Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. D.M.R. Bentley


This thesis identifies the figure of the totally competent man (a model of early Canadian masculinity distinguished by an unprecedented breadth of competence) as a recurrent feature of early Canadian literary texts, and examines the development and representation of this figure with particular attention to its deployment as a model of national manhood by early Canadian literary nationalists. It argues that the production of a broadly competent model of manhood as an ideal model of national manhood by early Canadian literary nationalists was an anxious work carried out in the face of real and sensible threats to the new nation and their brand of nationalism, and that the figure of the totally competent man attained a position of prominence in their work because of how effectively this model of national manhood answered the anxieties that perplexed them. After tracing early Canadian literary nationalism’s emphasis on masculine heroism, the catholicity of the national community, and the nordicity of the nation to the new nationalism’s origins in German Romanticism, it explores the development of the totally competent man as a model of uniquely Canadian masculinity in Canadian texts preceding Confederation and the emergence of the new nationalism. The dissertation as a whole argues that the totally competent man evolved through an anxious process of adaptation that saw aspects of competing models of masculinity grafted onto genteel masculinity to produce a broadly competent model of masculinity whose heterogenous makeup allowed specific examples of this figure to serve double duty as both symbols of national unity, and active agents of social cohesion.