two solitudes

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First used by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) and applied to Canadian society in the title of a 1945 novel by Canadian author Hugh MacLennan.


two solitudes pl (plural only)

  1. (Canada, social criticism) The historical and, by some accounts, current dysfunctional relationship between the Anglophone and Francophone groups in Canada, characterized by poor communication and mutual exclusion.
    • 1951, John A. Irving, "Philosophical Trends in Canada Between 1850 and 1950," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 12, no. 2, p. 224:
      [I]t may be pleaded that scholastic philosophy as it exists in Quebec has neither influenced, nor been influenced by, the development of modern philosophy elsewhere throughout the country during the last hundred years. Philosophically, Canada is a land of "two solitudes."
    • 1976, J. Wreford Watson, "Review: The Development of the Canadian City," The Geographical Journal, vol. 142, no. 3, p. 509:
      Montreal, where French and English have not merged but coexist in ‘two solitudes,’ has Latin flair but British solidity.
    • 2001, Sylvia T. Wargon, "Connections: Demography and Sociology in Twentieth Century Canada," The Canadian Journal of Sociology, vol. 26, no. 3, p. 317:
      In tracing the development of the discipline in twentieth century Canada, it became evident that demography had progressed through a number of periods. The years to 1950 represented a period of parallel and fairly independent growth in English-speaking and French-speaking regions, with little contact and communication; it is best described as a period of "one science, two solitudes."