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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The mill-site : Victorian processing in England and "Vancouver"; from Eliot to Marlatt Woods, Derek John


This thesis explores the mill-site as a discursive, literary, and physical location. The philology of “mill” sets the focus on processing, which is described as a transformative action between nature and culture, one that nonetheless contributes to the ideological purification of those categories and to the construction of the “resource” as a formless reserve for consumption. The histories of power technologies (like mills) and their integration with ecologic and economic systems participate in determining the kind of relationship manifest between nature and culture. Noting the extension of the literal and figurative senses of “mill” to the processing of language, I also propose a notion of transcursivity to signal the transformation of language and symbolic additions to the activity of the mill-site. Chapter Two focuses on a reading of George Eliot’s novel The Mill on the Floss (1860), supplemented by an analysis of processing in Herman Melville’s story The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids (1855) and Charles Dickens’ article “A Paper-Mill” (1850). I argue for the importance of mill and setting to Eliot’s novel, finding the mill to be an active force in the plot at several junctures; The Mill on the Floss, through its engagement with the relation between different economies and the relation of economy to ecology, can be considered a central text for the study of such themes in Victorian literature. Close analysis of the language of processing itself points to the importance of medial substances like fibre and grain to the construction of materials as “resources.” Chapter Three describes the Hastings Mill, located in various historiographies as the Victorian “origin” of the City of Vancouver. Through exploration of archival and published historical texts, I describe that mill’s originary intervention as a break in the system that alters the region’s economic/ecologic history. Daphne Marlatt’s novel Ana Historic (1988) depicts this historical origin and seeks to problematize its common narrative by reimagining ignored women’s histories and by queering the significance of this colonial mill-site. Marlatt elucidates problems of historical interpretation associated with the mill’s form of biopower, and its influence on relation of nature to culture.

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