Instructor: Professor John C. Walsh

Introduction: This course offers a sustained reflection on a core set of questions:  why is popular culture so saturated with “history”?  Why do we visit museums, monuments, and designated “historic” sites?  Why can we download apps for our smartphones or browse websites that encourage us to encounter the past through and with them?  What kinds of (hi)stories do we tell in this broad historical-cultural landscape and how has this storytelling changed over time?  In posing such questions we will be tackling some of the different ways in which the past is represented and therefore remembered and forgotten.

Given the context of Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017, there will be slightly more attention given to Canadian examples, but the course materials travel the world, including the United States, Europe, Australia, Latin America, and South Africa.

Class Format: We meet once / week in a three-hour block. The normal distribution of time will be split between lectures and class discussions based on the examination of historical documents, images, and films. Students will also be expected to do some occasional fieldwork in Ottawa, travelling to museums, historic sites, and monuments. The course is broken down into 3 units, and each has an associated assignment. The final assignment provides an opportunity to pull together different elements of each unit.

Aims and Goals: The content of this course allows students to reflect on our contemporary culture’s fascination with the past, and also to reflect on how historical memory (the kind of memory we normally produce in the university) is only one form of memory in our culture. The course also provides students with an opportunity to communicate their historical research in a variety of ways, reflecting the diversity of the historical representations that we will be studying.

Assessment: The course is built around a series of smaller assignments through which students will cultivate a portfolio of creative cultural criticism and curation. These assignments will be a combination of writing, speaking, and visualizing the research. (Note: do not be scared! You will be given specific directions and support.) The final grade breakdown is as follows:  regular class attendance (10%), online responses to weekly readings (15%), and then the portfolio (75%). The portfolio features 4 assignments in total – 3 during the course (45%) plus 1 final take-home assignment due at the end of the exam period (30%).

Text:  Cecilia Morgan, Commemorating Canada: History, Heritage, and Memory, 1850s-1990s (University of Toronto Press, 2016) plus selected readings, viewings, and site visits. The core textbook will be ordered for sale at Haven Books (at the intersection of Sunnyside Ave. and Seneca St., two blocks from campus) but it is also available at all major online booksellers.

Questions? Please email me at: