Taste and Colonial Conjugality in Susan Frances Harrison


Susan Frances Harrison’s representation of the social relations of taste in Crowded Out! affords an opportunity to ask what else the use of materials encoded as French might have meant in English-speaking Canada in the 1880s, besides a nationalist re-sourcing of cultural difference. In Harrison’s story collection, French operates within the confused distinctions—aesthetic, moral, and socio-economic—of late-nineteenth century Canada and functions as part of a critique of bourgeois morality. In the penultimate story in the collection, How the Mr. Foxleys Came, Stayed, and Never Went Away, the sharp edge of this critique is aimed at the conjugal relations of an emerging liberal order in the space/time of the settler colony. This article analyzes the interrelatedness of taste as a social performance and mode of recognition, conjugal relationships and their meanings, and the modern nation as a structure based on imagined intimacy in the writing that struck one of Harrison’s contemporaries as wholly un-English.

This article “Taste and Colonial Conjugality in Susan Frances Harrison” originally appeared in New Work on Early Canadian Literature. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 213 (Summer 2012): 117-139.

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