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April 02 , 2009

Archibald Lampman

Memory, Nature, Progress


Treasuring the past, savouring the present, and wanting to do right by the future, Archibald Lampman was a poet keenly focused on the workings of time. He was also a thinker of mystical predisposition. His goal was not to transcend time, but to find redemptive meaning within it. Archibald Lampman: Memory, Nature, Progress explores the ways in which Lampman pursued this goal in relation to the three faces of time. Memory fascinated Lampman. He relished the “alchemy” by which the dross of past experience could be left behind and the gold preserved. Nature compelled his mind and emotions, and his clear-eyed observations of both countryside and wilderness settings gave rise to a self-evolved poetics of inclusiveness. In his celebrations of nature in all its manifestations, mild or bleak, he anticipated the work of iconic Canadian painter Tom Thomson and he forecasted the environmentalism of our own time. Progress for Lampman spelled societal rectification. By forwarding the cause of social betterment, one was part of a movement larger than oneself, and this expansion, too, was redemptive. Archibald Lampman: Memory, Nature, Progress is the first book on this foundational figure in Canadian literature to appear in over twenty-five years and the first thematically focused study. Combining close analysis with biographical context, it shows how Lampman’s oeuvre was shaped by his responses to his physical surroundings and to his social-intellectual milieu, as filtered through his stubbornly independent outlook.
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