Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

English

Supervisor

Dr. Manina Jones

Abstract

Over the past two decades, expressions of Canadian national identity have become increasingly militarized in cultural production in the commemorative works that have been created, renovated, or re-inscribed in Canada or in important Canadian international sites such as the Vimy Memorial in France. An integral component to this militarization is the paradoxical figure of the Unknown Soldier, both a man and a symbol, known and unknown, individualized and universal. Despite its origins in Europe after the First World War, the Unknown Soldier Memorial tradition has been reinvigorated in a Canadian context in the twenty-first century because it elevates white masculine heroism while curtailing criticism of military praxis. Its contradictory nature provides an informative filter through which to view both recent reflections and commemorations of the First World War and to Canada’s recent military role in Afghanistan.

In this dissertation, I examine the works of Jane Urquhart, Jack Hodgins, and Joseph Boyden in relation to their exploration of war commemoration. Each chapter analyzes a novel that addresses war and its commemorative impact in relation to other forms of comparable and relevant cultural production. Chapter 1 examines the connections between Urquhart’s The Stone Carvers and the new Canadian War Museum. Chapter 2 evaluates Hodgins’s Broken Ground and Paul Gross’s film Passchendaele in terms of the works’ pedagogical focus. Chapter 3 addresses Boyden’s Three Day Road and commemorative approaches that are inclusive of Indigenous experiences. Chapter 4 considers Urquhart’s Sanctuary Line in relation to the Highway of Heroes phenomenon.


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