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Borderlands: How We Talk About Canada

by W.H. New

Do Canadians think of themselves only in terms of northern limits, oceanic rims, and the 49th parallel? Do they see the Canada-U.S. border as simply a line to cross in order to enjoy a commerce normally denied them? William New’s book (which originated as part of the Brenda and David McLean Canadian Studies Lecture Series at the University of British Columbia) is an exploration of the metaphorical significance of borders.

However, New’s argument requires an appreciation of obscure political, historical, and literary references outside the pale of popular discourse.

In New’s view, boundary rhetoric constructs Canada as a place that includes as well as excludes. Each paradigm assumes a different set of social priorities and consequences: for instance, Quebeckers have distorted patterns of defeat, survival, and memory, whereas Canadian nationalists who believe in a national mosaic do not factor in inconsistencies in the distribution of power across the country.

New explores how Canadians are different from Americans by ways of history, irony, the media, and commerce.

In the international “global village” (a Canadian coining), Canadians are no longer on the edge of everything but have everything everywhere at their technological fingertips. The final chapter, which makes this claim, offers an inordinately long section that compares two novels from the Pacific Northwest, each shaped by the border concerns of the culture it represents. New closes with an affirmation of Canadian culture as “a living culture, one that, importantly, remains connected with the rest of the world and embraces change.” This despite much evidence to the contrary in our social, political, and cultural fabric.


Reviewer: Keith Garebian

Publisher: UBC Press


Price: $49.95

Page Count: 128 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-7748-0658-3

Released: Apr., June

Issue Date: 1998-7

Categories: History