Robin Mcgrath

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Prior to contact with European culture, Eskimos in the circumpolar world had a highly developed oral tradition. The subsequent widespread adoption of Christianity in the Arctic region resulted in nearly universal literacy among Eskimo adults, and the oral tradition almost immediately began to develop into a written one. In Canada there is now a considerable body of Inuit literature available in both Inuktitut and English, and this thesis examines how this literature developed. A brief history of European contact as it affected literacy, a consideration of the movement from the oral to written tradition, and a description of early Inuktitut publications, lead to a discussion of the poetry and prose of both the oral and written traditions. A discussion of some of the themes and structures evident in the contemporary written literature indicates that there are strong ties between the old and new literature, despite fairly drastic differences in subject matter and language. Additions to the body of the thesis include an illustrated appendix of Inuktitut writing systems, an illustrated appendix listing over 100 relevant periodicals by and about Inuit and a primary bibliography of approximately 750 books, articles, stories and poems by Inuit authors.



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