Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
English and Cultural Studies
This dissertation argues that social power relations in Canada are deeply tied to the cultural models of time that have been assumed and rejected throughout the country’s history, and that Canadian literature and other arts serve a vital function in both witnessing and questioning these relationships. I begin by tracing the competing temporal frameworks that have taken hold in Canada, from the Gregorian calendar, to “standard” clock time, to immigration policies that cause people who are considered undesirable to wait longer periods of time for legal status. I suggest that the profound consequences temporal structures have on social relations necessitate a sustained study of how Canadian cultural and literary productions engage with the idea of time. After outlining the contested temporalities that serve broadly as sites of power, I turn to Canadian novels, poems, plays, and visual art to explore the difficult negotiations between individual and social experiences of time. These texts reveal that while broad cultural temporalities indeed shape the measuring out of individual lives, this shaping process functions differently for different people. In particular, I examine how forms of temporal agency and disempowerment are closely linked to the categories of age, class, gender, sexuality, race, and indigeneity. Finally, I examine texts that question existing temporal structures and explore alternative temporalities. While normative temporality is often depicted as unyielding, stories about catastrophic social disruptions portray normative time as a makeshift apparatus always on the verge of collapse. Such stories indicate that while the construction of new, more just models of time is always possible, no temporal structure is free from the politics of social power relations.
Huebener, Paul, "The Cultural and Literary Construction of Time in Canada" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6916.
McMaster University Library