UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Labour and literature in the 'West beyond the West' Diotte, Mark Vincent


The literature of British Columbia and the study of labour therein have been largely ignored in academic criticism. I address this deficiency by foregrounding labour in the prose literature of British Columbia as well as the significance of British Columbia literature itself. My introductory literature review demarcates the field, situates the authors and texts I take up, and points to the general importance of such a study. Chapter two begins by analyzing the male-dominant labour narrative in Bertrand Sinclair’s The Inverted Pyramid and Roderick Haig-Brown’s On the Highest Hill and Timber—each focused on the theme of logging. Rather than an overarching argument, the section on Sinclair addresses many concepts, including Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of fields, a connection between environmental conservationism and loggers, and a cooperative economic model that opposes capitalism. Likewise, in Haig-Brown I focus on his treatment of danger in the logging industry, the oft-forgotten history of Canada’s national parks, the way that language connects people to nature, and the presence of homosocial and homosexual relationships in logging. My project shifts in chapter three from logging to orcharding and from novels to three works of creative non-fiction by Harold Rhenisch:Out of the Interior: The Lost Country, Tom Thomson’s Shack, and The Wolves at Evelyn: Journeys through a Dark Century. Operating out of a site of tension and contradiction,Rhenisch resists what he sees as the dominant discourses in the Interior of British Columbia. In my fourth chapter I return to novels but move from a study of manual labour to white collar labour. Here the phrase “white collar” becomes an analytical lens to view labour stratification, exploitation, authorship, sexism, and agency in Douglas Coupland’s JPod, Robert Harlow’s Scann, and Jen Sookfong Lee’s the end of east. In chapter five, I conclude by using Daphne Marlatt’s novel Ana Historic as a way to reflect on the positions of chapters two through four. Marlatt’s criticism of male dominant conceptions of history and patriarchal systems of power illuminates the texts I have taken up and reveals possibilities for further analysis, debate, and discussion.

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