Two critical discourses central to current Canadian literary theory emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s: post-colonialism as a political paradigm and postmodernism as a literary practice in Canadian and Québécois fiction. Sylvia Söderlind considers the current debate about the relationship between these two discourses, and proposes a methodology that makes it possible to identify and distinguish between features pertaining to the two.
The theoretical question she poses is whether and how it is possible determine the degree of what writers and critics variously call 'linguistic alienation,' 'alterity,' or 'marginality' in literary texts. Literary studies of marginality generally focus on theme, but Söderlind shows that a text's thematic claim to marginal status is not always corroborated by its textual strategies. Her proposed methodology is used to determine when and to what degree a text's claim to marginality is justified, as opposed to when it is used as an 'alias.'
The author draws on the theory of 'minor literatures' outlined by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and, in particular, on their concepts of territoriality. Their theories are combined with methodologies more immediately applicable to literary texts, notably the semiotics of Yuri Lotman and Boris Uspenskij and the deconstruction of Jacques Derrida. The textual analyses of novels by Leonard Cohen, Hubert Aquin, David Godfrey, André Langevin, and Robert Kroetsch yield some perhaps unexpected results, which are elucidated through a consideration of a wider corpus.
This study opens up to an inquiry into the possibility of reading from the margin, a strategy solicited by certain kinds of postmodern and postcolonial texts. It concludes with some provocative questions about the postmodern critic's relationship to the literary text and its author.