Taking Cereals Seriously in Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese


  • Margaret Boyce McMaster University




This articles proposes a fresh reading of the classic Canadian novel, Wild Geese, by Martha Ostenso. By way of Anna Tsing's discussion of the cross-species influence of crops on the development of Western agricultural societies, I reconceive of the novel's surly antagonist Caleb as beholden to the fruits of his labour. I thereby develop a reading of Ostenso's frontier narrative that takes seriously the role of other-than-human actors in the novel, which counters scholarship that ascribes solely symbolic status to the novel's plantlife, while also revealing the novel's instrinsic anxiety regarding the limitations of settler belonging. 

Key words: frontier novel; nonhuman agency; cereal agriculture; Manitoba; Canadian settler colonialism

Author Biography

Margaret Boyce, McMaster University

Margaret Boyce is a PhD Candidate in the English and Culture Studies graduate department at McMaster University. Her area of research includes Indigenous incarceration, Critical Animal studies and risk / security society, and film studies. As a lifelong resident of Hamilton, Ontario, on Mississauga, Algonquin and Haudenosaunee traditional territory, she is generally interested in strategies of reading, thinking and writing that work in, through and around colonial, colonizing and anthropocentric ideals.