Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. D.M.R. Bentley


This thesis examines representations of abandoned space in Canadian writing from the early nineteenth century to the contemporary period. Drawing from a diversity of existing scholarship in the fields of architectural and spatial theory, cultural geography, and national history, it addresses some of the most emblematic sites of architectural decay in Canada, from the ghost town, to the ruin, to the deserted farmstead, to the neglected urban core. One of the central concerns of the thesis is to show that literary portraits of vacant or decaying dwelling places, in whatever form they might take, signify a kind of angst on behalf of the country’s writers over Canada’s resistance to becoming a habitable space for the artistic imagination. Images of abandoned space thus act as an especially fruitful vehicle for examining both the desires and anxieties that are inextricably bound up with the project of nation building and national expression in Canada. Beginning with an introductory chapter that assesses the ghost town, the ruin, and the notion of haunting in relation to Canadian literature and literary history, the thesis offers a wide-ranging survey of primary works that engage with abandoned space by providing a series of close readings in each of its core chapters. Chapter One explores representations of abandoned Native space as markers of Canada’s uncomfortable colonial legacy. Chapter Two analyzes the Canadian ruin and the vexed cultural nationalism of the post-Confederation period. Chapter Three concentrates on selected regional case studies in order to establish the ghost town as a symbol of various cultural and historical failures; and finally, Chapter Four investigates the effects of modernity and urbanization on the vulnerable space of the Canadian small town while also considering the spatial changes that occur within the city itself. Taken together, these four chapters 111 demonstrate that the repeated presence of ghostly spaces in Canadian literature reveals an inherent element of fascination or concern over the meaning of such spaces for Canada’s national cultural identity and the identity of its distinctive regions and individual locales.



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