Constance Lindsay Skinner: Writing on the Frontier
Constance Lindsay Skinner made a living as a writer at a time when few men, and fewer women, managed the feat. Born in 1877 on the British Columbia frontier, she worked as a journalist in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Chicago, before moving to New York City in 1912, where she supported herself by her pen until her death in 1939. Despite a prolific output - poetry, plays, short stories, histories, reviews, adult and children's novels - and in contrast to her reputation in the United States, she remains virtually unknown in the country of her birth.
Reconstructing Constance Lindsay Skinner's writing life from her papers in the New York Public Library and from her publications, Jean Barman argues for three bases to her success. As well as a capacity to respond to market forces by moving between genres, she possessed an aura of authenticity by virtue of her Canadian frontier heritage. As a literary device, the frontier gave a freedom to tackle contentious issues of Aboriginal and hybrid identities, gender and sexuality, that might otherwise have been far more difficult to get into print. Third, and very important, was her willingness to subordinate a private self to the life of the imagination.
Barman ponders Constance Lindsay Skinner's absence from the Canadian literary canon. She mixed with such twentieth-century personalities as Jack London, Harriet Monroe, Frederick Jackson Turner, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Cornelia Meigs, Long Lance, and Margaret Mitchell, yet was unrecognized in her own country. Her sex mattered, just as it did for fellow Canadian women writers. So did her facility at multiple genres, a talent that, even as it made possible a writing life, prevented her from achieving a major breakthrough in any one of them. Perhaps most responsible was her identification with the frontier of a nation whose centre long shaped literary matters in its own image. Constance Lindsay Skinner makes a significant contribution to Canadian and American history and to literary and gender studies.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 416 pages
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 0.9in x 9.2in
'Jean Barman's insightful intellectual biography makes a significant contribution to scholarship on Canadian and U.S. literature, and to histories of gender, race, and region. Barman, like Constance Lindsay Skinner, writes on the frontiers of transnational histories, at a moment when North American frontiers and the U.S./Canadian borderland are emerging as fields of serious and fruitful inquiry.'
Elizabeth Jameson, Imperial Oil and Lincoln McKay Chair in American Studies, Department of History, University of Calgary
Jean Barman is a professor emeritus in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, and is the author of the acclaimed study The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (1996).
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