Alice Munro and Her Works
Neil Querengesser taught in the Department of English, University of Calgary, Alberta.
Part of the Canadian Writers and Their Works series, this study of Alice Munro covers quite succinctly the salient features of her one novel and her collections of short stories to date (with the exception of her latest, The Moons of Jupiter). Dahlie’s central thesis is that “her fiction is deeply rooted in the social realism of the rural and small-town world of her own experience, but it insistently explores what lies beyond the bounds of empirical reality.” He places Munro in the context of a new generation of Canadian writers who emerged in the sixties and whose writing was not as characterized by the documentary impulse as was that of an earlier generation of writers. Munro is compared favorably with other strongly regional writers who, like Munro, suggest a wide variety of fictional worlds which lie beyond the purely representational.
The diversity of fictional worlds suggested by Munro’s fiction has elicited a corresponding diversity of critical interpretation, which, Dahlie says, is at the present time following the “standard exegetical route,” although the trend of the more recent criticism is towards a feminist approach. Dahlie’s own analysis of Munro’s fiction emphasizes but is not limited to the sexual experiences of the various characters and the way in which these experiences exhibit the contrast between Munro’s “literary realism” and another fictional world “in which empirical reality is transformed into something quite different.” Although he cannot possibly explore in detail any of the fictional worlds he suggests in this short study, there seems no doubt that, in addition to the one full-length study which he notes is already in progress, more detailed studies will not be long in coming.