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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wildwood notes : nature writing, music, and newspapers Szabo, Lisa Sara


During the first half of the twentieth century, British Columbia was comprised of small clusters of settlements connected by tracts of forests, rivers, coastal waters, rural farmland, rail lines, and few paved roads. While municipal newspapers formed local identities, provincial daily newspapers interconnected British Columbia's disparate towns and villages into wider regional affiliation. By examining the genre of the nature writing, particularly naturalist accounts disseminated through the newsprint, I propose that as the daily newspaper's medium brings the everyday into peoples' homes, the serial nature essay conveys a "unique syntax" of bioregional commonplace into the reader's day-to-day living. Newspapers bring the outside world into the intimate sphere of the home on a regular basis; A serial nature essay, especially one that focuses on the local, delivered in the medium of newsprint extends this outside world to include events occurring in nature. Further, I express how musical troping, a key characteristic of nature writing, teaches readers how to listen to and to detect the well-being/distress of a bioregional community, and thus cultivate an ethic of care for the natural environment; naturalist writing, thus acts as an antiphony to the deafening cacophony of environmental crisis news. My thesis examines, in particular, B.C. naturalist John William Winson's serial nature columns "Open Air Jottings" and "Along Wildwood Trails," which appeared in the Vancouver Daily Province from 1918 to 1956. John Winson's writings, written under the pseudonym 'Wildwood', invite the communities of British Columbia to envision membership in a wider Pacific Northwest bioregional community—a relationship that sees beyond and dissolves the divisions of political and geographic borders, species, and human culture. By recuperating and re-reading Wildwood's "forgotten naturalist" column, specifically disseminated through newsprint, I analyze how his writings both promote and complicate the formation of a Pacific Northwest regional identity; specifically, the tensions between the genre's imperialistic frameworks (First Nations representation and literary ecological imperialism), which domesticate new lands for immigrants and the transformative experiences resulting from encounters with new environments and cultures, experiences that require new ways of seeing and interacting.

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