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Articles

Volume 35, Number 2 (2010)

Taking Possession: Alice Munro’s "A Wilderness Station" and James Hogg’s Justified Sinner

Submitted
January 31, 2011
Published
June 1, 2010

Abstract

Alice Munro's purpose in recasting James Hogg's A Justified Sinner as she does is to be found in the way Munro's historical narrative endeavours to exempt its central character from the controlling impositions of narrative history. It is this staged aversion to any form of narrative “capture” that lies at the heart of her meditation upon Hogg; it is a key element in Munro's mature fictional aesthetic. “A Wilderness Station” does not so much restage the religious drama of Justified Sinner as offer an exposition in imitative form of the moral and artistic values that convolve within it. Much like Hogg, Munro works backward from assumed knowledge toward contradiction and uncertainty. Both authors write historical fictions that attempt to accommodate within their narrative praxis the inevitability of resistance to, and qualification of, the stories they tell – stories that refuse to take possession of their subjects.