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Call of the Wild - Heroines in Canadian Women's Wilderness Fiction von Steno, Kirstine (eBook)

  • Erscheinungsdatum: 10.02.2012
  • Verlag: GRIN Publishing
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Call of the Wild - Heroines in Canadian Women's Wilderness Fiction

Master's Thesis from the year 2012 in the subject Literature - Canada, University of Copenhagen, course: Canadian Literature, language: English, abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to determine how Canadian women writers have come to appropriate wilderness literature as a genre of their own. Feminist authors have transformed the traditional quest novels, in which male protagonists enter, tame and claim the virgin land, by emphasizing the liberating potential of the wilderness. In this process, nature has come to be regarded as mother and redeemer rather than femme fatale, villain, and killer. In the 1960s and 70s, the female quest novel became a medium for debating gender roles and the oppression of women. This thesis examines three novels from this era, which was characterized by a need for identity formation on a national as well as an individual level. The novels analyzed are Ethel Wilson's Swamp Angel, Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, and Marian Engel's Bear which differ from each other regionally and chronologically, but share in their effort to break with patriarchal tradition. Each novel is analyzed in individual chapters, which all attempt to determine how the wilderness is represented and the nature of the relationship between the female protagonists and their environment. These characters come to discover an inherent bond between themselves and nature, which causes them to question and rebel against the unnatural structure of manmade gender roles. But even so, these wilderness heroines must return to society as they come to realize that they cannot cross the demarcation line between wild and civilized. The circular movements of their journeys are characteristic of women's quest novels, which ultimately resituate their protagonists in patriarchal society. However, their quests have not been in vain, as they have gained knowledge only available to those who have ventured outside the limits of the garrison.


    Format: ePUB
    Kopierschutz: none
    Seitenzahl: 87
    Erscheinungsdatum: 10.02.2012
    Sprache: Englisch
    ISBN: 9783656126386
    Verlag: GRIN Publishing
    Serie: Akademische Schriftenreihe Bd.V188676
    Größe: 303kBytes
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Call of the Wild - Heroines in Canadian Women's Wilderness Fiction

Canada's Literary Quest for a National Identity

A country's literary tradition is a major part of its national identity, but with Canada being notoriously famous for its lack of identity one would expect the Canadian literary tradition to be equally undefined. And until the end of the 20th century, it was. The 1960s and 70s have been termed 'the Canadian Renaissance' to describe the upsurge of literary works published in Canada by Canadian authors in those decades. The time was ripe for new writers such as Margaret Atwood, Ethel Wilson, and Marian Engel who all established their careers in this era, and a large number of literary critics [3] engaged in discussions to determine the themes of old and new contributions to the tradition. What occasioned this significant increase was not only the economic growth and optimistic sentiment of the post-war era but also the centennial of 1967, which prompted a national quest to assert a distinct national identity, previously lacking in Canada. Policies to make the country multicultural and attempts to officially incorporate the French population into the community [4] , made this a time of renewal and reform.

As in many other countries throughout the world, this was also a time for discussing women's rights and, for former colonies, the rights of indigenous peoples. The Canadian literature of the 60s and 70s thus reflects the dilemmas brought about by these social changes and the national debates concerning them. Swamp Angel , Surfacing , and Bear have been read as feminist novels that question the unnatural order of patriarchal society and thus voice a need for change in gender relations. The importance of fiction in the national debate should not be underestimated. Even in its more indirect form, fiction is a social product that that can promote change by approaching political topics from different perspectives. [5] Many female authors thus began placing their female protagonists in what had hitherto been a male dominated sphere: the wilderness. In the Canadian feminist tradition, the wilderness has come to be considered a tabularasa , a location void of manmade divisions between genders.

The significance of the Canadian landscape to the country's identity as well as its literary tradition has been great. Since the first settlers came to the country, Canada's natural environment has been the focus of most literary works and has thus been inscribed in its historical conscience. In 1955, renowned Canadian scholar Northrop Frye wrote: "the most dangerous enemy of Canada has been not a foreign invader but its own geography." (Frye 1955, 270) By this he meant that the country had been challenged in establishing a shared literary tradition simply because of its size. He argued that the individual's regional allegiances were stronger than their loyalty to the nation, and that the lack of a commonly recognized national center made defining common traits between the inhabitants of the prairies, the Maritimes, and those of the cosmopolitan areas nearly impossible. But it seemed somehow that the feeling of being surrounded by nature, be it the ocean, mountains, forests, prairies, or tundra, was familiar to most Canadians. This describes accurately the double connotations of the term 'forging a nation' in the sense that the country's shared identity is based on that which they could agree not to disagree. Coral Ann Howells assesses Canada's identity crisis as follows:

"The Canadian problem of identity may not be the problem of having no identity but rather having multiple identities, so that any single national self-image is reductive and always open to revision."

(Howells 1987, 26)

Even though the wilderness theme is open to interpretation depending on the individu

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