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Wilderness Culture and the Nature of Canada Campbell, Claire


Webcast sponsored by Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by Green College. Professor Campbell is the Director of Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University. She teaches Canadian environmental history, history of cultural landscapes, national and regional identities in Canada, and history of the arts. Her areas of expertise also include public history and Scandinavian history. This talk takes its inspiration from a passage in Stephen Leacock’s 1936 essay, “I’ll stay in Canada,” in which he writes: “To all of us here, the vast unknown country of the North, reaching away to the polar seas, supplies a peculiar mental background.” Leacock’s apparent affinity for a vast and never-seen space, the comfortable nationalization of an Ontario point-of-view, and the belief that Canadians share a “peculiar mental background” by virtue of our geographical location says a lot about Canadian attitudes toward nature in the twentieth century. Claire Campbell will interrogate this by focusing on the arts to examine Canadians’ cultural investment in both the concept and geography of wilderness spaces. Her talk will focus on post-Confederation Canada. Her concern is with Canadians trying to act as Canadians; naturalizing a certain territory and certain behaviour. It will draw together an eclectic constellation of sources to give a sense of the ubiquitous reach of wilderness references, moving from the more imaginative and impressionistic in the arts, to popular and consumer culture, and then to physical places where we have attempted to realize an ideal.

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