Gaining insight into a writer's life may give us a broader appreciation of their work. The issues influencing the writer on a personal or social level during their life will most probably be reflected in their work.
The Canadian writer, Alice Munro, is recognized as a master of the modern short story. In 2013, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her stories are reputed to draw heavily upon her own personal experiences. In this project work we will study how her life has been a source of inspiration in her work.
The Mother - Daughter Relationship
Read Alice Munro's biographical essay "Dear Life - A Childhood Visitation" here and watch the interview with the author (8 min).
In the last part of the interview she focuses on the mother and daughter relationship.
Ponder these Questions:
- Compare her biographical essay to her statements about her relationship to her mother in the interview.
- Which issues in their relationship are highlighted?
- To which extent do you think the essay elaborates on her personal feelings towards her mother?
Write an Essay
Read the dramatization of the short story Red Dress
In Rex Murphy's interview with Alice Munroe, he describes how her stories appear to be analyses of the "the keenest of relationships" - the one between a mother and her daughter.
On the basis of what you have studied about Alice Munro, her life and fiction, write an essay where you discuss how you think the relationship to her own mother is reflected in her work.
The Local Village
To The New York Times, Alice Munro declared that her Canadian hometown, Wingham in Huron County, was "the most interesting place in the world". Robert Thacker, her biographer, describes how Munro excels in transforming the ordinary place and its inhabitants into art.
Read how the local villagers feel about being a place on the world's literary map and how her hometown tends to be the setting of the stories Where She Found Her Stories and watch the video.
Ponder these Questions:
- How does Munro explain why the small village and its residents play such a big part in her stories?
- Even if the people in Wingham acknowledge Alice Munro and her work, some feel exposed and humiliated. Why do you think?
- The article "Where She Found Her Stories" states that Alice Munro has had to live with the duality of pleasing and provoking people for decades. It refers to one family that still holds a grudge against her for revealing a tragedy going back to the 1930s. How does this illustrate the dilemma of the biographical author?
Make a Collage
Read one of Munro's short stories. You will find a selection of her short stories here, e.g. "Free Radicals" or "Amundsen". From the short story, the interview and the article, "Where She Found Her Stories", make a collage. (Choose pictures from Google, Flickr, Deviantart or similar sources.) Call it "Alice Munro and Her Universe". Try to portray the small Canadian village and some of the "locals" that Alice Munro brings to life.
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