In search of a national voice : some similarities between Scottish and Canadian poetry 1860-1930
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The work is a study of poetry in Scotland and Canada in the period 1860-1930, with a special emphasis on the influence of nationalism. A discussion of the problems of literary nationalism in both countries is followed by a survey of national verse anthologies which illustrates the extent to which editors allowed their critical judgment to be coloured by the popular image of the national character. The importance of the Scottish vernacular and the Canadian wilderness to the establishment of a sense of national identity are considered in relation to a general discussion of language and nationalism. Two important elements in this discussion are the role of the untutored poet as a natural spokesman for his country and the swing from conservative poetic diction to a freer use of colloquial language during this period, and this portion of the thesis contains a survey of representative Scottish and Canadian poets. There is also a comparison of the difficulty of establishing an appropriate mode of expression in a new country with the problems encountered by Scots whose traditional way of life was being disrupted by the industrialization and urbanization of their society. The study concludes with a comparison of the two poets, E.J. Pratt and Hugh MacDiarmid, whose work marks a transition from poetic conservatism to the experimentation characteristic of many twentieth century writers. Finally, it is argued that although poets and critics lamented the failures of publishers and readers to support national poetry, there was considerable enthusiasm for local poetry in Scotland and Canada. It is maintained, however, that there was too clear a popular image of the Canadian or Scottish character, and that this prevented many poets from rising above mediocrity.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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