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By Renée Hulan (auth.)

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Extra resources for Canadian Historical Writing: Reading the Remains

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69 The description of Wanda’s dead body serves as classic romanticization of the disappearing Native: Whatever may have been the supreme agony in which this suffering soul parted from its human habitation, no trace of it remained upon the inanimate form. 70 In the passage that follows, Wanda’s repose represents God’s blessing on his creatures, but its function in the plot is also to spur the hero to feelings of remorse for having caused her death. Such was the fate offered to “the dispossessed people” that Adam elsewhere championed.

While Michael Bliss also advocated more public engagement in the service of an inclusive, unified national history and criticized narrow specialization, Jack Granatstein’s polemic called for a greater focus on military and political history and a unified national history to replace “limited identities” as the idea behind historical research. It viciously attacked social historians, especially feminists, presenting their work as invalid and worthless. Indeed, Granatstein’s vitriolic attack on social and feminist history exposed the death or “killing” of Canadian history as one of the last gasps of the culture wars, a jeremiad appropriating the “rhetoric of ruin” so brilliantly analyzed in Bill Reading’s The University in Ruins (1996).

In this discussion, there seems to be critical consensus forming around related propositions concerning the postmodernist revision of history: first, all truth claims are relatively similar, bound as they are by a particular circumstance of utterance; second, it is not possible to evaluate truth claims with reference to an external reality; third, an account is regarded as accurate or authentic by virtue of the discursive strategies used to create this illusion. The claim to an emancipatory function for postmodernist writing relies on the assertion that it recuperates what history has hidden or forgotten, especially the history of marginalized others.

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