"The circumscribed geography of home"

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Title "The circumscribed geography of home": Island identity in the fiction of Alistair MacLeod and Wayne Johnston
Author(s) Laurie Brinklow
Date 2007
Institution University of Prince Edward Island
Supervisor(s) Brent MacLaine
Committee member(s) Jean Mitchell, Jeanette Lynes
Degree earned Master of Arts
Place published Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Abstract This thesis addresses issues of islandness and island identity in the fiction of Cape Breton's Alistair MacLeod and Newfoundland's Wayne Johnston. Through careful readings of their fiction, with supplementary evidence culled from biographical and secondary sources, the thesis shows that their work is profoundly influenced by their childhood experiences; that these authors have been "imprinted" by growing up on an island; and that, as a result, both authors bear a strong island identity which inspires and infuses their writings. The thesis opens by introducing themes that pervade islandness, and proceeds to set MacLeod's and Johnston's fiction in the context of the western traditions of island and regionalist literature, followed by a discussion of how identity is formulated. In three chapters the thesis explores the theme of boundedness: physically or geographically, in the ways that the ocean's boundary defines a character, as evidenced primarily in Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and MacLeod’s "Island"; psychologically, in the ways that childhood and family affect an individual growing up on an island, as evidenced primarily in Johnston's The Story of Bobby O’Malley and MacLeod’s "The Boat" and "The Lost Salt Gift of Blood"; and emotionally, in the ways that social influences affect feelings of belonging and exile, as evidenced primarily in Johnston’s The Custodian of Paradise and MacLeod’s No Great Mischief. The thesis concludes with a reaffirmation of the influence of islandness and island identity in the fiction of Alistair MacLeod and Wayne Johnston.
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