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Is Canada Postcolonial?

Unsettling Canadian Literature

Laura Moss

Publication Year: 2003

How can postcolonialism be applied to Canadian literature?

In all that has been written about postcolonialism, surprisingly little has specifically addressed the position of Canada, Canadian literature, or Canadian culture.

Postcolonialism is a theory that has gained credence throughout the world; it is be productive to ask if and how we, as Canadians, participate in postcolonial debates. It is also vital to examine the ways in which Canada and Canadian culture fit into global discussions as our culture reflects how we interact with our neighbours, allies, and adversaries.

This collection wrestles with the problems of situating Canadian literature in the ongoing debates about culture, identity, and globalization, and of applying the slippery term of postcolonialism to Canadian literature. The topics range in focus from discussions of specific literary works to general theoretical contemplations. The twenty-three articles in this collection grapple with the recurrent issues of postcolonialism — including hybridity, collaboration, marginality, power, resistance, and historical revisionism — from the vantage point of those working within Canada as writers and critics. While some seek to confirm the legitimacy of including Canadian literature in the discussions of postcolonialism, others challenge this very notion.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. iii-iv

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pp. v-viii

I first posed the question “Is Canada Postcolonial?” in a paper at the 1999 Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (accute) Conference in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Since the topic was clearly beyond the scope of a single paper, the “Is Canada...

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Is Canada Postcolonial? Introducing the Question

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pp. 1-24

In a 1972 article, “National Identity and the Canadian Novel,” published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Canadian Fiction, Frank Birbalsingh compares “ex-colonial” nations and their emphases on national identity in the face of colonial structures....

PART 1 : Questioning Canadian Postcolonialism

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What Was Canada?

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pp. 27-39

“Is Canada Postcolonial?” The question is piercing, impertinent, and urgent: a destabilizing, disorienting provocation. It insists that we consider the “nationality” of the nation as well as its sovereignty. We answer it at our peril, oui, but answer it we must...

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What Resides in the Question, “Is Canada Postcolonial?”

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pp. 40-48

As the title of a conference and a call for papers, the question “Is Canada Postcolonial?” is suggestive, provocative, and engaging. Considered further, however, the question emerges as an uneasy formulation that begs several theoretical and ontological questions, and has potentially...

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Canada and Postcolonialism: Questions, Inventories, and Futures

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pp. 49-77

“Is Canada Postcolonial?” Canadians know the expected Canadian response. It depends. It depends on the definitions; it depends on who is asking the question, and from what position, in space, time, and privilege. Postcolonial if necessary, but not necessarily postcolonial, as....

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Looking Elsewhere for Answers to the Postcolonial Question: From Literary Studies to State Policy in Canada

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pp. 78-94

The call for papers for the “Is Canada Postcolonial?” conference arrived at a most fortuitous moment for encouraging me to bring together deliberations about a program of research with pedagogical thoughts about the role of national literatures in the literary studies...

PART 2 : Postcolonial Methodologies

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The Absence of Seaming, Or How I Almost Despair of Dancing: How Postcolonial Are Canada’s Literary Institutions and Critical Practices?

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pp. 97-110

Long, long ago, in universities far, far away…well, maybe not so long ago, but at least generally far, far removed from the poverty and violence wrought by the interlocking oppressions of classism, sexism, heterosexism, and imperialism…literary scholars worked tranquilly away...

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Native Writing, Academic Theory: Post-colonialism across the Cultural Divide

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pp. 111-126

This paper tells the story of a conflict in my research and teaching. I identify myself as a post-colonial academic, with an interest in First Nations Canadian literatures. When I approach a text by a First Nations author, it is usually in an academic context, and I often find myself...

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Nostalgic Narratives and the Otherness Industry

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pp. 127-139

The 1990s was the decade of postcolonial studies. Once upon a time, being “poco” was a well-kept secret. “It took one to know one, as it were,” claims the diva of the field: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (“Transnationality” 70). Now it seems everyone is out of the closet....

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Cool Dots and a Hybrid Scarborough: Multiculturalism as Canadian Myth

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pp. 140-148

This paper is as much about multiculturalism and migrancy as it is about nationality and political correctness. All these terms have their own set of implied assumptions and they often appear in contexts that are distinctive. It is not always possible to conflate these terms, but the...

PART 3 : Is Canadian Literature Postcolonial?

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Imagining Eighteenth-Century Quebec: British Literature and Colonial Rhetoric

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pp. 151-161

When Frances Brooke visited Quebec in the early 1760s and then later used her experiences as the basis of The History of Emily Montague (1769), she produced what has often been called the first Canadian novel. Portraying as it does the early years of English settlement and...

