A Sense of Place: Re-evaluating Regionalism in Canadian and American Writing


134 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88864-310-1
DDC C810.9'971




Edited by Christian Riegel and Herb Wyile
Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

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


This ninth volume in the Textual Studies in Canada series presents a
selection of seven papers from the 1995 “A Sense of Place:
Re-Evaluating Regionalism in Canadian and American Writing” conference
held at the University of Alberta. The editors’ introduction usefully
surveys issues and attitudes relevant to regionalism, and argues that
one of the main justifications for this re-evaluation is the ongoing
rejection of formalist universalizing principles in favor of regional
interests on the part of critics of cultural hegemony.

In “Towards the End of Regionalism,” Frank Davey argues that
regionalism is more ideological—socially constructed—than a matter
of location. As a response to the centralizing powers of the
nation–state, regionalism suffers from what he calls the disease of
“environmental determinism,” the illusion that landscape affects the
personalities and perspectives of its inhabitants. Davey compares
regions to colonies in their shared sense that “power over them
resides and is wielded elsewhere.” In response to this awareness, and
in order to survive in the global marketplace, a region must commodify
its culture, the Anne of Green Gables industry being a prime example.
Davey exhibits a frustrating ambivalence toward his subject. At one
point he insists that criticism treat regionalism with “the same
skepticism it directs toward other ideologies.” His concluding
paragraph, however, opens with the statement that his admonitions about
regionalism are not meant to suggest that “the social and geographic
contexts signaled by ‘region’ are inconsequential.”

In “Writing Out of the Gap,” which focuses on regions in the United
States, Majorie Pryse writes, “If resistance serves as the displaced
“plot” of regionalism, then relationship becomes the strategy by
which the texts of regionalism create a community of readers.”

Richard Pickard’s paper, “Magic Environmentalism: Writing/Logging
(in) British Columbia,” picks up this theme of community and links
theoretical dimensions of the debate about regionalism to the urgent
need for action. He writes: “Postmodernism, in its techno-evil
economic incarnation as the Global Village, threatens the whole idea of
meaningful community as the/a focus of region(alism).”

Much of the analysis in this provocative book creates a felt need for
empowerment and strategies to overcome the results of globalization.


“A Sense of Place: Re-evaluating Regionalism in Canadian and American Writing,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/786.