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HOME / LITERARY WRITING - BY JANE LEDWELL / 3. RESISTING THE TRENDS /


a. L. M. Montgomery

There is no better example than L. M. Montgomery of a writer bucking academically defined literary trends in favour of a combination of independent literary values and capitulation to commercial pressures. For many years, Lucy Maud Montgomery's writing was ignored by "serious" literary critics and by university English departments because it was considered popular writing and because its style and themes were out of step with the Modernist style and themes. Even in her own day, Montgomery recognized that her writing was not in step with Modernism. She deliberately chose to write using a different style, and she defiantly criticized the literary orthodoxy that would label her writing "scribbling" compared to the "serious literature" of those who followed Modernist trends.

She makes a vitriolic attack on "free verse" in a "poem" she sent off in a letter to her friend and longtime correspondent George Boyd MacMillan.


Vers libre

I feel
Very much
Like taking
Its unholy perpetrators
By the hair
Of their heads
(If they have any hair)
And dragging them around
The yard
A few times
And then cutting them
Into small, irregular pieces
And burying them
In the depths of the blue sea.
They are without form
And void,
Or at least
The stuff they produce
Is.
They are too lazy
To hunt up rhymes
And that
is all
That is the matter with them.

--- L. M. Montgomery



After writing it, she breathed a sigh of relief in her letter, writing, "I feel better."

Montgomery iterates her resistance to Modernist negativity most especially in her journals. Here, she offers a critique of Canadian Modernist, Morley Callaghan:

Callaghan's idea of "Literature" seems to be to photograph a latrine or pigstye meticulously and have nothing else in the picture. Now, latrines and pigstyes are not only malodorous but very uninteresting. We have a latrine in our backyard. I see it when I look that way -- and I also see before it a garden of color and perfume -- over it a blue sky -- behind it a velvety pine caressing crystal air -- a river of silver and aquamarine -- misty hills of glamour beyond. These things are as "real" as the latrine and can all be seen at the same time. Callaghan sees nothing but the latrine and insists blatantly that you see nothing else also. If you insist on seeing sky and river and pine you are a "sentimentalist" and the truth is not in you.
--- L. M. Montgomery
from her Selected Journals

It is important to remember that as much as a statement of her own poetics, Montgomery's critiques of Modernism stem partly from her own defensiveness and insecurity for being dismissed by Modernists.

Feminist criticism has redeemed Montgomery's writing and Montgomery scholars now praise her biting social satire and her portrayal of women's friendships.

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