People Say 40
Essay and criticism
10. 01. 2022
Sanja Gligorić

Popular Culture in Twentieth-Century Anglophone Literature Hockey as Canada’s Uniting Force in Jeff Lemire’s

The Collected Essex County (Volumes I & II)

I Introduction
Jeff Lemire is an eminent Canadian cartoonist who achieved great ac-
claim after publishing his trilogy of graphic novels that came out in
a collected edition in 2009 titled The Collected Essex County. In this
trilogy, Lemire attempts to depict the Canadian mindset and discern
the role hockey has in the country as a uniting force between people,
at the local, as well as at the national level. Lemire’s work is essential
for understanding these existing bonds, and as far as its structure is
concerned, Will Eisner and Lan Dong, respectively, outline pivotal ob-
servations that explain the graphic (novel) form as such,
The fundamental function of comic (strip and book) art to com-
municate ideas and/ or stories by means of words and pictures in-
volves the movement of certain images (such as people and things)
through space (Eisner, 1985: 38).
Commonly known as book-length comics, graphic narratives in-
clude both fiction and nonfiction. The past three decades have seen
an increase in the readership of graphic narratives as well as in
scholarly interests in this subject (Dong, 2012: 5).

Dong goes on to point out “the legitimacy and value of graphic narra-
tives” which can, and have been, used when it comes to representing
important issues and questions, and can also be employed as an aid to
better “understand social, political, and cultural issues” (Dong, 2012: 5).
Not only is the graphic novel deserving of study and can help illustrate
important cultural and social points, but so can hockey, too, which
is precisely what Jean Dion, in his foreword for Hockey and Philoso-
phy (2015) titled “Thinker on the Rink“, playfully asserts by sharing his
viewpoint on the importance of hokey in the mindset of Canadians,
One could chuckle that hockey has attained the status of a religion
in this country. Hockey Night in Canada as Saturday night mass.
Montreal, the Mecca of hockey. The Montreal Forum, the Temple
on Saint Catherine Street. The Canadiens are known in French as
la Sainte-Flanelle, the “Holy Flannel.” And if we had Stanley Cup
parades a bit more often, we could certainly talk of religious pro-
cessions. Therefore, like all religious expression, and like all human
endeavour (rational or otherwise) to explain one’s mortality, to ex-
press one’s allegiances, or to find one’s place in a seemingly absurd
universe, hockey is deserving of philosophical study. You could
even say it has a duty to be held up to the light and taken serious-
ly, to transcend its frivolous and playful identity (Baillargeon and
Boissinot, 2015: xi).

Many academic writers who are enthusiastic about studying sports in
an attempt to better grasp its importance in modern life do point out
that sports in general (and hockey by extension) can be marked as a
marginal part of cultural reality if we were to compare it to economy,
education or politics (Giulianotti, 2015). However, Đorđević presents
the following arguments as a means to disclose his viewpoint regard-
ing the essential place sports have in contemporary lives,
The marginality can be comprehended conditionally if we were
to take into consideration that sports in our contemporary global
culture presents one of the most important phenomena, and that
it involves a large number of people, whether that be directly or
indirectly. In this meaning, the lesser importance of sports in the
context of general societal power loses on its relevance if this phe-
nomenon is observed solely from the angle of researching popu-
lar culture, as it is usually done, regardless of its huge influence
on creating and reproducing identity in the contemporary world
(Đorđević, 2009: 1-2).

Adding a further affirmative remark, “sport is said to inculcate values
and virtues” (Baillargeon and Boissinot, 2015: xvi), which is precisely
the role hockey attains in Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel trilogy where, in
its three parts differing in volume and content, Lemire explores and
depicts the importance hockey has in Canada both in terms of local
communities and at the national level. Lemire shows that for certain
members of the Essex county in Ontario, Canada (which is where the
graphic novel takes place) hockey players attain the status of super-
heroes, as well as that they can be viewed as national superheroes at the
level of the entire nation.
This is one of the ways in which the love for what might be the big-
gest of Canadian sports instills feelings of togetherness into Canadian
life and helps create a group identity among its citizens. On the other
hand, Lemire also explores the role hockey can have in representing
the divide between the francophone and the anglophone parts of
Canada, as well as the role it takes on in bringing closer members of the
same family who have grown apart due to misfortunate circumstances
– a father and a son, as well as two brothers who were magnanimous
hockey players when they were young.
The main body of the paper will be divided into two sections, cor-
responding to each of the two covered graphic novel’s volumes (I and
II), and will present an analysis of how hockey plays the part of uniting
the local community at a micro level, and show its role in building the
nation’s sense of community at a macro level.

