The Question For Alistair MacLeod I Didn't Ask

Shelagh Rogers had just finished interviewing Alistair MacLeod. Their conversation, which (false :) ranged from his driving an N.A.D.P. milk wagon in young Edmonton, through his thoughts about a chandelier's point of view and on to his sense of the vanished in our interior and exterior landscapes, kicked off the Words In 3D Conference happening this weekend at MacEwan.

Alistair MacLeod
It was an enjoyable chat to listen in on. Two people who know about words written (MacLeod) and breathed (Rogers) talking about the literary sensibility, the changed perspectives that time delivers, the mystery of metaphor.

And then it was time for the punctuation mark on the evening: questions from the audience.

The questions, as Rogers graciously acknowledged, promising them a home in an upcoming CBC The Next Chapter podcast, were good. Was MacLeod a writer who teaches or a teacher who writes? What did he learn from his students? Can creative writing be taught? A question about the horses on the milk wagon. And more along this vein.

As sometimes happens, my question didn't happen until the event was over and Shelagh (Kubish, that is) and I were walking back to the car.

Shelagh Rogers
First, though, a short rewind to the start of the evening:

Shelagh (Rogers, that is) started her time at the mic by welcoming the audience and reminding them she was proud to be here in Edmonton on Treaty 6 lands. It was an unexpected and effective way to remind us of the territorial plateaus we live and move in, whether recalled or unrecalled.

And that observation, rhizomatic thought being what it is, sent me to another space we are now in in parts of Alberta, that smokestacked landscape where the liberal arts tradition that has nurtured MacLeod and Rogers is under attack by the technocratically formed. And, so, my question that I didn't ask comes from that space:

Alistair MacLeod, Shelagh Rogers, welcome back and welcome to Alberta. It is good to have you here.  I can't help but think that your very presence is a contradiction to the emerging argument of what higher education is supposed to be about. But here is my question: In 2013, in Alberta, where the endless talk is of pipelines, why read literature in university?

Can I ask Shelagh Rogers to get that question to Alistair MacLeod the next time their paths cross in front of an audience? :)

Canadian Literature Centre in action: MacLeod and Rogers


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