Chapter 15
Literature Architecture Community:
Canada as It Was and Is

by D.M.R. Bentley


“A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids, and then leave standing there to defy eternity. A country is something that is built every day out of certain shared values. And so it is in the hands of every Canadian to determine how well and wisely we shall build the country of the future.”1 In the two centuries and more before Pierre Elliott Trudeau wrote these sentences in his Memoirs (1993), the values shared by Canadians were undergirded by constants that remain unchanged today and are also marked by changes that can easily make even the proximate past seem like a foreign country. On January 10, 1799 in Quebec City, Alexander Spark spoke of the “dispositions and … temper of mind … [that] are most friendly to peace, order, and good government” (Sermon 8), a phrase placed at the heart of Canadian values in the British North America Act of 1867. Much else about Sparks’s remarks will seem familiar: their occasion was a day of “general thanksgiving,” they dwell on the importance of “social duty” and the dangers of violent revolution, and their point of departure is the story of a man who “left his native country,” “lived as a stranger” in another land, and finally found a permanent home (1, 10-22).2 But most, if not all, of Sparks’s hearers – the congregation of the Presbyterian church in Quebec City – must have been from the British Isles, and surely none of them would have been able to imagine Canada as a nation, let alone as the postcolonial and multicultural society reflected in the work of Dionne Brand and other recent writers. Since this study has touched upon some quite diverse aspects of literature and architecture in Canada from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first century, it seems to demand by way of conclusion a brief retrospective survey of major shifts and trends in the characteristics of its twin subjects and in their relationship to the country’s physical, social, and cultural environments.


During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, architecture and literature established themselves as the principal articulators of British North American space and identity, the former by placing distinctively British physical structures in the Canadian environment and the latter by placing that environment within British literary structures such as the topographical poem (see Chapter 1: Preliminary).3 Alongside agriculture, gardening, surveying, mapping, and such “material projects” as road and bridge building (Alexander Morris 50), architecture and literature extended the signs and expressions of the British presence into Canadian space and supplied British North Americans with satisfying and inspiring evidence that, to adapt a phrase from Thomas Cary’s Abram’s Plains (1789), “the plain” was being “humanize[d]” by British “moral virtues” (62-63).4 Like the neoclassical churches and courthouses that were built in Halifax, Quebec, Montreal and elsewhere, the neoclassical couplets and diction of poems such as Abram’s Plains bespoke the extension of the Pax Britannica, the rule of English law, and the British parliamentary system – in short, “peace, order, and good government” – into areas and towards cultures that, in Cary’s words again, could only benefit from their “mended state” and “better fate” (450-51). Where violence, superstition, injustice, and misrule had held sway, the measures of neoclassical poetry and the orders of neoclassical architecture were part and parcel of the same process of social development that, as Oliver Goldsmith describes it in The Rising Village (1825, 1834), had long since taken “Happy Britannia” from its “infant age” of “darkest ignorance” to “manhood’s prime” as “The first and brightest star of Europe’s climb” (529-34). Britain’s superiority was seen as a matter less of race than of culture, and in works such as The Rising Village and the Union Hotel in Quebec City that superlative culture was understood as being in the process of elevating and enlightening Britain’s North American colonies.

    The Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger could be describing Goldsmith’s poem when he writes in Articulations that, as they are “defined, described, won, defended, … redistributed and more intensely used,” “landscapes … evolve steadily into places” whose qualities included “associations” generated by “occurrences past and present” and the presence of “a centre of attention such as exemplified to perfection by a table” (59, 33) – or, it may be added, a Stevensian “jar” or a Heideggerian bridge (see Chapter 5: Past and Lintel and Chapter 9: HypheNations). In The Rising Village, it is precisely the physical and psychological accretions that Hertzberger terms “infill” (33) and that Goldsmith describes as “The arts of culture” that, over the course of fifty years, transform Nova Scotia from the “bleak and desert” space that the settlers register on their arrival to the “Dear lovely spot” whose “Sweet natural charms” can impart “Joy, peace, and comfort to each native heart” (121, 56, 481-84). “Blest spot!” Adam Hood Burwell had exclaimed a few years earlier of the Talbot Settlement to the north of Lake Erie: “On every farm a stately mansion stands, / That the surrounding fields at once commands…. On either side the road a stately row / Of shady trees present a sylvan show …” (615-22). Like the architectural and agricultural “infill[ing]” that they document and celebrate, the poems of Goldsmith and Burwell are manifestations of a process of place-making through which immigrants from Britain during the pre-Confederation period (1759-1867) came to feel not merely at peace but at home in eastern and central Canada.

    On the way to proclaiming the existence in Canada of “Dear,” “lovely,” and “Blest” places, Goldsmith and Burwell collectively mention several private and public architectural structures: a log “cabin,” a “barn,” a “tavern,” a “church,” a “store,” a “school-house,” a “grist-mill,” a “costly hall,” a “labell’d office,” and even an “ample warehouse” (The Rising Village 132-64, Talbot Road 227-34, 296-305, 574-82). Both in reality and by their presence in poems, all of these structures are “centres of attention” and as such constitutive of place, but none functioned so consistently and potently as a place-maker in colonial Canada as the house or, indeed, a house, be it the “dwelling” around which “By slow degrees a neighbourhood … form[s]” in The Rising Village, the “stately mansion” that permits the settler to survey the “surrounding fields” in Talbot Road, or the house that Colonel Thomas Talbot built for himself, “like the eagle his eyry, on a bold high cliff overlooking” Lake Erie (Jameson 280). That such place-making houses were also understood as reflections of “peace, order, and good government” is confirmed by further examples in which their association with tranquility, settlement, and paternal authority becomes ever more apparent. When Cary’s Muse visits Lord Dorchester’s “villa”, the Château Saint-Louis (1692-1700), near Quebec City, she, “tranquil, tastes the tender sweets of life / That in the mother centre and the wife” (488-89) and when Thomas Moore visited Upper Canada in 1804, the “smoke … gracefully curl[ing] / Above ... green elms” did more than signal the presence of a “cottage”: it awoke thoughts of “‘peace’” and paternalistic bliss “With a maid … / Who would blush when [he] prais’d her, and weep if [he] blam’d” (124). Five years later, the social and domestic ideals of Georgian Canada were given pictorial expression in The Woolsey Family (1809), the much-reproduced family portrait by William von Moll Berczy (1744-1813) that depicts one of Lower Canada’s prominent English families amid the neoclassical décor and furnishings of their Quebec house. At the apex of the family group stands its patriarch gazing down benignly on his wife, daughter, and infant child. A wide-open window through which is visible a picturesque scene consisting of a deciduous tree, a characteristically French-Canadian building, and a vista of the St. Lawrence River bespeaks the at-homeness of the English family in an environment that is foreign but congenial and hospitable.

    It is entirely consistent with the assumptions and attitudes that the British were implanting in Canada during the Georgian period that residents and visitors alike routinely applied the word “handsome” to private as well as public buildings in the neoclassical and Palladian styles. Even in its “unfinished” state, Holy Trinity Cathedral (1800-04) in Quebec was “handsome” to John Lambert, as was Simon MacTavish’s house on Mount Royal (1: 521, 518). Sir Richard G. Bonnycastle and Joseph Bouchette regarded “the Protestant cathedral … [as] the handsomest edifice in Quebec” (Bonneycastle 1:54, and see Bouchette 1:245), and Bouchette also applied the adjective to such buildings as Quebec’s Union Hotel (1805-06[?]) Courthouse (1799-1803), and Gaol (1812[?]- 14) (1:250-51, 245). To these and other writers, a building apparently qualified as “handsome” only if its architectural structure were neoclassical or Palladian and, thus, modern British, and suggestive through its simplicity, symmetry, and generous scale of masculine authority, rational control, and social stability. Buildings erected in this fundamentally progressive conservative spirit in Upper Canada included the neoclassical City Hall and Market (1843-44) in Kingston (which George Warburton pronounced “handsome” [1:217], and see Chapter 6: The Centre in the Square), and the Toronto houses of Peter Russell, the colonial administrator who succeeded John Graves Simcoe in 1796, John Strachan, the first bishop of Toronto, and D’Arcy Boulton, the eldest son and namesake of one of Upper Canada’s early Attorney General. Only the last of these – The Grange (1817-18) – remains, but, of course, countless later private and public buildings in the neoclassical and Palladian styles attest to the enduring appeal of the Georgian idiom and, in many cases no doubt, its squirarchical associations.

    In his description of the construction of Strachan’s house (“The Palace” as it came to be known) in Toronto of Old, Henry Scadding suggests a “parallel” between the fact that the materials used to construct “[o]ne or two earlier brick buildings at York [Toronto] were … brought from Kingston or Montreal” and the fact that “the first bricks used for building in New York were imported from Holland” (27).5 Were Scadding to have elaborated this scrap of architectural mythography into a retrospective manifesto of Toronto, he would surely have made less of the conveyance of bricks from elsewhere in the Canadas than of the continuous and continuing importation of architectural styles and designs from Britain, Europe, and the United States. Whether it be at Toronto or any other location in Canada, the history of Canadian architecture, like the history of Canadian literature, is a record of the manipulation of a series of imported forms. Until the mid-nineteenth century, most such forms (and, frequently, their contents) gestured towards Britain, but as the American Revolution and then the War of 1812 became distant memories and as Confederation became an option and then a reality, the gestures became more complex because now reflective of a culture that was at once British, Canadian, and North American, colonial, nationalistic, and cosmopolitan. Modelled on “modestly scaled suburban houses” in England, The Grange was home and haunt to prominent members of the Family Compact prior to Confederation, but by the eighteen eighties it was owned by Goldwin Smith, the English-born sometime Canadian nationalist, whose Canada and the Canadian Question (1891) mounts a powerful argument for the benefits and inevitability of a union between Canada and the United States (see especially 267-301). One of the children in Sara Jeannette Duncan’s The Imperialist (1904) rejoices in the possession of “‘twenty-five cents, an’ a English sixpence, an’ a Yankee nickel’,” a numismatic trinity that not only recalls the three alternatives that framed debates about Canada’s political destiny during the Victorian period (Annexation, Independence, Imperial Federation), but also reflects the cultural miscellany that the country had become by the beginning of the twentieth century. “Toronto is a curious combination of England, Canada and America,” E. Catherine Bates had written in A Year in the Great Republic (1887): it exhibits “the influence and traditions of the first, … [a] provincial Canadian element, and … a … go-a-head quality that savours of Yankeedom” (23-24).

    Some early and still thoroughly Anglocentric manifestations of the architectural eclecticism of early to mid-Victorian Canada were Trinity College (1851-52), which was modelled on St. Aidan’s Theological College in Cheshire and incorporated references to college buildings in Oxford and Cambridge,6 and the Tudor or Elizabethan Revival houses that Amelia M. Murray saw in Ottawa and between Quebec and Montreal in 1854 and hoped would serve as “a model for an improved” and “more picturesque style of architecture” in “this land of ugly edifices” (87, 83). As the century progressed, however, Canada’s provincial Victorian eclecticism became more miscellaneous and arguably more reflective of the country’s British-cum-North American identity. When Isabella Strange Trotter saw University College (1856-59), Toronto “in course of building” in 1858, she pronounced it “the most beautiful structure … [that she had] seen in North America” – “[i]ndeed … the only one which makes the least attempt at Mediaeval architecture, and … a very correct specimen of the twelfth-century” (which is to say, the Norman or Romanesque Revival Style 63). When he saw the completed building three years later, Anthony Trollope judged it “the glory of Toronto,” but had a different opinion about its style: “[i]t is, I believe, intended to be purely Norman, though I doubt whether the received types of Norman architecture have not been departed from in many of the windows. Be this as it may the College is a manly, noble structure, free from false decoration, and infinitely creditable to those that projected it” (73-74). One of these projectors, the then vice-chancellor of the University, John Langton, went so far as to aver that the style of University College might be called “Canadian” (qtd. in Friedland 58, and see Kalman 1:312), and there is much about its conception and construction to suggest that it was at once an affirmation of Canada’s British roots and a testament to its North Americanism.

    Authorized in 1856 by the governor general, Sir Edmund Walker Head, it was designed by the British-born and trained Toronto architect Frederic W. Cumberland (1820-81), who modelled it primarily on the Oxford University Museum (1855), but also drew inspiration from “other buildings, including the Smithsonian Institution [1846-51] in Washington, D.C.,” an early North American example of the Romanesque Revival (Kalman 1:312). A friend of John Ruskin, who had recently championed Gothic architecture as the expression of a northern mentality in The Stones of Venice (1851, 1853) (more of which in a moment), Cumberland apparently considered the “ruggedness” of the Romanesque “appropriate to Canada” (qtd. in Friedland 58), and may well have chosen the sturdy round arch that is characteristic of Romanesque buildings in northern countries for this reason. As for the elaborate and inventive ornamentation that Ruskin also regarded as characteristic of the northern mentality, in the case of University College this was executed by a strikingly multinational group of craftsmen, “including Charles Emil Zollikofer …, a Swiss-German, who may have been the master sculptor; Ivan Reznikoff, a Russian who was murdered in the tower, and whose ghost is said to linger there; and Reznikoff’s assistant, appropriately named Paul Diabolos” (Kalman 1:313). That at least some of the stone for the College and its decoration came from Ohio is but a material aspect of its emergently Canadian eclecticism and hybridity.

