Cultural Academia: The Nation in the Small Town in Canadian Literature and Television

Completed in April 2010, “But I’m Sure it Means the Houses, The Village: The Nation in the Small Town in Canadian Literature and Television” was a project undertaken as part of my Master’s degree in English at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.

You can access a digital copy of the thesis through the Acadia Library website (PDF should download automatically) – attached below is the abstract.


In a country like Canada where self-definition has been considered a national pastime, it is possible for forms of cultural production to be read as reflections of a broader national identity, windows into how the nation is understood and imagined. This thesis will analyze how representations of the small town, a setting with complex connections to national identity, can function as the nation writ small within Canadian literature and television. After theorizing the relationship between national identity and cultural production, the project will investigate two of the dominant paradigms of the small town – as welcoming family and as claustrophobic garrison – through two seminal Canadian texts, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town and As For Me and My House. This analysis reveals the potential for these fictional small towns to be read as images of the wider nation but also reveals tensions within these small town paradigms and similar conceptions of national identity. These tensions are part of the small town’s role as national stage in the twenty-first century, as seen in two highly successful Canadian sitcoms, Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie. These series use the small town to negotiate contemporary Canadian concerns such as the urban-rural divide and growing multiculturalism, extending beyond rigid binaries and embracing the complexity of both national and small-town communities. The goal of this project is not to determine a definitive notion of Canadian identity but to examine how the use of these paradigms of the small town reveals both the potential and the potential problems of microcosmic images of the nation within cultural production, demonstrating the continued relevance of the small town within the unending Canadian quest for self-definition.

If you have any questions regarding this project, feel free to send me an email at cultural.learnings @

One response to “Cultural Academia: The Nation in the Small Town in Canadian Literature and Television

  1. Pingback: Cultural Catchup-Lite: Parenthood, Doctor Who, Community | Cultural Learnings

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