11. Looking at America from Edinburgh Castle: postcolonial dislocations in Alice Munro’s and Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Scottish fictions
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167 11. Looking at America from Edinburgh Castle: postcolonial dislocations in Alice Munro’s and Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Scottish fictions PILAR SOMACARRERA Postcolonialism and the study of Scottish and Canadian literature The vista referred to in the title of Alice Munro’s short story collection The View from Castle Rock is not, as expected, that of the county of Fife, but that of America. This geographical incongruity which, according to Scott Hames, could be considered a drunken prank or a transatlantic fantasy,1 is symptomatic of the postcolonial sense of geographical unease and mirroring which pervades Munro’s stories about Scottish–Canadian connections . That Scotland and Canada are linked by their historical and literary connections is a given and has already been the subject of critical discussion .2 However, less attention has been paid to their status as settler-invader nations who were complicit in the expansion of the British Empire, as John McGrath asserts in his political play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil: sturdy highlander (out of character): But we came, more and more of us, from all over Europe, in the interests of a trade war between two lots of shareholders, and, in time, the Red Indians were reduced to the same state as our fathers after Culloden – defeated, hunted, treated like the scum of the earth, their culture polluted and torn out with slow deliberation and their land no longer their own.3 As Liam Connell points out, the idea that Scotland is a postcolonial nation has gained a certain popular currency in contemporary discussions, with commentary in major national newspapers describing Scotland as ‘England’s 168 last colony’ and the Scots as colonised people.4 However, Connell also argues that the use of postcolonial theory in relation to Scottish literature forms a strategic effort to raise the profile of Scottish literary studies within the context of its institutional marginalisation as an area of study in British and North American Universities.5 Michael Gardiner counters this argument by stating that these supposedly academically fashionable claims for postcoloniality can powerfully locate Scotland within a longer history of postcolonial subjectivity travelling through Caribbean and African anti-colonialism.6 Although Scottish literature and postcolonial literature are separate fields, they both have the critique of imperialist ideas present in British state culture as one of their main objectives. In this sense a postcolonial framework is useful to understanding Scottish literature, as Michael Gardiner and Graeme MacDonald demonstrate in Scottish Literature and Postcolonial Literature,7 the first book-length study of Scottish literature using a postdevolutionary understanding of postcolonial studies. Another volume which places the field of postcolonial studies beyond its traditional core subject of Europe’s former overseas colonies, and encompasses the study of margins, minorities and emerging nations within Europe itself is Silke Stroh’s Uneasy Subjects: Postcolonialism and Scottish Gaelic Poetry (2011). Stroh focuses on the case of Scottish ‘fringe postcolonialism’8 and explores Scotland’s political status as both an intra-British marginalised Other and an integral part of the British mainstream and Britain’s sense of self,9 a consequence of its complicity in the English/British imperialist project. The debate about Canada’s postcolonial status has been going on for approximately two decades. Donna Bennett’s observes that English-Canada has played an oddly double role as a territory which is both subjected to an imperial power and also as agent of that power in the control it has exercised over populations (Quebecois and First Nations) within Canada’s boundaries .10 Another useful contribution to the debate is Laura Moss’s edited volume Is Canada Postcolonial? Unsettling Canadian Literature where she argues that the position of Canada and Canadian culture had still not been fully addressed from a postcolonial point of view.11 In fact, as Eva DariasBeautell explains, until the 1980s Canadian literary criticism and university pilar somacarrera 169 alice munro’s and ann-marie macdonald’s scottish fictions courses had been reluctant to acknowledge both their colonial past and their neo/postcolonial present.12 Consequently, and in the light of the similarities between Scotland and Canada as settler-invader nations,13 a very productive field opens up in the comparative study of these literary traditions because, just as Scotland is, Canada is an Other, and an integral part with respect to the British Empire, and stands in a complex relation of dependence and subversion with respect to the culture inherited from the British Empire. This chapter explores the issues...


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