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Literary Criticism Canadian

Making Believe

Questions About Mennonites and Art

by (author) Magdalene Redekop

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2020
Canadian, Canadian, Mennonite
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
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  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
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Making Believe responds to a remarkable flowering of art by Mennonites in Canada. After the publication of his first novel in 1962, Rudy Wiebe was the only identifiable Mennonite literary writer in the country. Beginning in the 1970s, the numbers grew rapidly and now include writers Patrick Friesen, Sandra Birdsell, Di Brandt, Sarah Klassen, Armin Wiebe, David Bergen, Miriam Toews, Carrie Snyder, Casey Plett, and many more. A similar renaissance is evident in the visual arts (including artists Gathie Falk, Wanda Koop, and Aganetha Dyck) and in music (including composers Randolph Peters, Carol Ann Weaver, and Stephanie Martin).

Confronted with an embarrassment of riches that resist survey, Magdalene Redekop opts for the use of case studies to raise questions about Mennonites and art. Part criticism, part memoir, Making Believe argues that there is no such thing as Mennonite art. At the same time, her close engagement with individual works of art paradoxically leads Redekop to identify a Mennonite sensibility at play in the space where artists from many cultures interact. Constant questioning and commitment to community are part of the Mennonite dissenting tradition. Although these values come up against the legacy of radical Anabaptist hostility to art, Redekop argues that the Early Modern roots of a contemporary crisis of representation are shared by all artists.

Making Believe posits a Spielraum or play space in which all artists are dissembling tricksters, but differences in how we play are inflected by where we come from. The close readings in this book insist on respect for difference at the same time as they invite readers to find common ground while making believe across cultures.

About the author

Magdalene Redekop is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Mothers and Other Clowns: The Stories of Alice Munro.

Magdalene Redekop's profile page


  • Winner, Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher

Editorial Reviews

“When people think of art, Mennonites might not always be the first group to come to mind. Yet as Magdalene Redekop points out in Making Believe: Questions About Mennonites and Art, creativity through the arts is very much a part of Mennonite life, whether as a means of confirming identity as part of a community or as a means of questioning what it means to be a Mennonite.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“Encourages readers to engage art by Mennonites — using a broad understanding of that designation — and dialogue with it, especially when it disturbs us.”

Anabaptist World

"Woven into this densely researched scholarly, wide-ranging, and occasionally artist-based discussion is a lively personal commentary, rooted in Redekop’s own experience as the daughter of Kanadier Mennonites of the Manitoba west reserve, Plautdietsch-speaking farmers with large families, making do without electricity or indoor plumbing until the mid-60s. [...] The Mennonite artistic renaissance was, and continues to be, an extraordinary cultural happening, with its intense conflictual internal dynamics for traditionally minded Mennonites trying to cope with rapid modernization in their midst, and its spectacular new multiple award-winning, global, intercultural imaginative reach. Redekop’s lively telling of the story adds much new information and perspective to the growing oeuvre of scholarship and creative writing devoted to its emergence and present flourishing."

Heritage Posting, Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society

"Throughout this stimulating book, [Redekop] aims to be provocative, not dogmatic. A very careful thinker, Redekop considers her topics (satire, tricksters, nostalgia, realism) from many angles... This is a serious and important book."

Mennonite Historian

"Magdalene Redekop's Making Believe: Questions About Mennonites and Art is a rollicking ride through literature, music, and the visual arts. The book is a feast for the mind and eyes. Alongside its many literary examples it includes some three dozen illustrations – from Mennonite playing cards, to woodcuts, to photographs of paintings, mixed media projects, and sculptures. Two clown interludes involving Low German and masks add levity. The time is right for Redekop's book."

Studia Anglica Posnaniensia

“Redekop builds on Mary Louise Pratt’s concept of the ‘contact zone’ to describe the place of creative cross-fertilization that she believes gives rise to art, especially for artists from sectarian backgrounds where religious belief provides the predominant narrative and world view.”

Journal of Mennonite Writing

"Making Believe represents a lifetime achievement by its author. The book is an unusual integration of memoir, anecdotes, and scholarly analysis, supported by a bibliography of thirty-four pages."

The University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2020

"From the very beginning, Redekop makes clear the contradiction 'at the core of this book: while engaging with art by Mennonites, I will argue that there is no such thing as Mennonite art.' Redekop argues against an essentialized identity, vital to any nuanced understanding of a marginalized group. [...] One of the major strengths of the book is the engaging way that Redekop writes herself into the text, moving between voices and timelines. This is a personal journey, an account of a lifetime of grappling with questions about Mennonites and art."

Mennonite Life

“One review cannot do justice to the comprehensive nature of the book. Redekop offers an encyclopedic compendium of artistic, critical, and cultural observations.”

Mennonite Quarterly Review

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