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Georgic Ideals and Claims of Entitlement in the Life Writing of Alberta Settlers Open Access


Other title
utopian myths
colonial discourse
frontier myths
settler letters
georgic ideology
Settler diaries
farm workers
settler life writing
settler memoirs
Indigenous peoples
animal husbandry
settler journals
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
McDonald, Shirley A.
Supervisor and department
Braz, Albert (Department of English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Carter, Sarah (Department of History and Classics)
Wiesenthal, Christine (Department of English and Film Studies)
Read, Daphne (Department of English and Film Studies)
Kaye, Frances (Department of English)
Krahn, Harvey (Department of Sociology)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
My study focuses on the diaries, letters, and memoirs of seven British and Anglo-Canadian pioneers who settled in southern Alberta to establish farms and ranches. An exploration of these texts reveals language patterns pertaining to agriculture and animal husbandry practices. The figure of the horse has notable presence in the diaries and memoirs, as does an ethic of stewardship modelled in Virgil’s Georgics. The authors of the diaries and letters recorded their georgic practices at the time of settlement, while the memoirists recollected stories of pioneer farming later, in georgic literary style. I compare sub-literary and literary depictions of settlement to explore the ways in which settlers transform literal experiences into literary expression, specifically, into utopian and frontier myths in which they emphasize their labour, struggles, and achievement. Significantly, all of these authors downplay the efforts of hired hands, whose help ensured the success of their agricultural operations. Documenting their progress, moreover, the authors enacted or re-enacted the erasure of Indigenous culture and its replacement by the Anglo-Canadian culture that dominated the first prairie communities in Alberta. The purpose of my study is to reveal these manuscripts as colonial discourses that support the writers’ claims of entitlement to prairie land.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
“The Sheppard Journals: Imaginary Cowboys and Indians on the Canadian Prairie.” Prairie Forum 32.2 (Fall 2008): 275-96.“The Sheppard Journals: Equestrianship as Acts of Governance on the Canadian Prairies.” Australasian Canadian Studies 29.1 (2012): 21 pp.

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File title: A calf in the kitchen
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