Andrea F. Szabó, language instructor at the Institute of English and American Studies, University of Pannonia, earned her doctorate in the North American Literature and Culture Program at the University of Debrecen. Her research interests include women’s fiction and the female gothic (both British and North-American); she has published extensively on Alice Munro’s short stories. Intellectually, she is interested in the ways women’s fiction has continually contributed to and/or challenged the formation of a women’s culture occupying a separate space in the public/private divide since the mid-eighteenth century. Currently, she teaches courses on modern and postmodern literature, as well as American women’s fiction. Email:
My paper addresses the intersections of Gothic, Cultural, and Literary Studies and what they may offer to the understanding of Alice Munro’s fiction. I will argue that Munro’s fiction fits only partially within the Canadian Gothic paradigm it is mostly studied in, whereas it problematizes several issues that cannot be compartmentalized into spatial gothic studies. I will discuss in what ways the premises of a subfield (Canadian Gothic Studies) within a larger paradigm (Gothic Studies) narrow down the interpretation of texts by pointing to two short stories by Munro in her 1994 volume Open Secrets. These are: “A Wilderness Station” and “Vandals.” What makes their discussion in tandem possible is not only their joint appearance within the volume, but also their setting (both are set in the Canadian wilderness) and their characters (both feature colonizing couples, reiterating the pattern set by Susanna Moodie’s Roughing It in the Bush), although the time frame in which the events expire are set apart by a century. Before discussing their theme—which I will argue does not easily fit into the Canadian Gothic paradigm—I explain what I understand by the Gothic and the spatial turn within Gothic Studies. Then, I will turn to the texts, to conclude with a suggestion in what other ways the texts may be addressed.
The gothic is not a self-evident category within the family of literary texts: traditionally it has been described with the recipe trope—for a gothic work in the comic mode all you need is an imperiled maiden, a gothic castle, a villain, an incarcerated female relative, a mystery, and a happy ending interspersed across the centuries with murders, incest, ghosts, vampires, robots, and/or other major gothic motifs peculiar to specific subgenres across the centuries—but by today it has been established, notwithstanding the differences of opinion among gothic scholars themselves, that the gothic is best known for defiantly flaunting its peculiarities alien to other canonical modes, even though it never loses sight of these. The major mode at which its excesses have been targeted in the past two and a half centuries is realism—another mode whose definition defies efforts at conjoining brevity and rigor. More exactly, the gothic challenges the ideological construction of the relationship between the individual and the community specific to realist fiction by experimenting with other forms of relationships.
Following Michael McKeon, Helene Moglen, and most importantly Robert Miles, I understand the gothic to have risen out of a generic crisis resulting from a value crisis at work in the transitional period of the eighteenth century in which two historical, cultural, and social paradigms (McKeon 383; Moglen 1-5; Miles “What” 181-85) were contending for authenticity. It is this conflict that the realist and the gothic novel register in a different form. Whereas realist fiction manufactures a consensus (Ermarth 65) among disparate voices and elevates the individual above society, the gothic validates personal experience first and foremost and interrogates the boundary between the individual and the community. Thus, instead of justifying community values as they appear in its voice of consensus, as the realist novel does, the gothic shows them for what they are by hyperbolizing them. As Miles puts it, the gothic presents ideology as ideology, moreover, several competing ideologies as ideologies, which also explains both its convoluted form and its convoluted history of criticism (“What” 185). Yet, there is a positive similarity between realist and gothic works: they both insist on novelistic truth as opposed to historical truth.
The novelistic truth appears in gothic fiction—because of its investment in presenting ideology as ideology—as one that produces anxiety; and because of its investment in interrogating the boundary between the individual and the community, which is always historically and geographically determined, this anxiety is culture specific. In short, the “Gothic registers its culture’s anxieties and social problems” (Goddu 63); it is a social commentary however improbable this may seem sometimes.
