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The Egocentric I
SINCE CHARLENE DIEHL?JONES exhorts Betsy Warland to a critique of essentialism as a hook on which to pin the review of her book, Proper Deafinitions (October), I am drawn to shout aloud that the contradictions of a wilfully absent, falsely and traditionally "objective" reviewer violently abstracting text from theory and voice from argument in order to impugn Warland's textual project are almost, but not quite, laughable. To claim that there are universal quantities one can pin with "stimulating," "challenging," or "important" is the single most pompous and colonized power?tripping possible. To refuse these adjectives to Warland's hook is an assertion only the critic can make in the first person. Whose voice speaks this disdain? To what poetic agenda? To which brand of politicking? I am always suspicious when the sacred masthead of feminism ?? as if it were "real" now, as real as the White House or Christianity ?? is invoked as the polis to which a writer belongs, commonsensically. This circumscription is neatly doubled back to be the noose around Warland's neck, as Diehl?Jones claims she has dismally failed its "complex issues" and "sophistication" for the "1990s"! So let's get back to the issue of theorizing subjectivity: one of the texts in Proper Deafinitions, titled "Cutting re/marks," intricately and rigorously problematizes the notion of selfhood as finite envelope of consciousness/experience. Perhaps Litt: reviewer cannot read the format and metaphorical means that Warland uses to question subjectivity. Perhaps it is the reviewer who cannot grasp reading the fictive/autobiographical "I" as always interrogative. Whatever the problem, why doesn't Diehl?Jones admit to having questions instead of ridiculous, reductive, scathing verdicts? This is the voice of the ,,egocentric, univocal "I" hiding out in the wings, trying to earn "stimulating," "challenging," "important" pats on the back, isn't it? C'mon, 'fess up. Margaret Christakos Toronto WOMEN IN SCIENCE I WAS PLEASED to See a review of Despite the Odds in your August/September issue, but dismayed at the reviewer's rigid preconceptions of what a book on Canadian women and science should be. The changing structure and practices of the Canadian scientific community provided the context in which the experiences of Canadian women scientists must he, and in Despite the Odds, has been examined. The book's introduction clearly states the scope of the book and that what could he included depended on "the availability of documentation and oil the willingness of the scholars to provide essays for this volume." As a teacher and the first feminist historian of science to work on Canadian women, I have long been frustrated by the lack of available material on 19th? and 20th? century Canadian women scientists; I am also aware of how much more needs to be done to get a relatively balanced view of women's experiences both in and outside the Canadian scientific establishment. It is unfortunate that Ms. Menzies finds it "an off?putting weakness ... to read the lives of these women from the point of view of scientific careers..." She missed much of the irony inherent in the discussions of women's scientific "careers"' It is even more disturbing that her ahistorical perspective leads her to fault social historians of science for using the investigative tools of their discipline. The study of scientific careers and institutions provides a useful way of pointing out the hierarchical nature of western science. This approach stresses the importance of socio?economic factors (external to the content of science) that influence the work. As such, a Social history of science creates an excellent framework for the investigation of women's experiences. This does not mean that one Should not include the women's own perspective. Indeed, all the authors did just that, 'as Much as the available documentation permitted. Ms. Menzies carefully points out that ',there are also the women whove worked outside" university, government, and industrial labs. As a large part of my own essay deals with women who worked Outside the rigid institutional framework of the western scientific tradition, it is puzzling that she chose to ignore all the "volunteer" scientists discussed. She also seems to he unaware that the historical study of native knowledge is a yet largely unexplored field. As to the book coining close to "perpetuating the same sexist denigration of women scientists that the book was launched to rectify" ?? are we really talking about the same book? Neither 1, nor any of my contributors could find a single instance of our perpetuating "sexist denigration" Marianne Gosztonyi Ainley Montreal A SERIOUS CHALLENGE IT IS GRATIFYING to learn that Anne Denoon finds A Time to Choose Life (August/September) "indisputably thoughtprovoking" Her overpowering distaste for the book, however, has led her into a number of inaccurate and misleading statements. It is simply untrue, as any reader will see at a glance, that Robert Nadeau, the author of the account of the Daigle case, refers to Ms. Daigle as "Chantal" throughout. Denoon also accuses Nadeau of putting words into Daigle's mouth "without troubling to cite a Source" Footnotes 45 and 46 were unfortunately reversed, but I would suggest that any fair?minded reader could spot the editing error and see that the source is indeed referenced. Denoon attempts to make a great deal of the fact that the London Times quotation, about the aborted babies crying their heads Off, was taken from a book against which a libel suit is "still pending." How likely is it that a libel suit, still unconcluded after 15 years, had much substance to it in the first place? It is well known that such actions are frequently launched only to intimidate authors and publishers. What is troubling about Denoon's review is that her zeal to built Out flaws in the book impedes any engagement with the serious challenge offered by its writers (the majority of whom are female) to pro?abortion feminism. Those curious about the content of this challenge will have to read the book for themselves. Ian Gentles Toronto THE P WORD CARY FAGAN'S LAMENT for lost poetry ("Aversion to Verse:' October) was, touching except for one thing: a little reality. "Who reads poetry any more?" he sighs. Well, unless he poses his rhetorical question with academic blinkers deliberately in place, a lot of people do. While it is true that "most people couldn't care less about the difference between an anapaest and a trochee" (and quite rightly so), they are still willing and eager to read some poetry. Perhaps Fagan simply hasn't noticed that most modern poets express themselves through music as well as the written word. Poets like John Lennon, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, and Leonard Cohen have connected with wide audiences, and scores of others have done the same with less Spectacular results. As Bob Hilderley advised Fagan, "You have to get around the capital 'P.'" George Kaufman Oshawa MATTERS OF TASTE BRUCE SERAFIN IS BEING a bit unfair when he calls Steve McCaffery's writing "monotonous" ("Colonial Mentalities," October). It's only monotonous if you think of it as serious writing. If You think of it as unintentional humour, you see at once how hysterically funny it is. The same is true of much of the writing being produced by those writers suffering from the new mental disease of "structuralism" One has to cultivate a taste for this sort of humour, just as one has to cultivate a taste for bad movies and kitsch art. But I think structuralist humour would eventually reach the audience it deserves if its practitioners were cut off from all Canada Council money and forced to publish their books with their own money and peddle them on the street. Crad Kilodney Toronto Letters may be edited for length or to delete potentially libellous statements. Except in extraordinary circumstances letters of more than 500 words will not be accepted for publication.

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