"We Are Most Ourselves When we Are Changing": Michael Winter, Lynn Coady, Lisa Moore, and the Literary Reconfiguration of Atlantic Canadian Regionalism
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Canada is a complex social space shaped by the interaction of established cultural practices with the everyday realities of globalized consumer culture. These representations challenge stereotypes that characterize the region as a locus of tradition and history apart from today’s world. This dissertation examines the way these authors contribute to the transformation of our understanding of Atlantic Canada by highlighting the ways we produce social space and foregrounding the changing nature of regional contemporaneity. This dissertation first assesses the dominant understandings of regionalism and Atlantic Canadian identity against which these authors write. Chapter one summarizes normative definitions of regionalism and examines theoretical approaches that inform a revitalized understanding of the term. Chapter two discusses antimodernism in key texts within nineteenth- and twentieth-century Atlantic Canadian literature. Chapter three argues that antimodernism continues to dominate regional literary production, reading the CBC Canada Reads contest’s treatment of Frank Parker Day’s Rockbound as an example of how essentialist interpretations of the Atlantic region contribute to a national narrative of identity that limits our normative conceptions of cultural and regional diversity. The perseverance of this vision of Atlantic Canadian identity makes its destabilization by Winter, Coady and Moore significant. Chapter four considers Michael Winter’s juxtapositions of wilderness and urban space, which suggest the ways in which urbanization permeates even the most remote aspects of existence in contemporary Newfoundland, while emphasizing the persistence of unknowable spaces within the fabric of contemporary life. Chapter five examines Lynn Coady’s parodic treatment of the region’s rurality, which foregrounds yearnings for authenticity while interrogating the limits of regional belonging. Chapter six assesses Lisa Moore’s attention to the ordinariness and inevitability of the exchange between traditions and popular culture in urban and suburban Newfoundland. Moore articulates the tensions, uncertainties and freedoms that accompany the renegotiation of regional identity. Together, Winter, Coady and Moore question the deployment of a unified space or history as the basis for regional belonging. Instead, their visions of contemporary life in the region offer a shared sense of transformation.
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