Hugh MacLennan Long Fiction Analysis
Hugh MacLennan began as a historian, and, in a sense, he remained one throughout his long writing career. His doctoral dissertation, Oxyrhynchus, discussing the history of an area in Egypt during the seven hundred years that it was subject to the Roman Empire, foreshadowed such major themes in his novels as colonialism, the wanderer, the town-country antithesis, and geographical determinism. Underlying both the dissertation and the novels is a view of historical causality.
As Erich Auerbach has remarked, “Basically, the way in which we view human life and society is the same whether we are concerned with things of the past or things of the present”; a corollary of this may be that when a writer is, like MacLennan, both a historian and a novelist, his or her narratives of individual human lives will be shaped by larger forces that transcend the concerns of the psychological novelist. In MacLennan’s fiction, geography is preeminently such a force.
In both his fiction and his nonfiction, MacLennan had a continual concern for the impact of geography on character, and thus, as people make history, on action, fictive or historical. That a Canadian, living in a frequently harsh terrain and climate, would appreciate the significance of geography is hardly surprising, but MacLennan went further, adopting a geographical theory of history. His sense of geography’s interaction with psychology and history provides the ideological framework...
(The entire section is 3332 words.)
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