    These same qualities are also increasingly evident in nineteenth-century Canadian writing. As the Victorian era approached, Byronic ottava rima was used as a vehicle for topics as diverse as Tecumseh (John Richardson [1796-1852]) and charivaris (George Longmore [1793-1867]), and the historical and Gothic romances of Sir Walter Scott and Charles Brockden Brown provided models for Richardson’s Wacousta (1832) and The Canadian Brothers (1840), as indeed Scott’s novels would later for William Kirby’s The Golden Dog (Le Chien d’or) (1877) and Gilbert Parker’s The Seats of the Mighty (1896). During the intervening early and mid-Victorian periods, the Elizabethan Revival houses that Murray admired in the eighteen fifties had parallels in the Shakespearean poems and dramas of Charles Heavysege (1816-76) and the Spenserian stanzas of Charles Sangster (1822-93), both of whom used their Renaissance and Romantic models for themes derived largely from a variety of British and, increasingly, American sources. To cite just one example, Sangster’s The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay (1856) is written primarily in Spenserian stanzas, but in a manner strikingly reminiscent of University College, its descriptions are quarried from several American and British texts that include Travels through the Canadas (1807) by George Heriot (1766-1844) and Descriptive and Historical Views of Burr’s Moving Mirror of the Lakes, the Niagara, St. Lawrence, and Saguenay Mirrors (1850), which was written to accompany the continuous panorama of Canadian rivers and lakes that had enthralled audiences in the eastern United States in the late ’forties and early ’fifties (see Bentley, “Introduction” and “Explanatory Notes” in Sangster xlii-xlvi and 49-94). The fact that Sangster’s long poem was published in the same year as the authorization of University College makes the parallel between their literary and architectural eclecticism and hybridity all the more striking.


During the post-Confederation period, the major forms of Romantic and Victorian poetry such as the Wordsworthian return (or “here-I-am-again”) poem, the Tennysonian idyll, and the odes of Keats and Arnold provided models for major poems such as Isabella Valancy Crawford’s Malcolm’s Katie (1884), Charles G.D. Roberts’s “Tantramar Revisited” (1886), and Archibald Lampman’s “Among the Timothy” (1888). A vogue for classical Greek and old French forms during the eighteen eighties and ’nineties mirrored contemporary and subsequent architectural revivals and in due course provoked reactions that anticipated the lament of the Modernist architect Warnett Kennedy that, “[h]aving no architectural tradition of … [its] own,” Canada is “wide open to the meretricious attractions of roadside ribbon romanticism (134, and see Chapter 12: “The Music of Rhyme …”).7 Poets are too frequently contenting themselves with “the accomplishments of … delicate piece[s] of verbal filigree that can be ticketed Rondeau, or Ballade,” conceded Charles G.D. Roberts in October 1889 (qtd. in Bentley, The Confederation Group 121). Two weeks later, Edward Burrough Brownlow went further, bemoaning the fact that “artificial forms of verse ha[d] been resuscitated from Provençal graves to serve as winding-sheets for much wasted genius.” Such judgements crackle with premonitions of Modernism.

    A very different and more politically charged response to nineteenth-century eclecticism is “Homes of Modern Toronto,” an illustrated article published in the August 23, 1890 issue of the Toronto Globe. Taking as its point of departure Ruskin’s remarks in “The Mystery of Life and Its Arts” (1868), on the “sanitary and remedial action” required of architecture, the article directs negative comments first towards Toronto’s early domestic architecture and then towards the domestic architecture of contemporary Chicago, faulting the former for its excessive “[u]niformity” and the latter for its excessive diversity: “the idea of having one house different from another … because the families who were to occupy them differed in numbers, character or taste seemed never to have occurred to the fathers” of Toronto, but in Chicago the new “rage for the unique” and “novel” has led to an architectural farrago of “baronial castles, Swiss chalets, ancient temples and every other known form of building” (2).8 As well as exhibiting a balance between individualism and conformity, the “democratic, home-loving, [and] nature-loving” “inhabitants of Toronto and other Ontario cities” have shown themselves to be more compassionate and either less wealthy or less given to conspicuous display than their American counterparts: “few have been compelled or induced to give up their homes” and “the proportion of … mansions is smaller.” More than half a century earlier in The Backwoods of Canada (1832), Catharine Parr Traill had observed in her neighbours something like the same combination of robust independence and benevolent interdependence that the anonymous author of “Homes of Modern Toronto” finds in Ontario’s domestic architecture.9 It is a combination that lies near the heart of the very concept of Confederation and that continues to make itself felt in the centripetal and centrifugal give-and-take of federal-provincial politics.

    In few places is the tension between independence and interdependence more apparent than in the constitution and aesthetics of the Confederation group of Canadian poets that came first to international and then national prominence in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Consisting of two writers from the Maritimes (Roberts and Bliss Carman) and four from central Canada (Lampman, William Wilfred Campbell, Duncan Campbell Scott, and Frederick George Scott), the group was a reflection of Confederation both geographically and in the looseness of its cohesion: it was widely perceived as a school, but its members never forgathered in one place, never issued a manifesto, and eventually made public spectacles of themselves in what became known as the “War among the Poets.”10 Two of the principal reasons for this fracas – Campbell’s characterization of Carman as a “fiagrant imitator” (that is, plagiarist) of the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other British and American poets and his elevation of “ideas and ideals” over the formal polish and technical skill advocated by Roberts (see Hurst 1-9, 30-43, and following) – speak to matters of creativeness and purpose that remain central to Canadian architecture as well as Canadian poetry. A less serious source of friction among members of the group was a disagreement that also has architectural parallels: should a volume of poems consist of a variety of forms and subjects, as Roberts and Lampman believed or, as Carman believed, aim for consistency and harmony? In the quarrel between the varietas of Lampman’s Among the Millet, and Other Poems (1888) and the unity (or, its detractors charged, monotony) of Carman’s Low Tide on Grand Pré. A Book of Lyrics (1893) lie intimations of battles to come between Victorian clutter and Modern simplicity.

    Since Canada was a new nation – a “Child of Nations, giant-limbed” in Roberts’s masculinist metaphor (Collected Poems 85) – there was enormous enthusiasm during the post-Confederation period for Victorian ideas of material and spiritual progress. The neoclassical façade of the head office of the Bank of Montreal (1845-48) and the tubular steel construction of the Victoria Bridge (1854-60) over the St. Lawrence near Montreal had expressed the country’s economic aspirations on the eve of Confederation (see Chapter 6: The Centre in the Square and Chapter 9: HypheNations). During the same period, the spiritual aspirations of Canadians found expression in the soaring neo-Gothic spires of several churches and cathedrals, including two – St. James Cathedral (1850-1873),11 Toronto and Christ Church Cathedral (1857-60), Montreal – that rose from the ashes of Georgian churches that had been destroyed by fire. Extravagant city halls such as those in Montreal (1872-78), Winnipeg (1884-86), and Victoria (1878-91) – the last heralded as an “elaborate, expensive and altogether in-advance-of-the times structure” (qtd. in Dana Johnson 233) – “served as architectural statements of the[ir] community’s aspirations … achievements” and “entrepreneurial spirit” (G.E. Mills 78, 46).12 To residents and visitors alike, Canada seemed to be moving onwards and upwards in every respect and in every region. “Since we left [Toronto in circa 1855] a crystal palace has been erected – no mean model of that at Sydenham, or Hyde Park,”13 wrote Mrs. Edward Copleston in Canada: Why We Live in It and Why We Like It (1861). “The city of Hamilton can also boast its crystal palace, as well as Montreal – thus does this young colony possess the permanent structures for the express purpose of exhibition” (76). In the ensuing decades, the structural use of metal also made taller and taller buildings possible, and by the late ’eighties another technological innovation – the elevator – had not only made practicable Canada’s first eight-storey office building, the New York Life Insurance Company Building (1888) in Montreal’s Place d’Armes,”14 but also eliminated “the fatigue of walking up to the top of one of … [the] great towers” of the nearby Church of Notre-Dame (1823-29) (Howard of Glossop 13). “[W]hen finished,” trumpeted James Macpherson LeMoine (1825-1912) in 1884 of the Lorne Graving Dock then “being built at the expense of the Dominion Government” at Point Levis opposite Quebec City, “[i]t will be capable of accommodating the largest vessel afloat” (6). Roberts is worthy of “the same seat as Mat[t]hew Arnold,” trumpeted Joseph Edmund Collins a year earlier; he is the “adorning star of native talent” and should be appointed to a professorship at Trinity or University College (see Bentley, The Confederation Group 43-45). By the late eighteen eighties Canada’s western expansion and literary achievements were such that the Montreal lawyer and man of letters William Douw Lighthall could assemble in Songs of the Great Dominion (1889) an anthology that, in his mind, reflected the “young might, public wealth, and heroism” of an “Empire” within an “Empire” whose “SUBLIME CAUSE” and “DEFINITE IDEAL” was “THE UNION OF MANKIND” in “voluntary Federation” (vi, xxi-xxiii).

    In addition to fuelling such futuristic visions of Canada as a model and component of the evolution of the British Empire into a “Federation of Mankind” (xxiii), the nationalism or “Canadianism”15 of the post-Victorian period generated an interest in Canada’s architectural and literary past that was easily transformed by anxieties about the rise of urban modernity into nostalgia for the rural, the natural, and the organic. By the eighteen eighties, American misgivings about the physical and psychological effects of city life had long since given rise to the cottages of the Catskills and Muskoka and to the natural parks that Frederick Law Olmsted and his collaborators envisaged as the lungs of such cities as New York and Boston. During the eighteen eighties and ’nineties similar misgivings gave rise in Canada to Mount Royal Park in Montreal (which was also designed by Olmsted), to the psychotherapeutic nature poems of the Confederation group, to the dark visions of blight, dehumanization and entropy epitomized by Lampman’s “The City of the End of Things” (1900) and, in due course, to the garden suburbs of such cities as Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and even Victoria (see Chapter 7: Northern Reflections). Central to this last development and ubiquitous throughout the Victorian period was a belief that the best antidote to “The blind streets, [and] the jingle of the throng” from which the troubled speaker of "Among the Timothy" finds temporary respite among the “scented swathes” and wild flowers of the nearby countryside (Lampman, Poems 13-14) lay in the tranquil sanctuary of home and hearth. This fundamentally bourgeois idea of the comfortable home as crucial to “physical, social and moral health” was central to the thinking and rhetoric of the urban reform movements that generated Ottawa’s Lindenlea and other garden suburbs16 and it finds expression in numerous poems like Charles Pelham Mulvaney’s “In the City Streets” (1880) where the speaker’s vision of a loved one at home beside a “happy fire … / … blazing bright and warm” sustains him as he walks through streets in which “children” and “the homeless” are among the “changing crowd” of mere “faces” that are illuminated by the “shuddering gas” of the city’s “lank and ghastly lamps” (65).