Though cultural specificity is thus coded into the gothic mode itself, the study of the interconnection of ideology, history, and geography came relatively late to Gothic studies with Robert Mighall’s groundbreaking book A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction: Mapping History’s Nightmares (1999). Spatial gothic studies, which makes the exploration of specific locations, histories, and traditions, as well as the connections of these to historical time possible, therefore, still counts as one of the newest areas of gothic studies (Spooner and McEvoy 51). Although spatial gothic studies could embrace a wide variety of perspectives ranging from the exploration of historically and geographically specific gothic traditions to spatial tropes, scholarship so far has mainly focused on the study of national traditions as discrete entities, i.e., of the internal, mostly thematic, transformations the gothic novel underwent when placed into various global settings. Consequently, spatial gothic studies has been shaped to pursue two goals: on the one hand, it represents an attempt to map the specificity of gothic fiction once displaced from its native England into a specific locale assuming that self-contained regional traditions come into being as soon as the gothic takes root in a region while, on the other hand, it seeks to connect it to a larger, mainly English, tradition, treating the diversity of regional gothic fiction merely incidental. The two aims contradict each other since the former implies that gothic fiction written in a specific location is best studied with an eye to its internal regularities (a preference for certain themes, character types, narrative techniques in a colonial setting, for instance), with reference to the cultural work the gothic performs in a colonial/post-colonial framework at the most, while the latter suggests that notwithstanding its differences, all regional/national gothic traditions still rest on the same footing (reminding one of critical accounts that foreground a conceptualization of the gothic as the representation of universal, for example, psychological-psychoanalytical truths). Nonetheless, spatial gothic studies have flourished for the past decades generating such literary truisms as English Gothic is about class, American Gothic is about race, and Canadian Gothic is about dislocation.
In Canada the gothic looks back on a long history; moreover, it is the gothic which several critics take to be the adequate expression of the Canadian experience (Sugars and Turcotte x-xvi; Howells 112-13). It is the gothic that is able to mediate that violence of inhuman proportions that its inhabitants face vis à vis the haunting presence of the land, of the traces of its colonization, of its in-betweenness between colonization and post-colonialism, and of the uncanny lack that Canadian national identity represents (cf. Sugars and Turcotte vii-xvi). In the nineteenth century, Canada, troubled by its powerful neighbor, appeared over and over again in literary and cultural productions as a troubled maiden threatened by rape, figured like the persecuted heroines of the gothic (Higginson 35). In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, Canadian artists and critics emphasize the uncanniness of Canadianness: the paradoxes of national identity, the dullness and the grotesqueness of life there with sudden eruptions of violence (Atwood 18; Edwards xx-xxi; Sugars and Turcotte vii-xxvi).
Even Canada’s literary landmarks bespeak this close link to gothic experience: the first bestseller instating popular literary culture was a monastic gothic in the Lewisite school (Blair 173), in the nineteenth century Moodie’s gothic autobiography and John Richardson’s gothic romance Wacousta; Or, The Prophecy: A Tale of the Canadas (1832) became foundational pieces of Canadian literature. In the twentieth century Marta Ostenso’s Wild Geese (1925), Sinclair Ross’s As for Me and My House (1941), Munro’s Dance of the Happy Shades (1968) and Lives of Girls and Women (1971), as well as Margaret Atwood’s The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1969), Surfacing (1972) and Survival (1972), Lady Oracle, Oryx and Crake (2003), and The Tent (2006) also appeared to attest to the unceasing possibilities of representing the Canadian experience in the gothic mode.
These works belong to two traditions within the Canadian Gothic, though: wilderness gothic and what Coral Ann Howells calls “a more domestic in kind (with unhomely houses, family romance plots gone wrong, and grotesque images of violence)” (106). Here belong Ostenso’s, Ross’s, Munro’s and Atwood’s cited works, except for Lady Oracle. Howells also identifies a third tradition within the Canadian Gothic, a more recent one, which “highlight[s] issues of cultural difference, race, ethnicity, sexuality and national identity” (107). Of the three, wilderness and domestic gothic belong to the so-called “‘emergent nation’ narratives” because they seek to answer Northrop Frye’s and Atwood’s question “Where is here?” (Howells 106), whereas the third attempts to “explore legacies of violence hidden within colonial history” (107) mainly directed against First Nations Canadians.
