The New Compass: A Critical Review
Q. Drummond and Conversation
to the first issue of The New Compass: A Critical
Review. The journal is the off-spring of The Compass: A Provincial
Review, which was published at the University of Alberta and produced nine
issues between 1977 and 1980, under the editorial direction of John Baxter,
Colin Ross, John Thompson, and (from Number 4 on) Jim Young. The inspiration
for The Compass came from someone whose name does not appear on its list
of editors, the late Professor (or as he preferred to be called, Mr.) C.Q. Drummond, and it is to him that this first issue of The
New Compass is dedicated.
The Compass, The New Compass focuses on the connections between
literature and life and on the ethical bearings of those connections. We invite
interdisciplinary approaches to literature that demonstrate collaboration
between and among disciplines such as history, philosophy, education, and
politics. In reviving the idea and ideals of The Compass, “we welcome
reason charged with conviction about issues in our lives,” and “we invite
active participation by our readers; without such collaboration we cannot
survive.” In the new journal’s format as an on-line publication, we hope once
again to encourage conversation. Our website is plain, and we hope that our
community of readers will speak plainly to one another as well, so that we can
be as clear as possible when discussing the literature that matters.
Christopher Drummond, conversation was essential to living: active,
discriminating, intelligent, alive, and, above all, collaborative conversation.
Mr. Drummond was a teacher who taught through conversation, and a literary
critic who worked through his ideas in discussion and debate. His death on March 26, 2001
made many of his former students feel conversation would not be the same again.
I am one of those students, as I took a class with him in the last term that he
taught at the University
in 1992. A few years later I visited with him in Edmonton
when I went to attend my first literary conference. On the opening night of the
conference I spent several hours in conversation with him, always intending to
leave to go to the scheduled events, but unwilling to sacrifice the opportunity
to talk to a great literary critic. He quarreled with me in the past about my
imprecise use of the word “great,” but this time I’m sticking to it. Whether
the topic was Paradise Lost, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the
differences between men and women, the state of education in Canada, or which
is the finest vodka in the world, the conversation was challenging and lively.
He asked questions, drawing people into a debate that was both educational and
the weeks after his death I was frustrated with the conversations I heard
around me in classes and seminars, and even more frustrated with my own
inability to converse at the level he had required. So many of the things he
said exist now only in the memories (and some class notes) of his students, as
he published infrequently. Fortunately, a collection of his essays, entitled In
Defence of Adam: Essays on Bunyan, Milton,
and Others, edited by John Baxter and Gordon Harvey, is now
forthcoming from The Brynmill Press/Edgeways Books. The
New Compass is delighted to publish an excerpt from this book in our first
issue. Drummond’s essay on “Whalley on Mimesis and
Tragedy” is an exploration of George Whalley’s
analysis of Aristotelian principles that ends with the characteristically
humble remark, “I do not claim to understand this matter,” along with an
invitation to further conversation and reflection: Drummond reminds us that Whalley says “for him the outcome of a piece of vigorous
thinking … ‘could be expected to be, not a group of “conclusions” or doctrinal
precepts, but rather the record of a feat of inventive thinking and the
starting-point for fertile, elucidatory, finely controlled, and energetic
reflection in response to it.’” With Drummond’s own vigorous and inventive
thinking alive for us still on the page (or on the web), we can hope to
continue reflecting on the conversations he began.
this issue of The New Compass, Gordon Harvey offers his reflections on
Drummond’s teaching in his “Letter from Cambridge,”
remembering the experience of participating in Drummond’s (formal) classes at
as well as in the more informal discussions held in his hotel room at every
meeting of the MLA annual conference. In an essay on “Literary Criticism and The
New Idea of A University,” John Baxter comments on
and Duke Maskell’s recent book, and offers Drummond’s
conversational model as the embodiment of what liberal education should be. Ian
Robinson’s article on “Milton’s Justification of the Ways of
God; or, The Fall into Language” is, as he says, a reply to C.Q. Drummond.
Robinson takes up, strengthens, and finally objects to the argument Drummond
put forward in the inaugural lectures in the University of Alberta English
Department Lectures (since renamed the Edmund Kemper Broadus Lectures) in 1971,
which were published in Numbers 2, 3, 4, and 5 of The Compass and will
be reprinted in In Defence
in this issue, we are pleased to publish poems by Helen Pinkerton (“Coronach for Christopher Drummond”), R.L. Barth (“Veterans Day 2002,” “Economics 101,” and “To Maj.
William Umbach”), and Turner Cassity
(“Deferring to the Count” and “Infrastructures”), along with a translation from
Euripides by Steven Shankman (“Hecuba
addresses the corpse of her grandson Astynax
following the fall of Troy”).
Janet Bailey reviews David Lodge’s book Consciousness and the Novel:
Connected Essays (2002) and finds Lodge reluctant to defend the idea of the
soul, even while he offers a careful exploration of cognitive neuroscience’s
current views on “consciousness studies.” Richard Lansdown
explores what it means to claim or reclaim an author for a particular audience
in his review of J.C.F. Littlewood’s D.H.
Lawrence: The Major Phase (2002) and Gary Adelman’s Reclaiming D. H. Lawrence: Contemporary Writers
Speak Out (2002).
hope you enjoy reading The New Compass, and we encourage you to join our
conversation, whether by submitting an article, poem, or short story, or by
commenting on work published in this issue. You can reach us by e-mail at the following
addresses: Michael DiSanto is at email@example.com, and I am at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emsley, Sarah. “Editorial.” The New Compass: A Critical Review
1 (June 2003) <http://www.thenewcompass.ca/jun2003/editorial.html>