Garrison mentality

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The garrison mentality is a common theme in regards to Canadian literature and Canadian cinema. The term was first coined by literary critic Northrop Frye and further explored by author Margaret Atwood, who discussed Canada's preoccupation with the theme of survival in her book Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. This mentality is assumed to come from part of the Canadian identity that fears the emptiness of the Canadian landscape and fears the oppressiveness of other nations.

In texts with the garrison mentality, characters are always looking outwards and building metaphorical walls against the outside world.

Michael Greenstein contributed an article entitled Beyond the Ghetto and the Garrison: Jewish-Canadian Boundaries - Beyond Nationalism: The Canadian Literary Scene in Global Perspective in a 1981 publication of the Canadian periodical Mosaic.[1]

Julie Spergel calls for an examination of the terminology in " Constructing a Multicultural Identity at the Canadian Frontier: Mordecai Richler and Jewish-Canadian Writing La construction d’une identité multiculturelle sur la Frontière canadienne : Mordecai Richler et l’écriture juive au Canada" published in 2005. Spergel asserts: "Much can be said about the interactions between the garrisoned or ghettoised and the larger community that creates their feelings of isolation or division." [1]

Sherrie Malisch summarizes: "As a shorthand for deficiencies in the Canadian national spirit, the term garrison mentality appears in everything from a political rant against “Laurentian elites” (Bricker) to an institutional critique of the CBC (Miljan and Cooper). In the words of David Staines, the garrison mentality has, for Canadians, become “part of our critical vocabulary, indeed of our very language” (qtd. in Gorjup 23)".[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Constructing a Multicultural Identity at the Canadian Frontier: Mordecai Richler and Jewish-Canadian Writing".
  2. ^ In Praise of the Garrison Mentality:Why Fear and Retreat May be Useful Responses in an Era of Climate Change Sherrie Malisch Université de Sherbrooke


  • Atwood, Margaret. Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1972.
  • Blattberg, Charles. Shall We Dance? A Patriotic Politics for Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003, ch. 3.
  • Frye, Northrop. "Conclusion to a Literary History of Canada." The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Toronto: Anansi, 1975.