British Journal of Canadian Studies

Fiction and the nation: the construction of Canadian identity in Chatelaine and Canadian Home Journal during the 1930s and 1940s

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2014), 27, (1), 37–53.

Abstract

This article presents original research on the mainstream Anglophone Canadian magazines Chatelaine and the Canadian Home Journal and the way in which they constructed a particular Canadian identity as a result of their own need to market themselves as distinct from American magazines. This identity was necessarily inflected by the expectation that the magazines' audience consisted of the white, middle-class consumers to whom the magazines' advertisers sought to appeal. Fiction played an important part in this process, as magazines were key purveyors of fiction in Canada. Intriguingly, citizenship was at the forefront of how fiction was discussed, as authors' own Canadian identities were highlighted as a common bond between author and reader. The fiction itself was defined by two key traits - its ability to provide an accurate portrayal of a particular region and the way of life of Canadians who inhabited it, and its treatment of an issue or event presumed to be of relevance to readers. This article explores the short stories ‘The Black Siberians’ by Beryl Gray and ‘Spring Always Comes’ by F. Marjorie Jordan, which are representative of these central themes. Examined together, these two works trace out the way in which mainstream periodical literature urged Canadians to think of their nation, and of themselves, with the desire to attain a better life through hard work, an attention to community-building and a willingness to surrender one's personal history and/or heritage in exchange for a desirable future, all coming to the fore as quintessential Canadian qualities.

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Author details

Smith, Michelle