The Constraints of Literary Merit in Heidi L. M. Jacobs’ Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear
The purpose of this paper is to examine how Heid L. M. Jacobs’ Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear employs its protagonist, Molly’s, experience within the academy to critique the constraints that literary merit standards place on scholarly work. First, I analyze how Jacobs manifests this argument through Molly’s professors, who criticize and penalize her for straying from the traditional essay format in her written assignments. Next, I look at how, by highlighting Molly’s struggle to reconcile her identity as a Canadian writer, this novel critiques the academic presupposition that authors can only achieve valuable content through the reproduction of canonical literary modes. Further, I consider how Jacobs calls literary merit into question by positing that written works that do not meet this standard can still have scholarly value. However, because Jacobs’ novel centres around a white, heteronormative, and academically-inclined protagonist, its investigation of the constraints of literary merit may be limited. I conclude with the argument that Molly of the Mall leaves readers to question what it means that even a character with a privileged relationship to the academy encounters these constraints.
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