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Unsettled Remains

Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic

Edited by Cynthia Sugars & Gerry Turcotte
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
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Paperback : 9781554580545, 324 pages, August 2009
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588008, 324 pages, August 2010

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic, edited by Cynthia Sugars and Gerry Turcotte

Introduction: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic | Cynthia Sugars and Gerry Turcotte

Chapter One: Catholic Gothic: Atavism, Orientalism, and Generic Change in Charles De Guise’s Le Cap au diable (1863) | Andrea Cabajsky

Chapter Two: Viking Graves Revisited: Pre-Colonial Primitivism in Farley Mowat’s Northern Gothic | Brian Johnson

Chapter Three: Coyote’s Children and the Canadian Gothic: Sheila Watson’s The Double Hook and Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s The Cure for Death by Lightning | Marlene Goldman

Chapter Four: “Horror Written on Their Skin”: Joy Kagawa’s Gothic Uncanny | Gerry Turcotte

Chapter Five: Familiar Ghosts: Feminist Postcolonial Gothic in Canada | Shelley Kulperger

Chapter Six: Canadian Gothic and the Work of Ghosting: Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees | Atef Laouyene

Chapter Seven: A Ukranian-Canadian Gothic?: Ethnic Angst in Janice Kulyk Keefer’s The Green Library | Lindy Ledohowski

Chapter Eight: “Something not unlike enjoyment”: Gothicism, Catholicism, and Sexuality in Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen | Jennifer Henderson

Chapter Nine: Rethinking the Canadian Gothic: Reading Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach | Jennifer Andrews

Chapter Ten: Beothuk Gothic: Michael Crummey’s River Thieves | Herb Wyile

Chapter Eleven: Keeping the Gothic at (Sick) Bay: Reading the Transferences in Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures | Cynthia Sugars




Jennifer Andrews is a full professor in the Department of English at the University of New Brunswick and co-editor of Studies in Canadian Literature. She has co-authored a book on Thomas King entitled Border Crossings (University of Toronto Press, 2003). She is currently writing a manuscript on Native North American women’s poetry funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Andrea Cabajsky is an assistant professor of Comparative Canadian literature at the Université de Moncton. She is co-editor of National Plots: Historical Fiction and Changing Ideas of Canada (WLUP, forthcoming 2009) and is a founding member of the Early Canadian Literature Society. She holds an FESR/Heritage Canada Standard Research Grant for 2007–09.

Marlene Goldman teaches Canadian literature at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Paths of Desire (University of Toronto Press, 1977) and recently completed a book on apocalyptic discourse in Canadian fiction, Rewriting Apocalypse (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005). She is currently researching Canadian fiction that invokes the motif of haunting.

Jennifer Henderson is an associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Carleton University. She has published articles on Canadian fiction and criticism, feminist culture, and discourses of the liberal self and is the author of Settler Feminism and Race Making in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2003). Her two current projects study the government of childhood and the trope of national reconciliation.

Brian Johnson is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Carleton University in Ottawa, where he specializes in Canadian literature and literary theory. Among his recent publications are essays on indigeneity and ecology in the Canadian animal story, northern nationalism in Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese, and Jewish masculinities in the novels of Mordecai Richler. He is currently working on a study of race and horror in Canadian representations of the North.

Shelley Kulperger completed a Ph. D. on feminist and postcolonial gothic in Canada in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research interests include Australian and Canadian gothic, motherhood, and feminist and postcolonial cultural memory. She currently works in multicultural health policy and has published articles on transculturation, urban space, multiculturalism, and feminist cultural memory.

Atef Laouyene completed his Ph. D. in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa in 2008. His dissertation, “The Post-Exotic Arab: Orientalist Dystopias in Contemporary Postcolonial Fiction,” draws on modern theories of the exotic in order to investigate representations of the Arab figure in the contemporary postcolonial novel. His research interests include postcolonial literary studies, critical theory, Arabic cultures and literatures, francophone literatures of the Maghreb, and Arab diasporas studies. His current project focuses on narratives of violence in Anglo-Arab writing.

Lindy Ledohowski completed her Ph. D. in the Department of English at the University of Toronto in 2008. Her doctoral research looked at the constructions of home and ethnicity in English-language Ukrainian-Canadian literature. At present, she is a postdoctoral fellow funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. Her current research looks at how fictional incest narratives in contemporary Canadian literature challenge ideas of a national home.

Cynthia Sugars is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa where she teaches Canadian literature and postcolonial theory. She is the author of numerous essays on Canadian literature and has edited two collections of essays on Canadian postcolonial theory: Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism (Broadview, 2004) and Home-Work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy, and Canadian Literature (University of Ottawa Press, 2004). She has recently co-edited (with Laura Moss) a new two-volume historical anthology of Canadian literature, entitled Canadian Literature in English: Texts and Contexts (Pearson, 2009) and is working on a study of Canadian ghosts.

Gerry Turcotte is the dean of arts and sciences at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney, Australia. He is past president of the Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand, former secretary of the International Council for Canadian Studies, founding director of the Centre for Canadian–Australian Studies, and was the editor of Australian-Canadian Studies for four years. He is the author and editor of fourteen books including the novel Flying in Silence (published in Canada by Cormorant Books and in Australia by Brandl and Schlesinger, 2001), which was shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year in 2001 and Border Crossings: Words and Images (Brandl and Schlesinger, 2004). His new book, Peripheral Fear: Transformations of the Gothic in Canada and Australia, will be published by Peter Lang in 2009.

Herb Wyile is a full professor in the Department of English at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He has published numerous articles on contemporary Canadian literature, co-edited special issues of Textual Studies in Canada and Studies in Canadian Literature, and is the author of Speculative Fictions: Contemporary Canadian Novelists and the Writing of History (McGill-Queens UP, 2002) and Speaking in the Past Tense: Canadian Novelists on Writing Historical Fiction (WLUP, 2007). He has recently co-edited with Jeanette Lyne’s Surf’s Up! The Rising Tide of Atlantic-Canadian Literature, a special issue of Studies in Canadian Literature.


Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic examines how Canadian writers have combined a postcolonial awareness with gothic metaphors of monstrosity and haunting in their response to Canadian history. The essays gathered here range from treatments of early postcolonial gothic expression in Canadian literature to attempts to define a Canadian postcolonial gothic mode. Many of these texts wrestle with Canada’s colonial past and with the voices and histories that were repressed in the push for national consolidation but emerge now as uncanny reminders of that contentious history. The haunting effect can be unsettling and enabling at the same time.

In recent years, many Canadian authors have turned to the gothic to challenge dominant literary, political, and social narratives. In Canadian literature, the “postcolonial gothic” has been put to multiple uses, above all to figure experiences of ambivalence that have emerged from a colonial context and persisted into the present. As these essays demonstrate, formulations of a Canadian postcolonial gothic differ radically from one another, depending on the social and cultural positioning of who is positing it. Given the preponderance, in colonial discourse, of accounts that demonize otherness, it is not surprising that many minority writers have avoided gothic metaphors. In recent years, however, minority authors have shown an interest in the gothic, signalling an emerging critical discourse. This “spectral turn” sees minority writers reversing long-standing characterizations of their identity as “monstrous” or invisible in order to show their connections to and disconnection from stories of the nation.


