||This dissertation examines nineteenth-century Canadian fiction in relation to the cultural context from which it emerged. The first three chapters present the difficulties which undermined the development of the novel in a conservative colonial community. Chapter I surveys the literary nationalists who called for the establishment of a distinctive Canadian literature and deplored the apathy of the Canadian public; chapter II documents Victorian Canada's suspicion of the novel as a valid literary form; chapter III looks at the problem of finding valid material for fiction in a recently settled land which appeared to lack the historical and cultural associations presumed necessary for literature.
The fourth and fifth chapters provide the critical focus of this dissertation by analyzing nineteenth-century Canadian discussions of the theory of the novel. Sara Jeannette Duncan, post-Confederation Canada's most radical literary critic, argued consistently that the romantic novel was obsolete. Despite Duncan's vigorous promotion of Howellsian realism, most Canadians remained faithful to the standard of Sir Walter Scott, and read and wrote romantic fiction conforming to the moral and aesthetic principles outlined by Goldwin Smith in his 1871 address on "The Lamps of Fiction." The opposition between Duncan's realism and Smith's romanticism provides an indigenous critical framework in which to evaluate the work of nineteenth-century Canadian novelists.|