Is there room for us, St. Lawrence Seaway?

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University of New Brunswick


The essays of Is There Room for Us, St. Lawrence Seaway? examine how the socioeconomic marginalization of Cape Breton Island and Atlantic Canada has influenced the production and study of its literature, while the poems of the dissertation, The Great Lakes Flow to the East, complement that examination by conveying an experience of Cape Breton from the perspective of one who grew up there. The title, Is There Room for Us, St. Lawrence Seaway? asks readers to imagine how matters might improve for Cape Breton if it were relocated to Central Canada, while the title of the poetry section, The Great Lakes Flow to the East, suggests that not all "great" matters flow westward across Canada. The poetry of the dissertation plays with adverse national perspectives of Cape Breton, repositions canonical figures, explores the island's significant history, and celebrates Cape Breton without losing sight ofits hardships. The first critical essay of the introduction examines Ray Smith's short story, "Cape Breton is the Thought-Control Centre of Canada" as a means of prefiguring the aesthetics behind the poems of the dissertation, while the second critical essay engages with three book-length studies of Maritime/ Atlantic-Canadian literature that have attempted to define this literature as a unique genre. Smith's story reveals a version of a Cape Bretoner who is caught between provincial and federal identities, while the book-length studies, by varying degrees, use the socioeconomic issues of Atlantic Canada to organize and define the region's literature. This organizational method, while well-meaning, has favoured content over aesthetic analysis and has produced monographs focused on fiction, with other genres, such as poetry and drama, receiving little attention. As a whole, this dissertation hopes to underscore Canada's aversive divisions from an Atlantic-Canadian perspective, illuminate Ray Smith's creation of a polarized Cape Bretoner, broaden the discussion of what Atlantic-Canadian literature is, and create a poetic summary of the author's personal experiences with Cape Breton Island.