Centre for Scottish Studies

SFU English grad student Alyssa Bridgman wins the David and Mary Macaree Graduate Fellowship

September 11, 2020

The Centre for Scottish Studies and the Department of English congratulate Alyssa Bridgman on winning the David and Mary Macaree Graduate Fellowship in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The fellowship provides financial support to graduate students whose research focuses on topics identified by the Centre for Scottish Studies as primary areas of research. Bridgman’s research focuses on Simon Fraser. She describes her research as follows.

Simon Fraser, a man of Scottish descent who worked for the North West Company, travelled down what is now known as the Fraser River in 1808, documenting his experiences in a travel journal. 150 years later, in the 1960’s, Canadians began to rethink their relation to the history of the nation’s formation, and W. Kaye Lamb published an edition of Fraser’s journals, sparking interest in Fraser as a Scottish-Canadian historical figure. In 1968, Marjorie Wilkins Campbell published the fictional work, The Savage River, a mediation of Lamb’s edition, which was meant to spark Canadian youths’ interest in Canadian historical figures. At the same time, the new university on Burnaby Mountain was named after Simon Fraser in 1965. As Canadians were beginning to forge a new identity in this era, looking away from imperial Britain, they were also looking back to settler-colonial figures as the fathers of Canada. Despite their inherent Britishness, these figures were also proto-Canadian—the beginnings of a hybrid identity that both reflected British figures and the new Canadian explorer hero.

SFU’s namesake, however, becomes more complicated as it references the Fraser River, Fraser the explorer, and Simon Fraser Lord Lovat, a hero of WWII, who attended SFU’s opening, gifting the university with the Fraser Clan’s crest and claymore. In my project, I will examine the conflation of the two Frasers to suggest that this composite figure creates a hybrid Canadian-Scottish sense of identity that paints the name of “Fraser” with a mythic and loaded history. I will critique the inherently problematic discourse on Canadian hero figures, as it uplifts the image of the explorer and settler-colonizer as an idealized figure. My project will be comprised of two components: an academic paper and a Digital Humanities project, which will allow users to explore sites of cultural memory in Vancouver on an interactive map, displaying my research on these sites’ histories, such as the Fraser monument at the New Westminster Quay, the commemorative plaque at Lookout Point in Vancouver, and SFU itself. In creating the website, I hope for the information to be accessible to SFU’s students and faculty as well as the public, remedying the conflation between Frasers and encouraging users to question the priority we give to these settler-colonial, historical, and lionized Canadian figures.