The Picturesque & the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape
Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998
Provocative and timely literary history and criticism.
Winner of the Gabrielle Roy Prize in English and the Raymond Klibansky Prize, The Picturesque and the Sublime is a cultural history of two hundred years of nature writing in Canada, from eighteenth-century prospect poems to contemporary encounters with landscape. Arguing against the received wisdom (made popular by Northrop Frye and Margaret Atwood) that Canadian writers view nature as hostile, Susan Glickman places Canadian literature in the English and European traditions of the sublime and the picturesque.
Glickman argues that early immigrants to Canada brought with them the expectation that nature would be grand, mysterious, awesome – even terrifying – and welcomed scenes that conformed to these notions of sublimity. She contends that to interpret their descriptions of nature as “negative,” as so many critics have done, is a significant misunderstanding. Glickman provides close readings of several important works, including Susanna Moodie’s “Enthusiasm,” Charles G.D. Roberts’s “Ave,” and Paulette Jiles’s “Song to the Rising Sun,” and explores the poems in the context of theories of nature and art.
Instead of projecting backward from a modernist perspective, Glickman reads forward from the discovery of landscape as a legitimate artistic subject in seventeenth-century England and argues that picturesque modes of description, and a sublime aesthetic, have governed much of the representation of nature in this country.
From the Reviews:
“The Picturesque and the Sublime sheds bright light on an important but neglected area of Canadian writing in a style that is wonderfully readable and lucid. A profoundly insightful critic and a gifted writer, Susan Glickman cogently and compellingly challenges the views of Northrop Frye and his heirs and calls into question the assumptions of much modern and contemporary Canadian criticism.”
-David Bentley, Department of English, University of Western Ontario
“In addition to her skills as a polemicist, Glickman is also brilliant at close reading … The Picturesque & The Sublime enriches our sense of the past and opens new perspectives on the present.”
– Tracy Ware, “Enduring Landscapes,” Canadian Poetry 45 (Fall/Winter 1999), 115; 117.
“The book is short, but the thinking, like the writing, is flexible and lithe, full of common sense and composed of layers of learning not paraded but effectively deployed.”
– Stan Dragland, University of Toronto Quarterly, 69 (Winter 1999-2000), 246.