Masculinity in the contemporary Newfoundland novel

Rowsell, Mandy (2019) Masculinity in the contemporary Newfoundland novel. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (2MB)


Challenges to conventional understandings of gender have garnered increased visibility in recent years, as people reconsider the stereotypes of masculinity and femininity they are often expected to uphold. However, contemporary global shifts in economics and politics have also encouraged defensive celebrations of past iterations of hegemonic manhood. Because the novel form plays an especially important role in reproducing and moreover constructing gender and national identities it provides an excellent lens through which to view shifts in both. Focusing on literary fiction published between 1993 and 2014, this thesis argues that figurations of masculinity in contemporary novels imagining Newfoundland respond to the pressures of globalization, but also signal a localized return to the objectives of the Newfoundland cultural renaissance of the 1960s and ‘70s. Renewed fears in recent decades that Newfoundland’s purportedly distinct culture and identity are under threat have inspired a nostalgic promotion of anachronistic gender identities. Using theories of masculinity developed by Michael Kimmel, David Savran, Jack Halberstam, Judith Butler, and others, I identify and contextualize four different, yet related, approaches to masculinity in recent Newfoundland fiction. The first chapter of this dissertation looks at Patrick Kavanagh’s Gaff Topsails (1996), Michael Crummey’s Galore (2009), and Paul Bowdring’s The Strangers’ Gallery (2013). This set of novels endorses patrilineal traditions, overtly connecting the survival of Newfoundland’s national identity to father-figures. Chapter 2 examines how E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News (1993), Michael Winter’s Minister Without Portfolio (2013), and Crummey’s Sweetland (2014) suggest that men living in present-day Newfoundland can only prove and maintain their manhood by returning to rural spaces, namely the Newfoundland outport. The third chapter, which analyzes Edward Riche’s Rare Birds (1997), Jamie Fitzpatrick’s You Could Believe in Nothing (2011), and Joel Thomas Hynes’s Down to the Dirt (2004), argues that there is no solution for the problems that face contemporary Newfoundland men. These three novels adopt a despairing view of male Newfoundlanders as wounded victims, and suggest masculinity on the island is in crisis. Chapter 4 considers Michael Winter’s This All Happened (2000), Kathleen Winter’s Annabel (2010), and Jessica Grant’s Come, Thou Tortoise (2009). It concludes that these books attempt to offer more nuanced versions of Newfoundland masculinity, in part through their presentations of queer and intersex characters. However, this grouping of novels also suggests that Newfoundland cannot provide space for the successful expression of alternate masculine identities. This thesis attests that the contemporary Newfoundland novel defines successful masculinity as the exclusive purview of white, heterosexual, working-class, rural-dwelling fathers. The dissertation also concludes that Newfoundland fiction sees threats to the hegemonic conception of manhood it valourises as dangerous to the island’s own supposedly unique wider cultural identity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 13788
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 268-308).
Keywords: Newfoundland, Novel, Masculinity, Contemporary
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: May 2019
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Masculinity in literature; Masculinity--Newfoundland and Labrador

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics