Mavis Gallant: The Eye and the Ear
Published: November 2019© 2019
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 272 Pages
Illustrations: 1 b&w illustration
Dimensions: 6.30 x 9.25
272 Pages, 6.30 x 9.25 x 0.95 in, 1 b&w illustration
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.
1. Acquisitions: Mapping World and Work
an Acrostic for Mavis
Mavis, osmosis, & the Artful Dodger
the medium calling the tune?
Mavis, the (moving) pictures, and music
beyond our current way of seeing
2. Is it Dead or Alive?
Gallant’s shining language: wholeness, harmony, and radiance
"the rest is just rice pudding": compression & expansion
"not mad, not drowning, not Ophelia": a poetics of rhythm
3. The Oratorical Triad: "Like Looking Into the Sun"
upstairs & downstairs: the banal & the barbarism
the calf & the ox: comical cleavage
poetic speech & the heard word
metre and the art of sinking — & rising again
visual overlays: page & screen
an ellipsoidal narrative rhythm through which ideas rush: where import lies
4. Dissonance & Syncopation
"silent, flickering areas of light": making strange
"tougher than bulldogs": the odd man out
"tum titty": adjacency pairs
frame-breaking: The Real and the Reel
Surfeit and Lack
5. Text/Image Borderblur, & Cubist Realism
"you paint not what you see but what you know is there"
never happier than in an artist’s studio: intersections
"taking apart & putting together"
a fraught realism
6. Who Is I and When Is Here?
simultanism vs clocktime
the subject-centred perceptual apparatus
double vision: from short cut to short circuit
7. "How Can You Tell What Somebody’s Worth? What’s the Measure?"
"Mavis Gallant: The Eye and the Ear is lively and erudite."Robert Thacker, author of Alice Munro: Writing Her Lives
"Dvořák’s friendship with Gallant, documented here in correspondence and remembered conversations, opens up the kinds of unique insights that only someone in Dvořák’s enviable situation is able to provide. In-depth readings, an expansive range of materials, and trailblazing theoretical frameworks enhance this book's outstanding scholarship."Lesley Clement, author of Learning to Look: A Visual Response to Mavis Gallant’s Fiction
"Superb—every page of this book brings fresh insights into Mavis Gallant’s writing—a major accomplishment, nothing short of a new poetics of style."W.H. NEW, poet and literary critic
“Marta Dvořák’s Mavis Gallant: The Eye and the Ear is a work of exceptional scholarship that is also deeply personal. Intermedial analyses illuminate Gallant’s dazzling, high modernist ‘Cubist realism’ in the literary, visual, and sonic contexts she absorbed in the creation of her comic vision − with Proust and Beckett, painting and cinema, classical music and jazz among the many inspirations. Remembered conversations and personal incidents, the traces of a profound intellectual Paris friendship between the writer and the critic, provide supplemental, more intimate glimpses of Canada’s master ironist. Dvořák’s study takes us on a hugely rewarding journey, a worthy companion piece to the work of a writer who not only Michael Ondaatje considered worthy of the Nobel Prize."Winfried Siemerling, author of The New North American Studies and The Black Atlantic Reconsidered
"In this exquisitely curated close reading of one of the most acute short story writers ever, Marta Dvořák uncloaks the bricolage that comprises Mavis Gallant’s oeuvre. This is a work for the intelligent reader of an intelligent writer. More than critique, The Eye and the Ear is a cultural tour, a Cubist paradox, and a wonderful exploration of the artistic coincidences that influenced Gallant. Dvořák leaps from music to art to literature and history with the dexterity of an acrobat and the sensibility of a true aesthete, translating Gallant’s rendezvous with exquisite discernment and the texture of philosophical thought. Cemented by Dvořák’s friendship with Gallant, lucid analysis here cohabits with a subtle rendition of a literary relationship seasoned with language and rhythm. Quite simply, brilliant."Aritha van Herk