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Literary Criticism General

Mavis Gallant

The Eye and the Ear

by (author) Marta Dvorák

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2019
General, Women Authors, Canadian
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
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With a confidante’s insights, Marta Dvořák sets up an innovative connection between Mavis Gallant’s dazzling writing and the whole spectrum of the arts. She simultaneously engages with the feats of art making and the adventures of reading, looking, and listening.


Drawing on private correspondence and conversations with the Gallant she repositions as a late modernist, Dvořák investigates the relationships between the Paris-based master of the short story and visual and sound culture. Through the filter of philosophical aesthetics, she identifies the painterly, cinematic, and musical dynamics which light up Gallant’s craft. At the same time, she opens a dialogue between Gallant and other international modernists and with those they were reading, watching, and listening to, from the moving pictures which shaped Gallant’s generation to the rhythm and dissonance of, say, Stravinsky and jazz, which − like the Cubist rupture with spatial perspective − spearheaded modernity’s aesthetics of breakage.


How does Gallant’s work work? Dvořák’s hands-on rhetorical analyses of Gallant’s stories and lesser-known, recently reissued novels illuminate the superb stylist’s language and vision via an emphasis on both image and rhythm. Providing keys to Gallant’s famous sleights-of-hand and tonal shifts, the discussions reveal a fictional world as multidimensional as a Cubist picture or a symphony depending on whether we lean towards the eye or the ear.

About the author

Ernest Buckler (1908-1984) was born in West Dalhousie, Nova Scotia. He spent most of his life writing and farming in the Annapolis Valley, and died in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia.

Marta Dvořák is professor of Canadian and postcolonial literatures in English at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, former associate editor of The International Journal of Canadian Studies, and editor of Commonwealth Essays and Studies. Focusing her research on (post)modernism and cross-culturalism, she has authored and edited books ranging from Ernest Buckler: Rediscovery and Reassessment (WLU Press, 2001) to Tropes and Territories: Short Fiction, Postcolonial Readings, and Canadian Writings in Context (co-ed. W.H. New) and The Faces of Carnival in Anita Desai's In Custody.


Marta Dvorák's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Mavis Gallant: The Eye and the Ear, a landmark study by Marta Dvořák, presents a compelling case that Gallant’s keen visual and aural senses were profoundly shaped by her immersion in art, film, and music. In what Dvořák calls a modernist assimilation of literary texts, visual culture, and music, Gallant submerged herself in Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and the Russians, as well as Pablo Picasso, Ella Fitzgerald, the composer Dmitri Shostakovich, and the film director Wallace Worsley."

<em>Literary Review of Canada</em>

Other titles by Marta Dvorák