Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Morgan on Canadian constitutional and literary history
Sunshine Cases of a Little Constitution is an essay by Ed Morgan, University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Here's the abstract: This paper revisits some of Canada's early constitutional history, taking as a starting point the view that constitutional evolution is the country's great national project. It also revisits some of Canada's literary history, taking as its starting point the view that the development of Canadian literature has been an ongoing process of national self-contemplation. At its most foundational level, this paper explores the disjointed nature of both projects, comparing the Privy Council's leading constitutional cases from the turn-of-the-twentieth-century with the writings of the same era's leading Canadian literary figure, Stephen Leacock. It observes that constitutional jurisprudence has historically been characterized more by its fractured quality than its rational synthesis, and that literary output has been characterized more by its incompleteness and diversity than by any stylistic or thematic unity. In short, it asks whether we can ever really know Mariposa - i.e. whether Canadians are capable of a coherent national discourse, or whether they are, as Robertson Davies put it, "just too divided in attitudes and feelings and climates and everything else to have a single outlook that would work in a [constitution/novel] of the whole country."