The Mind’s Eye : Alice Munro’s Dance of the Happy Shades Ouvrage - 2015

Christine Lorre-Johnston, Ailsa Cox, The Mind’s Eye : Alice Munro’s Dance of the Happy Shades , Fahrenheit, 2015

The Mind’s Eye shows how Alice Munro’s first collection of short stories, Dance of the Happy Shades, establishes the themes that continue throughout her work of the ensuing forty years. Several of the stories, such as “An Ounce of Cure” and “Day of the Butterfly,” read as narratives by a writer at the beginning of her career, experimenting with the genre of the short story and dealing with autobiographical material from her childhood, youth, and young adulthood. Others such as “Walker Brothers Cowboy,” “Images” and “The Peace of Utrecht,” already reveal Munro’s personal mastery of the form, and the preoccupations that have characterised all her work since then. She is fascinated by the role of the senses, particularly sight, in the perception of the world ; by the link between the real world and the world of the imagination ; by the way the past haunts the present, through unreliable memories that change over the course of time ; and by the sense that secrets and mysteries can be experienced but never entirely understood.

The book is divided into seven chapters that address key aspects of Munro’s collection : Genre ; The Gothic and the grotesque ; Memory and temporality ; Growing up ; Gender, mothers and fathers ; Class ; The artist and society. Although these themes run across several, or most of the stories for some of them, a few representative stories are given a close reading in each chapter, so the stories of the collection are analysed as distinct narrative units. Each chapter was written by one of the two authors, and the book offers two different viewpoints on the stories, but it was also conceived collaboratively, so that the chapters complement one another.

Ailsa Cox is Reader in English and Writing at Edge Hill University, UK. She is a short story writer and critic. A short monograph, Alice Munro, was published by Northcote House in 2004.

Christine Lorre-Johnston is a Senior Lecturer in English at Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris 3). Her research focuses on postcolonial literature and theory and the genre of the short story.