“A Wilderness Station” and “Vandals” as Narratives of the Canadian Gothic
When reading Munro’s Open Secrets, one cannot but associate it with the gothic, especially the two narratives selected for discussion. They feature a whole array of gothic paraphernalia: an authoritative, all-powerful, law-giving villain, a persecuted heroine, threats at the physical integrity of the heroine (rape), a mystery the reader can follow through with the heroine as she sees it, thwarted efforts at finding the clue to release the heroine from the incarcerating environment, and the list can go on. Yet, when trying to locate them within the tradition of the domestic gothic specific to Sowesto, the area around London in SOuth-WESTern Ontario (New 771, 939, 1063), sometimes also referred to as “Munro country” (Pfaus 30; Ross 21; Hooper x;) which, not incidentally, has become a matter of Canadian national pride because of its cultural specificity, one must falter. Though “A Wilderness Station” and “Vandals” are set in this region, just like most of Munro’s unhomely small-town homes, these stories do not clearly follow in the footsteps of those in collections such as The Dance of the Happy Shades and Lives of Girls and Women. The vision of Open Secrets is both darker and more expansive, the resolution of the short stories is less reconciliatory, the anxiety they produce is more difficult to dispel: they reflect more than the “caves under the kitchen linoleum” (Munro, Lives 249). Their otherworlds are different not only in degree from Uncle Ben’s or Garnet French’s, two major characters in Lives whose differences from the mainstream have become proverbial in Munro scholarship, but also in kind. These narratives refuse to be embraced by an appreciative vision like Del’s, who shows readiness to accept and appreciate others’, like Uncle Ben’s, difference.
Despite the obvious detour of Open Secrets from earlier Munrovian narratives, its short stories undeniably resonate with overtones of all the three types of the Canadian Gothic. When set against the background of wilderness gothic, both “A Wilderness Station” and “Vandals” enlist several features that align them with the genre. Firstly, both are set in a pristine Canadian setting, though “A Wilderness Station” takes place in the nineteenth century reverberating with the hardships recounted by Moodie. Its protagonist, Annie, just like Moodie, experiences the wilderness as a threat to her physical and mental integrity, but unlike Moodie, she does not have the advantage of either education or a loving family, since as an orphan, she was specifically selected by her husband, similarly an immigrant’s orphan, to do the backbreaking work of a settler’s wife without complaints. This way the story harks back to the early gothic wilderness narrative tradition: it portrays the early history of Canada highlighting the perils and hardships characters encounter there via presenting a colonizing couple; the wilderness threatens with insanity, of which Annie’s turning wild after her husband’s accidental death, which she suspects was murder perpetrated by her husband’s younger brother, to which later, inexplicably, she still confesses, speaks eloquently. The claim to a historical perspective is further reinforced by the fact that the events of the short story provide an imaginative history of Munro’s family (two of her ancestors, two brothers, emigrated from Scotland to Canada, and one was reportedly killed by a falling tree, just like Annie’s husband). “Vandals” similarly portrays the life of three characters, one an Englishman immigrating to Canada to create a new Eden there, like the Moodies, and two orphans colonizing the wilderness together, but now in the twentieth century, after the Second World War. Seclusion from civilization takes its toll on all three here as well: one is maniacally devoted to creating an Eden, the other turns to drink and denial, while the third to self-negation. Thus, skewed vision and judgment as partly caused by the haunting presence of the wilderness and the seclusion it means (Northrop Frye’s garrison) appear in both stories.
Furthermore, the wilderness seems to be constantly set against civilization, which is a constant of Canadian wilderness narratives. It distorts perception and self-perception, which is metaphorically represented by the narratives’ character portrayal and figurality as well. Annie has a “waywardness of the eye” (she is walleyed) and the events expire in a town called Walley, which is a quadruple pun since ‘wallie’ means ‘dumb’; being walleyed is associated with distorted vision; living in Walley is like being incarcerated—walled in—; and ‘wallie’ means in Scots ‘strong, independent.’ Munro is of Scots-Irish descent, and her cultural heritage is an ever-present point of reference in her art (Ross 27). Also, the missionary arriving in the Canadian wilderness soon loses sight of his mission to spread faith on an uncivilized continent and is able to think of nothing but his physical ailments. In “Vandals,” Ladner (Land-er), a taxidermist by profession, creates a pedophilic paradise populated by his inanimate masterpieces that hold tables with quotes by representatives of European, civilized, thought. Random statements by European philosophers are used to justify his ill-conceived passion: “Nature does nothing uselessly. –Aristotle”—meaning his pedophilia has a kind of natural or providential origin—and “Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves. –Rousseau” (Munro, Open 271; emphasis original); i.e., he should not be trying to deny his inclination, as it is natural, and therefore it is right. Civilization, Ladner suggests, puts a false veneer on mankind, which he in his private Eden tears off.
