This dissertation ponders how deformity acts as an index of resistance to the conventional family saga; it challenges the authority of the genre, which perpetuates
conformity to affirm the existence of a national identity. I open with a history of the trope of deformity and a theory on its applicability to questions of the nation in Canadian fiction. Bonnie Burnard’s A Good House begins the literary analysis and considers how Daphne’s asymmetrical face exemplifies the novel’s overarching deformation of the domestic realist text. Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees rereads Victorian conventions to demonstrate the perversity of power and the purity of individuality as the characters contest hegemonic cultural projects. The giants and runts that make up the Hervé family in D. Y. Béchard’s Vandal Love rewrite the traditional roman de la terre and exhibit how the trope of deformity underscores an indefinable Canadian identity – one that possesses roots only by seeking to disavow those roots. Anna’s body in Susan Swan’s The Biggest Modern Woman of the World resists all acts of colonization, including historical proofs, and performs a parody that reverses the ideal of the female
body as a trope for the mother nation. Lastly, the stories of Fielding and Smallwood in A Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Custodian of Paradise destabilize the formulation of a collective unconscious based on historical writings. Their symbolic deformities reveal how Newfoundland’s status as a nation is both fact (as historically represented by Smallwood) and fiction (as imagined by Fielding).
The deformed bodies in these texts are non-compliant disruptions of national
discourses that enable national identity through exclusive ideological frameworks; they destabilize centralized myths of the nation frequently employed by supporters of the classical canon to reaffirm a sense of cultural existence. Though they criticize the
superficiality of kinship, they nonetheless highlight a still prevalent need for roots,
physical and historical, as they reconstitute a more flexible sense of community.