Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What is Canada? Debating Canada's Past and Future (CANA 4000)

Next Fall I'm teaching the CANA 4000 seminar. I taught it a few years ago and enjoyed the experience immensely. The course explores current debates over the meanings of Canada.

Despite a reputation for being rather staid, the field of Canadian studies has witnessed over the past decade a remarkable wave of scholarly and popular interest in reconsidering the question of "what is Canada?" This question is rooted in a vigorous political and intellectual debate, not a recitation of facts. It strikes at the very heart of what we are as a nation and who we want to be as citizens.

Students in CANA 4000 will will read and discuss a series of recent studies that provide strikingly different perspectives of Canada’s past, present, and future. These studies offer five distinct frameworks for understanding Canada – based on geography, politics, culture, values, and ideology – and traverse a fascinating range of popular and scholarly opinion.

We will spend the first part of the course discussing each of these frameworks and debating their merits. Among the prominent authors we'll study will be Michael Adams, John Ralston Saul, Janet Ajzenstat, Cole Harris, and Jocelyn L├ętourneau We'll start by discussing Adams's well-known study, Fire and Ice, and then students will be given the opportunity to write a full-length essay that offers their own perspective on the question of how we should understand Canada.

Given the shifting political and cultural landscapes in Canada today, the issues we'll cover in CANA 4000 could not be more timely. If you have any questions about the course or would like additional information, please contact me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Raiders of the Lost Archives: Historical Research in Halifax

I'm not known as someone who is quick with a pun, but my History 4000 class came up with the title and convinced me that it would help generate interest. A google search turned this up, which was rather interesting, and I guess it fits because archived film falls within the ambit of the new course. It looks like there are coffee mugs out there, too, but I'm afraid that falls outside of what we're doing next year.

The new course, listed online as "HIST 1900: First Year Seminar Arts," is now up live on our academic timetable. It will meet 1:00-2:30 Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Fall 2014 term.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the principles and practices of historical research. It will give students the opportunity to design their own research projects based on a local archival or museum collection. Students can choose from a range of primary sources, such as diaries, newspapers, collections of letters, business records, court cases, government documents, or maps.

During our weekly seminar meetings, we will read and discuss a selection of introductory studies on the elements of historical research and writing. We will also visit local museums and archives, such as Nova Scotia Archives and the Dalhousie University Archives, and meet with professional archivists and curators working in Halifax.

Students are free to select a collection from any period in the history of Nova Scotia and to focus on a topic of their choice. We will discuss the research projects during our weekly meetings, and students will submit their final papers at the end of term.

Poster from last autumn's Nocturne exhibit of the Nova Scotia Archives. It's part of a collection of nineteenth-century seafood canning labels, so that should give you a sense of the fascinating range of archival material that's out there waiting to be researched.

If you have any questions or want more information, please contact me.