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Reconstructing National Identity

The Nation Forged in Fire-Myth and Canadian Literature


Karin Ikas

In the diversified and ambiguous, globally and glocally networked mobile present, national identities are challenged internally and externally in multiple ways. In Canada intellectuals and notable novelists have lately begun to remember and re-discover the significance of the First World War for their construction of a Canadian national identity. The book presents the first large-scale interdisciplinary analysis of these developments. The author of this Bourdieusian inspired literary-critical research work nails down the sociological foundations of the concept of the nation before then discussing aspects of the role of the First World War for (Canadian) national identity and the relevant memorial discourse. The reconstruction focuses on how remarkable Canadian authors – including Hugh MacLennan, Timothy Findley, Jack Hodgins, Jane Urquhart, Frances Itani and Joseph Boyden – have challenged, re-imagined and rewritten the Nation Forged in Fire-myth in the 20th and 21st century to bring to life the experiences of national minorities like women, indigenous people, migrants, war veterans, children and people with disabilities. The study shows that the literary workings on the myth, myth reconstruction and myth deconstruction is a fascinating though ambivalent and dynamic project in the Third Millennium.

What is a Nation? – The Construction of National Identity – (The Tradition of) Inventing the Canadian Nation – Inventing the Nation Forged in Fire – The World at War: The First World War as the Great War – Canada at War: The First World War as Hotbed for Inventing the Canadian Nation – The Nation Forged in Fire-Myth in Contemporary Memorial Culture – The Literary Reconstruction of the Canadian Nation Forged in Fire – Concussion and a Translocation of the Nation’s Birthplace: Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising – The Paradoxical Community of Isolated Individuals: Timothy Findley’s The Wars – The Returned Soldiers’ Need for Community: Jack Hodgins’ Broken Ground – The Canadian National Vimy Memorial and a New Epic Tale of the Birth of the Nation: Jane Urquhart’s The Stone Carvers – The (Dis)Ability Issue: Frances Itani’s Deafening – The Native Point of View: Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road