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Martha Ostenso, literary history, and the Scandinavian diaspora

Hammill, Faye (2008) Martha Ostenso, literary history, and the Scandinavian diaspora. Canadian Literature, 2008 (196). pp. 17-31.

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Abstract

Through a case study of Martha Ostenso, this essay explores the exclusionary practices of literary history, and the ability of migrant writers to destabilise constructs of nation and region. Ostenso's career has been presented in strikingly different ways by Canadian and American literary historians, and she is inscribed into a variety of incompatible narratives of immigrant assimilation or regional literary development. Neither American nor Canadian critics, however, pay attention to Ostenso's use of Scandinavian material, perhaps because the Scandinavian diaspora disrupts nationalist literary histories by crossing political and cultural boundaries between America and Canada. This essay revises accepted views of Ostenso's reputation by concentrating on her multiple ethnic, national and regional identification, and it also initiates critical recuperation of some of Ostenso's neglected novels, The Young May Moon (1929), The White Reef (1934) and Prologue To Love (1932).