Envoicing Silent Objects: Art and Literature at the Site of the Canadian Landscape

Richard Brock

Abstract


The conjunction of art, literatureand place in this special issue provides an occasion for considering the intersection of visual art and the literary
narrative at the site of that most definitive of place-markers in the history of Canadian nationhood, the landscape painting. As characterized by the iconic, overtly nationalist works of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven in the early part of the twentieth century, Canadian placeconsists, very precisely, of landscape—no more, no less. To gaze into a painting by Thomson, Harris, Lismer, Varley, Macdonald or Jackson is to be confronted by an icy, forbidding and—crucially—silentworld. If there isany trace of humanity to be found here, it can perhaps be located only in the eerily humanoid form of a windswept tree, a stand-in for the pioneer-settler engaged in ceaseless combat with a wilderness every bit as white and hardy as he. This tree seems perpetually on the brink of succumbing to the elements that continually besiege it, and wecan be certain that, wereit tofall, it would make no sound.

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