Mapping the Nation

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Cundell, Cheryl
Exploration Writing , English-Canadian Literature
Focusing on the texts of James Cook, Samuel Hearne, Alexander Mackenzie, Archibald Menzies, David Thompson, and George Vancouver, Mapping the Nation: Exploration and the English-Canadian Literary Imagination argues that exploration writing is a subgenre of travel writing defined by its empirical perspective and function. Incorporated into the English-Canadian literary canon while being disparaged for its lack of literary qualities, exploration writing is used by English-Canadian literary histories, encyclopaedias, and companions to prove an environmentally deterministic developmental thesis of the national literature. The developmental thesis permeates anthologies that offer excerpts of exploration writing and discussions that pertain to the influence of exploration writing on later English-Canadian literature that returns to it. Returning to exploration writing addressing land exploration are Farley Mowat’s People of the Deer (1952), John Newlove’s “The Pride” (1965) and “Samuel Hearne in Wintertime” (1966), Don Gutteridge’s The Quest for North: Coppermine (1973), Marion R. Smith’s Koo-Koo-Sint: David Thompson in Western Canada (1976), and Brian Fawcett’s “The Secret Journal of Alexander Mackenzie” (1985). Returning to exploration writing addressing oceanic exploration are Earle Birney’s “Pacific Door” (1947), Damnation of Vancouver (1952), and “Captain Cook” (1961); P. K. Page’s “Cook’s Mountains” (1967); George Bowering’s George, Vancouver: A Discovery Poem (1970); Gutteridge’s Borderlands (1975), and George Bowering’s Burning Water (1980), Audrey Thomas’s “The Man with the Clam Eyes” (1982) and Intertidal Life (1984). Each text represents an individual interpretation of exploration writing that operates through genre and forms of return such as allusion, imitation, paraphrase, and quotation.
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