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The Daughter’s Way

Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies

By Tanis MacDonald
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
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Hardcover : 9781554583621, 279 pages, May 2012
Paperback : 9781554585212, 279 pages, September 2018
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554584024, 279 pages, September 2012

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The Daughter’s Way: Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies, by Tanis MacDonald


Part I: The Daughter’s Way

Introduction: Who Could Not Sing: Elegy and its (Female) Discontents

Chapter One: Elegy and Authority: The Daughter’s Way

Part II: Daughters of Jove, Daughters of Job: Canadian Modernism’s Bloody-Minded Women

Chapter Two: Two Jove’s Daughter: Dorothy Livesay’s Elegiac Daughteronomy

Chapter Three: “So much militia routed in the man”: P. K. Page’s Military Fathers

Chapter Four: “Absence, havoc”: Jay Macpherson’s Rebellious Daughters

Part III: Differently Conceived Nations: The Mourner’s Journey

Chapter Five: “Do what you are good at”: Margaret Atwood’s Authorizing Elegies

Chapter Six: The Pilgrim and the Riddle: Anne Carson’s “The Anthropology of Water”

Chapter Seven: Gateway Politics, Grief Poetics: West Meets West in Kristjana Gunnars’ Zero Hour

Part IV: Furies and Filles de la Sagesse: Language and Difference at Century’s End

Chapter Eight: Signature, Inheritance, Inquiry: Lola Lemire Tostevin’s Cartouches

Chapter Nine: Elegy of Refusal: Erin Mouré's Furious

Conclusion: From the Water

Works Cited



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.


  • Short-listed, ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism 2012


“An interesting and careful study. ”

- Wendy Robbins, University of New Brunswick, Herizons

“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 The Counter-Memorial Impulse in Twentieth-Century English Fiction

“‘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 Canadian Poetry

“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.”

- Gabrielle Roy Prize jurors