ENGL 210 B1: Reading Histories: Histories in Texts

A. Braz


Grey Owl is one of the most fascinating figures in both Canadian history and Canadian letters. In the 1930s, he emerged as the best-known conservationist and nature writer in the world. Thanks to his four international best-selling books about Canadian wild life, as well as the immensely popular illustrated lectures that he delivered across North America and Great Britain, Grey Owl became inextricably identified with the animal that he was instrumental in saving from imminent extinction: Canada's national emblem, the beaver. However, the day after he died in 1938, it was revealed that he was not of Apache-Scottish ancestry, as he often claimed, but a white Englishman named Archie Belaney. This course examines how Belaney managed to transform himself into Grey Owl and what his metamorphosis reveals both about him and his contemporaneous readers. In addition to exploring such issues as cultural appropriation, imposture, and literary hoaxes, we will attempt to ascertain what discursive strategies he employs to conceal his true ethnoracial identity.


Among the texts for this course, to be supplemented with a series of essays, will likely be Grey Owl, Pilgrims of the Wild (1935/2010); Anahareo, Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl (1972/2014); and Armand Garnet Ruffo, Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney (1996). In addition, we will watch and discuss the feature film Grey Owl, directed by Richard Attenborough (1999).