The Literary Miramichi

Like the confessional humanists before them, and the powerful figure of Alden Nowlan who influenced them, Raymond Fraser and David Adams Richards parse out how environment shapes individuals, specifically those individuals who belong to the underclass. Their explorations are neither pretty nor comforting – nor have they been popular among people who insist on believing in the New Brunswick pastoral, that sense of the province as pristine, innocent, and folksy.

The power of Fraser and Richards, however, is in their frankness. Each shows that poverty, alcoholism, and violence are not the result of personal failing (as far right political ideology would have us believe), but from social and familial cycles that are structurally embedded in economics, education, religion, politics, etc. As such, the work of Fraser and Richards combats the longstanding perception that New Brunswickers (and, more generally, Atlantic Canadians) are gripped by what ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper characterized as “a culture of defeat.”

 

The social realism of Fraser and Richards is in sharp contrast to the social romance of Wayne Curtis. Readers of this module will want to consider why these authors, all from the same region and roughly the same age, adopt these different approaches in their work. Is it because of slight differences in location (Fraser and Richards spent their formative years in the towns of Chatham and Newcastle, while Curtis had a much more rural experience upriver)? Whatever the reason, the differences in approach to “writing” place provide the occasion to think about how the province is represented in literature and how grievance can be marshalled to elicit notice.

 

For the full Module Page on the Literary Miramichi, click here.