    Whether prompted by misgivings about urban modernity, by the yearnings of Romantic nationalism, by revivalist tastes in architecture, or by some combination of the three, visitors to Canada and Canadians themselves responded with unprecedented enthusiasm during the late Victorian period to the country’s early architectural structures. John Allison Bell was moved by the “Old Tower” in Halifax – that is, Prince of Wales Tower (1796-99) on Point Pleasant – to “Recall … times renowned in song” but nevertheless preferred to attune his “lay” to “gentler themes” than war’s “woe and death” (35). W.H. Withrow reacted similarly to the ruins of Fort Cumberland, a structure that had earlier inspired a passage in Roberts’s “Tantramar Revisited”: “a [g]rim-visaged … war had smoothed … [its] ragged front, and the prospect was one of idyllic peace…. The arched roof, of solid stone, … seemed actually more solid than the century-defying Baths of Caracalla at Rome” (109-10), whose barrel-vaulted bays would before long inspire the Great Hall of Toronto’s Union Station (1914-30) as they had the interior of New York’s Pennsylvania Station (1910). But in the wake of the Gothic Revival, it was predictably the pre-Conquest portions of Quebec and Montreal that attracted the most frequent and enthusiastic attention. Bates thought Quebec had “more or less the look of a buried city with the mourners still lingering round the grave” (8), but she was very much in the minority. Withrow’s response is a chorus of accolades from the likes of Henry David Thoreau (“‘a reminiscence of the Middle Ages of [Sir Walter] Scott’s novels’”), Sir Charles Dilke (“‘we are once more in the European Middle Ages’”), and Henry Ward Beecher (“‘a dried shred of the Middle Ages, hung high up near the North Pole’”) (200-02). Mary Wilson Alloway was delighted by the combination of the “unpolished architecture” of the Ancien Régime and the “architectural grandeur of the modern city” in both Montreal and Quebec, and drew upon an unnamed source to heap emotive praise on the Château Frontenac (1892-93, 1897-98, and later additions), which the American architect Bruce Price (1849-1903) modelled on “French châteaux of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, particularly [those] … of the Loire” (Kalman 2:495),17 so that it would be in keeping with its surroundings:

[The] Château Frontenac has been planned with the strong sense of the fitness of things, being a veritable old-time Château, whose curves and cupolas, turrets and towers, even whose tones of gray stone and dulled brick harmonize with the sober quaint architecture of our dear old Fortress City, and looks like a small bit of Medieval Europe perched upon a rock. (Alloway 48-49)

Buildings that had earlier been perceived as foreign and un-“handsome” were now repeatedly described as “quaint” (see also Withrow 170, 175, 180, 201) in the post-Romantic sense of “[u]nusual or uncommon in character or appearance, but at the same time having some attractive or agreeable feature, esp[ecially] … an old-fashioned prettiness or daintiness” (OED). That the “architecture” with which one of the CPR’s great hotels “harmonize[s]” is both “quaint” and “of our dear Fortress City” is but one indication of the aesthetic values and national sentiments that were dictating ways of thinking and seeing in post-Confederation Canada.18

    Another predictable result of the aesthetic, nationalistic, and anti-modern valorization of the “quaint” and “dear old” in the post-Confederation period was a conservationist impulse that drew additional energy, of course, from the work and pronouncements of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, a body formed in England in 1877 under the aegis of William Morris. In 1890 an English visitor, Mrs. Algernon St. Maur, lamented the replacement of Quebec City’s “old gateways” by “‘nice new ones’” and attributed this decidedly un-Morrissian act to “some vandal mayor” (8). (In fact, it was Lord Dufferin who several years earlier had commissioned the Irish architect W.H. Lynn [1829-1915] to replace the St. Louis Gate [1878] and the Kent Gate [1878] to allow better road access to the core of the old city.)19 From the late eighteen seventies onwards, a host of implicitly Burkean works such as Quebec Past and Present (1876) by Le Moine and Toronto, Past and Present (1884) by Henry Scadding (1813-1901) urged Canadians, in Scadding’s words, “to take what note we can” not only of the “labours,” achievements, and physical remains of “our forefathers,” but also of “the form and fashion of their architecture and literature” (Toronto of Old 1-2). The existence of myriads of works of local history such as Pen and Pencil Sketches of Wentworth Landmarks (1897) (see Chapter 4: Rising and Spreading Villages) attest to the extent to which what would now be termed heritage became a focus of interest and study in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. That a tension existed between these retrospective and preservative attitudes and activities and the ethos of progress and the appeal of the modern is apparent in numerous works, few if any more poignant than “The Recollect Church” (1881) and “The Old Towers of Mount Royal or Ville Marie” (1881) by the Montreal poet and novelist Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon (1829-79). The former was written when the church of its title was “[i]n process of demolition” (53 n). The latter ends with a plea for balance between modernization and conservation that remains worth heeding today:

With each added year grows our city fair,
The steepled church, the spacious square;
Villas and mansions of stately pride
Embellish it on every side;
Buildings – old land marks – vanish each day,
For stately successors to make way;
But from change like that may time leave free
The ancient towers of Ville Marie!

    During the post-Confederation period, no architectural structures better reflected what Canada was and would become than the Parliament Buildings (1859-65). Set on a promontory overlooking the Ottawa River in the city that was chosen as the capital of the new Dominion because of its distance from the American border and, more important, its “location at the Ontario-Quebec border,” the Parliament Buildings were begun in 1859 and remained partially under construction until the late eighteen seventies, but were largely complete when Canada was officially born on July 1, 1867.20 The architectural competition for the project (which was originally to have included a residence for the governor general as well as the Centre, East, and West blocks) elicited thirty three schemes in various styles, including neoclassical, Norman, Italian, and Elizabethan or Tudor. The winning designs by Thomas Fuller (1823-98) and Chilion Jones (1835-1912) for the Centre Block and Thomas Stent (1822-1912) and Augustus Laver (1834-98) for the East and West Blocks were in the Gothic Revival style, a good part of the reason being that, as Kalman observes, the jury consisting of two English-Canadian civil servants Samuel Keefer and F.P. Rubidge, probably wanted to align Canada’s principal public buildings with Britain’s new neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament (1837-68) rather than with their neoclassical counterparts in Washington, DC (2:535). Both as an echo of the Palace of Westminster and in its likely debt to medieval Belgian and French public buildings, especially the “fourteenth-century Cloth Hall at Ypres … and the City Hall at Brussels (Kalman 2:537-38), the Centre Block was to be a statement of Canada’s European roots and its non-Americanness. There is nevertheless a historical and cultural appropriateness to the fact that it was a combination of Ohio and Potsdam as well as Nepean limestone that worked with the yellow and green slate roof of the Centre Block to achieve the polychromy that is typical of much Victorian architecture and correspondingly abhorrent to many Modernist eyes. “[T]he Houses of Parliament, which are building, … will be very magnificent,” wrote Frances E.O. Monk during a visit to Canada in 1864-65: they are “built of grey stone, with a good deal of pink mixed; the architecture [is] a sort of French Gothic. We saw the sun rise on them, making them all pink” (153).

    Although there is no firm evidence that either the architects or the jurors responsible for the Parliament Buildings were cognizant of Ruskin’s celebrated essay on “The Nature of the Gothic” in the second volume of The Stones of Venice (1853), this is not unlikely and would have furnished them with additional reasons for favouring the Gothic Revival style.21 An heir to the environmental determinism of both the counter-Enlightenment and the German Romantic nationalists, Ruskin held that the “contrast in physical character which exists between Northern and Southern countries” results in contrasting mental characteristics and, hence, architectural forms and styles (Stones of Venice 2:156). Thus one “essential character of the existing architecture” of Northern Europe is a “wildness of thought,” and others are a “look of mountain brotherhood between the cathedral and the alp,” a “magnificence of sturdy power,” and “a noble character” (2:158-59). No less reflective of the northern environment and “the Gothic mind” that it engendered is “the system … of ornament” that Ruskin discerns in northern architecture, for here “[t]he feelings or habits in the workmen” resulted in designs and carvings that exhibit “[s]trength of will, independence of character, resoluteness of purpose, impatience of undue control, and that general tendency to set the individual reason against authority and the individual deed against destiny” (2: 202-05). All these are admirable characteristics, argues Ruskin, for they stand on the side of variety and “changefulness” against the uniformity and “obedience” that can result in servility (2:159). “[T]he best architecture, and the best temper,” are those which recognize that “[t]here is virtue in … measure, and error in excess” (Works 11:205). It is almost as if in “The Nature of the Gothic” Ruskin were drafting a manifesto for Gothic Revival as the Canadian National Style that Kalman, Alan Gowans, and others have taken it to be (see Kalman 2:541 and Gowans “The Canadian National Style” 214-17): in style, decoration, fabric, polychromy, and national associations the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa were a materialization of a nation that continues to seek a balance and exhibit a tension between independence and interdependence. “[T]hough the designs of different architects were selected, and these different architects employed,” wrote Trollope, “the style of the different buildings is so much alike as to make one whole” (67). When the Centre Block was destroyed by fire in 1916, it was much more than conformity with the surviving Parliamentary Library and East and West Blocks that dictated the Gothic Revival style of the new Centre Block and Peace Tower (1916-1927) designed, appropriately, by John A. Pearson (1867-1940) of Toronto and J. Omar Marchand (1872-1936) of Montreal. “Even today,” observes Kalman in 1993, “a team of sculptors continues to chip away at completing the interior ornament” of the Centre Block (2:712).

    Although, as will be seen, the Gothic Revival style of the Parliament Buildings continued to be imitated and echoed in the Ottawa area long after the end of the nineteenth century, changes in taste from the late eighteen eighties to the First World War dictated that the provincial legislative buildings that were built in Ontario (1886-92), British Columbia (1893-97), Alberta (1908-13), Saskatchewan (1908-13), and Manitoba (1913-20) were in very different styles. Designed by Richard A. Waite (1848-1911), the Ontario Legislative Building – Margaret Atwood's “squat pinkish heart of a squat province” (Life Before Man [1979] 48) – is an elephantine adaptation of the Romanesque style of the American architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-86) that is widely regarded as a major architectural expression of the rugged American spirit. The building’s glory is its decorative stonecarving, which is also a redeeming feature of its equally massive but more elegant cousin, the Old Toronto City Hall (1889-1899) designed by Edward John Lennox (1855-1933), the Toronto-born and trained architect whose antics vividly illustrate the creative freedom within an established design that the Gothic Revival styles permit and, indeed, encourage: after certain city councillors had twitted him over the mounting costs of the building, he arranged for caricatures of them to be carved over the main entrance, beside “a flattering portrait of himself” (Kuitenbrouwer). When the city refused to cover all his expenses and to honour his authorship of the building with an inscription, he ordered “E.J. LENNOX ARCHITECT A.D. 1898” to be carved in large letters into one of its brackets.

    Begun in 1893, the year in which the White City at the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago gave the world the gleaming neoclassical image of urban renewal and American vitality that inspired Lampman to write a celebratory poem in the Whitman long line (see Chapter 7: Northern Reflections), the British Columbia Legislative Buildings reflect the tenacious Britishness of their surroundings and the English origins of their architect, Francis Mawson Rattenbury (1867-1935), in being Romanesque but less “Richardsonian or American than Late Victorian British” (Kalman 2:554). In contrast, the legislative buildings of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba all derive directly or indirectly from contemporary American state capitols, particularly those in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island (see Kalman 2: 555-59). The aside in The Stone Diaries (1993) in which Carol Shields (1935-2003) has an “eminent Chicago architect … declare … that American builders would be clamoring” for the local stone being used to construct the Manitoba Legislative Building and other buildings in Winnipeg (69) reverses the usual direction of the flow of designs and materials that is no less (and some would argue more) evident on the Prairies than elsewhere in Canada. The architect chosen for the Alberta Legislative Building was American. Much of the sandstone used in its construction came from Ohio. Shields herself was born and educated in Illinois.


When, in the wake of the largely congratulatory Jubilee celebrations of 1927, S.I. Hayakawa complained that “[t]he bulk of poems written in Canada may be … classified … [as] Victorian, Neo-Victorian, Quasi-Victorian, and Pseudo-Victorian [:] … [o]ur poets carol (regrettably) in Victorian English” (qtd. in Leo Kennedy 100), he could easily have included Canadian buildings and architects in his sweeping condemnation. By the late ’twenties, Modernism was very much in evidence both in literature and in architecture: T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922) and James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) had been succeeded by ee cummings’ XLI Poems (1925), Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun also Rises (1926), and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927); Adolf Loos’s Ornament und Verbrechen (1908), Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture (1923), and Walter Gropius’s Idee und Aufbau des staatlichen Bauhauses Weimer (1923) had found expression in Le Corbusier’s Esprit Nouveau Pavilion (1925) at the Paris Exhibition, Gropius’s Bauhaus Building (1925-26) in Dessau, and the Weissenhof-Siedling group of experimental houses (1927) at the Stuttgart Housing Exhibition. Other landmarks of literary and architectural Modernism quickly followed: in 1929, Mies van der Rohe’s German Pavilion at the Barcelona Exhibition; in 1930, Harte Crane’s The Bridge; in 1931, Le Corbusier’s Swiss House in the Paris Cité Universitaire; and in 1932 Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. While the massive shifts in form, content, and technique that these and other contemporaneous works signaled and embodied were taking place, Canadian literature and architecture showed few signs of change. From a Modernist perspective, Kennedy’s “roadside ribbon romanticism” was (regrettably) the architectural order of the day and the literary situation was no better: in F.R. Scott’s “The Canadian Authors Meet” (written in 1927), an Eliotic satire on the Canadian Authors’ Association, “Victorian saintliness” and loyalty to King and country are among the negative characteristics of a “Miss Crotchet” and her fellow “Virgins of sixty who still write of passion” (Collected Poems 248) and in Munro Beattie’s equally caustic assessment of the ’twenties in the Literary History of Canada “the versifiers of this arid period, having nothing to say, kept up a constant jejune chatter about infinity, illicit love, devotion to Empire, death, beauty, God, and Nature” (724). The Tudor Revival style popularized by the English Arts and Crafts movement spawned leaded glass windows, steeply pitched roofs, and mock half-timbering in wealthier neighbourhoods across the country, and the pages of myriads of magazines and chapbooks teemed with their literary equivalents – “‘Lady of Shalott’ stanza[s], … ‘In Memoriam’ stanza[s] and … cadence[s] … out of ‘Locksley Hall’” that Beattie identifies as part of the stock-in-trade of the “[s]weet singers of the Canadian out-of-doors” in the nineteen twenties (723-24).

