Crafting a Canadian Imagination:
A Juxtaposition of Baseland and Hinterland Experiences
Establishing a uniquely Canadian imagination has traditionally been regarded as a difficult task, as it hopes to craft a form of literature that places Canadian authors outside of the realm of influence of its early colonial European establishment, and more recent American convergence. However, it is possible to extrapolate an idiosyncratic identity that is not formed as a product of the difference between Canadian authors and their European or American powers, but rather through examining the ways in which these impacts have helped inform authors in creating literature which adheres to prevailing forms, and how they have guided authors in responding to topical ideals and pressures. The contrasting ideas of Europeans and Americans conform to two major facets of Canadian literature, the baseland and hinterland methodologies. Baseland literature conforms to the European desires for tradition and respect of form, which was an important focus of the British government in early colonial and confederation periods. Conversely, hinterland literary form allows expression through an American desire for freedom from rule and tradition, a form widely used in the modern and postmodern periods of a growing society. Differences in baseland and hinterland compliment the diverse struggles and desires of writers at different times throughout history. Canadian writers have established a unique imagination through the forms and functions of baseland and hinterland ideologies, facilitating a distinctly Canadian interpretation of society and self from colonial to contemporary times.
One of the two primary functions of baseland and hinterland literary instruction is embodied in the individual schemes that each format follows in relation to the form and construction of a poetic piece of literature. The baseland, with a rigid and traditional form, and careful compliance to orderly construction, was well suited for early Canadian settlers living in small British and French satellite colonies. D.M.R Bentley instructs in his consideration of baseland form that the “symmetry and order in both landscape and poetry are the reflections as well as the means of governance”, resulting in baseland poetry acting not only as a product of a traditional society, but also as a form of instruction for other Canadians. As societal rule and order became established, the more American hinterland form offered a much more unrestricted form and focused largely on process over construction, fulfilling a desire for freedom from rule that many Canadians were beginning to feel as towns and cities expanded. Bentley acknowledges this difference, forwarding hinterland poetry as “freedom from formal rules and restrictions … the poetic collar for free thought and free movement”. Through crafting poems which conform to the contrasts of baseland and hinterland values, Canadian authors have been able to interpret...