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Volume 38, Number 1 (2013)

The Bird of Passage and the Petit Panthéon: Frances Brooke, Philippe Aubert de Gaspé fils, and Where to Begin a National Literature

February 28, 2014


The fairly consistent disavowal of Frances Brooke and Phillipe Aubert de Gaspé fils as foundational figures in English-Canadian and Québecois literature respectively suggests much about the challenges inherent in creating and defending the claims of national literary history in a bilingual settler society. While many of the reasons for rejecting these two novelists differ (for example, Brooke is too English, de Gaspé fils is too anglophilic), they have a striking feature in common: both authors seek to break through Canada’s “two solitudes.” That is, both authors create texts that engage with metropolitan traditions in both English and French, generating the possibility of a national literature at once bilingual and cosmopolitan in outlook. Such an inclusive vision of the nation and its literatures might serve as an inspiration in our own times.