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In-Between – Liminal Spaces in Canadian Literature and Cultures

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Stefan L. Brandt

In the past few years, the concept of «liminality» has become a kind of pet theme within the discipline of Cultural Studies, lending itself to phenomena of transgression and systemic demarcation. This anthology employs theories of liminality to discuss Canada’s geographic and symbolic boundaries, taking its point of departure from the observation that «Canada» itself, as a cultural, political, and geographic entity, encapsulates elements of the «liminal.» The essays comprised in this volume deal with fragmented and contradictory practices in Canada, real and imagined borders, as well as contact zones, thresholds, and transitions in Anglo-Canadian and French-Canadian texts, discussing topics such as the U.S./Canadian border, migration, French-English relations, and encounters between First Nations and settlers.

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The Trading Post: Betwixt Wilderness and Civilization (Claire E. Smerdon)

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Claire E. Smerdon

The Trading Post: Betwixt Wilderness and Civilization

Abstract: For most twentieth-century Canadians, the trading post was an entirely imagined place in the remote North; few would ever visit one and it was not central to their lives. And yet, the trading post is a dominant location for tales of adventure in the school readers used in Grades Four to Six in English language public schools across Canada from the mid-1940s to the late 1970s. These lavishly illustrated textbooks comprise collections of prose, poetry and exposition designed to improve reading comprehension in children aged eight to eleven; the accompanying Teachers’ Guides reveal the editors’ intentions to reinforce Canadian identity through the creation of a common cultural heritage and values based upon a British settler past. Within the readers, the trading post is positioned as the entry to the Canadian wilderness, the site of exchange of resources from the hinterland for manufactured products of civilization and the point of interaction between Indigenous peoples and Europeans, not only in tales of the distant past but also in contemporary stories. The trading post formed a virtual liminal space for generations of Canadian children who might never venture away from city life, a vicarious gateway into the imaginary space of the Canadian North and the adventures it holds.

August 1965

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