UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Initiation and quest in some early Canadian journals Hodgson, John Maurice Devereux


This thesis examines a number of Canadian Captivity and Exploration journals dating from Radisson's account of his captivity in 1652 to the investigation of the West Coast by the naturalist David Douglas in 1826. The examination attempts to reveal these early journal writers not only as men undertaking a specific physical task, but as authors reflecting the spirit of their enterprise in their journals. The genre of the travel journal reflects the literary spirit of the age in which they were written; sometimes allied to it, and at times quite antithetical to it. Each journal exposes an individual, uniquely aware of his position in time and place, attempting to express a novel experience in terms familiar to himself and his readers. The result is not always satisfying from a literary point of view, but then the criterion of the thesis has not been stylistically based,but has been primarily interested in revealing the individual in his particular endeavour. The results are not consistent nor conclusive, but the examination of the journal, which is the lasting testimony of physical trial, uncovers a fresh literary genre which is usually investigated only by the historian or the geographer. The thesis is divided into two primary sections: chapter two, which deals with the Captivity journals of John Tanner, Alexander Henry, John Jewitt and Pierre Radisson; and chapter three which investigates the Exploration journals of Radisson, Henry Kelsey, William Cormack, David Douglas, Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson and Samuel Hearne. The introductory chapter gives some background to the genre of the travel journal from the period of Richard Hakluyt to the esoteric world of Science Fiction. The nature of heroic endeavour and the position of the travel journal as source material for authors is also briefly discussed. In handling a subject which refuses to be limited to any one discipline, nothing conclusive can be stated. However, it seems important to isolate the travel journal in its attempt to describe the human condition. The environment and terms are not usually associated with literature, and yet the genre manages, unexpectedly, to point up those universal themes so essential to all creative writing.

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