‘Something’s Lost but Something’s Gained’: Joni Mitchell and Postcolonial Lyric

  • Steve Clark
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


In this chapter, Clark remarks on the apparent absence of Canada in Joni Mitchell’s work and in writing about her and examines the extent to which she is fundamentally influenced by, and representative of, the Saskatchewan origins she left behind. Does she conveniently assimilate Canadian experience into generic American identity for mass appeal, or continue to express a uniquely Canadian perspective? Focusing on her early work, Clark argues that Mitchell represents a post-colonial identity involving an ‘urge for going’ that means both departure and return. With reference to Northrop Frye, Clark explicates the symbolism of history, geography, and climate that resonates within the lyricism of her songs, while tracing allusions to poetic tradition including Shakespeare, Milton, and Yeats. By seeing a social dimension in her love lyrics, Clark argues that Mitchell develops a ‘civic appeal’ envisioning ‘a new kind of communal belonging’. In describing erotic love, Mitchell also describes the love of country, and the interplay of tensions and desires inevitable in both, illuminating the troubled romances of English and French, Canada and US, individual and collective, self and other.

Works Cited

  1. Mitchell, Joni. Blue. Reprise, 1971.Google Scholar
  2. Mitchell, Joni. Court and Spark. Asylum, 1974.Google Scholar
  3. Mitchell, Joni. Misses. Reprise, 1996.Google Scholar
  4. Mitchell, Joni. Ladies of the Canyon. Reprise, 1970.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steve Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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