British Journal of Canadian Studies

'Thinking Themselves Halved when they are Atomized': Identity Contradictions in Marian Engel's No Clouds of Glory and The Honeyman Festival

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2008), 21, (2), 219–238.

Abstract

This article focuses on Marian Engel's first two novels to explore why critics were so often disappointed in her work. Engel's focus on individual female and national consciousness within social and historical circumstances was generally considered a good start, but she apparently took a wrong turn when she did not discover workable identities in an era of dominant Canadian nationalist and second-wave feminist identity movements. Engel resisted the idea of discoverable identity, and the reception of her work suffered. Her less optimistic treatment of identity stands up better today, when we are less sure about the existence of resolvable identities at all. Re-reading these two novels as explorations of obstacles that interfere with identity reveals a compelling pattern: characters are confronted with what troubles their understandings of themselves as women and Canadians.

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Gault, Cinda