    This is not to say either that Beattie and Scott were entirely accurate in their assessments of the writers whom they caricature or that signs of Modernism were entirely absent from Canadian literature and architecture in the ’twenties and early ’thirties. Recent studies of the work of Katherine Hale (1878-1956), Marjorie Pickthall (1883-1922), Louise Morey Bowman (1882-1944), and other “[s]weet singers” have revealed them to be much more accomplished and complex than Beattie or Scott were disposed to recognize, and such volumes as Newfoundland Verse (1923) by E.J. Pratt (1883-1964), Green Pitcher (1928) by Dorothy Livesay (1909-1996), and Laconics (1930) by W.W.E. Ross (1894-1966) contain pieces that are Modern in their crisp form and contemporary subject-matter. Similarly, such revival-style residences as the A.J. Nesbitt house (1926) in Montreal by Harold E. Shorey (1886-1971) and S. Douglas Ritchie (1887-1959) and the Gerald R. Larkin house (1926) in Toronto by George, Moorhouse, and King were thoughtful adaptations rather than mere imitations of their models (see Kalman 2:747-48). “[I]f we wish to copy them slavishly we can reproduce them with the assistance of an extensive library,” Alfred Chapman had written of the achievements of “the great architectural epochs of the past” in a paper delivered to the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1917, “but this, after all, is archaeology, not living architecture” (352). In the decades following the First World War, an increasing number of Canadian writers and artists as well as architects and designers entered the age-old quarrel between the ancients and the moderns, tradition and innovation, on the side of Modernism. “They will approach the task of expression fortified by new ideas and original conceptions,” Leo Kennedy (1907-2000) wrote of the “young men” of his generation; “their preoccupations are idealistic”; “[t]hey are distrustful of the dignified cultural stupidities of their elders”; “they will learn the lesson of all precursors, discovering in a western grain field, a Quebec maison, or in a Montreal night club, a spirit and a consciousness distinctly Canadian” (100).

    Nevertheless, as in earlier periods, the salient characteristics of Canadian literary, artistic, and architectural productions between the First and Second World Wars were their derivitiveness, their eclecticism, and their hybridity. Scott, A.J.M Smith, and the other poets of the McGill Movement regarded themselves as Modernists, but in reality their poetry was an amalgam of Modernism, and fin-de-siècle Aestheticism (see Trehearne). During the ’twenties Canadian fiction moved away from historical romance towards naturalistic realism and occasionally reveals the influence of such Modern novelists and short-story writers as Hemingway (Morley Callaghan, Strange Fugitive [1928]) and D.H. Lawrence (Martha Ostenso, Wild Geese [1925]), but the prairie realism of R.J.C. Stead’s novels owes large debts to the American local colourists of the previous century and the realistic novels of Frederick Philip Grove (1871-1948) were written, not, as he claimed, prior to the First World War (and thus in advance of Modern American realism), but several years later. The roots of the Group of Seven lie in Art Nouveau and the Scandinavian symbolistes whose work Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald saw at an exhibition in Buffalo in 1913. Arguably, Canadian architects and sculptors were at their most inventive during the inter-war period in the Art Deco style that came to prominence in the Paris Exhibition of 1925. Certainly, some superb examples of the style’s combination of art and technology are to be found on a number of public and domestic buildings in the Moderne style, notably Vancouver’s Marine Building (1929-30) by J.Y. McCarter (1886-1981) and George C. Nairne (1884-1953) and the exquisite studio-house (1930-31) of the Montreal architect Ernest Cormier (1885-1980) that became nationally known after it was acquired in 1981 by Trudeau. In Cormier’s finest achievement, the Supreme Court of Canada building (1938-39) in Ottawa, elements of Art Deco, Modern Classicism, and the Château Style are combined in a way that is consistent with the “national style” of the surrounding buildings (see Kalman 2:721)22 and that almost transcends “archaeology.”

    By the mid-to-late ’thirties works of comparable originality in distinctly Modern idioms had appeared in Canadian literature and art. Pratt’s The Titanic (1935) and Anne Marriott’s The Wind Our Enemy (1939) succeeded in the very difficult task of borrowing techniques and motifs from The Waste Land without sounding like bad second-hand Eliot.23 Sinclair Ross (1908-1996) published such starkly realistic short stories as “The Lamp at Noon” (1938) and “The Painted Door” (1939) and drew upon Freudian psychology and the Bloomsburian aesthetics of Roger Fry and Clive Bell to produce Canada’s first and arguably finest Modernist novel, As for Me and My House (1941).24 In 1927, Lawren Harris had been instrumental in bringing an exhibition of works by Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and other Modern artists to Toronto (see Dennis Reid 177 and 188), and in the ensuing years his work moved increasingly towards the abstraction of such pieces as Composition No. 1 (1941). In 1937, the Toronto artist and writer Bertram Brooker (1888-1955), who had been experimenting with abstraction since the late ’twenties, painted Torso, a female figure with averted face whose awkward pose and foregrounded corporeality are simultaneously stark in their realism and a comment on the Western tradition of the nude. On the West Coast, Emily Carr (1871-1945), was using the oil-on-paper technique that she had devised in 1932 (see Dennis Reid 161) to produce such pulsating marriages of Post-Impressionism and the B.C. environment as The Mountain (1933), Sky (circa 1935), and Young Pines and Sky (circa 1939).

    When the nineteen twenties and ’thirties are seen as a whole, the picture that comes into view is of a nation made confident by its role in the First World War, its participation in the ensuing peace process, and its independent status on the League of Nations, but still (and as Hayakawa so wittily stated) fundamentally Victorian in many of its attitudes and practices. Since well before the First World War, French poetry (symbolisme), French painting (Impressionism), and French architecture (Beaux-Arts) had provided inspiration in their respective spheres and (especially in French Canada) to Canadian writers, artists, and architects, yet the orientation and in many cases the make-up of all three arts communities in English Canada remained British, especially English and Scottish. (Three members of the Group of Seven were born in England, as was Brooker.) This continued to be the case between the wars, but gradually the tightly-knit, predominantly male, and centripetally Torontocentric nature of the English-Canadian artistic, literary, and architectural communities were expanding in accordance with regional diversity, female participation, and changing immigration patterns. All six of the poets in New Provinces (1936), the first concerted attempt to bring Modern Canadian poetry to Canadian readers, were men, but one (Pratt) was from Newfoundland and another (A.M. Klein) was a Jew born in the Ukraine. Carr was by no means the only female painter working in Canada during the ’thirties: when the Group of Seven expanded in 1933 to become the Canadian Group of Painters, it attracted Prudence Heward (1896-1947), Sarah Robertson (1891-1948), and several other women artists whose portraits and landscapes in the Post-Impressionist mode have come to be highly regarded (see Meadowcroft). Architecture remained – and, indeed, remains – a largely male preserve, but there, too, the movement was towards greater ethnic and regional diversity. That the decade following the Second World War witnessed both a new diversity in Canadian architecture and the arrival of Modernism is surely not fortuitous: whether in architecture, literature, or art, Modernism was international in ideals and scope. Even as the Toronto (and Toronto-born) architect and architectural guru John M. Lyle (1872-1945) reiterated Chapman’s call to Canadian architects to abandon “archaeology” in a 1932 address to the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, he recognized the dangers inherent in Modernism:25

While we may agree with the extreme modernist of the engineering view-point [that is, Le Corbusier] that certain types of buildings lend themselves to a blocky, bald treatment and the elimination of all ornament, we most certainly do not accept this point of view as the last word in the development of a new architecture. If this conception of architecture was to dominate, we would have no national or distinctive architecture, all architecture would look alike. It would become international and the slab-sided box outlines of Germany and France would be identical with those of Canada and the United States. (70)

    A glancing and politically charged attack on perhaps the strangest manifestation of the eclecticism that Chapman and Lyle characterize as “archaeology” – the collection of architectural fragments that William Lyon Mackenzie King assembled on his estate (Kingsmere) near Ottawa – appears in F.R. Scott’s “W.L.M.K.” (1957), his belated and mockingly satirical elegy on the prime minister’s death in 1950. A keen avatar of social-democratic Modernism, Scott saw King as a backward-looking eccentric, a “Mother’s boy in … [a] lonely room / With his dog, his medium, and his ruins,” whose failings as a nation builder required a correspondingly deficient commemorative architecture:

He blunted us.

We had no shape
Because he never took sides,
And no sides
Because he never allowed them to take shape.

He skilfully avoided what was wrong
Without saying what was right,
And never let his on the one hand
Know what his on the other hand was doing.

The height of his ambition
Was to pile a Parliamentary Committee on a Royal Commission….
        ·         ·         ·
Let us raise up a temple
To the cult of mediocrity,
Do nothing by halves
Which can be done by quarters.

(Collected Poems 78-79)

Where there should have been a centred and balanced structure, there are “ruins,” a “pile” of missed opportunities, and a “cult of mediocrity” whose “temple” will never be built, of course, because its architects prefer “halves” and “quarters” to wholes. In The Waste Land “fragments” and “broken images” from myth, history, literature, and popular culture are “shored against … ruin” in an effort to discern “order” (63, 79). At Kingsmere the fragments of nineteenth-century bank façades and other structures assembled by King represent no such possibilities: in the terms of Scott’s “Overture” (1945) they represent, not the “new beginnings” of “an era being born,” but the nostalgic perpetuation of “systems” in a state – indeed, a State – of “Decay” (Collected Poems 87).26

    By the time Scott wrote “W.L.M.K.” in 1954, Modernism had made extensive incursions into Canada and, displaying the same affinity with the urban as it had in Europe and the United States, established itself with special extensity in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. As seen in Chapter 12: “The Music of Rhyme…,” the Modernist architecture of Vancouver, notably the British Columbia Electric Building (1955-57) and the West Coast Style houses of Charles B.K. Van Norman (1907-75), B.C. Binning (1909-76), Frederic Lasserre (1911-61), and other exponents of the International Style inspired a series of poems by the Vancouver writer Earle Birney (1904-95) that constitutes one of the most extensive architexts in Canadian literature. (Other more-or-less celebratory treatments of Canadian cities from the period following the Second World War include Cabbagetown [1950] by Hugh Garner [1913-79], a bildungsroman set in the Toronto neighbourhood of its title during the Depression, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz [1959] by Mordecai Richler [1931-2001], a more accomplished novel in the same genre set in and around Montreal in the decades surrounding the Second World War, and almost as many pedestrian poems as there are Toronto streets in the post-war oeuvre of Raymond Souster [1921- ].)27 In Toronto, a rubicon was passed in the mid-’fifties with the rejection of a banal design for a new city hall that was proposed by a group of Toronto architects, the organization of an international architectural competition for the building, and the construction from 1961 to 1965 of the two asymmetrical concave towers designed by the Finnish architect Viljo Revell that, together with the nearby statue entitled the Archer by the English Modernist Henry Moore, figure prominently in Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies (1968) (see Chapter 6: The Centre in the Square). Not everyone has shared Lee’s enthusiasm for the open space in front of the New City Hall that came to be known as Nathan Phillips Square: when Frank Lloyd Wright saw Revell’s design for it, he remarked caustically, “‘This marks the spot where Toronto fell’” (qtd. in James Cowan).

    But by far the most extensive architectural manifestations of Modernism in Canada are Place Ville Marie (1958-66) in Montreal and the Toronto-Dominion Centre (1963-69 and later) in Toronto. Designed by I.M. Pei (1917- ) in association with a Montreal urban designer (Vincent Ponte) and architecture firm (Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Michand, and Sise), the former is centred on a cruciform, forty-five storey, aluminum and glass-clad tower that for a time “had the largest area of any office tower in the world” (Kalman 2: 804). The latter was also “unprecedented in scale” (Kalman 2: 800). Designed by none other than Mies van der Rohe and executed by the Toronto firms of Bregmann and Hamann and John B. Parkin Associates (who had recently completed a crisply modern headquarters for the Ontario Association of Architects), the Toronto-Dominion Centre would eventually expand from its original two asymmetrical office buildings and banking pavilion to a complex consisting of five towers, all black and all overlaid with a grid pattern28 generated by the interaction between, on the horizontal, the sections of wall above and below the windows and, on the vertical, external steel I-beams. As Kalman observes, the T-D Centre is “a classic statement of the International Style aesthetic”: a work of “exquisite, clear, crisp, linearity and abstract formalism” that is “independent from issues of use, geography, and context” (2:802).29 As such, it has literary equivalents in Under the Volcano (1947) the Joycean novel in a Mexican setting by the British-born and educated writer Malcolm Lowry (1909-57) that happens to have been written in British Columbia, and Anatomy of Criticism (1957), the structuralist analysis of literature by the Quebec-born and Toronto-educated scholar Northrop Frye (1912-91) that contains no reference whatsoever to Canadian literature.

