To Know Our Many Selves: From the study of Canada to Canadian studies

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A revolutionizing moment occurred in the summer of , when a conference on Canadian writing organized by Roy Daniells and F. Despite the sense in the s that the position of Canadian literature in the Canadian school and university system was secure, A. What Heritage? The result was a Royal Commission, launched in by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada under the chairmanship of T.

Cameron 21— The publication to emerge from this venture, To Know Ourselves , was an extensive account of Canadian content in the university curricula and a series of recommendations to right the imbalance the Commission discovered. According to the Symons report, only 8 per cent of undergraduate courses in Canadian university English departments included on their syllabi any Canadian content 35 , while the numbers for graduate-level training were even more meagre Each year, the students express surprise.

For those students who regard the course as a nuisance, one additional requirement standing in the way of their completion of a university degree in English, this story of embattlement and struggle seems like ancient and irrelevant history. But for a few, it adds a tinge of immediacy and helps to historicize their presence in the CanLit classroom; it makes their participation in the study of Canadian literature meaningful. Indeed, what these various narratives remind one of is just how fraught the struggle for the academic study of literature in Canada was a struggle which in the early century went hand in hand with the struggle for a Canadian literature more generally.

It is Gauri Viswanathan, however, who most explicitly examines the links between imperialism and the teaching of English. Nor are the imperialist foundations of this educational project negligible for those of us teaching and studying into the twenty-first century. At the level of the professing of literature, Margaret Atwood and Robin Mathews provide informative accounts of the colonizing nature of English literature teaching in Canada in the late s and 70s, and both were aiming to reach wider audiences in their plea for the decolonization of Canadian cultural education.

Various fictional treatments explore similar terrain. Like the institutionalization of English literature in the nineteenth century, and later of American literature and, more recendy, postcolonial literatures of various regions and nationalities , the institutionalized study of Canadian literature was a topic that provoked fierce resistance and contestation.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, when postcolonial revisionings and pedagogical interrogations of the discipline of English literature have become more readily accepted, it is perhaps too easy to forget the radical, anti-colonial roots of the discipline of Canadian literature.

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This is doubly true in that much postcolonial criticism today has shifted its focus to the imperialist nature of the Canadian literary canon itself. Arif Dirliks well-known critique of postcolonialism is a response to this blindness on the part of contemporary postcolonial theorists. Fee highlights the integral ambivalence at the core of English-Canadian literary study. On the other, they were bound to define Canadian literature as a separate category of study, and hence had to fall back on some notion of national distinctiveness.

This is the contradiction that informs the theoretical stance of such a notable critic and professor of Canadian literature as Northrop Frye. The postcolonial, in a sense, allows one to be both of these simultaneously, and therefore also provides a useful meta-pedagogical entry into discussions of the teaching of Canadian literature. As Donna Palmateer Pennee puts it in her contribution to this collection, it enables one to straddle the national and the literary, a crossover that has formed the stumbling point of discussions of Canadian literature pedagogy from its very beginnings.

At the outset, my aim was to gather a group of scholars to discuss the influence of the last few decades of postcolonial theorizing on the teaching of Canadian literature. This collection represents an instance of such self-scrutiny, while also aiming to assess the extent to which this project has been inaugurated.

The impetus behind this book, then, was to inquire whether we had, indeed, reached a point of reappraisal of the way we teach and think about Canadian literature. Had the focus of postcolonial perspectives on relations of power, and on the politics of cultural representation, influenced or altered the ways that Canadian literature was being taught?

What impact was this having both inside and outside the classroom? Or, as some critics have suggested, was there evidence of a gaping divide between academic theory and pedagogical practice? In other words, despite the radical rhetoric of postcolonial literary theorists, did the approach to teaching Canadian literature, and institutional practice as a whole, remain as traditional as ever?

