Sherrill Grace – “Re-Inventing Franklin.

Citation:  Grace, Sherrill. “Re-Inventing Franklin.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature. (Sept/Dec 1995).
_________________________________________________________________Argument   In the same vein as Canada and the Idea of North, Grace presents an array of cultural productions that enact and reflect the role of Franklin in constituting Canadian identity, as well as Canada’s relationship to the North.

Scope/Organization/Main Points:

A variety of cultural and social reveals the search for Franklin as “a problematic search for identity and meaning in a present that is inextricably bound up” with the relationship between Canada and the North (712), such as documentaries that “establish an incontrovertible link between north and south, between the arctic permafrost and the warm, domestic interiors of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal” (714).

She makes some important observations about Woodman’s role in incorporating the North through Franklin: in addition to gathering material and historical evidence, much of which is contradictory, “he then further problematizes by supplementing the so-called facts of white interpretation with Inuit testimony and traditional tales. These he quotes, usually at second hand, occasionally at first hand, and weaves into his own text, thereby inscribing the indigenous witnesses into an expanding story” (715). Ultimately, though, her insight that such accounts do discursive and ideological work by incorporation Indigenous perspectives fall shorts itself, in that she does not give any other sort of credence to Inuit points of view.

It’s interesting to note that Franklin enjoys a multifaceted articulation, with later representations creating, simultaneously, “a national myth, a parody of Canadian history, and a satire on Canadian writers’ (all Canadians’?) obsession with identity and origins” (718).  

Points of Importance/Interest:

For my field paper, Grace’s critique of Woodman is really important because it demonstrates not including – and even deriding – an Indigenous perspective based on the presumption that the Indigenous has been incorporated / tainted.

How is Inuit art established within Canada, particular as a supporting device for overarching masculinist tropes? “Franklin can represent human aspiration, more particularly the male desire to conquer nature, to discover, to come first. In this aspect, the Franklin text contributes to and participates in a heavily gendered, stubbornly persistent construction of the North as an icy, treacherous, deadly female that will entire and then crush you or disorient, betray and drive you mad if you surrender yourself to her power” (719).

 

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