“A Half-Understood Massiveness”: Revisiting John Newlove’s “The Pride”

J. A. Weingarten

Abstract


John Newlove’s poem “The Pride” appeared in 1964 at a pivotal juncture in the development of Canadian literature and of prairie writing in particular. The poem demonstrated that a poetic treatment of the prairies and its history could be both aesthetically and thematically rich without misrepresenting the cultural or historical conditions of the region. “The Pride” is read here in the context of its composition, its modernist influences, and its use of allusion; contributing to the sophistication and multivocality of the poem are references to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and to the historical writings of G.E. Hyde and David Thompson. Hyde’s unsympathetic portrayal of culture being negatively affected by colonialism and Thompson’s more sympathetic observations inform a clash of perspectives in Newlove’s poem. The speaker comes to regard the prairie past, like Eliot’s wasteland of allusions, as a “half-understood massiveness” that needs more diverse historical and literary perspectives.


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