"The trouble with history - it never is" : interrogating Canadian white identity in Daphne Marlatt's Ana Historic
In writing this thesis, I plotted where the streams of whiteness theory, life-writing theory and practice, and Daphne Marlatt’s novel Ana Historic converge. In the introduction, I outline the development of my own subjectivity, focusing on my identification with multiple ethnic communities, and on my “racial” and working class identity. My second chapter surveys current whiteness theories, accepting some and rejecting others, and drawing significantly upon theory that is accessible and personal, a decision that undoubtedly resulted because of my working class practicality. In this chapter, I conclude that whiteness and white solipsism (theoretically comparable to Simone de Beauvoir’s challenge that masculinity as the neutral and positive gender renders femininity and other gendered constructions negative), actually envelope multiple identities, but argue that the way in which whiteness is experienced by those on its margins is often monolithic. In the third chapter, I investigate Marlatt’s biography and her life writing theory, arguing that her experience as a “once immigrant” foregrounds many issues relevant to the Canadian white identity, and that because her theory is so conscious of how identity is constructed, relying on fact and fiction, Ana Historic provides a portrait of white Canadian identity and the context in which that identity has been constructed. In Chapters 4 and 5, I apply the theories of life writing and whiteness to the characters of Ana, Ina, and Annie, challenging that their identities as “colonizer,” “emigrant,” and “immigrant,” respectively, illustrate the evolution resulting in the current white Canadian identity. Further, because Marlatt chooses these characters who occupy different positions in history, she shows her reader that contemporary Canadian white identity has grown out of colonial times, creating a continuum. The history out of which each of these women emerges is never contained because aspects of their identity carry forward into subsequent generations.
race, multiculturalism, postcolonialism, immigrant, white, whiteness, Ana Historic, Daphne Marlatt, emigrant, racism, colonizer, life writing, identity
Master of Arts (M.A.)