    It was a combination of the relative indifference of Modernism to geographical and cultural contexts and the proliferation of slavish imitations of the International Style after the Second World War that in Canada as elsewhere led to a variety of hostile reactions to the movement and style. During the period surrounding the Centenary of Confederation, these reactions were closely allied to a resurgence of nationalism that was reminiscent of the nineteen twenties and, before that, the eighteen eighties: “all the … modern buildings [in Montreal] are the same thing … the same progressive insubstantiation” (186-87) of Canadian history and culture is one of the milder comments on Modernism in Place d’Armes (1967), a postmodern novel by the aggressively nationalistic Scott Symons, who would later cast Toronto’s new City Hall as the “Anti-Hero” and “Anti-Body” (np) of Civic Squares (1969) and complain in Heritage (1971) that Modern “bank towers and trust companies” had obscured “Toronto the Good, City of Churches” (np). More characteristic and caustic is his likening of the experience of Place Ville-Marie to a “huge marble shaft up ... [the] ass” and his diagnosis of “the new Toronto City, the new Toronto Airport ... the New Toronto [as] ... part of Creeping Parkin's Disease” (Place d'Armes 242, 243). One of the aims of Modern architecture and its advocates was to create livable buildings (for example, part of the brief for the British Columbia Electric Building [1955-57] in Vancouver was that everyone working in it would be able “to look out a window and benefit from natural light” [Kalman 2:790]), but in Canada as elsewhere the perception became very different. “‘[D]evelopers’ ignore aesthetics / squash people as if / we weren’t good enough / to be allowed gut room,” grumbled Luella Booth (1923- ) in 1970 about some unnamed “ugly buildings” in Toronto (44). Sharon H. Nelson (1948- ) is more precise but no less caustic in “Recipes and Algorithms” (1992): the “glass and steel and concrete” of Modern architecture are materials with which to achieve “abstraction” and “proportion” but they “defy / embodiment” and achieve a “scale” at which “no one is safe” (91-93). “‘Well I guess there’s only one thing to do’,” says a character in Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle (1976). “‘How about a double suicide? Or maybe I could shoot you and then jump off the Toronto Dominion Centre with your body in my arms’” (271).

    Even as negative reaction developed and became the norm Modernism retained its admirers, however, and eventually garnered renewed appreciation. The location of “High-rise Eye” (1976) by the Kingston poet Tom Marshall is not specified, but more than likely its “downtown glass houses huge” that lead the eye upwards towards “white blue moving / sky clouds” are in Toronto or Montreal (The White City 36-37). George Bowering’s “No Solitudes” (1977) could be as much a response to Symons’s condemnation of Place Ville-Marie as an “abortion” that, among other sins, obscures the view of Mount Royal and the Classical Revival façade and tower of “the old Sun Life” Assurance Company building (147, 52) as to Hugh MacLennan’s analysis of the bifurcation of Canadian culture in Two Solitudes (1945):

that is, linear in the poems
as no separation makes feasible
as the Place Ville Marie names
Montreal, & in the sunset
turns on its lights, seen from
Mt. Royal, cubist but seen
with the same eye that sees angular
church domes, French
fried potatoes, long cubes
on the ground, fitting in
(The Concrete Island np)

A decade later in “Montreal” (1988) by the London, Ontario writer Christopher Dewdney (1951- ) the city is first figured as a “pitiless human machine” and a realm of “stone gods,” but then its “night glow” reveals its beauty and its humanity:

Mount Royal
supports the rock dome
of the sky while
the city turns
on the axis
of Place Ville Marie
whose summit is the nocturnal hub
of a giant windmill of light.
Luminescent architecture
as the entire sky
revolves around us.
Resolves around us.

By the late ’eighties, the rehabilitation of Modernism was sufficiently complete to generate conservational concerns reminiscent of earlier cycles of taste. “Place Ville Marie … and Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square of 1966 – so novel and imposing in their day – suddenly seemed dark and dated,” observed Susan Bronson at the time, the upshot being that in 1987-88 Place Ville-Marie was extensively renovated to “regain declining business assets … [and] attract tenants” (160-61). “Place Ville Marie has once again become a popular, though less exclusive, people place,” continues Bronson, “[b]ut this first major transformation of one of Montreal’s most eloquent expressions of the International Style has raised an important question: Have we arrived at the point when a Modern monument constitutes ‘heritage’ and, if so, does an intervention of this nature not betray the architectural integrity of our most recent past?” (161).


A glance at the nature, purpose, and result of the “intervention” in Place Ville-Marie – the addition of such features as “gently arched ceilings with indirect lighting … and the replacement of … [a] once elegant bistro-type bar … with a food court” in order to make the building popular and profitable (Bronson 161) – provides a good indication of the style and assumptions at work. Postmodernism made its first major architectural and conceptual appearance in Canada at Expo ’67, where a much more studied and intense embrace of internationalism than had occurred with similar irony during the Jubilee celebrations forty years earlier resulted in an emphasis, not on Canadian history and culture, but on “a kind of perfect, state-less individual and a world wherein such individuals were equal” (Cawker and Bernstein 13). Developed by a group consisting of architects, artists, authors and a few professionals at a conference in Montebello in 1963, the theme of Expo ’67 – Terre des Hommes/Man and His World – was completely “[i]n keeping with … [Canada’s] internationalist, peace-keeping self image” during the Pearson and, indeed, Trudeau years of Liberal government (1963-68, 1968-84). Whatever the reality, Canada would represent itself to itself and to the world in 1967 as a champion and practitioner of individualism, internationalism, and egalitarianism.30 An architecture consistent with these values would eschew the conventional, the national, the elitist. It would be innovative, placeless, and populist. It would be as much post-Modern as post-Victorian and post-Georgian: the grid would be as absent as the pointed arch and the symmetrical façade.

    These principles and absences are strikingly apparent in Expo ’67's five most celebrated buildings: Habitat 67 by the Montreal architect Moshe Safdie (1938- ), an asymmetrical jumble of near-identical modules; the United States Pavilion by the American architect Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), a geodesic dome of metal piping designed with the assistance of a computer; the Man in Community Pavilion by the Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson (1924- ), a jagged tent-like tower of wood designed with its unpermancy in mind;31 and the Man the Explorer and Man the Producer Pavilions by Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, and Sise, each featuring three enormous tetrahedrons with lozenge-shaped apertures. “[I]t seemed a new world of architectural design was opening up” at Expo ’67, commented the Toronto journalist Robert Fulford; “walls slanted. Doors and windows were, quite often, not rectangular. The right angle and the straight line no longer ruled the world – there were hexagons, pentagons, and truncated tetrahedrons. Not everything was made of steel or glass: there were plastics, too, and plywoods …” (qtd. in Cawker and Bernstein 18). When Fulford reviewed Place d’Armes in 1967, he saw little else than its explicit homosexuality (see Chapter 6: The Centre in the Square), but in Symons’ inclusion in the novel of postcards of Montreal and other items as well as in its hostility to Modernism and, indeed, in its scandalizing sexual descriptions, he could have recognized a literary equivalent of the “much that was fresh and different and even daring” that he saw in Expo ’67 (qtd. in Cawker and Bernstein 18).

    Place d’Armes was not the only or even the first Canadian literary work to reflect the uninhibited and eclectic movement to which Andy Warhol was giving expression in art and for which Robert Venturi had provided an architectural theory in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966). In the same year as the appearance of Venturi’s iconoclastic celebration of “messy vitality over obvious unity” (22), peculiarity over universality, and hybridity over purity, Leonard Cohen (1934- ) published Beautiful Losers, the novel widely “credited with introducing postmodernism to Canadian fiction” and famously described by Fulford in 1966 as both “‘the most revolting book ever written in Canada’” and “‘the most interesting Canadian book of the year’” (qtd. in Goldie 92). Several aspects of the novel resonate with the playful attitude to the past that is characteristic of postmodernism, none more so than a passage in which the narrator is sketching in the character of its principal character, the polymorphously perverse “F”:

His knowledge of ancient Greece was based entirely on a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, a few homosexual encounters with [Montreal] restaurateurs …, and a plaster reproduction of the Akropolis which, for some reason, he had coated with red nail polish. He had meant to use colorless nail polish merely as a preservative, but naturally he succumbed to his flamboyant disposition at the drug-store counter when confronted with … [a] fortress of bright samples…. He chose a color named Tibetan Desire, which amused him since it was, he claimed, such a contradiction in terms. The entire night he consecrated to the staining of his plaster model…. He was humming snatches from “The Great Pretender,” a song which was to change the popular music of our day…. White to viscous red, one column after another, a transfusion of blood into the powdery ruined fingers of the little monument…. So they disappeared, the leprous metopes and triglyphs and other wiggly names signifying purity, pale temple and destroyed altar disappeared under the scarlet glaze. (10)

Here suggestively and in small is an attitude to history and architecture that calls to mind numerous postmodern buildings in Canada and elsewhere, especially those that make use of architectural form in a playful and sometimes whimsical or startling manner, as is the case in the Mississauga City Hall and Civic Square (1982-86) by Edward Jones (1939- ) and Michael Kirkland (1943- ), the front of which is a stylized pediment that proclaims its “role as a public institution” (Cawker and Bernstein 202) by recalling a gabled temple or other large classical building32 and Vancouver’s Library Square (1992-95) by Safdie, whose circular structure, tiered apertures, and simplified colonnades make the entire building an absurdly inappropriate allusion to the Coliseum in Rome. In part because of its lack of playfulness, Safdie’s masterpiece, the National Gallery of Canada (1983-88) in Ottawa, resists easy categorization as postmodern (a label that he has himself resisted), but in echoing the Gothic lines of the nearby Library of Parliament (1859-77) its most celebrated component – the glazed and concrete-clad Great Hall at its western end – reflects two of the assumptions that undergird much postmodern practice, namely historical gesture and sensitivity to site. This is also true of the more recent Canadian War Museum (2002-05) in Ottawa by Raymond Moriyama (1929- ) and his associates: an extolment of peace as well as a commemoration of war, it contains both a Regeneration Hall and a Memorial Hall. One of its windows provides a view of the Peace Tower, and part of its roof resembles a battlefield that is burgeoning with new vegetation.

    Whether in architecture, literature, another art, or a combination of media, the playful and often iconoclastic aspect of postmodernism reflects an underlying distrust of the ideological assumptions and historical associations of most existing styles and genres, the notable exception being vernacular forms reflective of indigenous cultures and the immediate environment. Energized by the protest movements of the ’sixties and ’seventies and drawing upon the ideas and practices of Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and other thinkers and writers in the forefront of the deconstructive and poststructuralist movements, Canadian poets and novelists such as Bowering, Robert Kroetsch (1927- ) and bp Nichol sought to subvert traditional narrative structures and thus their underlying metanarratives (for example, progress, imperialism, the Christian story) by deploying a variety of devices, from unclosed brackets and the absence of terminal punctuation to false beginnings, historical fabrications, and on-going, theoretically endless long poems. Bowering’s Burning Water (1980) is “a real historical fiction” in which Captain George Vancouver, when he is “confident that no one else could see, let his little finger touch Quadra’s bottom as they … stroll around the deck” of the Discovery (10, 196). Kroetsch’s Seed Catalogue (1977) begins with alternative statements (a device reconditely known as hasosismo):

We took the storm windows / off
the south side of the house
and put them on the hotbed.
Then it was spring. Or, no:
then winter was ending.

Book V of Nichol’s The Martyrology, a long poem begun in 1967 and still in process at his death in 1988, is “structured on the idea of the chain – chain of thot [sic], chain of images, chain of events,” one purpose of which is to enable the reader to choose either to continue along one chain or, “at different points, to diverge & follow the chain … the various numbered options represent ….” (np). Nichol gives a poetic to the pluralism that Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper see as “an inevitable part of the post-modern condition” (409) when he writes that the freedom of choice provided by the chain “means … that no two readers will necessarily have the same experience … [of the text], tho they will walk away with a similar sum” (np). (That no such playing with Canada’s historical and architectural narratives takes place in Safdie’s National Gallery is consistent with its at best uneasy alignment with postmodernism.)

