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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transoceanic Canada : the regional cosmopolitanism of George Woodcock Hiebert, Matthew


Through a critical examination of his oeuvre in relation to his transoceanic geographical and intellectual mobility, this dissertation argues that George Woodcock (1912-1995) articulates and applies a normative and methodological approach I term "regional cosmopolitanism". I trace the development of this philosophy from its germination in London's thirties and forties, when Woodcock drifted from the poetics of the "Auden generation" towards the anti-imperialism of Mahatma Gandhi and the anarchist aesthetic modernism of Sir Herbert Read. I show how these connected influences--and those also of Mulk Raj Anand, Marie-Louise Berneri, Prince Peter Kropotkin, George Orwell, and French Surrealism--affected Woodcock's critical engagements via print and radio with the Canadian cultural landscape of the Cold War and its concurrent countercultural long sixties. Woodcock's dynamic and dialectical understanding of the relationship between literature and society produced a key intervention in the development of Canadian literature and its critical study leading up to the establishment of the Canada Council and the groundbreaking journal "Canadian Literature". Through his research and travels in India--where he established relations with the exiled Dalai Lama and major figures of an independent English Indian literature--Woodcock relinquished the universalism of his modernist heritage in practising, as I show, a postcolonial and postmodern situated critical cosmopolitanism that advocates globally relevant regional culture as the interplay of various traditions shaped by specific geographies. I account for the relationships that pertain between this cosmopolitanism and the theories of the other most prominent Canadian cultural critics of the period, Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan. Woodcock's regional cosmopolitanism, advancing a culturally and politically confederate country as first established by Canadian Aboriginal civilizations, charged the ascending Romantic nationalism of the period with imperialism. As a theory of "common ground" fostering participatory agency for the post-national global village, regional cosmopolitanism offers an alternative to multiculturalism and Western humanist models of organization associated with neoliberalism.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada