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The Newfoundland Diaspora

Mapping the Literature of Out-Migration

Jennifer BoweringDelisle

Publication Year: 2013

Out-migration, driven by high unemployment and a floundering economy, has been a defining aspect of Newfoundland society for well over a century, and it reached new heights with the cod moratorium in 1992. This Newfoundland “diaspora” has had a profound impact on the province’s literature.

Many writers and scholars have referred to Newfoundland out-migration as a diaspora, but few have examined the theoretical implications of applying this contested term to a predominantly inter-provincial movement of mainly white, economically motivated migrants. The Newfoundland Diaspora argues that “diaspora” helpfully references the painful displacement of a group whose members continue to identify with each other and with the “homeland.” It examines important literary works of the Newfoundland diaspora, including the poetry of E.J. Pratt, the drama of David French, the fiction of Donna Morrissey and Wayne Johnston, and the memoirs of David Macfarlane. These works are the sites of a broad inquiry into the theoretical flashpoints of affect, diasporic authenticity, nationalism, race, and ethnicity.

The literature of the Newfoundland diaspora both contributes to and responds to critical movements in Canadian literature and culture, querying the place of regional, national, and ethnic affiliations in a literature drawn along the borders of the nation-state. This diaspora plays a part in defining Canada even as it looks beyond the borders of Canada as a literary community.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This research has been generously funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canadian Graduate Scholarship, a Grant Notley Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. ...

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Introduction: Mapping the Literature of Out-Migration

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pp. 1-6

In the 1970s my parents, newly married, left their home province of Newfoundland for Alberta. They expected to return in a few years. Two children and more than three decades later, they have not returned to Newfoundland to live. I grew up in Edmonton with my parents referring to Newfoundland as “home,” eating Newfoundland meals, ...

Part One: Defining the Newfoundland Diaspora

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1. Newfoundland and the Concept of Diaspora

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pp. 9-28

I am not the first to apply the term “diaspora” to Newfoundland out-migration. In their article on the use of the Internet in diaspora communities, sociologists Harry Hiller and Tara Franz define Newfoundland out-migration as a diaspora because of Newfoundland migrants’ strong attachment to place, community affiliation, and “unique identity” (747). ...

Part Two: Affective Responses

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2. Donna Morrissey and the Search for Prairie Gold

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pp. 31-48

In 2006 Newfoundland photojournalist Greg Locke was commissioned by the Financial Post Business to do a photo series of Newfoundlanders on their way to jobs in Alberta’s oil sands. In the accompanying story that he later published in the magazine The Current, provocatively titled “Mexicans with Sweaters,” Locke reflects: ...

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3. “The ‘Going Home Again’ Complaint”: Carl Leggo and Nostalgia for Newfoundland

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pp. 49-62

Nostalgia has long been an important aspect of Newfoundland diasporic literature. In the 1940s, Arthur Scammell and Ron Pollett became the two main voices of the Atlantic Guardian, a magazine for expatriate Newfoundlanders published in Montreal. Their work features nostalgic idealizations of the outports of the past: ...

Part Three: Is the Newfoundlander “Authentic” in the Diaspora?

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4. E.J. Pratt and the Gateway to Canada

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pp. 65-84

When E.J. Pratt left Newfoundland in 1907 at the age of twenty-five he was not unusual; Patricia Thornton estimates that in the first decade of the twentieth century net migration amounted to a loss of 16,700 people from Newfoundland, or 8 percent of the population (25). But Pratt was perhaps the first significant literary figure in the Newfoundland diaspora. ...

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5. “A Papier Mâché Rock”: Wayne Johnston and Rejecting Regionalism

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pp. 85-98

While I have argued that the debate over Pratt’s authenticity can be attributed to the cultural climate of the 1970s in Newfoundland and the rest of Canada, a similar debate has emerged much more recently around the work of Wayne Johnston. Johnston was born and raised in the small community of Goulds, just outside St. John’s. ...

Part Four: Imagining the Newfoundland Nation

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6. “This Is Their Country Now”: David French, Confederation, and the Imagined Community

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pp. 101-114

Wayne Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is just one example of a number of recent Newfoundland literary texts that take the island’s history, and the story of Confederation in particular, as their subject. The moment of Confederation has often been represented in these works as what historian Jerry Bannister calls a “debilitating psychic wound” ...

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7. Writing the “Old Lost Land”: Johnston Part Two

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pp. 115-142

A more explicit privileging of art as the locus of the imagined community of Newfoundland occurs in Wayne Johnston’s work. Here, as in French’s play, diaspora and Confederation are often imagined as simultaneous, literal ruptures. But diaspora and Confederation are also often metaphorically intertwined, ...

Part Five: Postmodern Ethnicity and Memoirs from Away

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8. Helen Buss / Margaret Clarke and the Negotiation of Identity

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pp. 145-166

In Part III, I argued that Newfoundland nationalism is a central part of both a distinct Newfoundland identity and a diasporic consciousness. But Helen M. Buss / Margaret Clarke’s 1999 Memoirs from Away: A New Found Land Girlhood raises the question of how Newfoundland diasporic identity can be understood outside of the discourse of nationalism.1 ...

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9. The “Holdin’ Ground”: David Macfarlane and the Second Generation

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pp. 167-180

If most diasporic Newfoundlanders are “white,” physically marked only by their accents, one may assume that their children, born outside of Newfoundland, do not feel marked by a particular Newfoundland ethnicity. Indeed, even diaspora theorists “of colour” wonder about the affiliation of their own children in the new homeland. ...

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Conclusion: Writing in Diaspora Space

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pp. 181-188

In 2002 I began writing my own family memoir of Newfoundland, collecting the voices of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents from interviews that I recorded and the poems, letters, and documents they left behind. I don’t know where this impulse came from. ...


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pp. 189-194

Works Cited

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pp. 195-206


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pp. 207-211

E-ISBN-13: 9781554588954
E-ISBN-10: 1554588952
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554588947

Page Count: 218
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 816764435
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Newfoundland Diaspora

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Canadian literature -- Newfoundland and Labrador -- History and criticism.
  • Emigration and immigration in literature.
  • Newfoundland, Island of (N.L.) -- In literature.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador -- Emigration and immigration -- Psychological aspects.
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