Most undertake an interrogation of the colonialist contours of traditional pedagogical paradigms. Many, in turn, wish to effect some intersection between intellectual discourse in the academy and social change in the world beyond. Yet this is not to say that every battle has been won, to echo Pacey once again. On the one hand, postcolonial theoretical discourse has enabled this self-reflection to occur. Nevertheless, its scope has admittedly been limited: it has not enabled us to supersede engrained habits of defining and dividing the world, nor has it brought with it an adequate decolonization or reassessment of institutional structures and practices.

Gary Boire, Leslie Monkman, and Stephen Slemon, in this collection, likewise warn against a too ready complacency about the supposed post-colonializing of the Canadian academy. This impasse might suggest that we find ourselves at something of a turning point in the ways many of us, teachers and students, are reappraising the discipline. Mariam Pirbhai's and Heike Hartings contributions to this collection explore some of the conflicted dynamics of hybridity and diasporic identity in a global context.

At the same time, there has been a concomitant reappraisal of the importance of national constructs within these debates, as, for instance, Donna Palmateer Pennee provides here. In light of the struggle for Canadian literature over much of the twentieth century, to what extent could the various post-colonizings and deconstructions of the discipline, and of pedagogy itself, forfeit the victories that were so hard won earlier on?

This problematic is perhaps comparable to the dangers associated with the deconstruction of the unified subject for women and colonized subjects more generally: to what extent is Canadian literature, now that it has been secured as an independent field of study, in danger of being rendered obsolete, and is this cause for concern?

To Know Our Many Selves

And if so, how might one engage with what are undoubtedly important postcolonial and poststructuralist critiques of the field without dismissing the advances made by earlier Canadianists as irrelevant, or embracing them as safely beyond reproach? It is this latter task—a reappraisal of an institutionalized Canadian literary postcolonialism—that many of the theorists in this volume are undertaking.

Even in , when outlining the apparent crisis in Canadian education, A. Hodgetts decried the destructive influence of an over-defensive siege mentality when it came to Canadian studies:. The conflicts within our society have been swept under the classroom desk and grayed out in the textbooks. We have been unfavorably surprised by the number of teachers and administrators who continue to believe What is new is this volume s attempt to assess the influence of postcolonial theoretical interventions on these dynamics.

Likewise, the essays by Beverley Haun and Linda Radford insist on the importance of introducing a postcolonial pedagogy into the public school system. What, indeed, has been swept under the carpet in the accepted history of the Canadian academy, such as I have outlined it above? Who remained on neither the winning nor the losing side of the battle, but in some invisible space in between? Whether between classes, at university functions, on examination committees, or even on social occasions, conversation always seemed to return to questions of pedagogy. How do you approach such-and-such in the classroom?

What practical methods do you use? What do you do when? Even today, I still find myself exchanging teaching ideas, course outlines, and in-class exercises with colleagues—sometimes within my department, sometimes across the country via email. Was a critical pedagogy, such as has been outlined by Henry Giroux and others, having an impact on the teaching of Canadian literature?

The essays gathered in this volume contribute to the growing body of theory in this revised wave of decolonizing pedagogical theory. The linear, progressive teacher-to-student notion of knowledge transfer the student as blank slate or empty receptacle; the teacher as holder and transmitter of information has been challenged by numerous critics in recent decades who argue that the potential for critical self-reflection is belied by the very nature of this process. It is, however, conceptually and performatively unquestioned Connected to this, however, is the question of whether postcolonialism is always pedagogical, always containing within it some notion of its interventionist—and possibly didactic—potential.

And where does one draw the line between this and the will to discipline? To what extent does the postcolonial need to be post-or de-colonized? This interrogation has been especially forceful among anti-racist and anti-classist critics, such as Aruna Srivastava, Aran Mukherjee, Roy Miki, Terry Goldie, Gary Boire, and Roxanne Rimstead, who see in current mainstream Canadian critical discourse a universalizing, obfuscating, and co-opting tendency. Some critics have written about this in terms of a critical citizenship see the essays by Pennee and Carr Vellino in this collection.

