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September 18th, 2010 - Canadian fiction - nationalist or post-nationalist?

Nation-building - creating a mythology of ourselves - is a project many writers invest themselves in.  History, or lack of cultural history often demands it - there is an importance in seeing our particular experiences represented on the page.  But when, as a culture, a nation, do we know we've grown up?  When do we give our artists the room to abandon the project if they wish? 

In Canadian arts and culture that time seems to be now.

I suspect it's not just a question of maturity, but the fact that we're living in an era where arguments about cultural appropriation have abated.  Although we need to remain mindful of the ways in which we represent the experiences of others whose lives are very different from our own, restricting artists to writing about their own realities results in a lot of solipsism and navel-gazing.  There is something really patronizing about the whole appropriation argument.  It suggests that we cannot write about experiences other than our own because we cannot possibly understand the experiences of others.  If that's really true?  If we cannot communicate across cultures, empathize, act upon the desire to understand?  Then we're sunk as a species.     

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