However, the wilderness in Munro’s narratives does not embody the ambiguous relationship to the new world early Canadian settlers’ writing voices. Here, it is not the land one must fend against in an effort to preserve civilization, which is a constitutive feature of wilderness gothic, however ambivalent this fight may be. The materiality of the wilderness is of interest only to the extent that it is closed off from the rest of the world—it is a universe complete in itself hyperbolically duplicating the world outside, not unlike the gothic castle in early tales of terror. Instead of providing a background to dramatize the fear of atavism when faced with an unknown land, the wilderness becomes the incarcerating gothic castle of the Radcliffean female gothic tale. Therefore, though some characteristic features of the wilderness gothic as a Canadian genre are undeniable present in these narratives, they fail to reverberate a constitutive element of the wilderness gothic itself.
Locating the narratives within the tradition of the Canadian domestic (female) gothic tradition is similarly problematic. Both stories could be seen to belong to the domestic (Sowesto) gothic, since they depict the violence directed against women that occurs as the undercurrent of colonization in a setting of Canadian cultural specificity. What complicates this argument is the participation of the female characters in upholding the power of the villain. It is hard to believe that Bea, who had been living in Ladner’s new Eden, did not notice his practices in “Vandals,” and the omniscient narrator comments on Liza’s willing participation in her own abuse (289-90). What regards “A Wilderness Station,” Annie also appears as a temptress to cajole the younger brother to kill her husband and then to cover it over—this point might be supported by her confession to murder when she willingly enters jail. That is, the narratives do not only portray the “gothic goings on” (Davies 254) in the country as Munro’s earlier narratives in Dance and Lives did, but also produce an overwhelming anxiety about the female characters’ individual participation. The domestic gothic, which follows the Radcliffean formula, however, does not lend itself easily to portraying not perfectly blameless heroines. It is essential for a domestic gothic narrative to parade heroines who possess what gothic criticism calls “conscious worth” (Radcliffe 272; see also DeLamotte, Perils 36-38); that is, she must be sure of her own irreproachability vis à vis the demonic power figures. This is a generic precondition of the domestic (female) gothic, which these Munrovian narratives, as opposed to her earlier ones entering the Canadian literary canon, do not fulfill.
What regards the third, more recent type of Canadian Gothic, issues of race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, differences in religion, etc., do not enter these short stories on the surface. Yet, one could extrapolate the theme of the violent undercurrents of colonization to include race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, religious background, etc., as well to argue that any history of colonization tends to gloss over the experiences of those historically not empowered to speak.
This argument belongs to the field of Cultural Studies, though, since it presupposes a cultural pattern that literary pieces, as artifacts of cultural production, may exemplify. There has been no study I know of yet in this vein, and, although valid in itself, I find the argument in the context of these narratives far-fetched.
Moving Away from the Canadian Gothic Traditions
The prevailing paradigms for the Canadian gothic thus prove to be unsatisfactory for the discussion of “A Wilderness Station” and “Vandals.” Although the narratives resonate with overtones of continuities, they do not reproduce some of the constitutive elements of the respective genres. Should this mean that the short stories should not be subjected to critical scrutiny? Though the question is pointedly rhetorical, the way Canadian critics responded to it is rather telling: there are only a handful of critical writings on these narratives and only one makes reference to the Canadian gothic without discussing it in details. When W.R. Martin and Warren U. Ober fleetingly refer to “Vandals,” they emphasize its neo-tragic quality, though in connection with another short story in Open Secrets they praise Munro for spreading the word about Canadians’ love of nature; others focus on its theme of violation (Foy 147-68; Levene 86-97), while yet others dismiss the story as a failure (Hooper 111). An even greater silence surrounds “A Wilderness Station.” When Ildikó de Papp Carrington, an American scholar, provides a detailed analysis of it, she opts for an intertextual perspective and relates it to James Hogg’s Scottish gothic classic The Confessions of a Justified Sinner rather than to Canadian wilderness narratives; though, it must be added, her excellent study focuses on the similarities of Hogg’s and Munro’s narrative voices à propos of the then relatively recently discovered blood relationship between the two authors.
