From Transience to Trenches: Masculinity and Radical Politics in Canadian Fiction of the Great Depression

  • Author / Creator
    Mikalson, Kaarina Louise
  • This thesis looks at gender practices in Canadian radical political movements through the novels of the Great Depression. In the first chapter, I examine hegemonic masculinity, as defined by R.W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt, in Irene Baird’s unemployment novel Waste Heritage. The entanglement of masculinity and labour affects the morale of unemployed protagonist Matt Striker, and is disrupted by politicized female worker Hazel. Radical politics offers resistant but exclusive forms of masculinity, including protest masculinity, as theorized by Connell. In the second chapter, I turn to Ted Allan’s Spanish Civil War novel This Time a Better Earth, in which protagonist Bob Curtis understands antifascism as practiced in combat, and necessarily linked to masculinity. I argue that love-interest Lisa offers an alternative form of antifascism, that she is ultimately seen as an obstacle. I read her alongside her real-life inspiration, Gerda Taro, and interpret the ways both women are simplified and compromised to give way to masculine antifascism. Judith Butler’s theory of gender as a set of practices supports my conclusion that the refusal to challenge gender compromises the radical politics in both novels. All the same, these narratives offer models of resistance–and models of radical failure–that remain relevant and appealing, particularly because gender persists as a divisive issue.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.