Author Information

Rylie Moscato


This article analyzes the relationship between ancestral women and their arrival in a new landscape as represented in Margaret Atwood’s The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970) and Dionne Brand’s “No Language is Neutral” (1990). Atwood’s poems focus on Susanna Moodie, an English emigrant who left behind written sketches of her life in Canada. Meanwhile, Brand’s poem centers on an emigrated speaker who weaves oral stories of her ancestor Liney, who had been enslaved in Trinidad, and the story of her own arrival in Canada. Working with Jeff Weingarten’s Sharing the Past: The Reinvention of History in Canadian Poetry (2019), this essay argues that Atwood and Brand question an uneven power dynamic of control and authority, between a formidable alien landscape and a dislocated foremother. But they relocate power in different ways. Atwood writes from a colonial perspective and relocates control to the speaker Moodie through her personification and conquering of the Canadian landscape. Contrastingly, Brand writes from an African diasporic perspective and her speaker struggles to relocate authority to Liney due to unreliable memories displacing Liney from the speaker. However, the attempted resurrection of Liney empowers Brand’s speaker on her similar journey into an alien landscape. By analyzing the relocation of power, this essay argues that Atwood and Brand disrupt historical representations of women to demonstrate Moodie’s and Liney’s strengths within histories of pioneering and enslavement. Additionally, Brand expands Weingarten’s argument to consider the challenges non-colonialists face when writing and empowering women who are exempt from history.

Note on the Author

Rylie Moscato is an English major at Acadia University. Rylie will begin writing her Honours thesis in fall 2021, looking at various Canadian texts through feminist literary theory.

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