences and set us on the road, instead, to discovering idealist nationalist constructions which posited a more or less homogeneous collective imagination made coherent through its relation to nature, nation, or region. In this chapter I would like to disturb such liberal notions of cultural inclusiveness and nationalist notions of collective, imaginative...

  7. Chapter 3 ′We Live in a Rickety House′: Social Boundaries and Poor Housing
    (pp. 86-121)

    Characters, like their authors, are often acutely aware that poor houses are an important part of the course of lives as well as metaphors for those lives. In Margaret Laurence′sThe Diviners, the complacent façade of middle-class houses reflects the blindness and detachment of class privilege. In spite of the fact that these big brick houses do not wish to see or be seen, Morag (as seer) reads them while riding through thebetterpart of town on Christie′s garbage wagon: ′The windows are the eyes, closed, and the blinds are the eyelids, all creamy, fringed with lacy lashes. Blinds...

  8. Chapter 4 Theories and Anti-Theory: On Knowing Poor Women
    (pp. 122-142)

    For feminist critics to study the practical, ordinary narratives of poor women beside literary poverty narratives is as problematic as it is challenging, given the context of current literary criticism. Tony Bennett has noted inOutside Literaturethat there is a struggle, a ′wresting′ of discourse materials needed in order even to begin to speak from or about a place outside literature: ′There is no ready-made theoretical position outside aesthetic discourse which can simply be taken up and occupied. Such a space requires a degree of fashioning; it must be organized and above all won ...′ (10). Whereas Bennett would...

  9. Chapter 5 Subverting ′Poor Me′: Negative Constructions of Identity
    (pp. 143-173)

    Self-representations by poor and working-class women are an adventure for writers and readers alike because they often raise previously unspoken questions of identity. They defy the class and gender imperatives which would otherwise keep these women invisible or contained within representative images. In many cases, these life stories expose the social mechanisms of exclusion. But the act of self-representation for poor women is often, paradoxically, shameful as well as defiant in that it is so often accompanied by the shame of being made visible and admitting powerlessness. In the quotation above, Sand represents writing as a life choice requiring daring...

  10. Chapter 6 ′Organized Forgetting′
    (pp. 174-199)

    Autobiography is a site for both the suppression and the recovery of collective memories. The fate of collective class memories in less openly resistant poverty narratives than Sand′s and Campbell′s is often subtle or total eclipse by individual stories. In Edna Jaques′sUphill All the Wayand Fredelle Bruser Maynard′sRaisins and Almonds, the subjects indeed blur or erase collective class memories as they rely, instead, on the individualized trajectories of upward mobility and the professional writing career to restore dignity to the shamed subject. When discussing how Sand′s and Campbell′s life stories were a site of decolonization where collective...

  11. Chapter 7 ′Remnants of Nation′
    (pp. 200-252)

    Although postcolonial criticism has examined the relation between poverty and nation in emerging nations or between worlds (that is, ′First′ and ′Third Worlds′), little has been written about how Western nations colonize the poor, and poor women especially, within their own borders. Aijaz Ahmad has critiqued how a Three Worlds model of development conceived in the West projects lack of ′progress′ and poverty on the Third World. Similarly, Franz Fanon and Partha Chatterjee have critiqued bourgeois nationalism for reproducing the abuses of colonization in emerging nations by condoning the subjugation of subaltern groups internal to those nations after an initially...

  12. Chapter 8 The Long View: Contexts of Oppositional Criticism
    (pp. 253-274)

    When reading poverty narratives, how can we will ourselves to see beyond cultural walls that privilege high over popular, bourgeois over working-class, intellectual over everyday culture, and authors over ′ordinary′ people? And once we have begun to see beyond cultural walls, how can we avoid reinscribing theoretical mastery over the ordinary voices of subjects who are poor? How can the academic study of the voices of the poor result in meaningful forms of cultural inclusion when so few of the poor will read these studies or have access to this debate? On a purely pragmatic level, it is easy to...

  13. Conclusion: Taking a Position
    (pp. 275-286)

    While the category of poverty narratives and the practices of cultural studies should not be idealized, the vision of culture we hold when we read poverty oppositionally looks ahead to cultural transformation. One such paradigm I have in mind when I read poverty oppositionally is that of a ′common culture′ as the basis for a more inclusive notion of national culture (Williams [1958] 1989, Eagleton 1978). I would like to raise some final questions about re-imagining a more inclusive and pluralist paradigm of culture within which we see ourselves reading and teaching poverty narratives. Recently, scepticism has been growing about...

  14. Appendix: Outlawing Boundaries
    (pp. 287-308)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-328)
  16. Index
    (pp. 329-348)