Colonial Cosmopolitanism? Resistance, Aesthetics, and Modernism in Patrick Anderson’s Prose


In this article, I contend with the claim that Patrick Anderson exemplifies the failure of Canadian modernist cosmopolitanism. I explore the potential value and limitation of Anderson’s works as what I have termed “colonial cosmopolitanism”. I view colonial cosmopolitanism as a form of cosmopolitan thought that brings its inherent contradiction to the fore. Anderson’s travel writing, with its inward gaze, self-critical narration, and engagement with difference, suggest that one of the central contributions Anderson makes in this period is defining Canadian cosmopolitanism in the genre of travel writing. Anderson’s work offers a more nuanced way of thinking about cosmopolitanism in a colonial context. In this article, I demonstrate some of the ways that Anderson’s modernist cosmopolitanism can at least partially succeed, all while continuing to acknowledge and tease out the “exemplary failure” of colonial cosmopolitanism to extricate itself from colonial ideology.

This article “Colonial Cosmopolitanism? Resistance, Aesthetics, and Modernism in Patrick Anderson’s Prose” originally appeared in Literary History. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 233 (Summer 2017): 89-106.

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