Communicating consanguinity : mediated identities in Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief and Margaret Laurence's The Diviners

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Garbutt, Joan Leslie
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This thesis maintains that different forms of media influence the social epistemologies of the two main protagonists of Alistair Macleod's No Great Mischief and Margaret Laurence's The Diviners. Macleod's Alexander MacDonald and Laurence's Morag Gunn seek an historical context in which to locate themselves, and their ancestral stories help to form the underpinnings of their individual identities, but also challenge each protagonist to re-mediate these experiences through the lens of the more advanced modes of communication that are available in the late twentieth century. The transition from orality to literacy and beyond also has a profound effect on the protagonists' conceptualization of home and nation. The work of a number of media theorists, including Benedict Anderson, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Stanley Cavell, Ronald Deibert, and Walter Ong, provide the basis for an analytical framework in which to locate these works. David Williams' criticism of media influences in a number of Canadian works opens a space for the discussion of how these theorists address the ontological complexities of the interweaving of media and narrative. This reading of the two novels contends that, although Diviners (1974) is earlier than Mischief (1999) in terms of publication, it is actually Laurence's novel that takes the more postmodern approach in its hybridity of form, as well as its social content. while Alexander, wittingly or not, is implicated in "museumizing" his oral Gaelic culture by committing it to print, Morag moves through oral tales to photography and into a far more fluid "past-present" that is well served by her innovative "Memorybank Movies." Moreover, the multimedia techniques that characterize Morag's narrative anticipate hypertext and create an epistemology of a plural, hybrid nation that leaves a living legacy for Morag's Metis daughter Pique and affirms a plural, overlapping collage of identities that is truly representative of Canada's multicultural nature.