    There is no need to subscribe to the Hegelian idea that the spirit of an age is imbued in all its creations to recognize, as numerous commentators have done, that by the early ’eighties, postmodernism was wearing the brand of Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney era neo-Liberalism (or neo-Conservatism). Whether that brand was already present in the twin emphases of Expo ’67 on “the individual and the world at large, with very little in-between” (Cawker and Bernstein 13) is open to debate, though the evacuation of society and nation from the Fair’s programme does echo forward to Margaret Thatcher’s famous (and curiously Derridean) “[W]ho is society? There is no such thing!” (qtd. in E.H.H. Green 289).33 More concretely, the still-continuing use of traditional architectural motifs and forms for gestural purposes on commercial buildings and complexes that Edward W. Soja terms “neo-conservative postmodernism” (74) has gone a long way to strengthen an association that is very much apparent in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and even more so in Venturi’s subsequent and highly influential Learning from Las Vegas (1972; rev. ed. 1977). The neoclassical banks of earlier eras were temples of commerce, but postmodern malls are the basilicas of consumerism. “The bank has Roman pillars, to remind us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, such as those ridiculous service charges,” quips the narrator of Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (2000) (144), and in Timothy Findley’s Headhunter (1993) St. Teresa of Avila, having been brought back into being in Toronto by “a spiritualist of intense but undisciplined powers,” “storms off into the Eaton Centre [1973-81], thinking – because of its rising shape – she had found a cathedral” (3). With its evocations of Romantic European and American streetscapes (Europa Boulevard, Bourbon Street) and its amusement and water parks (Fantasyland, World Waterpark) and its myriad retail and food outlets, West Edmonton Mall (1981-86) by the Belfast-born architect Maurice Sunderland is merely the largest and most Disneyesque of its kind: a prismatic and repetitive microcosm of neo-Liberal culture and postmodern space that is simultaneously a place of business and entertainment, a facility that promises huge freedom of choice and movement, but in reality, consists of labyrinthine enclosure that offers limited possibilities in a variety of outlets operated by different arms of several companies.

    Both as microcosms of consumer culture and as postmodernism’s most conspicuous “megastructures” – “permanent and dominating frame[s] containing subordinate and transient accommodations” (Banham 9) – large malls invite analysis as Baudrillardian simulacra34 and answer readily to Ruskin’s critiques of “operative,” “structural,” and “surface deceit” (43, 30, 37). Yet, repugnant as they are from some very legitimate ideological perspectives, malls are enormously appealing to the vast majority of Canadian citizens, and for good reason: in addition to providing abundant enough facilities for shopping, eating, and entertainment, they do so in an environment that is climate-controlled, clean, and safe. During the decades preceding and following the Second World War when Modernism was gaining supremacy in Canada, community centres were installed in towns and villages across the country to provide communities with facilities for physical recreation and intellectual stimulation (see Vance 123-32). During the pre- and post- Confederation periods equivalent purposes were served by churches and town and city halls. Most of these structures still exist and continue to serve their communities, while malls provide opportunities for more fluid and borderless types of social and cultural reaction – spaces to which people of different ages, classes, and interests are drawn to meet friends, to see and be seen, to place and locate themselves among the constituents of a society that is both Canadian and, especially in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and other large cities, increasingly multicultural and postcolonial. Architecturally undistinguished products though they are of a commercial system that puts a high priority on the inexpensive and adaptable, malls are nevertheless the sites of civic activities in a Canada whose diversity could scarcely have been imagined even a couple of decades before the Millennium.35


Whatever illusions of a coming golden age that there may have been in the years preceding 2000 must surely have been shattered two years, nine months, and eleven days later. Far from coming to an end as Francis Fukuyama predicted in 1989 as the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union were being dismantled, history has come closer to the “clash of civilizations” predicted seven years later by Samuel P. Huntington.36 Nor are wars and rumours of wars the only grave matters that confront humanity in the twenty-first century. Poverty, disease, starvation, and genocide stalk entire continents. Non-renewable resources are being depleted at unprecedented rates and many fish stocks have sunk to alarmingly low levels. Pollution of the air, the water, and the earth is continuing on a massive scale. Only if Nature is assumed to be robust beyond permanent damage can the current and continuing state of affairs be regarded with equinamity. From all other perspectives, it must be regarded as either beyond the power of ordinary people to remedy or in need of carefully planned or – the green perspective – radically corrective attention.37 This, starkly put, is the past-modern condition.38 Its implications in the legislative and diplomatic spheres are matters of daily debate and enormous disagreement. To and for most writers and artists, the nature and implications of the pastmodern condition are also matters of daily concern, but, all too often, the verbal and built solutions that they generate remain theoretical, isolated, and only modestly effective. How many people outside architectural circles have encountered the “nonmodern” convergence of “critical regionalism” and “social ecology” that Steven A. Moore proposes in his 2001 study of the Blueprint Demonstration Farm at Laredo, Texas (21-22)? How many people outside literary circles have encountered Lawrence Buell’s plea in The Environmental Imagination (1995) that by failing to attend sufficiently to the literal as well as the literary aspects of writing recent criticism has implicitly endured a false and dangerous dichotomy between the human and non-human worlds?

    For Canadian architects there is no lack of blueprints for sustainable architecture and in Canadian literature there are numerous exemplars of the environmental imagination. In Permaculture: a Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future (1990), Bill Mollison identifies two responsibilities that must be shouldered Atlas-like in the interests of planetary survival: “to limit … population” and “to get our house and garden, our place of living, in order so that it supports us” and continues to do so (7). For “temperature cold” and “wintercold” regions such as those in which most Canadians live, he identifies three factors that enhance sustainability by increasing thermal efficiency and conserving energy:

[1]Village[s] or streets aligned eastwest at the mid-slope … of … sunfacing slope[s]…. [2] Housing closely placed or conjoined at east and west walls, and preferably of two to four stories … [to] reduce insulation costs and create a compact site…. [And] [3] Careful planning of accessory landscaping to provide for … windbreak[s] …, to assist insulation … [and] to admit … winter light to all facades to the sunward aspect. (415)

“[S]ettlements in cool areas should present a stepped aspect,” he adds before proceeding to the specifics of house design and proportions, “so that each dwelling presents a full façade to the winter sun.” Houses and developments constructed in accordance with these and similar principles have been built throughout Canada, notable examples being the Vento residential development in Calgary (2003-2006) by Busby Perkins + Will and the campus of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (2002) in Durham by Smith Carter. Yet a visit to almost any new residential development or academic building in the country reveals the extent to which ecological principles are still more honoured in the breach than the observance.

    More than a century ago, Lampman enjoined the readers of “On the Companionship of Nature” (1900) to “be much with Nature; not as they … that employ / Her unloved forces, blindly without joy” but “Discerning in each natural fruit of earth / Kinship and bond” (Poems 258-59). So successful were the assaults of Canada’s literary Modernists on their Victorian precursors that Lampman’s message and those of other like-minded writers such as Bliss Carman went all but unheard for several decades.39 One Canadian poet who was listening to Lampman’s message and others along similar lines, however, is Don McKay, whose vitalistic and historically conscious treatment of the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Long Sault (1975) anticipates the most accomplished body of ecopoetry in contemporary Canadian writing (see Chapter 11: Moving House(s)). Naturally enough, the majority of the ecopoems in McKay’s BIRDING, or Desire (1983), Night Field (1991), Another Gravity (2000), and other volumes are nature poems that make little, if any reference to the built environment; however, in the meditative prose of “Binder Twine: Thoughts on Ravens, Home, and Nature Poetry” (1995) and the more recent (and Levinasian) Vis à Vis: Field Notes on Poetry and Wilderness (2001), he directs his attention to “home-making” to argue for a balance between the “primordial grasp” that is always at work in the process of making a home or “tak[ing] place” and a celebratory facing towards the otherness of the “wilderness,” which he defines, “not just [as] a set of endangered spaces, but [as] the capacity of all things to elude the mind’s appropriations” (Vis à Vis 21-23, and see 26). For decades, commentators on Canadian architecture and even some Canadian architects have been influenced in their thinking by Frye’s largely groundless and arguably paranoiac assertion in his 1965 “Conclusion” to the Literary History of Canada that “a tone of deep terror in regard to nature” pervades Canadian poetry and generates in “Canadian communities” and “the Canadian imagination” what he calls “a garrison mentality” (836, and see Chapter 12: “The Music of Rhyme ...”).40 A pastmodern architecture and a pastmodern literature would conceive of their goal as the creation, not of garrison-like mental and physical structures, but of structures that accommodate the human need for shelter, security, and comfort while also encouraging their inhabitants in the Heideggerian being towards the natural world and one another that acknowledges otherness as well as interdependence, taking care as well as leaving be.

    Ecological imperatives are by no means the only aspects of the pastmodern condition that conduce to this need for accommodative balance. From the beginning, Canada has been a “community of communities” whose constituent individuals and collectivities display “a tangle of allegiances at local, regional (or provincial), and national scales” (Wynn 408, 407), but down the centuries, and especially since the Second World War, the variety, magnitude, and assertiveness of its communities have grown and are now exerting pressures on every component of Canadian society, not least creators and commentators in the fields of architecture and literature. “There are Italian neighbourhoods and Vietnamese neighbourhoods in this city,” writes Dionne Brand of Toronto in What We All Long For (2005);

there are Chinese ones and Ukrainian ones and Pakistani ones and Korean ones and African ones. Name a region on the planet and there’s someone from there, here….
    In this city there are Bulgarian mechanics, there are Eritrean accountants, Colombian café owners, Latvian book publishers, Welsh roofers, Afghani dancers, Iranian mathematicians, Tamil cooks in Thai restaurants, Calabrese boys with Jamaican accents, Fushen deejays. Filipini-Saudi beauticians; Russian doctors changing tires, there are Romanian bill collectors, Cape Croker fishmongers, Japanese grocery clerks, French gas meter readers, German bakers, Haitian and Bengali taxi drivers with Irish dispatchers. (4, 5)

In short, there are numerous racial and ethnic enclaves that translate into countless individual transformations and hybridities. In the cities and, increasingly, the towns and rural areas of postcolonial Canada, complexity and contradiction have been joined by diversity, blending and, unfortunately, suspicion and tension.

    To be answerable to this reality Canadian architecture, like Canadian literature, must continuously reinterpret and, where appropriate, reinforce the balance between interdependence and independence, shared rules and individualism, that evolved into Confederation and found textual expression in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution Act of 1982. No less than the written word, buildings and developments can conduce to a convivial combination of individual freedom and good government by providing easy access to safe and shareable public spaces, by providing frontages and interior spaces that are flexible and adaptable, and by providing for varieties of the privacy and openness that are essential to neighbourliness. Freed from its class and period assumptions A. Trystan Edwards’s argument in Good and Bad Manners in Architecture (1924) that “[c]ontinuity, sociability, order, and a fundamental respect for the thing next to it … are the expression of the urbane spirit that should animate all the arts” remains compelling, as does his view that buildings should possess “a quality of geniality and friendliness” rather than impress on us “our … utter insignificance” and as does his conviction that architects and planners should seek to honour “individuality,” “diversity,” and “differentiation” within the “uniformity” provided by “a common cultural standard” (163, 50-51, 123-75).41 To these ends, set-backs should be consistent, heights compatible, and “façades in a common vertical plane” (128), but house and store fronts more or less varied according to need and preference, and streets and sidewalks wide and uncluttered enough for ease of movement and social interaction. In the interests of energy conservation as well as “sociability,” conviviality, and the equilibrium between privacy and community – the “idiorhythmie” – of which Roland Barthes write in Comment vivre ensemble – walls should be shared and adequately sound-proofed. In the interests of generating the respect and care for property and persons that comes when people are proud of where they live all forms of housing should be as beautiful and well-made as financial and other circumstances permit (and see Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just for the argument that thinking about beauty makes people less self-centred and more concerned with fairness in the ethical as well as the aesthetic sense of the word). None of these suggestions or any others that could be made along the same lines is either new or foreign to current best practices, but their iteration has the merit of instantiating the kinds of structures that are required by a pluralistic society that seeks to preserve diversity while encouraging connection and fostering the “urbanity” prized by Edwards (1) and the civility that the Newfoundland poet R.A. Parsons (1893-1981) describes as “conjunctive” (27). In his search for “the single thing that … makes one” of Canada’s provinces, Klein canvasses several Canadian icons including the Centre Block of the Houses of Parliament (“the house … whose towers ring / bells and the carillon of laws”) and settles finally on “the unity / in the family feature, the not unsimilar face” (2:643-44). In his meditation on one of the Montreal grain elevators celebrated by Le Corbusier in Vers une architecture (1923), the same writer allows his mind to range from Saskatchewan to Mongolia and ends the poem by envisioning the structure as a “great box flower[ing] over us / with all the coloured faces of mankind …” (2:650-51, and see Chapter 10: “A New Architecture, a Change of Heart”?). The faces of twentieth-century Canada are the “face[s]” of both of Klein’s poems, and so inevitably and increasingly are its architectures and literatures.

    If one of the “challenges” of Canadian architects is to design, “not their dreams, but the dreams of others, and to do this with … resources” that are often “meagre” and on “sites” that are sometimes “unpromising” (Diane Ghirardo, qtd. in Heneghan “Dreams and Hopes” 414), another is to create “the structure[s] of sharing” (Nancy 64) that not only facilitate genial face to face interaction in the here and now, but also encourage the connections between past, present, and future upon which stable individual and cultural identities are based. As effective as they may be in different ways, the superficial gestures of postmodernism and the tenacious conservatism of the architectural heritage movement are both singly and in combination inadequate to this purpose, for the former often results in a sense of inauthenticity and the latter in the preservation of isolated fragments of the past that are experienced as extraneous rather than culturally vital (see Rossi 59-60). Between the passages of What We All Long For that were quoted a few moments ago, Brand observes of Toronto’s ethnic neighbourhoods that “[a]ll of them sit on Ojibway land, but hardly any of … [their inhabitants] know or care because that genealogy is willfully untraceable except in the name of the city itself” (4). None of the first and second generation immigrants and migrants in the novel are exceptions to this rule and none displays any interest whatsoever either in Canadian history or – to quote Scadding again – in “the form and fashion of the … architecture and literature” of nineteenth- and twentieth- century Canada. The challenge facing Canadian architects and writers – indeed, anyone and everyone – concerned with the health of Canadian society is – once again in Scadding’s words – “to take what note we can” not just of the “labours” and “outcome[s]” of the past, but also of its failings, its blindnesses, and its injustices.