I Volume One: Tales from the Farm 2.1. Superheroes and
Hockey Players
The first volume in Lemire’s trilogy opens with an iconic image of the
ten-year-old protagonist Lester Papineau claded as a superhero, as
he is starting to fly – a dreamy sequence that is abruptly interrupted
by his uncle Kenny’s voice who brings him back to reality by repri-
manding him for not having fed the chicken on the farm before play-
ing, and orders him to “take that damn outfit off” (Lemire, 2009a: 12).
The flightless chickens can be seen as an analogy to Lester, who is also
grounded despite his immense desire to fly. This is also represented
in two panels that align Lester and one chicken (he is depicted in the
panel above the chicken) both looking equally lost and desperate to
escape (Lemire, 2009a: 53). Throughout the entire volume, the uncle
and nephew will fail to find proper ways to communicate, which is
what Lester manages to do with another character – Jimmy LeBeuf,
the two sharing mutual appreciation for the game of hockey, as well as
an understanding of the world of comics and superheroes.
This installment is segmented into four parts – Summer, Fall,
Winter and Spring, and it depicts the protagonist Lester’s life at the
farm with his uncle. It is soon disclosed that Lester’s mother Claire
died from cancer, and as the volume progresses, it becomes clear that
his relationship with his uncle is not as good as it should be – the two
need time to learn how to get along. One day in the fall, Lester goes to
the creek, where he sees Jimmy LeBeuf, a former hockey player, spear-
fishing (Lemire, 2009a: 32). The two befriend each other in this volume
and share musings on both hockey and superheroes. Both characters
spend a lot of time alone and share the feelings of being misunderstood
by people surrounding them, and the friendship they develop helps
Lester become more sociable while sharing his private world of comics
with LeBeuf, to whom he shows a comic of his own creation on a win-
ter’s day while Kenny is out selling chicken from the farm.
The tie that binds the nephew and uncle is precisely their immense
appreciation for hockey, a game that first appears in a panel that rep-
resents Kenny watching a game on TV (Lemire, 2009a: 14). The rift
between him and his nephew is presented through the disrupted ritual
of watching the game, because Lester refuses Kenny’s call to join him,
but goes into his room and turns on the TV to watch it by himself
(Lemire, 2009a: 15). Thus, both of them watch the same hockey game –
but the game fails ever so abysmally to bring them together, i.e. it does
not bridge the gap between the two men. It is with LeBeuf with whom
Lester shares both his love of superheroes and his love for hockey
(Lemire, 2009a: 18, 33, 56, 67 ).
It comes as no surprise that Lemire has the character of Lester feel
so strongly towards both superheroes and hockey players, for it is the
latter who can be interpreted as national heroes who are off to save the
world, and they symbolize hope due to the beauty of the game they
are partaking in. Upon proposing that sports (in particular hockey)
be regarded as worthy of academic observation and philosophical en-
quiry, the two editors of the volume Hockey and Philosophy, Normand



Претплатите се и дарујте независни часописи Људи говоре, да бисмо трајали заједно


Људи говоре је српски загранични часопис за књижевност и културу који излази у Торонту од 2008.године. Поред књижевности и уметности, бави се свим областима које чине културу српског народа.

У часопису је петнаестак рубрика и свака почиње са по једном репродукцијом слика уметника о коме се пише у том броју. Излази 4 пута годишње на 150 страна, а некада и као двоброј на 300 страна.

Циљ му је да повеже српске писце и читаоце ма где они живели. Његова основна уређивачка начела су: естетско, етичко и духовно јединство.


Мило Ломпар
главни и одговорни уредник
(Београд, Србија)

Радомир Батуран
уредник српске секције и дијаспоре
(Торонто, Канада)

Владимир Димитријевић
оперативни уредник за матичне земље
(Чачак, Србија)

Никол Марковић
уредник енглеске секције и секретар Уредништва
(Торонто, Канада)

Уредници рубрика

Александар Петровић
Београд, Србија

Небојша Радић
Кембриџ, Енглеска

Жељко Продановић
Окланд, Нови Зеланд

Џонатан Лок Харт
Торонто, Канада

Жељко Родић
Оквил, Канада

Милорад Преловић
Торонто, Канада

Никола Глигоревић
Торонто, Канада


Душица Ивановић

Сања Крстоношић

Александра Крстовић

Графички дизајн

Антоније Батуран

Технички уредник

Радмило Вишњевац


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