Fashioning the Canadian Landscape

Essays on Travel Writing, Tourism, and National Identity in the Pre-Automobile Era

Reviewed by Andrew Workman

Posted May 20, 2020

Beautiful. Picturesque. Sublime. One may be tempted to use all three words to describe Canada’s dynamic landscape. However, as J.I. Little points out in his essay collection Fashioning the Canadian Landscape, each descriptor represents a specific aesthetic vision of Canada.

Before automobile and airplane travel opened the country to mass tourism, outside views of Canada were limited to the art and prose of predominantly British and American landscape painters and travel writers.

Little, a professor emeritus of history at Simon Fraser University, posits that the majority of their works presented Canada through a “colonializing perspective” that often misinterpreted the reality of the land, its people, and their history. The result was a constructed, romanticized version of Canada that, he argues, came to deeply influence the popular conception of Canadian identity.

Little’s book includes a wealth of images that illustrate the author’s keen observations. His precise use of excerpts from many travel writers’ books and articles — including, notably, letters from Rudyard Kipling — results in a compelling read that may change readers’ perspectives on Canadian identity.

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This article originally appeared in the June-July 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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