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The republic of love and popular romance

Hammill, Faye (2003) The republic of love and popular romance. In: Carol Shields, Narrative Hunger, and the Possibilities of Fiction. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, pp. 61-83. ISBN 0802084897

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Award-winning Canadian writer Carol Shields has garnered praise from scholars and an international audience of readers. Inspired by the quality and scope of Shields's work, Carol Shields, Narrative Hunger, and the Possibilities of Fiction addresses her creative exploration of postmodernism. As the first thorough examination of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, this collection of essays establishes the groundwork for future studies of her oeuvre. The collection begins with a significant new essay from Shields herself, 'Narrative Hunger and the Overflowing Cupboard,' perhaps her most substantial commentary upon her own aims as a writer. In addition, scholars from Canada, England, the United States, and Australia explore the complexity of Shields's work and her contributions to the genre of the novel. These lively essays reflect Shields's verve and her playful approach to today's sophisticated critical thinking. Among the topics are Shields's use of biography and autobiography, metafiction, popular romance, and symbolism. While the essays foreground the unreliability of language, and hence our inability to know one another or even ourselves, the contributors argue that Shields has taken a step beyond postmodernism by suggesting that we can transcend the limitations of its epistemology. Containing several essays on Swann and The Stone Diaries, Shields's most popular works, and the most extensive annotated bibliography available of works by and about Shields, this collection will appeal widely to scholars, students, and readers of Carol Shields and Canadian fiction. Faye Hammill persuasively argues for The Republic of Love as a self-conscious revision and rehabilitation of the romantic novel, highlighting the elements of parody and polyphony which enable Shields at once to affirm and subvert the conventions of the genre.