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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cacophonous intimacies : how Burning vision, Sonnet’s Shakespeare, and Scarborough contest national histories, imagine decolonial futurities, and story cross-cultural care Estlin, Lara


This thesis examines how contemporary literature in Canada is imagining cross-cultural, decolonial, and abolitionist futures beyond the multicultural horizons of the settler state. It focuses on three contemporary literary texts published in Canada—Marie Clements’ Burning Vision; Sonnet L’Abbé’s Sonnet’s Shakespeare; and Catherine Hernandez’s Scarborough—to disrupt the grammars and logics that structure the national narratives, histories, and ideologies that cast Canada as an inclusive nation no longer tied to the violences and exclusions integral to its foundation. By drawing on the work of postcolonial and critical race studies scholars Jodi Byrd and Lisa Lowe, who read horizontally across archives, peoples, places, and temporalities to map the uneven and cacophonous effects of empire, this thesis argues that Burning Vision, Sonnet’s Shakespeare, and Scarborough not only contest national histories but also trace how differently racialized and marginalized peoples have become entangled in each others’ lives. While the introduction provides a brief overview of the contradictions that underpin the multicultural settler state and outlines how reading or thinking horizontally accounts for the varied ways in which empire has entangled people together across space and time, the body chapters examine how each literary text stages those entanglements in ways that give rise to alternative forms of cross-cultural relationality, kinship, and care. Chapter 2 examines how Marie Clements’ Burning Vision explores the hemispheric implications of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan and imaginatively stories the victims of the bombs together across the past, present, and future. Chapter 3 analyzes how Sonnet L’Abbé’s Sonnet’s Shakespeare disrupts Canada’s national narratives and reworks Shakespeare’s poems to construct a cacophonous textual terrain that interrogates questions related to history, complicity, responsibility, and care. Finally, chapter 4 considers how Catherine Hernandez’s Scarborough intervenes in common portrayals of the titular inner-city suburb and explores the space of the post/colonial city both as a site inextricably tied to the legacies of empire and as an affective space capable of generating a sense of cross-cultural care and communality. Taken together, these texts produce openings into elsewheres beyond the multicultural logics of the nation-state and beyond the cacophonous intimacies of the here-and-now.

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