  • Short-listed, ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism 2009


``The essays in Unsettled Remains focus on how subjective and national identities in Canadian literature have been formed through notions of interiority and unsettlement, and through the haunting necessarily inherent in a postcolonial context: through what Sugars and Turcotte name as Gothic ‘experiences of spectrality and the uncanny’. Monsters, ghosts, tricksters, and other supernatural characters figure prominently in all of the volume's essays, therefore, as metaphors of the many repressed histories brought on by our colonial past, and as representations of the ability for ‘monstrous’ others to ‘talk back’ to dominant narratives. ''

- Heather Latimer, Canadian Literature, 208, Spring 2011

``[Each chapter] `seeks to find ways of knowing, articulating, and memorializing the horrors of the past and to account for their haunting trace in the present in a meaningful and ethical way' (Shelley Kulperger). This consistency gives the volume momentum as it proceeds, as its essays often draw on the same sources although not always to reach the same conclusions. Its admirable goals of disclosure, redress, and healing are sought not just in the novels studied—the novel is the favourite form—but through the perspicacity of critics who untwist the stories' twisted, gothic shapes and put them to therapeutic use, `doing a certain kind of cultural cathartic work, enabling Canadians to speak the crime that has no name' (Cynthia Sugars). ... The value of the collection is in exploring [its] assumptions so rigorously, in showing that something truly is at stake in studying gothic forms. The essays are also admirable individually: all are closely argued, earnest, well-documented, and scholarly. ''

- Jon Kertzer, English Studies in Canada, 35 #4, 2009

``Cynthia Sugars' and Gerry Turcotte's Unsettled Remains is an essential read for the student of Canadian postcolonial literature. ... Through their engagement with Canada's ‘haunted’ colonial history, [the contributors] draw attention to the interplay between the uncanny and the unsettling in Canada's settle-invader history. Consequently, the ‘settler-invader’ perspective is incorporated into a dialogue that includes the voices of indigenous and immigrant communities as well. By opening their readings of literary texts to such a dialogue, these critics challenge traditional representations and interpretations of the landscape and its peoples without denying Canada's turbulent colonial history. Traditional models of ‘haunting, monstrosity, trauma, fear’ (p. 98) are likewise scrutinised, resulting in a uniquely Canadian re-visioning of gothic convention. ''

- Sharon Selby, British Journal of Canadian Studies, 23.2

``It is a truism that collections of literary criticism are a mixed bag. The editors put out a call, and then whatever comes in comes in. Thus many such collections are at best inconsistent and at worst useless. I am very glad to say this is not the case with Unsettled Remains. ''

- Terry Goldie, University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 80, number 2, Spring 2011

``Rigorously selected and effectively argued, these essays convincingly demonstrate the eerie presence of a Gothic sensibility in Canadian literature refracted through a postcolonial lens, in many cases drawing attention to little-studied, extremely contemporary texts. ... Unsettled Remains provides a broad survey of the postcolonial Gothic in contemporary Canadian literature; while certain themes and theoretical approaches are bound to recur, such as the image of the ghost, haunting, trauma, and Catholicism, with contributors invoking Freud's uncanny, Kristeva's abject, the postcolonial theories of Fanon, Bhabha, Said, and Anderson as well as the writings on trauma of Caruth and La Capra, there is also a great deal of variety in theoretical approaches adn certainly in the range of primary texts analyzed. For too many US readers perhaps, the Canadian itself stands in the position of the uncanny—that which is familiar but different; Unsettled Remains offers a challenging but engaging gateway not only into Canadian literature, but it also provides useful discussions of both Gothic and postcolonial theory. As Andrews asserts about Monkey Beach, ‘[a]pproaching Robinson's text through the Gothic is especially helpful for drawing readers beyond the Haisla community into an unfamiliar and mysterious world ripe with imaginative possibilities because it is a familiar set of conventions’ (223), we might say that Unsettled Remains offers scholars of the fantastic a similar entry into the all-too-often unexplored territory of ‘CanLit. ’''

- Amy J. Ransom, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2012

``Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic is a strong anthology. ... [I]ts essays. ..are inherently conversant in the uncanny fashion that is the focus and foundation of their origins. In this anthology Sugars and Turcotte bring together an admirable range of writers, whose various positions allow voice and space to many of the “uncanny reminders of [Canada's] problematic history. ”

- Erin Wunker, The Dalhousie Review, Spring 2010