Transatlantic Figures in The Imperialist: Public Sentiment, Private Appetite

  • Donna Pennee Western University Canada


This essay revisits Duncan's 1904 novel The Imperialist to discuss the implications of the rarely noted antecedents of Mother Beggarlegs in the African diaspora of slavery. Mother Beggarlegs’ presence points to a history of free trade debates in transatlantic slavery and puts into question a nationalist pedagogy of Canada's moral superiority over the United States on its record of racism against Black people. Embedded in the novel’s election debates on British-Canadian-US economic relations, in its account of Canada’s shift from mercantile to industrial capitalism, and in the temporality of narration of the Murchison family’s rise into middle-class stability, the figurative language tied to the diaspora of slavery in North America provides a new understanding of the novel's much-studied irony and ambivalence.


Author Biography

Donna Pennee, Western University Canada

Donna Palmateer Pennee works at Western University Canada. Her research on the relative “absence” of the American Civil War in the canonical history of Canadian literature and criticism, and its implications, first examined the afterlife of slavery in Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter and was published in SCL/ÉLC.