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National Plots

Historical Fiction and Changing Ideas of Canada

Edited by Andrea Cabajsky & Brett Josef Grubisic
Subjects History, Canadian History, Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
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Paperback : 9781554580613, 276 pages, July 2010
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554582099, 276 pages, October 2010
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554581610, 276 pages, July 2010

Table of contents

Table of Contents for National Plots: Historical Fiction and Changing Ideas of Canada edited by Andrea Cabajsky and Brett Joseph Grubisic
Part One A Usable Past? New Questions, New Directions
“A Trading Shop So Crooked a Man Could Jump through the Cracks”: Counting the Cost of Fred Stenson’s Trade in the Hudson’s Bay Company Archive | Kathleen Venema
Past Lives: Aimeé Laberge’s Where the River Narrows and the Transgenerational Gene Pool | Cynthia Sugars
The Orange Devil: Thomas Scott and the Canadian Historical Novel | Albert Braz
State of Shock: History and Crisis in Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising | Robert David Stacey
“And They May Get It Wrong, After All”: Reading Alice Munro’s “Meneseteung” | Tracy Ware
Part Two Unconventional Voices: Fiction Versus Recorded History
Windigo Killing: Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road | Herb Wyile
Telling a Better Story: History, Fiction, and Rhetoric in George Copway’s Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation | Shelley Hulan
The Racialization of Canadian History: African-Canadian Fiction, 1990–2005 | Pilar Cuder-Domínguez
Turning the Tables | Aritha van Herk
Part Three Literary Histories, Regional Contexts
“To Free Itself, and Find Itself”: Writing a History for the Prairie West | Claire Campbell
“Old Lost Land”: Loss in Newfoundland Historical Fiction | Paul Chafe
Imagining Vancouvers: Burning Waters, Ana Historic, and the Literary (Un)Settling of the Pacific Coast | Owen Percy
Too Little Geography, Too Much History: Writing the Balance in “Meneseteung”
| Dennis Duffy References
Albert Braz is an associate professor of comparative literature and English at the University of Alberta, where he is also the acting director of the Comparative Literature Program. He specializes in Canadian literature in both its national and inter-American contexts, and is particularly interested in literary representations of the encounters between Natives and Newcomers in Canada and the rest of the Americas. He is the author of The False Traitor: Louis Riel in Canadian Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2003).With Marie Carriére, he is co-editor of “Comparative Canadian Literature in the Twenty-First Century/ La littérature canadienne au XXIéme siécle,” a special issue of the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 36, no. 2 (2009).
Andrea Cabajsky is assistant professor of comparative Canadian literature at the Université de Moncton, where she teaches and does research in English and French-Canadian literature, and in gender and post-colonial studies. She publishes in the areas of Canadian historical fiction, theories of the novel, and comparative Canadian and British literatures. Her publications have appeared, or are appearing, in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Novel (Blackwell, 2010), Reading the Nation in English Literature (Routledge, 2009), Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009), and the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies (31, no. 1), among others.
Claire Campbell is an associate professor in history and Canadian studies at Dalhousie University.Her fascination with the Prairie West (and the research for this chapter) began during a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Alberta. Now her nostalgia for Prairie skies belongs to her wider interest in how history, nature, and the arts shape Canadas diverse regional landscapes.
Paul Chafe teaches, among other courses, “Writing as a Cultural Act” and “Cultures in Crisis” at Ryerson University.He received his Ph.D. from Memorial University and is currently at work revising for publication his thesis on Newfoundland literature. His most recent publications include “Beautiful Losers: The Flâneur in St. John’s Literature” in Newfoundland and Labrador Studies and “The Rock Unnerved: Reflections on a Self-Reflective Society and Literature” in the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies.
Pilar Cuder-Domínguez is associate professor at the University of Huelva (Spain), where she teaches British and English-Canadian Literature. Her research interests are the intersections of gender, genre, nation, and race. She is the author of Margaret Atwood: A Beginner’s Guide (Hodder & Stoughton, 2003), and the co-editor of five collections of essays (La mujer del texto al contexto [University of Huelva, 1996]; Exilios femeninos [University of Huelva, 2000]; Sederi XI [University of Huelva, 2002]; Espacios de Género [Alfar, 2005]; and The Female Wits [University of Huelva, 2006]). She has been visiting scholar at universities in Canada, the US, and the UK: McGill (1997), Dalhousie (1999), Northwestern (2002), Toronto (2004), and Cambridge (2006). Her current research deals with Canadian women's transnational poetics.
Dennis Duffy, emeritus professor of English at the University of Toronto, and author of Sounding the Iceberg: An Essay on Canadian Historical Novels (ECW Press, 1986), is currently investigating memoirs and psychiatric practices during the Great War.
Brett Josef Grubisic is the author of a novel, The Age of Cities (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2006) and Understanding Beryl Bainbridge (University of South Carolina Press, 2008). He co-authored (with David L. Chapman) American Hunks: The Muscular Male Body in Popular Culture 1860–1970 (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009) and edited two fiction anthologies, Contra/Diction: New Queer Male Fiction (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1998) and (with Carellin Brooks) Carnal Nation: Brave New Sex Fictions (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000).He teaches English at the University of British Columbia.
Shelley Hulan is an associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo. Her essays and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, Essays on Canadian Writing, The Journal of Canadian Studies, Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, and Canadian Literature. A book chapter on Susie Frances Harrison’s Crowded out! And Other Sketches will be published shortly in a critical edition of that text.
Owen Percy recently earned his Ph.D. from the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where he currently teaches as a sessional instructor.He works mainly in the areas of post-colonial historiography, Canadian literary culture, and contemporary poetry in English, and has published articles and reviews in Canadian Literature, Studies in Canadian Literature, The Dalhousie Review, and ARIEL.
Robert David Stacey is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. A graduate of York University, his Ph.D. thesis dealt with Canadian historical fiction and its relationship to the modes of georgic and pastoral. He has published numerous essays on Canadian fiction and poetry and is editor of RE: Reading the Postmodern–Canadian Literature and Criticism after Modernism, forthcoming from the University of Ottawa Press.
Cynthia Sugars is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa, where she teaches Canadian literature and post-colonial theory. She is the author of numerous essays on Canadian literature, and has edited three collections: Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism (Broadview, 2004); Home-Work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy, and Canadian Literature (University of Ottawa Press, 2004); and Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009). She has also recently published (with Laura Moss) a two-volume anthology of Canadian literature entitled Canadian Literature in English: Texts and Contexts (Pearson/Penguin, 2009).
Aritha van Herk is the author of five novels, including No Fixed Address and Restlessness. Her cross-genre work has resulted in a geografictione entitled Places Far from Ellesmere (Red Deer College Press, 1990), and two ficto-critical collections, A Frozen Tongue (Dangaroo Press, 1992) and In Visible Ink (NeWest Press, 1991). Her most recent books, Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (Viking, 2001) and Audacious and Adamant (Key Porter Books, 2007), engage with regional and provincial history. She teaches creative writing and Canadian literature in the Department of English at the University of Calgary.
Kathleen Venema is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Winnipeg. She has written articles on Canadian literature, Canadian exploration literature, and Hudson’s Bay Company correspondence in various publications, including Re/Calling Early Canada (University of Alberta, 2005) and her co-edited volume, Women Writing Home 1700–1920: Canada (Pickering & Chatto, 2006). Her article, “Civilized Heroes in the Canadian Wilderness: How Gothic Narrative Saves Alexander Henry’s Textual Skin,” appeared in (A)Symmetries in the Americas (Editora Caetes, 2007) and she has an article forthcoming in Basements and Attics: Explorations in the Materiality and Ethics of Canadian Women’s Archives (Wilfrid Laurier University Press).
Tracy Ware teaches Canadian literature and Romanticism at Queen’s University. He has published on Wordsworth, Shelley, Poe, Trilling, Naipaul, Keneally, and various aspects of Canadian literature.
Herb Wyile is a full professor in English at Acadia University. He is the author of Speculative Fictions: Contemporary Canadian Novelists and the Writing of History (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002) and Speaking in the Past Tense: Canadian Novelists on Writing Historical Fiction (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007), and co-editor of Past Matters: History in Canadian Fiction, a special issue of Studies in Canadian Literature (2002).He has also published articles on historical fiction by Jane Urquhart, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Michael Crummey, Margaret Sweatman, George Elliott Clarke, and Wayne Johnston.


