Concluding an essay titled “Dances with Wolfers: Choreographing History in The Englishman’s Boy,” Herb Wyile writes: “Somewhat ironically, given Vanderhaeghe’s sentiments about images, yet not surprisingly, given the success and cinematic potential of The Englishman’s Boy, Vanderhaeghe is working on the screenplay for a movie version. Let’s hope Kevin Costner is busy with other projects” (48). The tone of Wyile’s comment on Guy Vanderhaeghe’s 1996 novel seemingly indicts the ability of film to actively subvert genre. The novel itself, meanwhile, offers an excoriating critique of the ideologically distortive effects of Hollywood. Wyile’s repetition of the common critique that Dances with Wolves, well-intentioned though it may have been, ultimately falls into the generic binaries and heroic codes of the conventional Western, implies, however, that even a novel as explicitly critical of those conventions as The Englishman’s Boy is not guaranteed a successful transition to film. Whether or not it is another Dances with Wolves, the $11.7 million two-part dramatization of The Englishman’s Boy by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (2008) was similarly lauded, winning six Gemini awards.1 It also paralleled the novel’s earlier success, which earned the Governor General’s Award for 1996 and a nomination for the Giller Prize, both significant markers of entry into, and establishment in, the Canadian literary elite.
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