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Literary Criticism Women Authors

The Daughter’s Way

Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies

by (author) Tanis MacDonald

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2018
Women Authors, Death, Grief, Bereavement, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2018
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2012
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2012
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The Daughter’s Way investigates negotiations of female subjectivity in twentieth-century Canadian women’s elegies with a special emphasis on the father’s death as a literary and political watershed. The book examines the work of Dorothy Livesay, P.K. Page, Jay Macpherson, Margaret Atwood, Kristjana Gunnars, Lola Lemire Tostevin, Anne Carson, and Erin Mouré as elegiac daughteronomies—literary artifacts of mourning that grow from the poets’ investigation into the function and limitations of elegiac convention. Some poets treat the father as a metaphor for socio-political power, while others explore more personal iterations of loss, but all the poets in The Daughter’s Way seek to redefine daughterly duty in a contemporary context by challenging elegiac tradition through questions of genre and gender.

Beginning with psychoanalytical theories of filiation, inheritance, and mourning as they are complicated by feminist challenges to theories of kinship and citizenship, The Daughter’s Way debates the efficacy of the literary “work of mourning” in twentieth-century Canadian poetry. By investigating the way a daughter’s filial piety performs and sometimes reconfigures such work, and situating melancholia as a creative force in women’s elegies, the book considers how elegies inquire into the rhetoric of mourning as it is complicated by father-daughter kinship.

About the author

Tanis MacDonald is the author of two books of poetry: Fortune (2003) and Holding Ground (2000), and is the winner of the 2003 Bliss Carman Poetry Prize. She has published articles on the poetry of P.K. Page, Lorna Crozier, and Anne Carson. She teaches English at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

Di Brandt’s poetry titles include questions I asked my mother (1987), Agnes in the sky (1990), Jerusalem, beloved (1995), and most recently, Now You Care (2004). She has received numerous awards for her poetry, including the CAA National Poetry Prize, the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. Di Brandt recently returned to the Manitoba prairies, her home, after a decade away, to take up a Canada Research Chair in Creative Writing at Brandon University.

Tanis MacDonald's profile page


  • Short-listed, ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism

Editorial Reviews

“The Daughter’s Way is an original, absorbing, and long-overdue critical examination of the way Canadian female poets have written against the grain of the male elegiac tradition. MacDonald’s scholarly conversation with these works is an important step in understanding the contrary energies of feminist remembrance.”

Sarah Henstra, Department of English, Ryerson University, author of <i>The Counter-Memorial Impulse in Twentieth-Century English Fiction</i>

“An interesting and careful study.”


“Tanis MacDonald’s The Daughter’s Way represents a new way of understanding Canadian women’s poetic elegies. Ranging widely across twentieth- and twenty-first century Canadian women’s texts, the study provides a compelling and precisely focused engagement with gender, genre, and nation. MacDonald (herself a poet) brings a rich understanding of the importance of poetic form. She produces insightful analyses in prose that is crystal clear and a pleasure to read, making readers engage with the evocative power of the ‘literary’ all over again.”

“‘How women are to be—as bodies, as artists, and as elegists—is predicated on their ability to memorialize and inherit,’ writes Tanis MacDonald in the introduction to The Daughter’s Way. In the carefully theorized and beautifully written chapters that follow, she traces an arc of female paternal elegies with sensitivity and a keen critical and feminist intelligence. Erudite, insightful, nuanced, and continuously engaging, The Daughter’s Way is a lucid crystallization of years of study, thought, and felt experience in and around elegies that casts a brilliant light on the texts and on their literary, personal, and social contexts. It is a significant contribution to Canadian literary and feminist studies and, indeed, to studies of the elegiac mode itself.”

D.M.R. Bentley, Department of English, University of Western Ontario, editor of <i>Canadian Poetry</i>

Other titles by Tanis MacDonald