A Frozen Tongue

Selected Criticism and Ficto-Criticism


A probing exploration of “the west, the kingdom of the male virgin,” and the often frigid literature and literary discourse inspired by it, A Frozen Tongue interrogates the confines of Canadian literature with the same insatiable curiosity that’s driven so many to sacrifice a moment’s speech for the satisfaction of tongue on gelid metal. A Frozen Tongue is unapologetic in its polemic, cutting through the status quo with a sharpness befitting the bite of a prairie winter. Though the book is named for a speechless moment, it is filled with rich dialogue on place, nation, gender, colony, erasure, desire, and the complications of communication for those who have been written into silence in the Canadian mythos and the Classical stories that preceded it. Witty, reflective, and unrelenting, this is required reading for anyone interested in the modern history of Canadian literature and its accompanying feminist conversations.

“The tongue, then, to the woman writer, the mute in disguise, tends to be rather proboscidian. It stutters, gets in the way, waves itself around, ties itself in knots, says the unspeakable. In short, it behaves rather like an elephant’s foot, this tongue. And the writer always and forever afraid and aware, tries to keep it in its place, behind the cage of teeth, keep it quiet and out of site, for the dangers and temptations of public language are hard to resist/a serenic lure. To imagine that we/I/the woman writer might write or say something worthy of attention or analysis is the greatest temptation of all, and succumbing to it the ultimate seduction. Once led astray, she abandons her muteness and gives tongue, forever after implicated, an accomplice to articulation.”

“A word or phrase difficult to articulate: Canada. Inevitably the wrong place for the writer who plans a future in words. A nation large and obscure, its own oxymoron, unimportant to the culture brokers and word mongers of the world. A Canadian tongue: Quebecois, the new English, doubled up. Language as a pod in the brain or language as a suit of clothes: the one always present, the other donned on occasion. A cleft palate.”

“The bound tongue, constrained by its patronymic. A pauldron for the mouth. The world male-worded, and all tonguing confined to the masculine eye of history, biology, philosophy, a maelstrom that woman word cannot resist, turbulent, dangerous, always in control. The tongue tied to the mast of gender, hardly daring to move, for fear of a rebuke, a reprisal. Usurping the phallus, the power of speaking, unleashing the tongue, daring finally to offer a tongue-lashing where it is due.”

“All the frozen words keep until the spring, and then, in green and verdant energy, they thaw, and their cacophonous sound is the urgent moment of the frozen tongue, beyond writing and nation, beyond nativity, beyond patriarchy. Listen: it is coming, the wonderful and unbridled tongue of women.”