British Journal of Canadian Studies

A quest for her own folk: Joan Clark’s An Audience of Chairs

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2018), 31, (1), 23–42.

Abstract

In An Audience of Chairs (2005), novelist Joan Clark traces the trajectory of madness of Moranna MacKenzie, an intense, complex character who resists the pharmaceuticals associated with the mentally ill. Instead she retreats to the family farmhouse in Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where she carves ancestral faces that surface, ghostlike, in the trees on her property. The labour soothes ‘Mad Mory’ and she sells her folk art to summer tourists. According to Ian McKay’s The Quest of the Folk (1994), this type of craftwork is a form of therapy to shore up a disturbed psyche within the ‘sick’ modern liberal order. Relying on discussions of postcolonial ‘hauntology’, this article examines how ancestral figurations, cosmological paradigms, forced migration to the New World during Scotland’s diaspora, and Indigenous displacement/settler expansion in Cape Breton combine to produce the cultural illness and the personal strife that possess – and dispossess – Moranna from without, and from within.

Dans An Audience of Chairs (2005), la romancière Joan Clark relate le processus de folie de Moranna MacKenzie, personnage intense et complexe qui résiste aux médicaments associés aux malades mentaux. Au lieu de cela, elle se retire dans la ferme familiale de Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, ou elle sculpte des visages ancestraux qui surgissent, fantomatiques, sur les arbres de sa propriété. Le travail apaise ‘Mad Mory’ et elle vend son art folklorique aux touristes estivaux. Selon The Quest of the Folk de Ian McKay (1994), ce type d’artisanat est une forme de thérapie pour renforcer un psychisme perturbé au sein d’un ordre libéral moderne ‘malade’. En se basant sur des discussions de ‘hantologie’ post-colonniale, cet article examinera de quelle manière les figurations ancestrales et les paradigmes cosmologiques, les migrations forcées vers le Nouveau monde durant la diaspora ecossaise et les déplacements Indigènes/l’expansion des colons à Cape Breton se combinent pour produire la maladie culturelle et les conflits personnels qui possèdent – et dépossèdent – Moranna de l’intérieur et de l’extérieur.

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Author details

Revie, Linda