In effect, this is what I mean by a post-colonializing of the postcolonial. The critical pedagogue might want to keep in mind that there are some things that she does not know that she knows. Connected to this are theories of location and agency, particularly those which view the classroom as a site of production. Socrates put this into words well before psychoanalysis tried to theorize it.

This is certainly related to the approach that Arun Mukherjee is advocating in her contribution to this collection when she stresses the imperative of acknowledging psychic exchange within the classroom and addressing the reality of pedagogical trauma; Gerry Turcotte invokes a similar approach in his notion of a pedagogy of the uncanny. Imperialism afforded lessons in how to divide the world Its themes of conquering, civilizing, converting, collecting, and classifying inspired educational metaphors equally concerned with taking possession of the world—metaphors that we now have to give an account of, beginning with our own education.

Willinsky 3. However, in the context of discussions of Canadian literature pedagogy, this shift in focus represents a relatively new direction in Canadian theoretical discourse. Her essay explores the ways professional postcolonialism and the culture of celebrity have become implicated in the service of a national pedagogy. This celebration of Ondaatje is based on an erasure of certain parts of history, which in turn supports the nations role as pedagogue and reproducer of a sanitized, if globalized, cultural memory.

This critical engagement, he hopes, will enable us to address the changes affecting all of us as we negotiate the accumulating indeterminacies prompted within an era of increased globalization. In the process, critics might be able to rearticulate those limits of the nation that have been brought to light by the global.

The negotiations involved in the restructuring of the Norton , Monkman argues, have ultimately been disappointing. In her view, the absence of substantive education in the fundamental instruments, institutions, processes, and consequences of democracy in even the most obvious disciplinary contexts is a significant omission in light of the critical role the UN envisions for human rights literacy.

Making the case that literature participates in international human rights culture because of its special ability to evoke ethical empathy, Carr Vellino works from the assumption that the classroom is an arena of advocacy work. Human rights pedagogy, she contends, moves analysis out of the abstract and into the realm of direct intervention in public-sphere deliberation. Beginning with a personal account of his experience organizing a conference on postcolonial theory at the University of Wollongong, and notwithstanding the numerous pitfalls in any idealistic postcolonial endeavour, Turcotte reiterates the ways unsought-for moments of uncanny disruption and slippage can be used for productive ends.

Her goal is to transform the ways teachers and students engage with issues of public memory and literary texts by refocusing teacher training and curricula through a postcolonial lens. Arun Mukherjee shifts the emphasis from the student to the teacher, focusing on racism in the classroom and the effect it has on women professors of colour. In the university English course, a place devoted to bourgeois professors and bourgeois students, those working in postcolonial approaches to Canadian literature, Goldie argues, must trace ethnicity and race in ways that attempt to disrupt Whiteness while also disrupting our comfortable class room locations.

Boire highlights the ways the supposedly enabling and ennobling rhetoric of postcolonialism has itself been co-opted by other, often economically driven, agendas, and proposes three areas for reconsideration: outreach, administration, and careerism. Budde makes use of selected examples of such materials in his classroom teaching. Through a creative adaptation of these texts as pedagogical tools, he argues, teachers and students can confront and reassess personal and cultural assumptions about race. By dramatizing cultural hybridity through the perspective of indigenous resistance movements, Armstrong contests typical understandings of hybridity as a metaphor for cultural ambivalence or global biodiversity.

In both cases, questions of social justice are reduced to symbolic forms of representation. That is to say, Karodia provides an alternative and more complex vision of South African society in giving voice to a community that is rarely discussed in the context of apartheid. Moreover, she offers a unique consideration of the political and cultural dynamic between South Asian and African peoples in their shared struggle for emancipation.

