Home as Middle Ground in Adaptations of Two Early Twentieth-Century Middlebrow Novels

Wendy Roy, Associate Professor
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Saskatchewan

Homi Bhabha begins “The World and the Home,” his essay about nationalism, postcolonialism, and the unhomely, with a discussion of a book with a house in its title. Houses are equally prominent in the titles of two early twentieth-century Canadian middlebrow novels: L. M. Montgomery’s 1908 Anne of Green Gables and Mazo de la Roche’s 1927 Jalna. Both books, indeed, centre their characters in a specific and particular house as well as a specific and particular country, and in so doing present the home as microcosm of the nation.

As suggested by the continued reinvention of Montgomery’s and de la Roche’s books through repeated international translations and popular culture adaptations, however, these fictional Canadian homes provide a middle ground that allows for complex and sometimes unsettling movements among the local, national, and transnational. These works and their international adoptions and adaptations (for Anne of Green Gables, by Realart in the U.S. in 1919, RKO in the U.S. in 1934, Nippon Animation in Japan in 1979, and Sullivan Productions in Canada in 1985; for Jalna, by RKO in the U.S. in 1935, CBC in Canada in 1972, and France 2 in France in 1994) transform the complexities of Canada’s internal and external social and political relations into an imagined, nostalgic middle ground. Home becomes something unhomely (Bhabha): still blurrily recognizable, but distorted and defamiliarized because home ground has shifted from the local to the international.


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