Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Marli F. Weiner

Second Committee Member

Scott See

Third Committee Member

Graham Carr


The search for a national identity has been a central concern of English-Canadian culture since the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. In the late nineteenth century, English-Canadian concerns about Canadian identity and the need for distinctively Canadian stories resulted in the creation of a body of fiction that attempted to define Canadian nationhood and identity by depicting Canadian scenes, people, and situations. In the late nineteenth century, writers of fiction focused on defining the impact of Canada's unique land and heritage upon Canadian identity. Based on an extensive reading of these novels, this dissertation explores the way English Canadians defined Canadian identity in relation to the land, race, and gender in the late nineteenth century. The intensive study of the fictional literature of late-nineteenth-century Canada gives a unique insight into the world view of middle-class English Canadians. When writing fiction, authors are especially prone to reflecting the beliefs and assumptions of their society. The investigation into the specific elements of Canadian national creation as reflected in English-Canadian fiction illuminates an important aspect of Canadian cultural history. The national community imagined in English-language novels was based upon ideas about Canadian's relationships to their land and heritage. Authors shaped a view of Canada's climate, geography, and landscape as unifying elements in Canadian culture. They emphasized Canada's northern location and wilderness areas as unique factors in the creation of Canadian identity. Novelists also idealized the process of settlement as essential to the creation of Canadian culture. English-Canadian writers also attempted to create the idea of a shared heritage as an essential ingredient in Canadian nationality. By incorporating French history and culture into Canadian history, by describing the nation as the result of the mixture of Scottish, English, French, and Indian heritage, and by embracing a British imperial identity, English-speaking Canadian authors attempted to construct a historical and racial inheritance for a new nation. These ideas, as expressed in novels, became a basis for English-Canadian ideas about themselves and their nation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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