In light of the Munro critical industry, this lack of critical interest seems to suggest that the analysis of these narratives falls between the cracks, even though their artistry remains unchallenged. (Nathalie Foy, one of the handful of critics, for instance, who focuses on the darkness of the short story without relating it to the Canadian gothic tradition, introduces her discussion of “Vandals” as a coda to the whole volume by stating that “it is difficult not to rhapsodize about the stories collected in Alice Munro’s Open Secrets” .) It is perhaps not too bold to suggest that since the clues of the well-established patterns of a spatially defined national tradition do not provide a comforting interpretative framework for these stories, they remain largely unobserved notwithstanding critical accolades about the volume as a whole.
Similarly, scholars of the female gothic have equally ignored these specific short stories because they violate the premise of female irreproachability, a constant of English female gothic writing; or if they did scrutinize them, they disregarded Liza’s role and concentrated female culpability into Bea’s character, rehearsing the female gothic paradigm of creating a perfectly blameless heroine pitching herself against a perfectly sinful villainess (see Dawson 73; Levene 97; Foy 155). Only thus is it possible that Liza’s vandalization of the house and her deliberate duplicity over the phone appear as belonging to the same class of rightful vengeance.
Leaving well-established critical frameworks behind, at the intersections of Literary (Gothic), Cultural, and Gender Studies, one may still find clues to help understand these Munrovian narratives. One such clue is the issue of power in determining who might speak, who is allowed to give voice to their experience, who might assume the authority to talk at all. Both stories abound in failed efforts to speak, to communicate; letters get lost or are misdirected, others refuse to listen, some lose their ability to speak, yet others do not have the courage to verbalize, to order into a narrative, their experiences, thoughts, emotions, etc., some are unauthorized to speak, or too underprivileged to assume a voice, yet others speak the language of the law, or of the Father. In short, what both stories problematize is telling itself. Telling as a problem appears in the stories thematically, in their character portrayal, structurally, and figuratively also.
First, thematically, they focus on the unspeakable (inconceivable victimization, traditionally represented by physical aggression directed at women); in their character portrayal, no one is fully equipped with the adequate capacities to articulate or understand their own as well as others’ concerns. Second, structurally, there are various failed efforts at communication (letters, dreams, parables, memoirs, etc.) interlocking like in a jigsaw puzzle but because some pieces are missing the whole story can never be told. In addition, “A Wilderness Station” situates itself within an intertextual space: it enters into a dialogue with Hogg’s Confessions, which similarly problematizes the referential capacity of language use. Third, Munro’s middle name is Ann—thus Annie’s character might be understood in reference to herself as well, just like Hogg appears in the disguise of a countryman in Confessions. Fourth, figuratively, Annie’s letter to her friend from the orphanage she never gets sewn into a curtain (that is used to hide sight) could be mentioned, just as the transformation of three ominous letters telling about the unspeakable relationship between Ladner, Liza, and her brother Kenny. Formerly, carved into the bark of a tree (Munro, Open 289), they announced to the world of the silent vegetation and stuffed animals what is going on in “Lesser Dismal” (277), in Ladner’s land. Years later, however, the bruise they tell of and the bruise they are turned into a blotch, something unintelligible (294), leaving nothing but “darkness collecting” (294) behind to part with the reader of “Vandals” and the whole volume.
The difficulty, and even the impossibility, to find a voice and a language in which to speak, on the one hand, is a gothic topos—especially women writers working in the female (domestic) gothic have turned it to their use to sound their dissent from the patriarchal ideology that has sought to codify the female gender as an object while denying women the attributes required for a subject. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria, or The Wrongs of a Woman, Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya, or the Moor, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Matilda, and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth all problematize telling itself: how can something be told if it is unspeakable, if the person who could tell it is not allowed to speak, or to speak in public, or the issue is relegated to the private sphere, or if language fails, etc. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that Munro’s stories could be subjected to a reading that investigates in what ways the lack of authority and adequate language structure them. This study, however, denies the premise of a territorially defined cultural specificity that is spatial gothic studies’ own, given that the above mentioned literary artifacts from the eighteenth century onwards span over a vast expanse in temporal and spatial terms as well.
