Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 3, Summer 2009, pp. 255


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


In Before the Country, Stephanie McKenzie examines Canadian literature of the 1960s and 1970s "to identify mythological patterns that are likely to become formulas when critics assume that Canada is like any other nation to have emerged since the breakdown of Charlemagne's empire." A time when Canadians were struggling to invent a collec~ tive identity, the years surrounding Canada's centennial were critical for the development of Canadian literature and culture.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Indigenous people, in contrast, were experiencing what McKenzie terms "the Native Renaissance," and their literary output caused a crisis for settlers: "a nationally inspired myth, which had set out as early as the nineteenth century to fulfil its own prophecy, buckled." McKenzie challenges the settler myths of "the new world" and "the empty land" by drawing our attention to the ancient mythological codes present in con~ temporary Indigenous literature in English. Settler myths, she contends, ignore the Indigenous peoples and "[loom] long and hard in Canadian literature," seeming "to resurface when fervent nationalism is in need of something."