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“I too am a Canadian”: John Richardson’s The Canadian Brothers as Postcolonial Narrative

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pp. 162-176

John Richardson has been assigned a privileged position within the English-Canadian literary tradition, frequently being cited as a seminal figure (“The Father of Canadian Literature,” “Canada’s First Novelist,” etc., see M. Hurley 3, 9). This position is nearly entirely based upon his...

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Are We There Yet? Reading the “Post-Colonial” and The Imperialist in Canada

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pp. 177-189

In 1992, Anne McClintock drew attention to what was then—and ten years later still is—a fundamental problematic for post-colonial theory, when she suggested that the term itself might be, as she put it, “prematurely celebratory” (294). The very existence of the term and the...

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Figures of Collection and (Post)Colonial Processes in Major John Richardson’s Wacousta and Thomas King’s Truth and Bright Water

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pp. 190-206

In the summer of 2000, the CBC reported that the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Québec, was returning the remains of 147 ancestors to the Haida Nation of the Queen Charlotte Islands (see “Haida bones”). Given my work on figures of collection in Canadian...

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Stolen Life? Reading through Two I’s in Postcolonial Collaborative Autobiography

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pp. 207-222

Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman (1998) is the autobiography of Yvonne Johnson, the great-great-granddaughter of Cree Chief Big Bear, and the only Native woman in Canada currently serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Co-written by Rudy Wiebe, celebrated author...

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“A Place to Stand On”: (Post)colonial Identity in The Diviners and “The Rain Child”

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pp. 223-237

Articulating the notion of “home” in contemporary Euro-Canadian writing involves a negotiation between multiple versions of histories, identities, and places. In the mid-twentieth century, ways of describing relations to the idea of “home” began to be articulated in more complex...

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A “Place” Through Language: Postcolonial Implications of Mennonite/s Writing in Western Canada

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pp. 238-251

Patrick Friesen’s “nomads,” from his collection st. mary at main (1998), describes the experiences of a Mennonite writer in an expression of identity through metaphors of “place.” The poem draws upon ideas of movement, the importance of a Mennonite’s history of immigration in...

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What’s Immigration Got to Do with It? Postcolonialism and Shifting Notions of Exile in Nino Ricci’s Italian-Canadians

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pp. 252-267

In this passage from Lampedusa’s classic Italian novel, the Prince tries to explain to the Chevalley (the representative of Garibaldi’s new government of a unified Italy) something of the character of Sicilians and by extension southern Italians in general. The description is useful here for...

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Religion, Postcolonial Side-by-sidedness, and la transculture

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pp. 268-281

This paper explores current notions of memory, l’imaginaire, l’identitaire, and Catholicism in the context of recent fiction from English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Quebec.1 Concepts from current Québécois literary theory offer the possibility of seeing texts from a slightly...

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After Postcolonialism: Migrant Lines and the Politics of Form in Fred Wah, M. Nourbese Philip, and Roy Miki

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pp. 282-294

As has been established in the work of Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser, a dynamic of power is imprinted into an institutional apparatus and until that institution rids itself of that trace, the same power dynamic will be at work. Such is the state of Canadian academic...

PART 4 : Meditations on the Question

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Is Canada a Postcolonial Country?

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pp. 297-299

1. Is any country anywhere today postcolonial? Former colonies, whether of the invader-settler or dominion settlement or mandated variety, frequently fall into neo-colonial practices, a process fuelled by ancient animosities and exacerbated by arbitrary redrawing or...

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Answering the Questions

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pp. 300-311

At the “Is Canada Postcolonial?” conference, the most interesting questions were about that adjective, “postcolonial.” Some of us, such as Diana Brydon, Susan Gingell, and Victor Ramraj, have been involved in what is now called “postcolonial studies” for some twenty-five...

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Answering the Answers, Asking More Questions

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pp. 312-317

This collection of essays focuses on a crucial question in postcolonial literary studies in Canada: Is Canada postcolonial? Such a question is hardly likely to be asked about former colonies in Asia, Africa, or the Caribbean. But then again, given the amorphousness of the term...

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pp. 318-324

The discipline of postcolonial critical and cultural studies is, at heart, a methodologically incoherent set of practices. All Europe, and all Europe’s Others, contributed to the making of postcolonial studies; a jolly lot of work now gets done by it; and, in the end, only the idea—of redressing...


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pp. 325-351

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 352-357


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pp. 358-368

E-ISBN-13: 9780889206731
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204164
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204160

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2003