A categorical and static approach to South Asian writing not only reigns in the ongoing creative output of the South Asian diaspora, but it also denies diasporic writers and critics a wider forum of cross-cultural engagement. The formidable reputation of the recent Nobel Prize recipient, V. Naipaul, offers perhaps the most recognizable case in point. This is as true of writers such as Rooplall Monar, Gopal Baratham, or Deepchand Beeharry who write from their respective locations in Guyana, Singapore, and Mauritius, as is it of writers situated in Canada.

Both in their shared and divergent South Asianness, as well as in their unique styles and subject matter, writers such as Ladha, Gill, and Mootoo evoke a South Asian diasporic identity that defies any singularly identifiable characteristic. In its narrative slippages between quotations, poetry, dialogue, and prose; in its iconoclastic juxtaposition of Islamic, Christian, and Hindu beliefs alongside everyday pop cultural references; in its linguistic and syntactical fragmentation and inter-lingual punning, Ladhas story constitutes a dizzying narrative gesture that quite self-consciously circumvents generic codification altogether:.

Who has gone potty, Baba? In Arabic, she is fitna , one name for chaos and beauty. In Urdu, she is rundi , whore. She is rundi , widow But I cannot discard like male, instead I, Muslim woman, follow my own cadence. It is true, so true When Rushdie Babu comes home I will knead flour with flying fingers. As I have illustrated, a rigid reliance on such paradigms—even when used as a basis for comparison—precludes a more complex view of South Asian identity and experience as it is articulated both in Canada and abroad.

Indeed, the continued decontextualization of ethnic writing within a handful of often ill-suited paradigms hems in the unfolding fabric of South Asian cultural and literary production. Moreover, when greater room is accorded ethnic writing, it is still hierarchically assessed against what we are to take as seemingly monolithic and impermeable Western literary traditions.

Current conceptual models thus continue to drown out cross-cultural and transcultural channels of influence, which often reveal compelling patterns of development across the body of English literature as a whole, such as its increasingly heteroglossic texture or the growing proliferation of symbolic and mythic allusions to other, non-European cultural, religious, and philosophical traditions. In other words, a specialized treatment of South Asian diasporic literature is an essential step in apprehending the cultural developments, literary movements, critical dialogues, and ideological discourses in which South Asian diasporic writers are engaged.

Aziz, Nurjehan, ed. Toronto: TSAR, Bissoondath, Neil. Toronto: Penguin, Clifford, James. New York: Routledge, Crane Ralph J. Atlanta: Rodopi, Dabydeen, Cyril. Smaro Kamboureli. Toronto: Oxford UP, Espinet, Ramabai. Makeda Silvera. Toronto: Sister Vision, Hall, Stuart. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman. New York: Columbia UP, Hassan, Dolly Zulakha. Naipaul and the West Indies. New York: Peter Lang, Heble, Ajay. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, Kamboureli, Smaro. Karodia, Farida. Daughters of the Twilight.

Lavie, Smadar, and Ted Swedenburg. Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity. Lavie and Swedenburg. Durham: Duke UP, Meyer, Milton W. Asia: A Concise History. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, As noted in a previous section, Alberta has been a leader in actively supporting the establishment of bilingual programs in a variety of languages.

In , Alberta became the first province to legalize languages other than English or French as mediums of instruction in the public school system. In , the Edmonton Public School Board introduced the English-Ukrainian program at the Kindergarten level and an English-German program followed in the fall of The Spanish program has grown significantly in recent years and currently serves more than 3, students.

It is interesting to relate the teaching of international languages to the teaching of French discussed in an earlier section. No formal evaluation has been carried out on heritage language programs taught as a subject outside the school day but indications are that both the quality of teaching and outcomes are mixed Cummins and Danesi, This is not surprising in view of the limited success of Core FSL programs which have much higher status and institutional support.

Thus only the western provinces particularly Alberta have implemented evidence-based programs to support the teaching of heritage languages. In Ontario, as noted in a previous section, it is illegal to teach through the medium of a heritage language except on a short-term transitional basis to help students learn English. It is instructive to examine the reasoning of the Royal Commission on Learning which considered this issue in its report.

