This article focuses attention on an interesting, overlooked contributor to early twentieth century Canadian writing, Frank Burnett, whose collection of South Pacific artifacts formed the nucleus of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. It draws upon scholarship of travel narratives about science as well as middlebrow print culture to introduce and elaborate a particular class of texts identified here as "the ethnographic middlebrow." These texts, this paper argues, inhabited a peculiar and culturally variable space in relation to the academic fields of science and literature and popular tastes for adventure, escape, and celebrity. Reading Burnett’s early twentieth century writing about the South Pacific in relation to the mid-century Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl illuminates a variety of national and international dynamics at work in positioning each of these writers in relation to highbrow literature, ethnographic science, late colonial modernity, and the middlebrow.
Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.