Fiction that reconsiders, challenges, reshapes, and/or upholds national narratives of history has long been an integral aspect of Canadian literature. Works by writers of historical fiction (from early practitioners such as John Richardson to contemporary figures such as Alice Munro and George Elliott Clarke) propose new views and understandings of Canadian history and individual relationships to it. Critical evaluation of these works sheds light on the complexity of these depictions.
The contributors in National Plots: Historical Fiction and Changing Ideas of Canada critically examine texts with subject matter ranging from George Vancouver’s west coast explorations to the eradication of the Beothuk in Newfoundland. Reflecting diverse methodologies and theoretical approaches, the essays seek to explicate depictions of “the historical” in individual texts and to explore larger questions relating to historical fiction as a genre with complex and divergent political motivations and goals. Although the topics of the essays vary widely, as a whole the collection raises (and answers) questions about the significance of the roles historical fiction has played within Canadian culture for nearly two centuries.


National Plots is a vital contribution to the ongoing critical discussion about historical fiction in Canadian literature and broadens the dialogue by including both critics well established in the field and emergent voices.

- Manina Jones, Department of English, University of Western Ontario, co-editorwith Marta Dvořák of Carol Shields and the Extra-Ordinary (2007), 2008 December

Cabajsky...and...Grubisic provide an excellent introduction, a lengthy list of references, and a very full index...overall this is a fine addition to the literature. Summing up Highly recommended.

- B. Almon, University of Alberta, Choice, March 2011, 2011 February