From Mary Pickford to Tatiana Maslany, Joni Mitchell to Celine Dion, Doug Mackenzie to David Cronenberg, Leonard Cohen to The Tragically Hip: In its first 150 years, Canada has generated a unique, revealing and often just plain strange history of pop cultural distractions. And no matter how much official energy has gone into defining Canada through its geography, history and state policies, nothing reveals quite as much about a country as the things it creates to entertain itself. Here is Canada according to SCTV and the Murdoch Mysteries, Neil Young and Denis Villeneuve: a look at the TV shows, pop songs, movies, comics and pulp fiction that make us feel like we belong here. Wherever here is.
This course is lead by Curious Minds favourite Geoff Pevere, co-author of the national bestseller Mondo Canuck: A Canadian Pop Cultural Odyssey, a breakthrough study of Canada through its pop cultural products. Currently at work on a 21st century follow-up volume, Pevere is an expert on Canadian pop culture and its reflection of a country in a state of constant re-definition both to itself and the world. You can talk about what Canada ought to be, and you can talk about what Canada shouldn't be. But to see what it really is, look no further.
Doors will open one hour before the first class. Registrants will receive supplementary materials in advance of their first class.
Tuesdays, May 16–June 20, 10a.m. to noon
May 16: The Big Empty: Imagining Canada From Within and Without
There is a country called Canada, and there is an idea of a country called Canada. We begin by looking at Canada imagined from both within and without, from Hollywood to Halifax. How has Canada been sold to the world through images—of Mounties, lumberjacks and canoes—and how has this influenced the way Canada thinks of itself?
May 23: Twinkle Twinkle: The Dream of a Canadian Star System
It is a constant Canadian refrain: if we only had the star-making machinery that other countries do—and especially you-know-where—we'd be just as good as they are. But it's never really worked that way, and from Donald Sutherland to Genevieve Bujold, William Shatner to Sarah Polley, the stars we've had tell us a lot about who we are and aren't.
May 30: The Reality Machine: The Documentary Tradition Reconsidered
Documentary became a Canadian tradition after all hope of a domestic commercial movie industry was quashed by foreign movie chains. But out of these practical circumstances emerged both a worldview and an art, a document of a country in search of itself.
June 6: Sound Barrier: Language, Identity, Quebec and Pop Cultural Envy
Quebec has seemed always to have what the rest of the country wanted: a strong sense of itself, a belief in the importance of culture—popular or otherwise—and stars, movies, TV shows and recording artists galore. Two solitudes indeed, and never more dramatically apparent than in the building of a self-sufficient cultural identity.
June 13: We Are Not Worthy: Canadian Pop Music From Diana to Drake
In the last few years, Canadian-made music has been more popular, versatile and adventurous than ever. But how does this current renaissance compare with previous Canadian pop musical traditions? What ties Drake and Bieber to Paul Anka, Joni Mitchell and The Band? And what does it mean if most of the people who now make and listen to Canadian pop music don't seem to care that it's Canadian?
June 20: Sketchy: The Canadian Comedy of Alienation
From Wayne & Shuster and Catherine O'Hara to Eugene Levy and Mike Myers, the entire history of Canadian comedy has pointed to a singularly undeniable fact: our lack of identity and confusion over what we are is exactly what makes us so damned funny. If we were more secure about ourselves, we'd have no reason to laugh.