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Question 3:


“For this blog assignment, I would like you to explain why it is that Scott’s highly active role in the purposeful destruction of Indigenous people’s cultures is not relevant for Frye in his observations above? You will find your answers in Frye’s discussion on the problem of ‘historical bias’ (216) and in his theory of the forms of literature as closed systems (234 –5).”



I believe that the irrelevance of Scott’s role in the “purposeful destruction of indigenous people’s cultures” lies in the cycle of detachment that derives from the closed literary forms in Canadian writing. Frye speaks of a group of writers that gets their motivation from their own experience, but lacks the tools to translate these into relevant literary works. In a more direct manner, the Canadian authors lack a sense of cultural unity, and are often writing more in the image of European roots rather than their own unique literary identity.


Frye also speaks of the closed, nearly out of touch, nature of the writer’s work. Within this paradigm Scott would be able to lament the decline of the “noble savage” in one instance, than play an active role in legislation that created, in reality, the circumstances of his poetry. Furthermore, Frye is a literary critic, albeit with his own political opinions, but his focus when critiquing Scott would have very little interest in Scott’s political leanings. In essence, the same vacuum that Canadian authors exist in, being disjointed and lacking of plot in their works, would allow Frye to overlook the ‘real world’ work that Scott did in favour of the fictional literature that Scott created. In the same way that Frye says that “Even when it is literature in its orthodox genres of poetry and fiction, it is more significantly studied as part of Canadian life than as part of an autonomous world of literature.” (Frye 216) This would allow Frey to separate the subject matter of Scott’s poetry from the parallels that existed in his political world.


    • Linda McNeilly Purcell
    • Posted July 13, 2016 at 9:35 pm
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    • Reply

    Hi Sean,

    Thank you for your blog post. I enjoyed your answer to Dr. Patterson’s question #3. I agree with your assessment, and I think this idea of the “noble savage” needs to be addressed. Jean-Jacques Rousseau did much to glorify the noble savage. He was one of the major political philosophers of the Enlightenment. Consider the idea that civilization corrupts, and the noble savage embodies the concept of an idealized “other” who has not yet been corrupted, but instead symbolizes the innate goodness in humanity. Attributing the “noble savage” title onto Native peoples attests to the underlying, Eurocentric valorization of European civilization. My question for you is, why do you suppose Scott, the man who was determined to assimilate, or otherwise destroy the Native communities in Canada, would in any way glorify the people he was trying to destroy?

    I look forward to your response,


  1. Hi Linda,

    That is a very interesting question to ask, and I admit sitting here I am of two minds about it. One one hand, I could let Scott off the hook. During his day, the glorification of the noble savage ran rampant, as noted in the numerous novels and spaghetti westerns that shone a spotlight on stereotypes about First Nations peoples. While I think this likely played a role, look at the transformation of communication today sparked by ‘political correctness’, which I believe to be a direct reaction to the attitudes and portrayals of many groups during the 19th and 20th centuries. I don’t believe that it is right to excuse his actions and writings in this manner. I think this likely represents a certain level of guilt on Scott’s part, and it could be argued that his poetry was his attempt to memorialize the vision of First Nations peoples that he held. It is likely that his involvement in the very infrastructure that was suffocating First Nations culture likely never occurred to him; or if it did it would likely have been extremely detrimental to his career to appear to sympathize with them. This response of course is pure conjecture, as I admittedly have very little knowledge of Scott’s policies or works of poetry. I hope this answers your question.

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