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Gothic Canada

Reading the Spectre of a National Literature

by Justin D. Edwards

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gothic & romance, canadian
list price: $34.95
also available: eBook
published: 2005

Canadians have always been obsessed with the idea of their own identities. Stories that tell us who we are provide a reassuring sense of identity for the individual and the nation. Hockey. Maple Leaves. Beavers. But collective stories tend to be haunted by a fear that a shared narrative might be nothing more than an elaborate artifice. This fear has long been a source of gothic inspiration for Canadian writers. A haunted Canadian self returns again and again. Polite. Friendly. Not American. With examples of gothic discourse from Canadian fiction, autobiography, film, poetry, and drama, Justin Edwards analyzes the ghost at the heart of the nation. A major contribution to cultural and literary studies, Gothic Canada unearths two centuries of Canadian gothic writings to reveal uncanny traditions of trauma, repression, and monstrosity.

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Editorial Reviews

"Gothic Canada is a dazzling journey into the netherworlds of the Canadian literary and cultural imagination. From the wilderness of John Richardson's Wacousta, through the haunted houses of Sinclair Ross and F.P. Grove, to the urban Gothic of contemporary writers and filmmakers, Edwards” superbly researched book compels us to confront the ghosts, obsessions, and fears that lie dormant within the imaginative fabric of Canadian identity."  ?Irene Gammel, Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture, Ryerson University, and author of Baroness Elsa—A Cultural Biography

"Edwards examines a selection of nearly two centuries of Canadian gothic writing here, including texts by Margaret Atwood, Maria Campbell, Frederick Philip Grove, Barbara Gowdy, Anne Hébert, James De Mille, Susanna Moodie, Shani Mootoo, Andrew Pyper, David Adams Richards, Sinclair Ross, Jane Urquhart, and Rudy Wiebe (prominent examples of British and American gothic writing are occasionally brought in for comparison). Edwards focuses on the “fluidity” or “ineffability” of Canadian identities, and how these contribute to anxieties that find robust expression in the gothic mode.” This is a useful and generally very astute contribution to Canadian gothic studies, and it should be of interest to all students of Canadian literature.” Geoff Hamilton, Canadian Book Review Annual 2007

“Canadians have been searching for and discussing cultural identity since Confederation. According to Justin Edwards, our stories and literature might be showing us our greatest fear: perhaps we don't have one. In Gothic Canada, Edwards explores both the search for identity and the haunting spectral elements in Canadian literature. Analyzing literature from the nineteenth century through to the modern fiction of Atwood and Ondaatje, Edwards finds a common thread. “The thing that Gothic Canadian texts have in common is the question “who are we?” and a source of fear and anxiety is generated from not being able to answer this question,” says Edwards.” Lynne Stefanchuk, Prairie Books NOW

"This book could have been called 'Negotiating with the Dead', for it is a literary study of how Canadian narratives of national identity and history are haunted and undermined by stories from the past. ... With his choice of literary texts and films from the nineteenth to the late twentieth century, Edwards offers an overview of crisis nodes in Canada's history, suggesting that a gothic discourse of anxiety and even terror shadows national assertions of 'peace, order and good government.' He emphasises cultural, political, and psychological dimensions of 'northern gothic, Native gothic, diasporic gothic, and the gothic films of David Cronenberg and Lynne Stopkewich." – Coral Ann Howells, University of Reading, British Journal of Canadian Studies, 19.2

"Justin Edward's exploration of 'Gothic Canada' combines readings of individual texts—novels ad movies—with a largerthematic examination of why Canadian literature continues to be a site of haunting and how that informs constructions of nationalism north of the forty—ninth parallel, especially in an era of increasing globalization. Edward's monograph is broadly inclusive....Gothic Canada is a very useful book—well written, lively, able to make the complex accessible without diminishing its sophistication, and certainly an important step toward rethinking what the gothic means for Canadian literature and culture today." Jennifer Andrews, The International Fiction Review, Vol. 34, 2007.

“This is another volume in the praiseworthy cuRRents Canadian literature series. Edwards explores the connections between the formation of identity and gothic, through analysis of discourses in Canadian culture.” Anne Burke, Prairie Journal Trust, July 22, 2005

"Using various poststructuralist approaches, Edwards (Univ. of Copenhagen) produces a challenging analysis of selected historical and contemporary works ....Edwards's argument is a provocative challenge to the classic land-based approach of Margot Northey's The Haunted Wilderness: The Gothic and Grotesque in Canadian Fiction (CH, May'77)." Choice, Jan, 2006.

"[Edwards] has written a much-needed, readable, and engaging account of the gothic in Canadian literature and cinema." Marlene Goldman, Canadian Literature 19, Winter 2006.

"Gothic Canada is a serious and sophisticated guide to examples of the gothic in Canadian literature. Edwards embarks on a fascinating and timely scholarly investigation. It reflects a growing interest in Canadian literature, and is sure to contribute to the trend. The book enters into contemporary conversations about identity, ethnicity, space, gender, sexuality, and postcolonialism. It expands on previous theories of gothic and Canadian literatures, and develops some new ones. Edwards looks for ghosts and finds them. More importantly, he explains why they haunt the pages of Canadian literature." Melissa Moore, ForeWords Magazine, August 2005

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About the Author

Justin D. Edwards

Justin D. Edwards is an associate professor in the Department of English at Københavns Universitet.

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