Surplus at the border : Mennonite minor literature in English in Canada

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Reimer, L. Douglas
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Major literature commonly considers certain writing inferior or unsophisticated and so less valuable than certain other works of literature which it calls literature of quality. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari imagine and theorize an alternative model for evaluating literature which established literature names "minor" literature. Their theory claims that minor literature actually plays a significant role in the continued vitality of major literature. Minor literature, they say, has a strength and quality which major literature denies. Without minor literature, they contend, major literature would weaken and become ineffective. Such a reliance on the power of minor literature, however, major literature would never wish to acknowledge. This thesis defines minor literature as other than "minority" literature. Minor literature consists of those literatures which stem from groups which consider themselves marginalized by the large group which feels at home with all the conventions of English and English literature. All minor literature, I argue in this paper, automatically exemplifies three defining features: minor literature is necessarily political; it speaks for community values (in that the major English group is not a community, though the smaller ones are); and it affects a high degree of "deterritorialization" of the foreign tongue, English, in which it writes. I study the works of Mennonite writers Rudy Wiebe, Armin Wiebe, Patrick Friesen, Di Brandt, Sandra Birdsell and others to demonstrate these three defining features. Mennonite writing belongs to both the major and the minor. It cannot escape its intellectual, cultural heritage which is a major one grounded in western thought. Yet, it also writes English strangely and finds itself resisting the anti-community forces vehicular English imposes on it. There is, however, no successful, deliberate minor Mennonite writing in English in Canada. All the writers considered here attempt in one form or another to subvert English dominion and each succeeds and fails in distinctive ways.