Northern Love: An Exploration of Canadian Masculinity.


144 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-897425-22-0
DDC 305.310971





Reviewed by Matt Hartman

Matt Hartman is a freelance editor and cataloguer, running Hartman Cataloguing, Editing and Indexing Services.


Nonnekes teaches in the Master of Arts Integrated Studies program at Athabasca University. His focus is gender and sexuality issues, and he approaches these loaded subjects from a decidedly psychoanalytic point of view. His study will not be for everyone, but those readers willing and able to follow his methodology and jargon will enjoy the dialectic.


Nonnekes uses fictional characters to make his case: Robert Hood, from Rudy Wiebe’s novel A Discovery of Strangers, and male characters from Robert Kroetsch’s The Man from the Creeks. He hangs his thesis on a variation of the “go west, young man, go west” phrase, known to every American male with a penchant for adventure. In the variation, “west” is replaced by “north,” so the command has a powerful resonance, Nonnekes says, to the Canadian masculine experience. “My desire, though,” he continues, “is not to explore the issues of political sovereignty or resource wealth but instead to explore the much different issue of love.” There are frequent references to the critic Sherrill Grace, who believes that Canada is largely defined by its northern-ness; to understand Canada, Grace says, we must look north.


Nonnekes’s theories involve the psychoanalytical paradigms of gender roles, argued by such seminal figures as Žižek, Lacan, and Heidegger. Some of his references will send readers to Wikipedia; others will be familiar to those with an interest in what Nonnekes concludes is at the heart of his idea of Northern love: the “Imaginary Father.” This concept, Nonnekes says, will be articulated through the work of the psychoanalytic theorist Julia Kristeva, presenting the subject “with an image of the ego that allows a distance from the material container.”

The author’s previous book, Three Moments of Love in Leonard Cohen and Bruce Cockburn, presented similar themes from a conceptual psychoanalytic ideology. Nonnekes’s work is serious and valuable and, however difficult, will reward the diligent reader. It is the first volume in the publisher’s Cultural Dialectics series.


Nonnekes, Paul., “Northern Love: An Exploration of Canadian Masculinity.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,