S B. Matthews

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Recently published correspondence between Ross and Gustafson and between Ross and Smith, as well as newly available unpublished material, has made a re-evaluation of the body of Ross's work necessary. The evidence now suggests that spiritualism and occultism were essential to Ross's thought from very early in his poetic career, and that the deceptively simple poems of the Canadian north for which he is best known participate in his overall vision of the operation of the supernatural in the natural world.;The thesis reviews what is known of Ross and of his poetic achievement and then suggests a new way of reading the poems. Chapter One outlines the material biography of Ross, but also demonstrates, from published and unpublished correspondence and from explicitly spiritual poems, that he was a practicing spiritualist (one who actively pursued direct contact with the spirits of the dead) and that he investigated the occult tradition of "ancient wisdom." Chapter Two first details Ross's poetic oeuvre and demonstrates, among other things, that his output was not nearly so sparse as is generally believed. Then Chapter Two examines the critical response to Ross's work, finding it generally lacking in its failure to recognize the range of Ross's poetic experimentation or the spiritual vision that is at the heart of Ross's accomplishment. Chapter Three proposes a reading of the poems that emphasizes Ross's desire to awaken his audience to the supernatural presence in the natural world. In his later, more discursive poetry, Ross tells his reader directly that such a spiritual dimension is present in the natural world. In the earlier work, he evokes a sense of this mysterious, spiritual component by direct presentation of a symbolic landscape.



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