Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
English & Film Studies
Gender and Genre
Faculty of Arts
Dr Tanis MacDonald
Dr Jenny Kerber
Dr Eleanor Ty
Responding to current topics of national debate around cultural appropriation, authenticity of voice and identity, historical commemoration, and foundational systems of social injustice, this dissertation takes as its launching point the question of how we are implicated in each other's histories. It examines the politics of rewriting history in Canadian auto/biographic long poems from 1970 to the present, reconsidering historiography as it intersects with life writing, gender, race, and the performance of voice. What narratives are reimagined about the lives of Canadian historical figures, how are such stories articulated, and who is permitted to perform the telling? As a whole, the poems I analyze demonstrate skepticism of official national narratives, some working to unsettle and undermine these histories by advancing counterhistories and others functioning as recovery projects to re-present the lives of nearly forgotten or historically marginalized figures. A critical thread that can be traced throughout the chapters is the necessary ethical engagement of both poets and readers: issues this project wrestles with include the role of memory and forgetfulness in the nation's privileging or overlooking of particular stories, the effects of poets commandeering the speaking "I," and the sometimes challenging task of ascertaining the division between appropriation and appropriate representation.
The work of remediating the past is a project not only the CanLit community is currently deeply invested in, but also the Canadian public, as demonstrated by ongoing widespread conversations about what histories and systems of belief we honour in our chosen place names and by the difficult yet vital unburying of traumatic Indigenous histories as we confront the devastating evidence and lasting harm of federally endorsed assimilation policies. Ultimately, this dissertation makes the case that Canada is at a critical point in its national narrative when, after striving to define a national identity in the previous century, its citizens are in the process of re-evaluating its historical foundations, its cultural texts, and the identity it projects to the rest of the world. With the nation under an international media spotlight due to the global revelation of its violent colonial history, we need to continue the difficult cultural work of confronting and reassessing our perceptions of Canadian histories, and the kinds of rebellious and recuperative texts featured here are uniquely positioned to aid in this important task. The primary texts analyzed are long poems by Robert Kroetsch, Margaret Atwood, Jan Horner, Syd Zolf, Stephen Scobie, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Joan Crate, Armand Garnet Ruffo, and George Elliott Clarke.
Olaveson, Heather, "(Re)mediating History in Canadian Auto/biographic Long Poems since 1970" (2023). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2586.
Available for download on Friday, September 04, 2026