    Historical consciousness both in practice and as purpose thus joins ecological responsibility and the equilibration of independence and interdependence as gifts that Canadian architects and writers of all stripes can contribute to Canadian society as it moves forward into the twenty-first century. No more than poets are architects (let alone critics) legislators of the world, but they can encourage and exemplify what is needful and critique and condemn what is harmful; indeed, many are already doing so both explicitly and implicitly. No good purpose would be served here, however, by a list of names and works. Suffice it to say that were such a list to be compiled it would include not only names and works among those that have been discussed in the present and preceding chapters, but also names and works that have been scanted or omitted. Let me conclude with a statement of the deeply held conviction that led me to this study in the first place, and with three quotations that are rich in the empathy, the sense of history, the respect for the natural world, and the feeling of at-homeness in Canada that I have observed being sought and expressed in so much Canadian literature and architecture. The conviction is that architectural and literary creations can and should play a major role in forming and strengthening the bonds that link us to our portion of the earth with the love and snse of responsibility that it requires of us, now more urgently than ever before. The quotations can be left to speak for, between, and among themselves from their very different times and places. The first is a sonnet by Lampman entitled “In November” (1888). The second is a description by George Kapelos of a house near Pugwash, Nova Scotia designed by the Nova Scotian architect Brian MacKay Lyons (1954- ), and the third is partly a translation and partly an addition – an excerpt from Eirin Mouré’s rendition of a poem by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa that includes references to the street in Toronto where she lived while writing the volume from which the excerpt is taken.

The hills and leafless forests slowly yield
    To the thick-driving snow. A little while
    And night shall darken down. In shouting file
The woodmen’s carts go by me homeward-wheeled,
Past the thin fading stubbles, half concealed
    Now golden-gray, sowed softly through with snow,
    Where the last ploughman follows still his row,
Turning black furrows through the whitening field.
Far off the village lamps begin to gleam,
    Fast drives the snow, and no man comes this way;
        The hills grow wintry white, and bleak winds moan
        About the naked uplands. I alone
    Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor gray,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.
(Poems 117)

 ·                    ·                     ·

House on the Nova Scotia Coast 9 … addresses the agricultural traditions of this part of eastern Canada. The house is located on the north-facing Northumberland Shore on a cultivated coastline strip rolling gently down to the sea. Its siting and form create a recurring ‘back beat’ to the landscape, recalling thin, silver-roofed barns that lie parallel to the shore.
   The outdoor space created by the house frames a view of the ocean and provides shelter for visitors. In plan, the house creates a sense of enclosure while opening up to infinite views of the Northumberland Straight and the Gulf of St. Lawrence beyond. The reminiscence of vernacular buildings and the ways in which the building marks its place and defines its relation to site, presents a highly successful blending of the cultural and natural landscape. (42)

 ·                    ·                     ·

I don’t know what Nature is. I just go on about it.
I live where Winnett bends almost double, a little valley,
In a brick house, half a duplex in fact,
Built by a man who lost his son at Teruel.
The neighbour beside me throws lasagna to the crows.
There. That’s how you can define me.

(Sheep's Vigil by a
Fervent Person
[2001] 79)

Then and now, separately and together, in city and country, Canadian literature and architecture have been enabling expressions of being and dwelling in Canada. In and through them a community of communities has made itself a(t) home, striven to be a workable nation, and provided a foundational answer to the riddling question with which this collection of essays began: here.



