By Mary MacGillivray
This years annual Pratt lecture series featured author,
critic and editor Dr. Stan Dragland. Recently, Dr. Dragland designed
and taught a course called Secret Nation: Literature of Contemporary
Newfoundland and Labrador at the university of Western Ontario,
where he taught Canadian Literature until his (early) retirement.
Dr. Dragland currently lives and works in St. Johns. Having
an interest in Newfoundland literature, he offered a lecture
on Newfoundland author Wayne Johnstons 1998 novel Colony
of Unrequited Dreams, titled: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams:
Exploring Wayne Johnstons controversial romancing
of history including his historically- altered portrayal
of Joey Smallwood in Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Dr.
Dragland focused on the value of the myth created by Johnston
in his critically- acclaimed novel. As a multi-vocal novel
that flirts with epic and is elegiac in tone,
Dr. Dragland placed less value on the historically incorrect
aspects of the novel. Instead, he explored the values of the
mythic proportion of Johnstons characterization of Joey
Smallwood, the main character of the novel who is followed throughout
his childhood into adulthood and confederation.
The blurring of lines between fiction and fact in the novel has
caused controversy. Various historians have dismissed this novel
as being historically inadequate. In my opinion, this romancing
of fiction is a valuable device used by Wayne Johnston
to engage the reader in a non-biographical life of Joey Smallwood,
touching upon the elements of the myth of Smallwood. For many,
the J. R. Smallwood myth and man are entwined.
For Dr. Dragland, there are many Smallwoods that he finds residing
in the one identity. Dr. Dragland points out that many
different writers have their Smallwoods, and he listed authors
who have written about Smallwood such as Ray Guy, Robert Payne,
Tom Cahill and even J. R. Smallwood himself, with his characterization
of himself in his book I Chose Canada. Dr. Dragland points
out that Johnstons Smallwood is not definitive.
Though very alive in the novel, Smallwood is not restricted to
a compilation of historical facts.
Chair of the Pratt committee, English professor Mary Dalton,
said of Dr. Draglands work, In all of his writing,
whatever the category, Stan Dragland conveys a sense of the engagement
of the whole man in the act of reading and writing, and, by extension,
of the shifting forces that underlie most human endeavors.
Dr. Dragland continues his life work of writing and editing in
This is the 33rd year for the annual Pratt lecture. Of the lecture
series, Ms. Dalton said, Over the years the Pratt lecture
has been the occasion for members of the university and the public
to come together in a celebration of literature and literary
criticism in the company of lecturers of high achievement.
Past lecturers have included speakers Northrop Frye, Cleanth
Brooks; William Empson, Anne Saddlemeyer, Helen Vendler, Seamus
Heaney and, most recently, the painter Christopher Pratt.
The Pratt lecture is sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and the
Department of English and was set up in 1968 at the initiative
of now professor emeritus of the Department of English
at Memorial, Dr. Patrick OFlaherty, to honour the achievements
of Newfoundland poet E. J. Pratt.
A copy of the 2001 lecture is expected to be available in printed
form soon. Copies will be available from the Department of English.