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Lecture 1

ENG252Y1 Lecture 1: ENG252 09.26.17

Course Code
Robert Mc Gill

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Canadian Literature ENG252
Wacousta: Or, the Prophecy (1832)
- traditional novel but draws on a lot of complicated gothic conventions
Historical Context and Key Influences:
- Canadian born writer
- widely known as one of the first Canadian novels
- term Canadian is still in development during this time period but we look to it as a sort
of foundational text
- published into the settlement period, but set in 1763 when most french colonial
territories were being seeded to the British after the 7 years of war
- period when there was a lot of uncertainty regarding the colonial settling in Canada
- residual hostility from French-Canadian settlers
- novel offers a historical retelling of the siege
- the novel takes this historical event and dramatizes it as the sort of crucible that gave
the rise of Canada as a colony independent
- one of the key influences was James Fenimore Coopers The Last of the Mohicans
- considered a foundational text in the american literary canon
- offers a retelling of real historical events and dramatizes class between french British
and indigenous forces as they fought for control
- even though it has been regarded as Canadist answer to Coopers novel, but it differs
substantially where it takes the realist framework of a historical novel and brings it
into the realms of the gothic and supernatural
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Wacousta: Historical, Gothic or Romance?:
- historical novel: fictional narrative that uses representative or typical characters to
dramatize major social conflicts and historical transformations
- treats history as a process that is constantly evolving and open to evolutionary
- tends to frame history as a linear trajectory towards national progress however some
Canadian lit scholars have argued that this linear framework doesn't suit the realities
of Canadian context by unresolved land claims, and other discontinuities that make it
clear to draw a linear form from the nations past to the present
- this absence of a clear trajectory of past to present help us understand way a lot of
Canadian fiction historical tends to draw on a lot of gothic conventions
- gothic fiction: a narrative of terror or suspense that typical turns on the dangers posed
to an isolated protagonist (or group of protagonists) by some form of external threat,
Often, this external threat serves as a figurative representation of the protagonists
fears and desires
- gothic proves insight into the unacknowledged impulses that lie beneath the orderly
surface of the civilized mind, Thus the form that gothic takes in any particular social-
historical moment always stands in close relationship wth the cultural anxieties of that
time period
- some conventions in gothic fiction: violent emotions of terror, anguish and fear (the
role of the narrative structure playing in eliciting the fears and terrors of Richardsons
english audience ); fear of imprisonment and entrapment (rape, incest, personal
violation and of triumph of chaos over order); concerns over issues of family lineage
and family curses (which in turn affect history); depictions of radicalized others as
agents of excess impurity and savagery (the way in which Wacoustas status as an
embodiment of British colonial fears about the threat of going native or taking on the
supposed savagery of indigenous peoples); sinister, grotesque and claustrophobic
atmospheres, whether literally or figuratively understood
- if gothic fiction externalize the anxieties that haunt the respective cultures/societies
then what does this novel tell us about the anxieties that preoccupied Canadian
society during the period of early settlement?
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