On the other hand, one might also establish cultural parallels between these pieces and their topos: Wollstonecraft, Dacre, Shelley, and Wharton all came to write in ages when the discourse about gender, especially proper femininity, was at a height. The same holds true for Munro (as well as her contemporary fellow writer, Atwood, in whose fiction the problematization of gender is even more obvious). Munro came to writing in the period of feminist consciousness-raising whereas she grew of age in the conservative 1950s. She has lived through an age when “the woman question” has never lost topicality: she has seen women as war-time heroines, suburban wives, career girls, singletons, and working moms. This perspective is Cultural Studies’ and Gender Studies’ own.
Furthermore, the difficulty or impossibility to speak in one’s own voice has also been determined by what may be called “the agency panic” of the second half of the twentieth century (Melley 7-16). This is the period when people came to address the ways their behavior, emotions, and thoughts were manipulated. Several studies attest to the centrality of this fear from Vance Packard’s (1957) The Hidden Persuaders (republished in 1981), John Edgar Hoover’s The Masters of Deceit (1958), Ronald David Laing’s The Divided Self (1960), The Self and Others (1962), Sanity, Madness and the Family (1973), Charles Reich’s The Greening of America (1972), as well as Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” address the nervousness and uncertainty about the causes of individual action – about subjects who are mass-produced, the stuff of human resources. Munro’s and Atwood’s characters are permeated by a fear that they have been manipulated by powerful external controls, that they are acting out parts in a script written by someone else. Atwood’s Surfacing, The Edible Woman, Lady Oracle, and most of Munro’s fiction feature characters who enact classically feminine behavior, even though they know it is harmful and undesirable: see Bea’s willing submission to Ladner, or Annie’s adoption of various female roles (from submissive wife, through temptress, to mad woman and devoted housemaid). Annie is never herself, except when at last she could talk to the man, her husband’s younger brother, who might have killed her cruel husband because, being partially paralyzed, he could neither silence her, nor talk back.
In conclusion, what seems conspicuous when reading Munro’s short stories of the 1990s is that the Canadian Gothic paradigm with its three internal traditions does not provide an adequate framework for their discussion because the framework has been defined to pursue one of the goals that spatial gothic studies regularly avows: drawing the outlines of a spatially determined national tradition distinct from its literal origins growing out of and feeding on a cultural specificity in a postcolonial setting. Munro’s discussed narratives, however, withstand explication with the help of the paradigm; they do not seek to answer either Fry’s and Atwood’s question: “Where is here?” (Atwood 11) or celebrate difference within the small-town Canadian garrison.
Similarly, the female gothic critical paradigm, which has traditionally been disrespectful of national boundaries, fails to provide the broader context that leaves less room for expounding on diasporic difference and more for concentrating on continuities within a mode, another goal of a spatially defined gothic studies paradigm, since Munro is overtly critical of the female gothic mode. The majority of the texts generated in the mode, as well as its critical tradition, have focused on its comic variant, which, with its fairy-tale like happy ending, experiments with creating a fictional, alternative gender economy. The discussed Munrovian short stories, however, critical of this alternative gender economy, reject not only the comic resolution but several other elements of the female gothic formula feeding on a specific gender ideology also. In fact, the majority of Munro’s narrators at one point understand, or are at the point of understanding, like Annie, Bea, and Liza in these short stories, that female characters act out feminine behavior compulsively. Munro’s fiction explores what makes these characters perform classic feminine roles (the gothic mother, the gothic villainess, the femme fatale, the helpless victim, etc.). Consequently, the critical traditions of both the Canadian Gothic and the female gothic to a large extent have seemingly ignored “Vandals” and “A Wilderness Station.”
At the same time, what is also conspicuous is that Gothic Studies may provide an illuminative background to Munro’s fiction provided that its interpretative framework is not forced to respect customary national (Canadian), temporal (late twentieth-century), and gender (male and female gothic) borders. This is possible only if literary scholarship recognizes how unproductive the temporal and geographical enclosure of gothic texts, and of gothic studies, may be and is ready to address the cultural work of the gothic regardless of boundaries created for taxonomic purposes.
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