You Can’t Get There From Here: The Past as Present in Small-Town Ontario Fiction
Published: April 2019© 2019
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 224 Pages
Dimensions: 6.50 x 9.25
224 Pages, 6.50 x 9.25 x 0.90 in
Rather than reading small-town representations in Canadian literature as portraits of a parochial past or a lost golden age, this book claims that they are best understood as sophisticated statements on the effects of modernity in an ever-more cosmopolitan world. In Ontario, as urbanization increased over the past century, small towns became a popular literary trope, and Ryan Porter argues that literary small towns are reflections, and even sublimated explorations, of contemporary life.
Referencing the theories of heritage scholars, who view popularly understood pasts as constructions shaped by changing sensibilities, You Can’t Get There from Here argues that the literary small-town Ontario past is malleable, consisting of attempts to come to terms with the present in which the narrators find themselves. The book focuses on four key Ontario authors – Stephen Leacock, Robertson Davies, Alice Munro, and Jane Urquhart – as well as many secondary authors, and links the readings to much broader trends in actual Ontario towns and in popular culture.
Introduction: Projecting Difference − The Heritage of Small-Town and Rural Ontario
1 Rural Past and Urban Present: Landscape as Time
2 Saying Goodbye to Mariposa: Rebutting the Small-Town Convention
3 Memory and Departure
Part One: Synthesizing Memory – The Artist as Community
Part Two: Departure, Return, Departure
4 Past Dependencies and Consolatory Histories
Conclusion: Reflecting on Nostalgia’s Restoration
Works Cited and Consulted
"Ryan Porter’s insightful study, You Can’t Get There From Here: The Past as Present in Small-Town Ontario Fiction, observes the extent to which the canonical rural Ontario writing that participates in the small-town myth is produced from an urban vantage point."
André Narbonne, American Review of Canadian Studies
"Interesting and thoughtful, You Can’t Get There From Here offers a portrait of small-town Ontario. In essence, this book is the representation of the past through the eyes of the present, a seminal trope in Canadian literature, and worthy of full analysis as presented by Ryan Porter."David Staines, Department of English, University of Ottawa
"Beyond sound, the scholarship is impressive. Wholly appropriate and often imaginative, Porter makes the range of his readings and references especially clear, seamlessly shifting from a primary text to its scholarly context and back again."Robert Thacker, Charles A. Dana Professor in the Departments of Canadian Studies and English, St Lawrence University
"Eminently readable, informative, and interesting!"Coral Ann Howells, Professor Emerita, University of Reading; Senior Research Fellow, Institute of English Studies, University of London.