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Canadian migrations : reading Canada in nineteenth-century American literature MacLean, Alyssa Erin


This dissertation contributes to the fields of Canadian literature, American literature, and transnational and hemispheric studies by examining Canada’s place in American Renaissance discussions about imperialism, citizenship, and racial and national identity. In the nineteenth-century US, Canada became symbolically important because of its perceived common origins with the US as well as its increasing resistance to forms of American imperialism. Canadian Migrations examines the significance of the Canada-US relationship by analysing literary representations of two population movements across the Canada-US border: the 1755 deportation of French Catholic Acadians from Canada to the American colonies and the antebellum flight of African Americans north to Canada. American authors gravitated towards these narratives of displacement to and from Canada in order to discuss the meaning of American citizenship and the treatment of racial minorities within US borders. I argue that both of these Canada-US movements prompted critical inquiries in US culture about forms of American imperialism. In Part One, I examine authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who portrayed the violent expulsion of Acadians by British troops justified the creation of the United States as a necessary defense against imperial rule. Yet the Acadian expulsion also prompted these authors to question the contemporary US government’s own displacement of racial and linguistic minorities through slavery and westward expansion. In Part Two, I examine the northward movement of fugitive slaves across Lake Erie to Canada. By crossing Lake Erie, Black migrants—and the iconic texts written about them—challenged the conceptual categories that sustained US slavery and imperialism. Authors such as Stowe, Josiah Henson, Lewis Clarke, and William Wells Brown described scenes of nautical transit and transformation across the Lake Erie Passage to contest US slavery and to develop notions of Black citizenship. By recovering this conversation about the significance of Canada-US cross-border movement, I position nineteenth-century Canada within the movement of people and ideas across the Black Atlantic world. Together, my chapters demonstrate how the imagined community of the United States emerged through a series of complex political, cultural, and literary negotiations with Canada.

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