Timothy Findley and the Aesthetics of Fascism


253 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88922-386-6
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is an associate professor of English at Laurentian
University and the editor of Arachne.


With its snappy futurist cover and a catchy title that hints at some
racy political tidbits about one of CanLit’s favorite wayward sons,
this book raises expectations that go unfulfilled. Primarily, the author
offers a thoroughly postmodernist reading of Findley’s oeuvre in order
to probe his take on fascism. In doing so, she points up several
difficulties with postmodern analyses such as her own, making her book a
highly self-conscious performance, as well as an instructive sample of
the postmodernist method so trendy these days in some of Canada’s
highest-profile grad schools.

Reflecting on her method in the book’s introduction, Bailey confesses
her fundamental reliance on Bahktin’s concept of dialogism. This
reliance is a confession because already, at this early point in her
examination, she needs a way out of the debilitating postmodernist
dilemma regarding intertextuality, particularly that version defined by
Julia Kristeva: Bailey notes that “if every text refers to an infinite
number of intertexts and if the reader and author are both made up of an
infinite number of textual traces, then the idea of applying an
intertextual method to any particular text seems ludicrous.”
Bahktinian dialogism, while it acknowledges this impasse, also allows
for a pretense that is particularly helpful for novelists and, more
important, for someone trying to publish a postmodernist volume in
Talonbooks’ New Canadian Criticism series: “novelistic language
pretends to a sort of unity, by conforming to the normative rules of
grammar and generic convention.”

The seven chapters, each of which focuses on a Findley novel, are like
a set of square dances: the dancers bow and curtsey and a-la-main-left,
bound and skip around the square, and wind up in the places where they
started. (On the way, Bailey presents a useful theoretical and
historical overview of fascist aesthetics, set off from the analyses of
particular works so as not to contaminate them, Bahktin or not.) Where
she winds up is again recognizing that “[o]ur desire to have events
fully articulated can lead to narratives which are potentially very
dangerous.” Findley, she argues, builds into his work this cautionary
program. As, reflectively, does Anne Geddes Bailey.


Bailey, Anne Geddes., “Timothy Findley and the Aesthetics of Fascism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/762.