  1. Beyond this passage from Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Memoirs (366) lies a long tradition of conceptualizing the state and nation as an edifice with pillars, foundations, and other components, a famous instance being Abraham Lincoln’s use of Mark 3.25 (“If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”) in his speech of June 16, 1858 (“‘A house divided against itself cannot stand…. [T]his government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free’”). [back]
  2. If, as seems likely, Sparks was thinking particularly of the Loyalists, his remarks bear out David Stouck’s observation that, “[w]hen Loyalism is identified with the role of morality in history, it is accordingly viewed as a spiritual inheritance” (80). “[T]he Loyalists who came to Canada sought more than material advantages,” continues Stouck, “they wanted to live with the sense of order, justice, and civility they identified as inherent in the tradition of the English monarchy.… Loyalism on one hand celebrates the loss and recovery of an ideal and a noble tradition of values, but on the other it memorializes years of struggle, powerlessness, and ultimate dispossession” (81, 82). [back]
  3. The importation and adaptation of forms and styles was the salient characteristic of both procedures and remains rudimentary to Canadian architecture and literature. See my The Gay] Grey Moose 15-42 and following for an ecological analysis of importation and adaptation in Canadian literature. [back]
  4. “[I]n walking along the streets [of Toronto], there is nothing to tell that one is not in England,” wrote the anonymous author of The Englishwoman in America (1856); “and if anything were needed to complete the illusion, those sure tokens of British civilization, a jail and a lunatic asylum are not wanting. Toronto possesses in a remarkable degree the appearances of stability and progress” (183).The erection of resonantly British edifices in Canada and the poetic treatment of Canadian subject-matter in familiar forms would also have helped to generate in immigrants from the British Isles a sense of connection to and even empathy with their new place and its contents. The nineteenth-century German aesthetician Robert Vischer describes empathy (Einempfindung) as an “act of the imagination” whereby “I can think my way into [a stationary object or form], meditate its size with my own, stretch and expand [or] bend and confine myself to it,” a process that he regards as crucial to the “conscious” “imagining of the self” and that can be extended to the re-imagining of the self in a new environment (104, 100). [back]
  5. See also Thomas Ritchie’s Canada Builds, 1867-1967. Harold Kalman observes in A History of Canadian Architecture that “bricks made from local clay and lime from Kingston had been available in York [Toronto] since 1796” (1:153). [back]
  6. As Kalman states, the design for Trinity College by the Irish-trained Toronto architect Kivas Tully (1820-1905) “included explicit references to Tom Tower at Christ Church, Oxford, and to New Court, St. John’s College, Cambridge, the latter an early work of the Gothic Revival (by [Thomas] Rickman and [Henry] Hutchinson, 1825-31)” (1:272). Rickman and Hutchinson were, of course, two of the most celebrated architects of the Gothic Revival, and New Court, with its attached “Bridge of Sighs,” one of their most admired buildings. [back]
  7. See my The Confederation Group of Canadian Poets, 1880-1897 111-32 and later for a discussion of Roberts’s emphasis on poetic workmanship and polish and contemporary reactions to it. [back]
  8. One of the houses illustrated in the article is that of the Toronto architect Walter J. Curry, who is cited for his “opinion that Chicago is the worst-built city on the continent.” Several of the houses illustrated reflect the article’s argument that “[t]he requirements of modern life are such that it is impossible, even if it were desirable, to follow throughout one general style of architecture in any particular building” and that, in most cases, “[t]he main features … are copied from some well-known style,” this being, in late nineteenth-century Toronto, the Romanesque Revival style of the American architect H.H. Richardson (1838-86), a hallmark of which, in domestic as well as public architecture, is the “round arch.” A number of the illustrated houses with prominent Richardsonian Romanesque features are the work of the Toronto architect Edward James Lennox (1855-1933), who, as will be seen above, also used the style for Toronto’s Old City Hall (1889-99). [back]
  9. See my Afterword in The Backwoods of Canada 293-94 for a discussion of Traill’s vision of a (Canadian) balance between (British) hierarchy and (American) egalitarianism. [back]
  10. See The Confederation Group 273-90 for a discussion of the causes and consequences of the “War among the Poets.” [back]
  11. “[O]ne of the finest specimens of perpendicular Gothic architecture in America,” enthused W.H. Withrow about St. James Cathedral in Our Own Country, Canada, Scenic and Descriptive (1889), its spire is “the most lofty on the continent” (285). [back]
  12. Winnipeg’s public and commercial buildings also elicited Withrow’s enthusiasm: “[i]ts magnificent new City Hall surpasses in the elegance of its architecture any other that I know in Canada. The new Post Office is a very handsome building, and the stately Cauchon Block and Hudson Bay Company’s buildings, in architecture and equipment and stock, seem … to have anticipated the possible wants of the community by a score of years” (435). [back]
  13. Almost needless to say, such buildings were called “crystal palace[s]” in reference to the Crystal Palace designed by Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London’s Hyde Park (and see Withrow 286-87 for an almost ecstatic description of the edifice of Toronto’s later Industrial Exhibition (1878- ) and its displays (“four radiating arms of … [a] huge cross … crowded with industrial exhibits of endless variety, beauty and utility” and so on). See also Kalman 2:565-66 for other “crystal palaces,” especially the Aberdeen Pavilion (1898) in Ottawa and Keith Walden, Becoming Modern in Toronto: the Industrial Exhibition and the Shaping of a Late Victorian Culture in its entirety, but especially 217-46 on the architectural and spatial aspects of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, a display that, in Walden’s Gramscian view, was “a vast assemblage of symbolic representations of order” (35). With the phrase “great white elephant buildings of the CNE” in “Don Valley” (1989), David Donnell achieves an apt fit between a cliché and the buildings that remain from the reconstruction of the Exhibition in the nineteen twenties, most conspicuously (the operative word) the Beaux-Arts Princes’ Gates and Ontario Government Building designed by Alfred H. Chapman (1879-1949) and J. Morrow Oxley (1883-1957) and the Modern neoclassicism of the Automotive Building designed by Douglas E. Kertland (1888-1982), which would have been a congenial backdrop for a Fascist rally. [back]
  14. See Kalman 2:571. As Paul-André Linteau observes in “Factors in the Development of Montreal,” the New York Life Insurance Company Building is a manifestation of the increasing number of American “branch-plants” in Canada in the late nineteenth-century (26). See also Chapter 6: The Centre in the Square for Place d’Armes as a quintessentially Canadian square. [back]
  15. See The Confederation Group 72-110 for the origin and implications of this term. [back]
  16. In “The Garden Suburb of Lindenlea, Ottawa: a Model Project for the Federal Housing Policy, 1918-24,” Jill Delaney places on view the conceptual underpinnings and traces the development of an exemplary garden suburb. The quotation above is from her abstract (151). See also Jenny Cook, “Bringing the Outside In: Women and the Transformation of the Middle-Class Maritime Canadian Interior, 1830-1860” for the role of women in the “transformation of the interior [of the home] into a comfortable retreat,” an activity “motivated by inexpensive ladies’ magazines imported from the United States and etiquette books from Great Britain” (47), and, it may be added, still operative in later decades in the Maritimes and elsewhere in Canada. Cook observes that a major component of the transformation of “the physical landscape of the domestic realm into that of a comfortable retreat” was the interiorization of external nature in the form of “living flora and fauna” and “embellishments that mimicked nature.” [back]
  17. Price's previous work included the Banff Springs Hotel (1886-88), which, before the extensive modifications and additions of 1900 to 1910 and 1910 to 1928, much more closely resembled a Loire Valley château than, as it now does, a castle in the “Scottish baronial tradition” that evolved out of the French château tradition (see Bart Robinson passim). Robinson's comment that the Château Frontenac is “said to be modelled after H.H. Richardson's lunatic asylum in Buffalo, New York” (13) brings a bracing dash of western Canadian tartness to the matter of the source(s) of the forms and styles of the CPR hotels. See also the discussions noted in the critique of Frye’s notion of the “garrison mentality” in Chapter 12: “The Music of Rhyme ….” [back]
  18. Kalman states that the walls of the “principal elevation” of the Hotel – that is, its central block and two towers – are “faced in orange-red Glenboig brick (imported from Scotland)” (495), a nice Britannic touch in a building designed by an American for an American (Cornelius Van Horne) and located in the capital of French Canada. [back]
  19. See Kalman 1:225 and Luc Noppen, Claude Paulette, and Michel Tremblay, Québec: trois siècles d’architecture 143-47. [back]
  20. The literature pertaining to the competition, design, and construction of the Parliament Buildings is extensive; see Chapter 7: Northern Reflections and Kalman 2:534-41 and 875 n59. [back]
  21. In “The Spirit of Place,” Douglas Richardson takes as a given the influence of Ruskin’s chapter on “The Nature of the Gothic” in the second volume of The Stones of Venice and sees this “demonstrated by the Centre Block and Library,” which he terms “a wonderful hybrid combining a Gothic Chapter house (presumably because the Chapter house at Westminster Abbey then served as Records Office to Westminster Palace), a baroque domed church, and Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon plan for prisons (to maintain surveillance over the books)” (28). [back]
  22. In Cat’s Eye (1988), Atwood is no kinder to the “Ontario Parliament Building”: when first seen by the book’s semi-autobiographical protagonist in the nineteen forties, it is “old and dingy” and when later complemented by “fountains …[,] squared-off beds of flowers, and new, peculiar statues” it is a “squatting, Victorian dowager, darkish pink, skirts huffed out, solid” (37, 311). This is especially true of its relationship with the Confederation Building (1928-31), the importance of which is well described by Kalman: “[t]he walls are faced in the warm-coloured Nepean limestone that was used on the Parliament buildings. The ornamentation … [includes carvings] representing different occupations … Canadian wildlife … the maple leaf, fleur-de-lis, rose, thistle, and shamrock…. The steep copper roofs provide a picturesque silhouette that … compliments that of the Parliament Buildings and the Château Laurier…. [This was] the first time that a so-called Canadian style was identified and promoted (even if its roots were European)…. This was a period of new nationalistic feeling and a growing emancipation from British political control. Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King was in the process of developing a foreign service … ” (2:721) and, it may be added, the Statute of Westminster (1931) that granted Britain’s former dominions legal freedom was being framed and enacted. Not insignificantly the design for the Confederation Building was prepared by Thomas Donald Rankin (1886-1965), the head of the architectural section of the federal Department of Public Works. [back]
  23. A goal that Leo Kennedy conspicuously failed to achieve in his one, feloniously Eliotic volume of poetry, The Shrouding (1936). [back]
  24. See Bentley “Psychoanalytical Notes …” and “As for Me and Significant Form …” for discussions of Ross’s use of Freudian ideas and Bloomsburian aesthetics. [back]
  25. For a succinct discussion of Lyle’s relationship with the Beaux-Arts and Modernist traditions, see Trevor Boddy’s, “Regionalism, Nationalism and Modernism: the Ideology of Decoration in the Work of John M. Lyle.” As Boddy observes, Lyle hoped that “elements of … modernism might help light the dawn of a [distinctively] Canadian architecture” but in practice as well as theory believed that “natural forms, climate, ethnic characteristics, building materials,” and decorations based on local motifs” were needed to convey a “‘personal and distinctly Canadian note’” (12). Lyle played a large role in the design of Toronto’s Union Station (1914-30), which, as observed above, is derived from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome by way of New York’s now demolished Pennsylvania Station and contains in its Great Hall a frieze carrying the names of cities served by the Grand Trunk and Canadian Pacific Railways (see Kalman 2:490-92). (Of course, the Roman bath was one of the four architectural forms favoured by the father of the Beaux-Arts movement, Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc [1814-1879] in his two Entretiens sur l’architecture [1863, 1872], the other three being the Greek Doric temple, the French Renaissance château, and the French Gothic Cathedral [see Hearn 61-69].) Lyle’s other buildings include Toronto’s recently and sensitively renovated and expanded Runnymede Library (1929), which is constructed of Credit Valley stone, combines elements of Beaux-Arts and Art Deco, and includes decorations based on totem poles and other Native artifacts. [back]
  26. In the brief imaginative essay entitled “Kingsmere” in Noman (1972), the Toronto writer Gwendolyn MacEwen (1940-89) provides a brilliant (though heavily Frygian/Atwoodian) analysis of King's “synthetic ruins,” which she variously calls “broken bits of history,” “borrowed histories,” and “imported ruins,” to make her central point that “the real nature of the place” resides, not in “this reconstruction of a past that was never ... [ours],” but in “the furtive trees” of the forest: King “tried to transplant Europe, to bring it here among the stark trees and silent trails, but /   / There, beyond the arch, is the forest. There is the naked, ancient door” (52-54). In “The Ruins of Moorside” (1976), Tim Inkster (1949- ) writes with similar assumptions that King was an “amateur stonemason” who construed the “Gatineau / forest” as England, “and taking a stone window / from an Ottawa house, / had it erected horizontally / along the forest & looking through / it proclaimed / this a legacy, / and watched its weight / disappear slowly” (14). “The ivy is a comfort, / made to climb stone walls,” concludes the poem, “and the mason too is become / at last an ancestor” (15). More searchingly E.G. Blodgett (1935- ) begins “The Sculptor” (1983) by referring King to William Randolph Hurst by way of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, credits him with correctly recognizing that “the past / is ruin shaped,” and finally entertains the possibility that, among other things, he was “never but heaps of stone” in a country consisting of “white plains of Henry Moore” sculptures (19). For classic examples of the abhorrence of rational order and its architectural and literary manifestations in the Canadian landscape that lies behind the poems of MacEwan, Inkster, and others of their generation, see Atwood’s “The Planters” and “The Two Fires” in The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), where settlers “deny the ground they stand on” and build structures with “square / closed doors, proved roofbeams, / [and] the logic of windows” that imprison them (16, 22). In “This Is a Photograph of Me” (1966), the piece with which Atwood invariably begins selections of her poems, “a small frame house” occupies “what ought to be a gentle / slope” (Selected Poems 12). [back]
  27. Other poetic treatments of the city include “‘Queen City’” (1956), an Eliotic and Marxian treatment of Toronto by Dorothy Livesay (1909-96) and Montreal (1973), of Montreal, by John Glassco (1909-82). [back]
  28. See Rosalind E. Krauss, “Grids” for a valuable discussion of the grid as a structure “emblematic of ... modernist ambition within the visual arts” since the early decades of the twentieth century (11). [back]
  29. In a blistering critique of the Toronto-Dominion Centre published, not coincidentally in the year of Canada’s Centennial, Macy Du Bois approached the complex seeking “spatial variety,” “the exploiting of light,” “a sense of climate,” “a concern for orientation,” and “a sense of place and numbers of people” and found it sadly wanting on all counts (33). “[W]hat was once a fresh and vital method of attack, has now become a style codified and listless,” observed Du Bois; “[a]n approach that began by opening possibilities is now at the point where it is closing them.” In her celebration of Canadian Modernism, Up North: Where Canada’s Architecture Meets the Land, Lisa Rochon describes the T-D Centre as “dark, formidable and cerebral” and as an instance of “architecture as a single, expansive gesture, capable of expressing the artistic and technological aspirations of the era,” a quality that it shares with Montreal’s Place Ville-Marie. [back]
  30. It is therefore scarcely surprising that Symonds regarded Expo '67 as “our Pan-Canadian Nemesis,” “disembowelled huttery,” “post-graduated Euclid,” and a “cruel profligate irony” (Place d'Armes 237-38). [back]
  31. In Seven Stones: a Portrait of Arthur Erickson, Architect, Edith Iglauer glosses a photograph of the Man in the Community Pavilion with the following statement by Erickson: “‘[s]ome exhibition architecture … is just plain fun. There is nothing serious about it whatsoever, and thank God it is always taken down afterwards’” (76, and see 62). Erickson is the hero of Rochon’s Up North, with Ron Thom, Frank Gehry, and Douglas Cardinal as fellow Argonauts. [back]
  32. “Observers enjoy reading the visual codes embedded in the building forms of Mississauga City Hall,” writes Kalman, adding that, “[i]n an attempt to explain how the complex grows out of its agricultural context, … [the architects] see the group as representing an Ontario farmstead: the façade building becomes a gable-roofed barn, the council chamber a silo, the clock tower a wind-charger, and the office block a house. The banded walls recall Ontario Victorian polychromatic brick-work…. Observers with broader architectural experience may see sources in other architecture of the past…. This is in part popular architecture, analogous to ‘pop’ imagery in the visual arts, and in part erudite design…. The former ensures that it is approachable, not aloof – a marked contrast to the distancing qualities of modernism” but also – given the apparent need of the architects to explain it – an instance of what many critics have seen as the abject failure of much recent architecture to convey meaning and evoke feeling without an accompanying verbal explanation. [back]
  33. John C. Parkin’s definition of postmodernism as “‘neo-conservatism’” (qtd. in Kalman 2:845) is particularly though unintentionally apposite here. In The Classical Vernacular: Architectural Principles in an Age of Nihilism (1994), Roger Scruton dismisses postmodernism as “a free market of styles” (64). [back]
  34. See Simulacra and Simulations where Jean Baudrillard advances his argument that, contrary to the view that Disneyland and similar places are inauthentic representations of the real world, they are part and parcel of that world and help to support its deceptions. In Headhunter the narrator critiques a large contemporary house in terms that resonate with Baudrillard’s analysis: “made five years earlier, [it] gave all the appearances of having been found in the vicinity of Versailles. But the Versailles south of Paris and the ‘Versailles’ north of Toronto were not true reflections of one another. The latter – for all its mansard roofs and French doors – was entirely without character. It was a film set of a house – behind whose façade the courtiers awaited their cue with TicTac on their breath and autograph books in hand” (304). [back]
  35. In “What Kind of a City is Edmonton?” Gilbert A. Stelter argues that West Edmonton Mall is a “fitting metaphor for the city’s current [1995] vision of modernism” and concurs with “[t]he critics who point to the artificial, derivative, placeless character of the mall,” but he also grudgingly concedes that “our desire to consume can force us into something vaguely resembling a public realm,” albeit not one in the “European tradition of providing public space to promote social encounters or to serve the conduct of public affairs” (9). In Lesley Choyce’s “Spiritual Wrestling at Woolco” (1993) a self-proclaimed hater of “stores and shopping malls” uses the observation that “the Penhorn Mall in suburban Dartmouth,” Nova Scotia stands near the site of what once was “a massive chicken ranch” whose effluvium permeated the neighbourhood as the pretext for envisioning the Mall as “nest[ing] upon the asphalt parking lot like a grotesque squatting concrete and steel leghorn” (Transcendental Anarchy 165). [back]
  36. The references here are to Fukuyama’s “The End of History” (1989), which argues that history in the Hegelian sense of a dialectic leading to the triumph of freedom was ending with the triumph of Liberal democracy, and The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (1996), which argues that a world order based on tensions and conflicts between and among the West and civilizations centred on the world’s major non-Christian religions was in the process of emerging. [back]
  37. This and the preceding sentences spring from Mary Douglas’s identification of four thought styles, each with its own distinctive myth of nature, that are present in varying proportions and positions of power in all cultures: individualist (nature is robust), hierarchical (nature needs structure), enclavist (nature is fragile), and isolate (nature is unpredictable) (see Thought Styles 40-49 and 83-90). In Douglas’s view, the third of these categories is “entered in fundamental disagreement with the policies of development entrepreneurs and with organizing hierarchists, and with the fatalism of the isolate” (87). Its myth that nature is fragile and “pollution can be lethal” “justifies the anxiety of the green lobbies.” [back]
  38. See the final section of my The Gay] Grey Moose (“Amendment” 273-87) for the development of this term. [back]
  39. Among recent attempts to rehabilitate Carman are several of the essays in Gerald Lynch, ed. Bliss Carman: a Reappraisal (1990). [back]
  40. It is not generally known that especially in its remarks on early (pre-Modern) Canadian writing, Frye’s “Conclusion” was based largely on his reading not of the writing itself, but of the surveys of it in the Literary History of Canada, none of which he wrote himself. (The reason for this was that where the editors of the volume realized that almost alone among them Frye had yet to contribute to it they conceived of the notion of asking him to write a summary chapter.) As argued elsewhere, Frye’s notions of “deep terror in regard to nature” and the “garrison mentality” may well derive from Oscar Handlin’s Race and Nationality in American Life (1957) and reflect a paranoiac caste of mind that is endemic to Modernism (see Bentley, “Psychoanalytical Notes” 878-83), which, in any case, generated countless iterations in Canada and elsewhere of the inability of human beings to find meaning and ease in an unhospitable, even hostile, universe. [back]
  41. In Sketches of Lower Canada (1817), the American traveller and self-styled “Admirer of Architecture” (17), Joseph Sanson anticipates Edwards in criticising the “monotonous style of the settlements” on the Île d’Orléans below Quebec City: “at equal distances, and so much alike, that one cannot distinguish one from another,” the “unvarying habitations stand in endless rows, at equal distances, like so many sentry boxes or soldiers’ tents” (112, 32). Arguing from a Georgian (and sharply anti-Ruskinian perspective), Edwards claims that in domestic architecture individuality is best expressed and secured in the context of a high degree of uniformity. “The designers of our modern villas … aim at diversity,” he asserts, “but they achieve monotony” of both “spirit” and form (164). While Sanson’s dislike of conformity smacks of American individualism and Edwards’s faith in structure reflects his British class assumptions, both agree on the importance of variety and personal expression. An argument could be made for “Order in variety” or, conversely, variety in order as central to Canadian aesthetic and social experience since the late eighteenth century (see Chapter 1: Preliminary and, for Charles Eliot Norton on the monotony of American cities, Mnemographia Canadensis 1:337 n11). [back]


Works Cited