The Commissioners acknowledged the range of submissions they received supporting an amendment to the Education Act to permit heritage languages to be used as mediums of instruction and they also acknowledged that enrichment bilingual programs were in operation in several other provinces. However, they went on to note:. We strongly support the use of other languages as a transitional strategy, which is already permitted We also support a learning system that places more value on languages as subjects, and we hope that many more students will learn third and fourth languages, and take courses in them at secondary and post-secondary levels But we are very concerned that all students in Ontario be truly literate in one of the official languages.

In our view, the school system is obliged to help students function at a high level in English or French, and to gain a reasonable knowledge of the other official language. We appreciate the value of the existing, optional International- formerly Heritage- Language program, elementary, but we are not prepared to go well beyond that by suggesting that students be educated in an immersion or bilingual program in any one of a vast number of non-official languages Royal Commission on Learning, , pp.

In summary, with the notable exception of the province of Alberta, and to a lesser extent the other western provinces, Canadian provinces have shown little interest in imaginative approaches to heritage language education. As pointed out by Gibson et al. In the early s Thomas Gallaudet, an American educator, went to Paris to learn more about the methods of educating Deaf students that had been developed in the French context.

Later, he returned to the United States and, with Laurent Clerc, a Deaf master teacher from the Paris school, founded the first school for Deaf students in the United States in ASL evolved as the French sign language used by Clerc merged with the sign language used by local Deaf people. This approach dominated the education of the Deaf for almost years and continues to be implemented in a shrinking number of schools internationally. Gibson et al. This approach involves the simultaneous use of spoken language together with a signed form of the spoken language.

These signed forms of spoken languages have been controversial both among educators and Deaf communities in many countries. In some countries many members of the Deaf community use a signed form of the spoken language but in others e. This skepticism in relation to the effectiveness of Total Communication approaches is reinforced as a result of the fact that these programs have failed to increase the academic achievement of Deaf students in any significant way. As pointed out by Allen , p. Initial implementation of bilingual instructional approaches took place in Sweden in the early s and bilingual programs have spread to other contexts e.

For example, within North America and elsewhere there is debate about whether the development of ASL fluency might impede spoken English acquisition among Deaf children who have received cochlear implants. Research provides a definitive answer to this latter question.

Many studies reviewed by Hermans et al. These positive relationships can be attributed to transfer of conceptual elements knowledge of the world across languages, transfer of metacognitive and metalinguistic elements, and some specific linguistic elements e. To what extent does this pattern hold for Deaf children who have undergone cochlear implants?

As Snoddon points out, there is absolutely no evidence to support this policy. In fact, although research on the issue is limited, the existing evidence supports the development of bilingualism e. In Swedish research Preisler et al. In short, once again we find a language education context in Canada where evidence-free assumptions rather than research findings determine policy and practice. Not only are children who receive cochlear implants denied the opportunity to develop bilingualism, crucial time during their early years is spent learning how to decode speech instead of engaging in genuine communication that develops concepts and expands their minds.

Although the discussion to this point has focused on gaps between the research evidence and Canadian policies and practice in language education, some emerging positive directions should be noted. Across Canada, a series of collaborations between educators and university researchers has begun to explore two orientations which we Cummins and Persad, in press have termed a teaching through an EAL English-as-an-additional-language lens and b teaching through a multilingual lens.

Thus, at the secondary level, the science teacher would see herself not only as a teacher of science but also a teacher of the language of science. This implies that she articulates language objectives as well as content objectives in her lesson plans.

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Teachers explicitly orient their instruction to promote two-way transfer across languages and communicate to students that their language talents represent intellectual accomplishments that are valued by the school and, by implication, the wider society. Imaginative leadership from administrators is essential for the school to move in a coordinated and coherent way in the direction of teaching through EAL and multilingual lens.

The principles underlying teaching through EAL and multilingual lens have been articulated in a variety of ongoing projects that have documented the classroom implementation and outcomes of concrete instructional strategies e.

