CHAPTER 2
Wilderness, Cities, Regions

While I was still in the process of giving these lectures, I was
interviewed by a young man from Canada … who was con-
cerned about the subject-matter I was discussing. [He] felt
that I should not be talking about the North, or the wilderness,
or snow, or bears, or cannibalism, or any of that. He felt that
these were things of the past, and that I would give the English
the wrong idea about how most Canadians were spending
their time these days.

Margaret Atwood, Strange Things:
The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature
1

The remarkable expansion of Canadian literary production during the 1960s and 1970s, together with the growth of cultural nationalism, led to an intense preoccupation with the question of what made Canadian literature distinctive. Critics such as Northrop Frye in The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination (1971), D. G. Jones in Butterfly on Rock: A Study of Themes and Images in Canadian Literature (1970), Margaret Atwood in Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972) and John Moss in Patterns of Isolation in English-Canadian Fiction (1974)constructed their national literary histories around recurring themes and images. Among them, as Atwood noted twenty years later in Strange Things, were indeed images of the north, wilderness, snow and so forth. This approach, referred to

-61-

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Canadian Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Abbreviations x
  • Chronology xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter I - Ethnicity, Race, Colonisation 25
  • Chapter 2 - Wilderness, Cities, Regions 61
  • Chapter 3 - Desire 96
  • Chapter 4 - Histories and Stories 133
  • Conclusion 167
  • Student Resources 177
  • Index 215
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