Rather than attempting to review these projects in any detail see Cummins and Persad, in press , I will simply list the kinds of classroom activities that are implied by these pedagogical orientations. Four categories of activity or project work are described, ranging from the very simple to the more elaborate. It is noteworthy that implementation of these projects requires no additional financial or material resources; they simply entail some instructional imagination and a commitment to teach the whole child. These simple activities have the potential to sensitize students to the sounds and writing systems of different languages and counteract the ambivalence and even shame that many students develop in relation to their languages.

For example, if a Sri Lankan Tamil student has brought a word from her language to share with the teacher and her classmates, this could be extended to demonstrating where Sri Lanka is on a map of the world and explaining some salient aspects of its culture and history. These examples are illustrative of the pedagogical options that open up when educators adopt a multilingual lens.

Roma Chumak-Horbatsch of Ryerson University has also documented a wide variety of multilingual instructional activities for early childhood education and primary grades in her book Linguistically Appropriate Practice see also her website at 8. The critique of Canadian educational provision in relation to language development issues in this paper is not in any sense intended to undermine the commitment to quality education that educators and policy-makers alike have pursued over several decades.

Canadian education has generally avoided the dysfunctional ideological battles that have characterized education in the United States during this period e. Achievement outcomes of Canadian education also compare well with those of other countries e. However, Canadian policy-makers have not responded adequately to the instructional challenges and opportunities afforded by Canadian multilingual realities.

With respect to the education of immigrant-background students, we have failed to ensure that Canadian school administrators and educators in mainstream classrooms have had opportunities and incentives to develop the instructional expertise to teach these students effectively. For more than 40 years of consistently high levels of immigration to Canada since the early s, Faculties of Education in English Canada have viewed the job of teaching DLL students as the job of the specialist ESL teacher.

The exercise in imaginative thinking that generated French immersion programs as well as more recent initiatives such as Intensive French and AIM, has been largely stifled by restrictive provincial policies and administrative inertia that continue to frustrate parents and community members who attempt to initiate effective programs for the teaching of languages other than English and French. On a positive note, the seeds of educational change have been planted in cities across Canada by educators in individual schools who have not waited either for community pressure or top-down mandates to implement instruction that is truly imaginative and inspirational.


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The commitment of these educators to repudiate the notion of the school as an English-only zone or French-only zone in Quebec in favor of teaching through a multilingual lens is identity-affirming both for them as educators and for their students whose intellectual, cultural, and linguistic resources are being constructed rather than constricted by their educational experiences.

The challenge of the next decade is to scale up these initiatives so that they become institutionalized as educational policy rather than just the inspired teaching of exceptional educators. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Discussions with colleagues and students too numerous to name have contributed to the ideas elaborated in this paper.


  • At Home in Dry Creek;
  • To Know Our Many Selves: From the Study of Canada to Canadian Studies (Au Press);
  • Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press.
  • I would also like to acknowledge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council whose Canada Research Chair award — supported the research underlying the development of this paper. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol.

    Published online May 7. Prepublished online Mar 9. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article was submitted to Language Sciences, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Feb 12; Accepted Apr 5. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

    No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract The paper addresses the intersections between research findings and Canadian educational policies focusing on four major areas: a core and immersion programs for the teaching of French to Anglophone students, b policies concerning the learning of English and French by students from immigrant backgrounds, c heritage language teaching, and d the education of Deaf and hard-of hearing students.

    Keywords: core French, French immersion, identity, language policy, multilingualism, second language learning. Maxwell describes the approach as follows: Through this approach, all target vocabulary to be learned by the student is taught kinesthetically, visually, and in an auditory manner, thus responding to a variety of learning styles.

    All students and the teacher learn that word. The multilingual words that the class has learned can be displayed on a word wall that rotates every month. The words can also be included into a computer file that can be printed out on a regular basis for review by students and teachers.

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